Big Big Train – Summer Shall Not Fade

Big Big Train, Summer Shall Not Fade: Big Big Train Live At Loreley, 2022 (concert recorded July 13, 2018), Blu-Ray/2CD
Tracks: The First Rebreather, Folklore, A Mead Hall In Winter, Kingmaker, Summer’s Lease, Brave Captain, Prelude and Fugue, Judas Unrepentant, The Transit of Venus Across the Sun, The Permanent Way, East Coast Racer, Drums and Brass, Wassail

Big Big Train never cease to amaze me. While this release has been out for a couple weeks now, I’ve just gotten time to sit down and enjoy the band’s latest live recording, Summer Shall Not Fade. The live show marks the band’s first time playing in Europe, at the prestigious Night of the Prog festival in Loreley, Germany on July 13, 2018. It also marks a closing of the curtain for what I consider to be the band’s “classic” lineup. Sadly, David Longdon passed away just under a year ago, and Dave Gregory, Danny Manners, and Rachel Hall all left the band in 2020. With everyone present, this show really finds the band at their peak.

Musically, this show sounds good enough to be a studio recording. There may be a few hiccups, but they are indeed few and far between. Be it Nick D’Virgilio’s intricate and soulful drumming, Rikard Sjöblom’s rocking Hammond and guitar, Dave Gregory’s shredding… I could go on. They all sound great.

One of the things that really stands out to me in this performance is how David Longdon really came into his own as a frontman. Since the show was at an outdoor festival, the stage was pretty big, allowing this Big Big Band to spread out more than in their other live recordings. There is also a small runway, which allowed Longdon to get out closer to the audience. Rachel Hall even used it at one point during “A Mead Hall In Winter.”

An example of Longdon’s showmanship appears during the first track, “The First Rebreather,” when he breaks into maniacal laughter after the lyrics, “This man will walk into darkness / Without fear of what lurks in the shadows.” The editor of the Blu-Ray zooms the view in on David’s face, which is lit with red light. It also appears like his head gets bigger, exaggerating the impact of his disturbing laughter. It’s a small moment, but it brought a whole new element to the song, bringing the terror of the darkness to the forefront.

The performances themselves are stellar. D’Virgilio is ever the champ on the drum kit, as well as with his backing vocals. Danny Manners shined on the instrumental “Prelude & Fugue” leading up to “Judas Unrepentant.” It’s a nice way to remember his time in the band. Dave Gregory, who also left the band in 2020, shines throughout with his guitar-work. His work will certainly be missed moving forward, although I have full faith in Rikard Sjöblom and Dave Foster.

Speaking of Rikard, he was so much fun to watch. His Hammond solo in “A Mead Hall in Winter” demonstrates his importance in this band, and watching him headbang during “East Coast Racer” was total fun. Since Longdon’s tragic passing, I’ve come to see that the new core of the band moving forward is Greg Spawton, Nick D’Virgilio, and Rikard. Obviously the others will (and already have) contribute, but these will be the mainstays (I hope).

Rachel Hall also really came into her own as a performer in this show. She was connecting really well with the audience, and her vocals and violin added a lot to the overall sound.

The visuals on the recording are quite good. At the beginning of the show, the stage was poorly lit by the passing light of day (I know, I know, wrong band reference), causing the camera-work and editing to look somewhat amateurish. This went away a few minutes in after the sun fully set, allowing the stage lighting to bring a professional feel to the performance. The editor also made good use of cuts and split screens without making the show feel overworked. It all felt natural, especially with how they were able to include shots of the large screen of images behind the band.

The audio is stellar, especially for an outdoor venue. That’s either a credit to the mixing crew during the show or to Rob Aubrey in the mixing booth in preparation for this release – or both as I believe Aubrey handles mixing for their live shows as well. I haven’t heard the 5.1 mix since I sadly don’t have that setup, but the stereo mix sounds great. Both Gregory Spawton’s intricate deep end and the crystal-clear high end of the brass sound wonderful, and most importantly, they sound clear.

Summer Shall Not Fade is an excellent performance from the definitive and now lost lineup of one of the most important bands in the progressive music scene today. Any progressive rock fan should certainly give this a look, but fans of well-composed and expertly performed music should also take note. While it’s sad to say goodbye to Longdon, as well as the other members of the band who have left, I’m happy we get this live album to remember this chapter in the band’s memorable history.

https://www.bigbigtrain.com
Purchase (UK/Europe): https://burningshed.com/store/bigbigtrain/big-big-train_summer-shall-not-fade_2cd_blu-ray
Purchase (North America): https://thebandwagonusa.com/collections/big-big-train/products/big-big-train-summer-shall-not-fade-bluray-2cd-pre-order-only

Some Thoughts on Recent Big Big Train News

From the very beginning, Progarchy has been a huge supporter of Big Big Train, and we’ll continue to support them come what may. I think the band is making by far the most interesting music in the music industry. You’d be hard-pressed to find another band or artist making such high quality music with such profound lyrics. You’d be hard-pressed to find a better vocalist than David Longdon. 

