HRH Prog: The Best Moments Part 2
Here’s the second lightning-fast roundup of the best of the action from HRH Prog on Day One, by scribes Martin Kielty and David Keevil…
17.11: Arthur Brown orders the smoke machines to be switched off. Pretty ironic for the God of Hellfire – but then he might be planning on making his own. (He hinted as much in a Prog interview recently.)
17.19: The stage is all capering lunacy. It’s hardly surprising when Arthur pulls a fox pelt from his pantaloons and drapes it over his keyboardist’s shoulder. Next he’s performing a flamenco routine, as you do. He says: “It may be a prog rock night, but there’s a little heavy metal in prog. There’s a little prog in everything – bacon sandwiches, for instance.” Then he thunders into I Put A Spell On You; and when he tells you that, you believe him.
17.47: At the low end of Arthur’s next number a huge bang resonates from the back of the hall. Everyone cheers. “There are times when one loses what one was about to say,” he says. Then he explains his mum told him that one day he’d be in Rotherham; and when he was, to sing… Fire. So he does. It’s every bit as mesmerising and full of molten insanity as you’d want, even so many years. He references the photographers in the security pit as he sings: “You’ve been living like little boys with your psychedelic toys.” After a blazing performance in which he did indeed generate his own smoke, he reflects: “Some people ask me, ‘Don’t you get bored singing that song?’ The simple answer is ‘no.’”
18.40: It Bites frontman John Mitchell starts the show with a statement: “As you know, this is a cold venue. I’ll be wearing a hat later, and anyone who tells me it’s cold will be putting a quid in it.”
18.42: Seconds into Kiss Like Judas they have tech issues with John Beck’s keyboards, leaving him unable to add vocals, but they laugh it off and take turns filling the blanks. The four-headed vocal beast provides plenty of huge, interesting melodies.
18.48: Now Beck’s mic stand caves. But he’s still smiling.
18.52: The smoke machines burst back into action. It’s possible Arthur Brown was right, since all they do is cloud the view for a few seconds before the smoke drifts away into the giant venue.
18.56: It Bites are grabbing new ears with The Big Machine. Some jokers in the crowd are imitating the theremin effect, with good humour, of course.
19.21: introducing Calling All The Heroes Mitchell says: “This is the hit – watch as Mr Beck and Mr Dalton lovingly play it for you!” To which Beck mimes shooting himself in the head.
19.56: Mostly Autumn? Definitely Totally Winter in the Magna. However there’s nothing like a wall of epic atmospheric sound to lead you comfortably into the early evening. Silver-tongued songstress Olivia Sparnenn makes her appearance in a spectacular fashion. Moving between emotional nuance and belting it like there’s no tomorrow, she dominates the stage. With touches of Stevie Nicks, it’s not difficult to work out why there are so many hangdog expressions in the crowd.
20.06: Bryan Josh goes for a big dramatic swing into action for Evergreen and knocks his mic stand over. Slightly less dramatic effect than he intended, but that’s live performance.
20.37: After a very long delay with technical hitches The Strawbs’ frontman Dave Cousins finally says “Good evening!” and declares they won’t let the problems get them down. Launching into Benedictus they put it all behind them. That done, he says stoically: “Well, we’re up and running…” before getting on with the show. It’s a real shame we can only see them from far above via walkways, since there’s no second stage as such – the band plays on the floor with the audience.
21.15: Watching a theremin (a real one) being set up is a great indication that something sonically weird is about to rear its grotesque head over the horizon. And Hawkwind have not led us wrong – this is a heaving membranous entity made up of electronic squirts, sawing cello and spacey wa-wa; forming endless, exhilaratingly repetitious droning sequences.
21.53: Cello is removed, clothes are taken off (well, jumpers). What’s next? An increase in tempo and vivid violent imagery projected onto the backdrop. Aggressively sophomoric, like being hit by a pillow made of hypodermics.
23.27: It’s a distinctly older but hardy set that have hung around for the Martin Turner’s Wishbone Ash set. Sonically, the spirit of Sting hangs heavily over Why Don’t We. It’s reformation era Ash.
23.50: It’s observed by one fan that Martin Turner is Keith Moon who discovered Twining’s English Breakfast Tea instead of less legal substances. It’s an interesting thought.
00.50: There haven’t been many disappointments so far this weekend. One of the biggest, though, is that Aeon Zen start their set to a crowd of about twenty people. But they seem not to care a mite. Their endless energy and onstage banter is contagious; it’s difficult not to crack a smile at their persistent good humour.
01.10: We’ve got our first roar of the weekend. Twenty minutes into their set, which is comprised of songs from last year’s ambitious Enigma, Rich Hinks charms the demons up from hell with a scorching little vocal turn.
01.45: Day One ends with the assistance of DJ Twang. Day Two begins in just a few hours – bring it on…