Phideaux/Manning/landmarq CRS event. Maltby, UK
On a grey, chilly November night in Yorkshire,
England, in a small hall known as the Wesley centre in Maltby, a band whose members are scattered far and wide across the corners of America and rarely come together to play live anywhere, performed and delighted a small, but enthusiastic crowd of Northern Prog rock fans. The likelihood of such an event seemed hard to imagine, and yet, there they were…Phideaux, on stage.
This of course was the three band event hosted by CRS, the Classic rock society, and Phideaux had arrived in the UK as a trio of Phideaux Xavier, Valerie Gracious and Ariel Farber.
Reduced from the usual ten piece, to an acoustic threesome , the line-up was the only logistical and achievable format possible but as it proved to those there on the night, this was no less an option.
The combination of skill and warmth in the delivery was clearly only something that could come from a lifetime of friendship and shared ability. It’s a rare event to see only three musicians perform with such breadth of sound.
Opening with the mighty ‘Micro Softdeathstar’ from ‘Doomsday Afternoon’ it was one of three songs from the album which represented a sizeable chunk of the set list. In retrospect, it may be that the delicate qualities of Doomsday are easier to convert to the slimline Phideaux; the gentle piano and Valerie Gracious’s vocals on Crumble was further evidence of this.
Gracious provided both elements with spellbinding results and demonstrated why she is one of the most underrated female vocalists in the Progressive Rock genre. Her performance of ‘Helix’ from ‘Snowtorch’ provided another vehicle for her amazing voice which soars with its angelic qualities, both fallen and ascending. Many times it was underpinned by the superb Ariel Farber and her talents, enriching the mixture effortlessly.
Phideaux’s own vocal strengths were perhaps best served via ‘Infinite Supply’ from Number Seven, which was emotionally moving. His vocals shifted from gentle high baritones to a darker, deeper bass and reflects a closeness to the studio sound.
One the set was something of an unknown in the form of ‘Immortal’. Written in the days before Phideaux, the band. It was a short surprise that fitted in very well.
The tail end of the set was boosted to a four piece with the inclusion of Guy Manning on keyboard and guitar which enhanced the sound of ‘Formaldehyde’ and the sea shanty ‘Tempest of Mutiny’. Known for his love of the odd sea based song, Guy slotted into the band with ease and together the band produced an exciting rhythmic rendition which left the audience looking for more.
More than just a taste of the full group, Phideaux came out as three and showed the crowd that there is an effective alternative to the full line up which, with hope, we could see out and about a little more often.