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Progressive Rock Concert Reviews

Also Eden

Live in Bristol, England, April 2012

Review by Alison Reijman

For a band that  has come through so many trials and tribulations in recent times, seeing  Also Eden performing with such power and conviction - in front of (it has to be said) a criminally small turn-out in the West country venue on their home turf, was nothing short of a miracle. On top of that, the five of them were suffering from varying degrees of colds, flu and other viral complaints. But on the plus side, they were aided by one of the best sounds heard in any small venue for a considerable time and this completely defined them live, adding to their existing reputation as being a fine studio band.

Their body of recorded work offers great insight and depth into the intricacies of their sound but crank them up through a few speakers and they become a different band who can pack a considerable weighty prog punch. Because of the dimensions of the Fleece’s stage, the band adopted a three at the back/two up front formation.  The back line-up comprised drummer Lee Nicholas, bass player Steve Dunn and keyboard player Ian Hodson, with the frontline marshalled by singer/guitarist Rich Harding and lead guitarist Simon Rogers. That powerful combination of Nicholas and Dunn kept the rhythm wheels moving throughout the set while Hodson remained a shadowy, anonymous figure, unlike the deftness of his excellent playing.

However, it is the growing musical chemistry between Harding and Rogers that has now become one of the band’s hallmarks. Harding possesses a jagged edginess to his stage persona along with a uniquely powerful and urgent voice while Rogers cuts a dashing, energetic figure who, as well as interplaying almost telepathically with Hodson,  has his own signature melodic style infused with light and shade.


Paul Johnson
 
Paul Johnson
   

The hour long set offered a selection of the old and the new, kicking off with the atmospheric, slow to build “Seeing Red” from their Differences as Light EP that suddenly ignited into a wall of lush sound and then moved through shifting melodic passages that showcased Harding’s penetrating voice and Rogers’ fluid guitar.

The greater part of the set was given over to the new album the highly acclaimed Think of the Children, still a huge prog seller in the UK, which revolves around Harding’s observations of the world in which we are all constantly spied upon.

Starting with “Think of the Children 1,” Harding then introduced the provocative “Oversight,” an overtly honest narrative as to how the all-seeing “Big Brother” camera eye probes into our daily lives. “Cijfers” had an unashamedly Rush feel to it before it morphed into the highly charged “The Greater Game.” During this, Harding showed his unique gift for interpreting a lyric with just the slightest inflection of voice or movement of hand.


Paul Johnson
 
Paul Johnson
   

But the stand-out track of the night was “Outside In” from It’s Kind of You to Ask with its plaintive keyboards lifting up Harding’s voice as the song described the need to keep face and appearances while our inner selves tell us otherwise.  It built into an exceptionally gorgeous crescendo with Harding hitting the most seemingly unobtainable high notes.  This was a recent addition to their live set and one they really should continue to perform as it showcases all the best elements of their sound in all its emotional fortitude.

Next it was back to Differences As Light for “Reality Cheque,” a “sign of the times” narrative on how the credit crunch and reality television have become the two main drivers defining our lives.  Some solid staccato guitar and fancy fretwork from Rogers, and an excellent vocal dual between him and Harding set this complex piece apart from the rest.

Earlier I mentioned the trials and tribulations that this band has recently undergone due to a near fatal motorcycle accident in which Harding was involved nearly two years ago resulting in a shattered left and an induced coma in hospital. Harding introduced “1949,” another great song from Think Of The Children with deeply personal lyrics relating to his personal journey during those crucial early days in his recovery. As he reminded the audience, the past two visits of the band to the Fleece saw his leg encased in metal. This night the miracle continued as he performed the whole set without any support.  However, his half spoken delivery of the song gave only a hint of what he endured then. Standing with his arms crossed over his chest with head bowed gave him a tremendous air of vulnerability.


Paul Johnson
 
Paul Johnson
   

But the third piece of good news of the evening was that work is now underway on the follow-up to Think of the Children as Harding announced [REDACTED] will be out next year and introduced “Distortion Field” as a taster of what is to come.  And what a treat it was! Here was a solid slab of rock prog with full-on guitar, stunning sonic keyboards from Hodson, some muscular drumming from Nicholas and almost a funk vibe from Dunn.

Finally, as a reminder of how Also Eden are also master commentators at the common horrors and absurdities of the world, they ended with “A Widow’s Eyes” with Harding thanking his predecessor Huw Lloyd-Jones for this song that opines  the casualties of war and the impact their deaths have on their nearest and dearest.  This was a dramatically charged set from one of the most innovative of the current crop of British “must-see” bands. They will continue to grow musically in their own inimitable way and I hope that those appreciating their style of prog will continue to grow in numbers too.

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This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2012  Volume 3 at lulu.com/strangesound.
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