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Progressive Rock Concert Reviews

Pendragon

Live at RoSFest, April, 2007

Review by Josh Turner

This band was awesome all-around. They had a great set list, but most importantly they really knew how to work the crowd. Nick Barrett (Guitar/vocals), Peter Gee (Bass), Clive Nolan (Keyboards) and Joe Crabtree (Drums) were all masterful this night.
The first song came from an album that was much different from the others. That would be Believe, and the delivery was so unbelievable, it was shocking. The second song happened to be the first Pendragon song I ever heard, which was sent to me by way of one of their greatest fans. This ditty was called “Good as Gold” and that explains how well it was performed.

In the prior year, Barrett and Nolan were present in the form of a super-group dubbed Neo (Nolan also played for Arena). While that particular justice league of heroes was in top-form, I felt as if Pendragon was better. Simply put, it was worth a year of waiting.

These days it seems as if a small change in line-up necessitates a new band name. It hadn’t been that long since I had be hanging out with half of its members. Nevertheless, it has been 12 years since this particular line-up has been in The States, and I have to admit, they are something else when they’re together.

Barrett was very good when it came to conversing with the crowd. His stories were genuine, meaningful, and interesting. His first was a story about none-other-than RoSfest. He talked about the fact that Roswell and Dead Aliens were the first to come to mind when offered with the opportunity to play there. He expressed that he nearly played NEARfest then mentioned something about dirty pipes. This was followed by an apology as he stressed he was only joking.

Soon after, they played, “Guardian of my Soul.” It was similar to Alan Parson’s Project. While there was no eye in the sky, Nolan battled his long hair from hindering his view.

They were obvious veterans on stage. With the intrigue of their mystical songs came intuitive direction from one track to the next. Almost every song was accompanied by an explanation. It also appeared as if every ditty had deeper meaning.

As Barrett explained, “Counter” was a song about Vietnam and riding hogs across America. For those who didn’t follow, he explained that they used to be called motorcycles.

Many favorites of mine were to follow. My first prayer to be answered came in the form of “Wishing Well.” Then came “North by Northwest,” which was a real highlight. Above all others, they performed this one extremely well. For it Barrett pulled out a different guitar comprised of white and blue. Albeit missing red, it seemed to go along with their patriotic themes. This song had more of a mariachi style enhanced with chord progressions and sliding scales. The megaphone used by Nolan was a great effect too. It was like a workout montage for “Rocky” or “Team America: World Police.” It also had a hint of Green Day.

Next came “Two Roads.” Unlike some of the bands that preceded them, this group had complete songs and a discrete set. When they hit this piece, it was obvious they had initiated the sequence, set a new course, and changed gears.

Out of all the bands, these guys were also best at their respective instruments, and as far as personality, they had the market cornered. Nolan had great one-liners while Barrett spoke. At one point, Nolan shouted, “Sit down,” and everybody laughed. Barrett also pointed out how disturbed he was by the fact that Baja Prog had only three Mexicans in attendance. It seems every fan flew into California, rented a car, and drove.

These chaps were very approachable and engaged with the crowd. At one point, Barrett gave high fives and shook my hand. They were also sensitive and endearing. For example, “Edge of the World” was a song strictly intended for and about fans. It was more or less a Pink Floyd ballad, and that alone made it a real winner with those in attendance.

The subsequent song was “Stargazer,” and this wasn’t the first time this song has been played on this stage. It wasn’t even the second. My cohorts couldn’t get enough of this one.

At this stage in the concert, a fan blurted out a request. He shared the fact that he requests it each time. Perplexed, Barrett asked when he heard it last. The fan shouted “Baja!” In line with what was mentioned earlier, Barrett said smugly, “That was 12 years ago.” This was an uncomfortable, but comical moment.

I was happy with the set, but when they mentioned that the next song was coming from Not of this World, I was ecstatic. On certain days, this could be my desert isle disc. From it, they chose “Twist of Fate.”. While it was a great album, the song was excellent live. When he sang the lyric, “All over now,” I was ready to head to the hotel and dream. To think this and the impending Spock’s Beard appearance had me feeling giddy.

The band returned after a short delay, and Barrett told us a brief story about his kids. He explained how they start out as butterflies and go into their cocoons at the age of 11. Then they come out and try to run the house. This was the setup for a song about painting your path. To me, it was obvious what the song would be, and I didn’t need the verse of “painting a pic of a 1,000 different paths” to know. The song was “Paintbox,” and it was the second song of theirs I ever heard. However, it is tied with “Man of Nomadic Traits” as my favorite. Then again, it does contain one my favorite bridges ever, thanks to Gee’s bass. With Nolan in other similar outfits, Gee makes this one-in-a-million unique. They also ended this in an amazing fashion. Never have I seen so many rush the stage at this venue. It reminded me of the Rose Bowl after a field goal in the closing seconds. This encouraged another encore.

“Where Are All the Lost Children?” was our dinner mint before the after-party. I don’t know what it’s about, but I would assume it’s similar to the premise in “City of the Lost Children.” This song was supposedly old, but it was incredibly polished. In general, the old songs were so good, they were nearly unrecognizable.

On the spot, they performed this third encore. With all the movement on stage, the cords became twisted. Fans were eager to help. This was closer to a reunion among friends than a headline act, but in the end, they shined with the luster and patina of very experienced professionals.
This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2007 Volume 3 at lulu.com/strangesound.
 
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