As a lover of Progressive Music for many years now – from the days when I simply knew it as ‘good music’ back in my school days in the 1970s – I have been delighted to see the recent resurgence of the genre. This has been in no small measure down to the efforts of groups like the Classic Rock Society, who have been striving to keep the flame burning, particularly during the dark days when ‘Prog’ was considered by many to be a word not spoken aloud. This striving, though, happened (sadly) under my radar for a large number of years, but I recently came across them, and was delighted to discover that they functioned in my own neck-of-the-woods in South Yorkshire.
Once I’d made this discovery, I ventured out to a few of their gigs in the humble surroundings of the Wesley Centre in Matlby, near Rotherham – interestingly for me the site of a former Methodist Chapel – and when I heard that their awards night was on the horizon I decided to go along (taking my younger son with me, as a fellow traveller). These are my personal reflections on the event.
The venue – the Montgomery Hall in Wath-upon-Dearne – is similar to the Wesley Centre in lay-out, though it has a larger capacity and a larger stage, which proved helpful for the evening’s entertainment. We began with a short solo set from the brilliant Andy Tillison, who coped seamlessly with a keyboard malfunction shortly before the off which left him having to rely on someone else’s equipment for his performance. There didn’t appear to be any problems caused, and Andy gave us around 20 minutes of magic – one man and his keyboards performing without the aid of backing tracks, loops or a safety net and giving us stunning renditions of ‘GPS Culture’ and ‘Perdu Dans Paris’. As a recent ‘convert’ to his work, particularly with The Tangent, I found it sublime and wonderful.
The ‘business’ of the evening was the awards themselves, and after suitable lubrication with ‘Big Big Train’ beer, on sale at the bar, we settled down to find out who had topped the polls at the end of what many have called a classic year for Prog. The awards were presented this year by none other than Fish, who brought his own laconic wit to the proceedings. The awards went to:
Best Male Vocalist – David Longdon
Best Female Vocalist – Christina Booth
Best Keyboard Player – Rob Reed
Best Bass Player – Lee Pomeroy
Best Drummer – Henry Rogers
Best Guitarist – Steve Hackett
Best Album – The Twenty Seven Club – Magenta
Best Track – East Coast Racer- Big Big Train
Best Lyricist – Fish (presented by Andy Tillison)
Best CRS Live Act – Moon Safari
Best UK Band or Artist – Big Big Train
Best Overseas Band or Artist – Moon Safari
CRS Newcomer – Hekz
Unsung Hero – Summer’s End
Amusing incident of the night has to go to Steve Hackett, who having picked up the Best Bassist award on Lee Pomeroy’s behalf, disappeared and was nowhere to be found when his own award was announced. He did eventually return, but we were deprived of what would, I’m sure, have been a great acceptance speech!
The business done, we returned to the music, with a 2-hour performance, with numerous singers and a full band as well as visual images and a virtual choir, of Clive Nolan’s epic rock opera, ‘Alchemy’. This was not a piece with which I was familiar, but it carried you along with a good narrative, well-told and performed: I shall no doubt return to it in the future.
So, five hours after arriving, we set off back home, thrilled by a great evening of rock in the fabulous company of fellow fans and ‘passengers’. Three highlights for me: seeing Andy Tillison perform – an absolute treat; meeting Dave, David & Danny from Big Big Train – real, genuine guys who seem at times quite bemused by their much-deserved recent accolades; and seeing my young son, James, ask Steve Hackett if he would take a photo of James with Fish (he’d already got one with Steve when he came to Sheffield last year!)
All in all, a wonderful night, and a fitting celebration of another classic year for lovers of Progressive Rock!