At the beginning of the year the band released The Passengers Club, a subscribers-only site that gives hardcore fans an inside look at the past, present, and future of the band. Content seems to be provided primarily by Greg Spawton and David Longdon, as well as the band’s manager, Nick Shelton. We get demo track downloads, exclusive video content (including live footage from the earliest days of the band), blog articles, and photo albums. As a fan I’ve absolutely loved The Passengers Club. It’s been worth every penny, and it has brought some much-needed joy to an absolutely awful year.

Big Big Train – Empire Film Trailer

Continue reading “Some Thoughts on Recent Big Big Train News”

Beyond Prog: GRIMSPOUND by Big Big Train

Grimspound
Artwork by Sarah Ewing.

Big Big Train, GRIMSPOUND (Giant Electric Pea, 2017).  Tracks: Brave Captain; On the Racing Line; Experimental Gentleman; Meadowland; Grimspound; The Ivy Gate; A Mead Hall in Winter; and As the Crow Flies.

The band: Greg Spawton; Andy Poole; David Longdon; Nick D’Virgilio; Rachel Hall; Danny Manners; Dave Gregory; and Rikard Sjöblom.

The Rating: Perfect.  Beyond prog.

Go, go, go said the bird: human kind

Cannot bear very much reality.

Time past and time future

What might have been and what has been

Point to one end, which is always present.

–T.S. Eliot, “Burnt Norton.”

There can be no doubt that Big Big Train is not just one of the best bands of third-wave prog, but also one of the best bands of the rock era.  I suspected this when I first heard THE UNDERFALL YARD back in 2009 and was moved at every good level of my being.  Subsequent releases from the band have only confirmed this for me.  Every note, every lyric, and every brushstroke matter for the band.  They take their music seriously, and they take us—their followers—seriously.  Aside from the music (if there is, in any reality, such an “aside”), it’s clear that the two founders and mainstays of the band, Greg Spawton and Andy Poole, know how to form and leaven communities.

Continue reading “Beyond Prog: GRIMSPOUND by Big Big Train”

Without Compare: FOLKLORE by Big Big Train

Big Big Train, FOLKLORE (Giant Electric Pea, 2016). 

The band: Greg Spawton; Andy Poole; Danny Manners; David Longdon; Dave Gregory; Rachel Hall; Nick D’Virgilio; and Rikard Sjöblom.  Engineered by Rob Aubrey.

Tracks: Folklore; London Plane; Along the Ridgeway; Salisbury Giant; The Transit of Venus Across the Sun; Wassail; Winkie; Brooklands; and Telling the Bees.

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By chance, the new issue of PROG arrived at the same time as FOLKLORE.  A glorious day.

The centerpiece of third-wave prog, Big Big Train, matters.  How they write music matters; how they write lyrics matters; how often they perform live matters; how they package their music matters; and how they market what they do matters.  They are a band that has evolved significantly over twenty-plus years of existence, a restless band that never quite settles on this or that, but rather keeps moving forward even as they never stop looking back.  In their art, they move forward; in their ideas, they move backward.  All to the good.

Continue reading “Without Compare: FOLKLORE by Big Big Train”

Big Big Train’s FOLKLORE Arrives in Michigan

It’s not everyday that a Big Big Train album appears in my mailbox.  An immense thanks to Kathy Spawton and Greg Spawton for sending it, and to the band for signing it!

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Veronica Rose celebrates with SONGS FROM THE BIG CHAIR, BBT style.

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The Incomparable Gift of Excellence: Big Big Train’s STONE AND STEEL

Big Big Train, STONE AND STEEL (GEP, 2016), blu-ray; and Big Big Train, FROM STONE AND STEEL (GEP, 2016), download.

stone_and_steel cover
The band’s first blu-ray.

Twelve stones from the water. . . .

Yesterday, thanks to the fine folks at Burning Shed, the first blu-ray release from Big Big Train, STONE AND STEEL, arrived safely on American soil.  Then, today, thanks to the crazy miracle of the internet, Bandcamp allowed me to download FROM STONE AND STEEL.

In a span of twenty-four hours, my musical world has been thrown into a bit of majestic ecstasy.

2016 might yet be the best year yet to be a fan/devotee/admirer/fanatic (oh, yeah: fan) of the band, Big Big Train.  I’ve proudly been a Passenger since Carl Olson first introduced me to the band’s music around 2009.  And, admittedly, not just A fan, but, here’s hoping, THE American fan.  At least that’s what I wanted to be moments after hearing THE UNDERFALL YARD for the first time.

Continue reading “The Incomparable Gift of Excellence: Big Big Train’s STONE AND STEEL”