Throughout all the changes and evolution Spock's Beard have undergone over their first two decades together one thing has remained; namely the band's ability to overcome adversity while delivering excellent albums and raved about live displays. Yes, I'll admit that I'm late to the party, this being my first encounter with the SB live beast, but rest assured, even going in with mighty high expectations, it won't be my last. With two excellent opening acts also in tow, a solid four hours of top notch, and varied prog was served up for a good sized and extremely enthusiastic Glasgow crowd, who'll be talking about many aspects of this night for a long time to come.
I may be late to the Spock's Beard party, but bounding up the stairs in the Classic Grand, it was only the very first strains of Special Providence that proved elusive; the band rewarding those who adhered to the extremely early start time with a rather superb set of lively, instrumental outbursts. Bringing a fusion like spirit to their mix of prog rock and prog metal, this group of Hungarians managed to achieve that often elusive goal of combining uber-technical structures to catchy motifs and memorable passages, while dropping jaws courtesy of their musical dexterity. Whether through the cacophonous drumming, cavorting keyboards, broad slaps of bass or blur-fingered guitar work, this quartet kept an ever growing crowd engrossed and with a generous, deserved noise made for them at their set's close, a few new friends were snagged along the way. So with a mental note made to say hello to the band at the end of the night and buy a CD, things were off to a flier!
And they showed no signs of slowing, as a young band going through a short identity crises took to the stage. With only two more dates left on this tour, in three days time (well, now, by the time you read this...), the UK's Synaesthesia will become (thanks to the usual arguments with a band already using their old moniker) Kyros. On the up side, it does mean that potential fans of the band won't have to take up a degree course in spelling to find them online and it will maybe help the band ditch a logo so indecipherable it looks like it belongs to a black metal band! Whatever they're called, this talented five-piece have a knack of writing songs that both snare you through catchy hooks and delight via some deeply intricate passages. Interestingly, some moments also contain electronic stabs, giving a more modern side to a sound that could have been otherwise seen as tried and tested. Not afraid to bring some aggression to their sound either, the mix of instrumentals and vocal led numbers ensured an even distribution of song-based and more progressive fare and with tonight's audience here to see a band known for a similar, if less in your face, approach, it went down a treat. "Noumenon", "Good Riddance" and "Technology Killed The Kids II" all made their mark, however it was the closing twenty plus minutes of "Boiling Point/Ego/Dilate", from the band's promised next release, which really got the crowd going. Two young guitarists (Samuel Higgins and Joey Frevola) touting eight (count 'em!) string guitars and a bassist (Peter Episcopo) with five, shows the level of expertise this band are aiming for and with drummer Robin Johnson proving their match, it was left to the deft, eclectic keyboard work from Adam Warne to add even more spice to the pot. The latter also provides occasional vocals and if there's one area for work, it's Warne's confidence in delivering what is undoubtedly a decent voice. Hopefully the name change won't prove to be a stumbling block for this act, for on this evidence, Synaesthesia (well, actually Kyros) have a long, healthy future ahead of them. The merch desk was in for serious action...
From identity crises to false starts, as Spock's Beard were announced onstage by the impromptu arrival of guitarist Alan Morse, who rather sheepishly looked around the empty stage before shrugging. Suddenly he realised he was early for his cue, apologised for his over eagerness and departed once more.... for around 20 seconds as his band mates appeared, leaving Morse both the first and last to hit the stage! Hence it was apt that this mistimed beginning would herald the arrival of the first of five tracks from the band's most recent album, The Oblivion Particle, "Tides Of Time"! In truth it was the one and only slip up of the whole set, Morse and keyboard player/guitarist/lead vocalist Ted Leonard (also of Enchant) combining superbly throughout. Also at stage front, as ever, was the irrepressible Ryo Okumoto, a keyboard player who's every bit the frontman, as he milked every note, "unexpected" fill and emotional moment from his banks of keys and computers.
If there was any discontent towards a set loaded with more recent material, the crowd kept it under wraps, with newbies "Minion", "Hells Not Enough", "A Better Way To Fly" and "To Be Free Again" greeted as old friends – to the extent that Leonard commented very early on, "now THIS is going to be a GOOD night!". In fact the only blot on the copy book of an otherwise attentive, expressive and exuberant crowd were a rather inebriated couple right in front of Morse who insisted on trying to touch, talk to and generally annoy the guitarist throughout the whole set – and I take my hat off to him and Leonard (who actually asked the male half of the couple if he wanted to handle the in between song chatter at one stage, so insistent on being heard were they...) for otherwise soldiering on without a care in the world.
Vocal interplay is a huge part of what the Beards do and tonight was no different, two, three, four part harmonies and vocal trade offs a highlight throughout, while visually Okumoto (who had his "tears" mopped up with Leonard's towel during a particularly emotional keyboard workout) and drummer Jimmy Keegan were a joy to behold. And what a drummer Keegan is, hammering his tubs without mercy, yet precision perfect throughout. Combine his efforts to the laid back bass work of Dave Meros and it's no wonder that songs such as "The Good Don't Last" and "Afterthoughts" arrived with such confidence and delight.
Unlike on other nights of the tour, the lengthy "Bennett Built A Time Machine" from …Oblivion Particle was notable by its absence, both long time favourite "June" and the aforementioned new cut "To Be Free Again" taking its slot in the set (something that seemed to change on the last night of the tour in Manchester, after it was part-performed on request on the date in-between this and then in London). However again, no one seemed put out by the songs performed, or not, instead a crowd who had cheered and roared their approval all night continued to do so as "Waiting For Me" closed the main set in some style and did likewise for the suitably mad "The Water" which was the lone encore. Although to be fair it was 20 minutes long! Apart that is for our noisy friends in front of Morse, the "lady" this time repeatedly stopping herself from collapsing by holding onto the guitarist's microphone stand, which she nearly pulled onto the floor. Just in time she let go, before standing bolt upright, stared at the ceiling and promptly collapsed through the backstage curtain and at the feet of a rather startled guitar tech! Her male companion? Well he just kept punching the air out of time and babbling random words at the top of his voice in hope that the band might start singing the same song he was...
Back on stage the main show was coming to an end in glorious fashion, a band firing on all, cylinders deserving the accolades coming their way and clearly enjoying every second of it. As did everyone in attendance. A truly special performance, from a truly special band.