On a hot sultry May night in Bury, I know, I know but it's true, Cumbrian band It Bites participated in presenting their brand of Prog to their adoring fans at a sell-out show. And what a show it was……
Unfortunately I have to make an admission here as I and my friend Kevin Butler were about the only people in the room that hadn't heard the new album, shame on us, but sometimes that approach is not always bad thing.
As the band took to the stage, Man in the Photograph filled the room, opening up the evening's proceedings, a most fitting way in which to do so, seeing the audience being pulled in, a mesmerising ballad per se that sent shivers down the spine, a song that build some unbelievable emotional imagery, its questioning proposition, one could but feel that you were holding the said picture in your hand. The sedate approach quickly had the crowd sing along before John Mitchell had chance to invite them to do so. No matter, he looked pleased that the audience had taken the initiative to do so on their own accord.
Wallflower with its heavier soundstage made sure the jazz inflections of the opener didn't set the tone for the evening, a fitting sonic bookend to the opening track which really got the ball rolling and in all honesty got the crowd bouncing too, a crowd that were still willing to sing along no matter. As the song ended to loud applause Mr Mitchell announced that the band was going to play the whole of the Map of the Past album.
And on that note the next song up funnily enough was the album titled Map of the Past; as ever its John Beck lyrically intelligent juxtapositions, his abstract commentary that is one of the main features of this album, which made the biggest impact for the evening's presentation. Vocally some of the songs tonight in places called to mind Gabriel era Genesis. In fact some of the songs also felt like they could have been on The Tall Ships album. The chiming beauty of Clocks filled the room with its evocative, peaceful and serene presentation, musically undulating, especially during the fairground musical section. Flag stepped back into the realms of the somewhat more aggressive, another punchy number that was punctuated with Beck's layer cake keyboard presentations, calling to mind sounds from the heady days of the 80's with a sonic twist.
The Big Machine with its uncompromising approach was a real highlight with its memorable melodic rock approach that furrowed its way inside your head, that finally settled becoming another rather classy proposition whilst Beck and Mitchell offered some rather stunning solo soiree's, especially by the ubiquitous Mitchell. This was a piece that had so much character, that the audience took to offering loud applause. The bombastic Cartoon Graveyard which was my favourite song of the set, a punchy number offered its modern take on prog and the church organ pipe sections were to die for.
Talking of those bombastic church organ pipes, the inclusion of those said pipes set the opening of Send No Flowers alight, the big build up for that familiar Gabriel sound that could be heard from time to time throughout the set and in all honest Meadow And The Stream was the biggest instance of this, but something that did not detract from the quality of the songs. At the close of Meadow And The Stream and one of the funnier moments of the show was when one of the audience members shouted out, "Calling All The Heroes", where Beck succinctly told them to, "F**k off", in his rather distinctive Cumbrian accent, which brought much laughter to the room.
As an album, being about going back to the past and fixing things that went wrong, something the band had to do humorously as John Becks keyboards went out of tune, allowing The Last Escape to have several false starts. Once they got things sorted the whole glory of the song rose to the occasion, a perfect accompaniment of Beck's piano work and Mitchells vocals, proving he is a fine vocalist as he created another passionate piece that excelled displaying its dynamic layering. Once the band kicked in proper, the ambiance of the piece changed, as the band really nailed the number, having all those expected high points and crescendo's, which is what It Bites does best, not sticking to a formula, creating grandiosity of the highest order entertaining their fans. Sadly the inert and rather isolated and aptly titled Exit Song brought the proceedings of the set to an end, leaving a rather enigmatic and electric feel in the air that the crowd fed off, leaving them calling loudly for more.
The applause of the crowd did not go unnoticed as the band return to the stage, a return that stepped the night's events up a gear. The whole theme of the night seemed to be to play all things new? During the encore we were offered two songs from their last album Tall Ships, Ghosts and The Wind That Shakes The Barley and two of the hits from the not so new Once Around The World, Old Man And The Angel and set closer Kiss Like Judas.
These were four songs that really tore the roof off the building, that had the crowd participating, especially with The Wind and Kiss Like Judas that brought refreshment, that was thoroughly enjoyed by everyone and I mean everyone in the room, a room full of big smiles. What more could one ask for?
On the whole the show was a splendid evening of pop, rock and prog of the highest order. This is a band that really knows how to entertain; exacting their delivery almost to perfection, there were one or two little glitches along the way, but taking that into account, all those in attendance thoroughly enjoyed the evening's entertainment which created quite a buzz.
As a footnote, on the balance of what I heard I bought the album as I was leaving the venue. Job Done.
SETLIST: Man in the Photograph, Wallflower, Map Of The Past, Clocks, Flag, The Big Machine, Cartoon Graveyard, Send No Flowers, Meadow And The Stream, The Last Escape, Exit Song
Encores: Ghosts, Old Man And The Angel, The Wind That Shakes The Barley, Kiss Like Judas
Live Photo courtesy of the It Bites Website