Saturday 25th September: After the disappointment of Tuesday's very late cancellation of Oceansize's gig at the newly refurbished Fibbers, which would have seen all of us out, tonight it's a solo outing for me to Stereo to get a second dose of some of the band members from last Saturday.
Tonight's support act, In Spades Inc, were only playing their second gig and, in some ways, it showed. There was an air of nervousness surrounding Stewart King's self-depreciating banter, almost as though he was apologising for the band turning up. He needn't have worried. While their music couldn't be said to be completely original, there was something just a little bit different about it which made it interesting and entertaining. Their forty minute, seven song set (including one cover, which I recognised but, for the life of me can't remember...) contained a nice mixture of material from the slow, haunting opening of Hurricane, which eventually built to a much louder climax, to the brash heaviness of Sucker Punch. But it was the guitar work that really caught my ear - each song seemed to contain an intricate piece of guitar, from either King or fellow guitarist Adam Brady, which sometimes didn't seem to fit in with the rest of the music but in all cases enhanced it.
This may have only been the band's second outing but, in researching this post, I realised that we had, in fact, seen another of King's bands, Satori, supporting Panic Room at the Duchess almost a year ago to the day. Both Roj and I enjoyed that performance so much that we bought the album that night. In a strange piece of symmetry, I picked up two copies of In Spades Inc's free EP preview tonight, one copy of which I have passed on to Roj. I don't think I could honestly say that I liked tonight's performance as much as I did that of Satori, but i certainly wouldn't be averse to seeing In Spades Inc again. Definitely one to watch out for.
...and now a confession. In order to remember thoughts and set-lists at gigs and to help write these posts, I make notes on my phone. Tonight there was a human/technology interface failure (I forgot to save the note I made for the headline act and subsequently managed to inadvertently delete it while the phone was in my pocket) which means that the following review is based solely on my somewhat poor recollections.
Parade are (or, possibly, were - their website says that they are changing their name) another band that we saw last year and so impressed us that we bought the album. One of the loose family of bands centred around Mostly Autumn, Parade was, at the time, made up of current MA members Ann-Marie Helder and Gavin Griffiths, past member Chris Johnson and two long-time collaborators of Johnson, Paddy Berry and Simon Snaize. Tonight ex-Yards guitarist Chris Farrell stood in for Snaize, whose name is strangely absent from the above website. Anyway, The Fabric ended up being one of my top five albums from last year and, therefore, I wasn't going to miss seeing them live again.
Tonight's set featured most, if not all, of the songs from The Fabric, including all my favourites - the epic The Diamond, the nasty The Dogs, pop-tinged but very rocky Start Again and the fantastic Feedline - along with an encore comprising of an acoustic song which I feel I should remember and a full band version of Science and Machinery. Chris Johnson played an acoustic version of the latter last Saturday. It's a song which appeared on the special edition of Mostly Autumn's Heart Full Of Sky album but which, apparently started life years before with Chris J, Chris F and Paddy, providing a nice link with tonight's line-up.
As expected the musicianship was superb. Chris Farrell played some incredible guitar, Paddy's bass was superb, at times making even the floor vibrate and Gavin's drumming was brilliant. Anne-Marie performed some pretty impressive vocal gymnastics - particularly during the wordless ending to High Life - despite apparently having voice problems during the whole of both this (very short) tour and the Panic Room one she had just completed. She and Chris perform some wonderful harmonies, which are just one of the high points of the album and live performance.
There is a reliance on technology, with a laptop tied into Anne-Marie's keyboards in order to produce some of the more unusual sounds. (There are enough pops and whistles on the album to make R2-D2 wonder if it contains a message for him...) Normally, for me, this would be enough to make me a little sceptical about the quality of the music - is it being "played" or just reproduced? But, somehow, I can forgive Parade this extravagance. Maybe it's because of the pedigree of the band members.
Anyway, the whole performance was brilliant and the whole band seemed to be enjoying themselves, playing off each other and practically pushing each other around while still managing to make wonderful music.
Hopefully, whatever the future holds for the band, they will continue to make and play such quality music.