We Know What We Like – The Prog Awards Round-Up
The prog world came together for the first time yesterday at Kew Gardens, the setting for our inaugural Progressive Music Awards, presented by Orange Amplification and in association with currencies.co.uk. The unique occasion began in mid-afternoon with a champagne reception in the impressive Nash Conservatory, as three generations, and more, of prog rockers met in what was a convivial and enthusiastic atmosphere. There were the likes of Genesis, Keith Emerson, Dave Brock, Carl Palmer, Steve Hackett and Justin Hayward chatting animatedly not only to each other but also to the younger generation of musicians, represented by Anathema, TesseracT, Touchstone, The Reasoning and Panic Room among others. It was fascinating, for instance, to see Kim Seviour from Touchstone discussing hair styles with Steve Hogarth of Marillion. And no, we’re not joking here!
The hour-long reception was the perfect prelude the main activity of the night, which started with a sumptuous meal, the sort of banquet to be expected from this occasion. Although such was the bonhomie in the room, there was a constant flow of people moving from table to table to chat with old, and new, friends.
But of course, this was all about the awards – 10 in all. And it all began with a well-received speech from Prog editor Jerry Ewing. Mixing humour with sincerity, he set the tone for what was to come, and also introduced the host for the occasion, Newsnight’s Gavin Esler, a huge and unashamed prog fan.
While he might be more used to tackling political giants, Esler was totally at home in this environment. And everything kicked off with TesseracT winning the New Blood award.
“If we had thought there was any chance of winning this, then we’d have prepared a proper speech,” said guitarist James Monteith. “Instead we rambled on about being a five-piece with four members!”
Their genuine shock and delight at winning was matched by Anathema, who picked up the Live Event award. The sight of singer Lee Douglas holding aloft the award as if she’d just won the Champions League summed up the band’s complete enthusiasm for winning this award.
The Pink Floyd Immersion reissues got the prize for Grand Design. And while ill health prevented Storm Thorgerson from attending, he did send a thank you note via creative partner Peter Curzon which had his usual litany of self-deprecation and detail.
The Anthem award was picked up by Squackett, namely guitarist Steve Hackett and keyboard player/producer Roger King. When questioned as to when we might see the band play live, Hackett indicated he was keen. It was just a case of whether absent bassist Chris Squire (stuck in America) could fit dates into his busy schedule.
Rush deservedly got the Album Of The Year award for Clockwork Angels. Although not able to make it over, the band did send a special video message, featuring all three members. “It’s a shame we couldn’t be there with you,” quipped Alex Lifeson, “For once we’d be the youngest guys in the room!”
The first five awards were all voted for by Prog magazine readers. The next five were decided by the Prog editorial team and also the Prog Council. And this started with Opeth’s Mikael Akerfeldt presenting Peter Hammill with the Visionary award. Akerfeldt was genuinely moved to have been asked to give this to such a major figure, while Hammill amusingly suggested this award always goes to someone from the “Awkward Squad”, such as himself!
The Lifetime Achievement award was given by music business great Paul Conroy to Genesis, represented by Tony Banks and Mike Rutherford. Both seemed very touched at getting this honour, and Banks namechecked every performer who has played their part in the Genesis story through over four decades.
Keith Emerson strode purposefully to the stage to present Carl Palmer with the Virtuoso award. The former referred during his speech to meeting the Duke Of Edinburgh, when HRH asked him whether he was a banger or scraper. Slightly puzzled, Emerson told him he was a banger, at which point the Duke told him to keep on banging. The perfect introduction to the always banging Palmer, who took time out to get everyone to give Jerry Ewing and Prog magazine a huge ovation.
Mark Palmer, who ran Roadrunner Records for 24 years, gave the Guiding Light award to Steven Wilson, who gave due respect to the artists in the room he’s worked with down the years. And, to much guffawing, he also thanked those present whom he’d “ripped off” before thanking his late father, whose copy of The Dark Side Of The Moon kickstarted a life-long obsession.
Finally, John Wetton was given the honour of introducing the first Prog God, Rick Wakeman. But before the great man, and Prog columnist, came up to receive the award, there was a video montage celebrating his diverse and fascinating career, from session muso through Yes to being a Grumpy Old Man. However, it was all dwarfed by Wakeman’s hilarious banter – to call it a speech is to do this an injustice. He had the entire room in stitches as he praised the food and said he’d congratulated the chefs Neil and Roger, “And those aren’t their names, just what they were doing!”. But, on a serious note, he also praised prog’s considerable and continuing contribution to music through the years. It was a fitting conclusion to what had been a triumphant night.
Only one thing now remained, and that’s for a throng of proggers to head for the Crobar in Central London, to imbibe well into the next morning (do you really think we were drinking water all night?!). Well, how else to bring the first Progressive Music Awards to a suitable climax?
Thanks to all who voted, attended and supported the event. More on the awards will appear here tomorrow – and in the meantime, here’s to next year…