Stabbing a Dead Horse – Slight Return
Trojan Horse, The Fierce and the Dead and Knifeworld
The Barfly, Camden, Sunday 2nd February 2014.
Having been championing the Fierce and the Dead and Matt Stevens solo work for large parts of last year in various articles, the opportunity to see them live was too good to miss.
Not only did I get the Fierce and the Dead, I was also lucky enough to see an encore of last years highly acclaimed Stabbing a Dead Horse tour, where these three highly innovative and original bands toured the country.
The Barfly in Camden is a classic British rock club, about as far as its possible to get from overly managed arena gigs as possible, and the tiny room upstairs was full, not just of the bearded middle aged bloke type fan the prog scene is full of, although there were plenty of those there, but there were plenty of women, and lots of youngsters, I know they were young by the fact that at the bar they were whipping our their passports to prove they were old enough to drink.
The site of these young kids cheered me up no-end, as it proved to me that if the youngsters are appreciating this kind of music, then the future is in safe hands.
First up was Mancunian 4 piece psychedelic noise vendors Trojan Horse, whose brand of rock is spacy, heavy, eclectic and hard to pigeonhole, which I suspect is how they like it. With some fantastic three-part vocals from Nick, Lawrence and Eden, and their tight, sound, backed by Guy Crawford on drums they had the Barfly going from the opening bars of their first song.
With musical dexterity, lyrical creativity and a heavy dose of good honest social observation which, in this day and age needs to be done, they gave their all into an almighty half house set, culminating in a legendary performance of their new, epic single Paper Bells, with some fantastic guitar work, a haunting keyboard riff, and some truly arresting lyrics it encapsulates their sound neatly. This was the first time I’d seen Trojan Horse, but on tonight’s evidence it won’t be the last.
Next up were the instrumental behemoth that is The Fierce and the Dead, Matt Stevens (guitar), Kev Feazey (Bass), Steve Cleaton (guitar) and Stuart Marshall (drums). With their latest album, the rather fantastic Spooky Action getting rave reviews wherever it is heard, there’s no surprise that the set was Spooky Action centric. The band were selling copies on the night, but judging by the crowds’ reaction it looked like most of the audience already had it.
On record the Fierce and the Dead are epic, live they are somewhere else entirely, at several points during the set I had to pause and count them, yup, there’s only 4 of them, but hell, they make one massive sound.
With the intensity of Matt Stevens guitar work on one side of the stage, Steve Cleaton on the other, and Kev and Stuart anchoring their guitar guys, the music takes off. Spooky Action tracks like Lets Start a Cult, I like it, I’m into, and the single Ark, were played to perfection, the guitars singing, the bass and drums echoing off the walls. The Fierce and the Dead live are a mighty proposition, like the Wall of Sound mixed with King Crimson and Zappa, throwing mad riffs and impossible tunes out to an appreciative audience who were absolutely loving it.
As a recording act the Fierce and the Dead are amazing, as a live band they are unstoppable and one of the best I’ve seen for a very long time.
Finally up were Knifeworld, a band I’ve been looking forward to seeing for a long time, unfortunately due to the vagaries of British transport times on a Sunday night I had to leave halfway through their set, a fact which disappoints me very much. To console myself I bought their 2 CD’s on the way out to listen to at home.
Again Knifeworld are a unique musical proposition, with the superb guitar and vocals of Kavus Torabi, the traditional band format (keyboards Emmett Elvin, drums Ben Woolacott, bass Charlie Cawood) is expanded by the sound of Chloe Herington (bassoon, sax, vocals) Josh Perl (sax, guitar, vocals) Nicki Maher (clarinet, sax, backing vocals) and Melanie Woods (percussion, glockenspiel, backing vocals) and this addition of a horn section gives them an edge live.
Opening with the latest single download Don’t Land on Me, which gives you a good introduction to the work of Knifeworld, with its huge sound and great vocals, then a set full of crowd pleasers like The Wretched Fathoms and Torch, Knifeworld are an impressively tight live act. Torabi is a magnetic frontman, a charismatic performer, with superb guitar skills and great vocals, whilst the sound that Herington, Perl and Maher produce in union is fantastic.
I have it on good authority that Knifeworld continued to perform a fantastic set, and it’s a pity I couldn’t see the end of it.
Overall it was a fantastic evening of great music, watching three totally different bands own the stage, and show the most inventive, eclectic and entertaining live line up I have seen together for a long time.
The future of this wonderfully diverse genre we call prog is in safe hands, and I had the pleasure of seeing three of its most interesting bands perform live.