Spock’s Beard and The Flower Kings in Islington
At family Christmas last year, my cousin recommended to me a band called ‘Spock’s Beard’. It led me to picking up ‘Brief Nocturnes and Dreamless Sleep’ which I’ve had a great deal of fun getting into this year.
When the band announced ‘Noise Floor’, I watched the music video that came out in April and was instantly hooked. The entire band’s goofy personas appear throughout the video, with Dave Meros (bass) playing in front of a wind machine.
I picked up a further few albums at Fopp in Covent Garden when Inside Out had a sale on in their stores. ‘The Light’, ‘The Kindness of Strangers’, and ‘The Oblivion Particle’ joined my collection. With their “happy prog” style, I find I can’t help but smile when listening to their music, which is something some artists never work out how to do, sticking to writing about loss, death, and tragedy in the minor keys. Anyway, gig day.
First up are The Flower Kings! My only real experience listening to their style before now was the album Ronnie Stolt released with Jon Anderson, ‘Invention of Knowledge’. I found that album a fantastic combination of styles, possibly what Yes could have been with more refinement in the studio, and less creative overlaps.
Seeing ‘The Flower Kings’ play live, and as they mentioned going back through some older songs, you can see the influence that Yes as a band has had on them, and why the label put two and two together to make that record. For me, I know I absolutely have to jump into their discography in the new year. There were some fantastic songs, and I can’t wait to revisit the studio versions. If you’re a fan of Yes, these guys are a must listen.
As a fun fact, this is the 4th time I’ve seen Jonas Reingold play bass this year!
Next up, Spock’s Beard! At the start we got introduced to Mike Throne from Saga on drums, a new addition to this tour. The first few songs killed, and the on stage energy rubbed off on me instantly! Although I think more than anything, a good organ solo always gets me going.
A theme throughout the night for me is that the audience seemed disinterested in everything they had to offer. Why!? I thought the playing was superb and was quite happily dancing to the music in my own little corner. The rest of the audience looked to have turned into zombies. I found this when I saw Epica for the first time, because the audience were so unenthused, the show didn’t feel as fun. Upon my second time seeing them (different venue, same city around a year later), the experience was totally different and everyone was having a good time. Just even having the audience slightly engaged would have been beneficial, but…
Then there was a power outage on stage mid song (One So Wise). As someone from the audience shouted “DRUM SOLO!”, so Mike happily jammed along for a minute or so to move things along. Stage techs wandered around looking confused with shrugged shoulders as the power in the rest of the venue was working just fine. So the incredibly long lead heading off-stage from Alan Morse’s acoustic meant they could do an impromptu rendition of ‘June’ from the 1998 album ‘The Kindness of Strangers’. Wonderful.
To my surprise, the crowd suddenly woke up! Singing along, and showing active engagement in the show. I almost had a heart attack from the sheer change in audience noise. They knew all the words to the song, and joined in merrily.
As the electronics on stage slowly began to regain power, Ryo Okumoto started playing on the keys, Dave Meros joined in on bass, and the song really came together, almost akin to the original studio version. It was a real treat, but unfortunately as the band started playing ‘One So Wise’ again from the start, the audience returned to their vegetative state. Such a shame for band deserving much more.
After this there was a bit of stage tension amongst the band. Ted Leonard was visibly irritated that the rest of the band decided to start ‘One So Wise’ again instead of moving on with the set, likely because they were already a long way through the song the first time around. Either way, their performance through the rest of the set was good.
With both bands own compositions being fantastic, engaging, and technical, it left me feeling underwhelmed at the finale. The Flower Kings got brought back on stage and then together played a rendition of ‘Hey Jude’. Done well, can be an amazing crowd pleaser. However it was musically very plain, and felt under rehearsed. Because of the power cut, there were some set timing issues and Spock’s Beard had to cut their own final song which would have been a fantastic finisher, maybe with that prerequisite, ‘Hey Jude’ wouldn’t have been so numb. But with the state of the audience, it’s unsurprising that the end wasn’t as captivating as it should have been.
Hoping that the next time I catch them live, the audience aren’t a bunch of miserable gits. Moving on, moving on.