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Progressive Rock Concert Reviews

Sean Filkins

Live at Celebr8 Festival London, England, July 2012

Review by Alison Reijman

With both High Voltage and Glastonbury shelved this year due to the London Olympics, there appeared a real gap in the market for a quality summer music festival in the capital ahead of the Games. This opportunity was seized upon by Jon Patrick, promoter of the House of Progression series of concerts at the Peel pub in Kingston, together with Geoff Banks, music manager, promoter and writer, to put together a weekend event featuring the best of the prog bands that had appeared previously on the rather cramped stage at the Peel. Most of them had their roots in the neo-prog movement of the 80s and are still performing 30 years later, while the others were young upcoming names on the prog scene. The choice of venue was interesting enough, the Hippodrome being a swinging hot spot for the local night owls with rather interesting steampunk décor which put one in mind of Rush’s epic Clockwork Angels’ artwork. This was not the kind of haunt 600-plus prog rockers of a certain vintage, dressed in predominantly band logoed tee-shirts and jeans would usually frequent but there is a first time for everything.

Sean Filkins, the former singer with Big Big Train, caused a sensation last year with his debut solo album War and Peace & Other Short Stories which topped many a prog fan’s album of the year. The challenge was to bring together some of the intricate and ever-changing compositions live on stage. Due to the late opening of the doors on the Saturday (one of the very few glitches), the audience was still filing in when “Are You Sitting Comfortably?” started his set. However, drawing on a seasoned band of musicians including his long-time musical partner keyboardist John Sammes and guitarist, Geoff Webb, Filkins and company miraculously reproduced a stunning selection of the album’s best songs, all played with great dexterity and understanding.

Martin Reijman
Martin Reijman
The biggest surprise was the inclusion of 21-year-old guitarist Danny Maher in the band who totally confounded everyone with his command of some of the complex solos within the album. The highlight of the set was “Epitaph for a Mariner, Pts 1 to 5,” an incredibly moving and multi-textured series of dreamy soundscapes, all inspired by and dedicated to Filkins’ great-grandfather. Filkins sang this and all the other stunning songs with great power, emotion and range, due in no small part to his own father being in the audience watching him.

Martin Reijman
Martin Reijman
This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2012  Volume 4 at
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