HRH Prog XI – O2 Academy, Sheffield, Saturday 2nd April, 2022 (Day 1)

Boy, do I enjoy these Prog Do's since you get to see up and coming bands, longer established artists that are less well known plus absolute cream of the crop pedigree acts towards the last two or three hours of the night for a whole weekend – with each day running around 12 hours or so! Now that's value for money!

Set List: A Sense Of/Viking At First/Proteus.

The day started with a duo going by the name of MonkeyTrial – now that's some moniker to sit with right? This tranquil two-piece performed atmospheric instrumental that reminded me of Pink Floyd since they had a real drawn out float vibe with a mass of echo which filled the room.

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Plenty of wave generator space effects were that flew out now again like that famous band do who start with the letter H. Real long pieces indeed from Shaun Bailey & Clive Mollart which is why we only got 3 tunes in 40 mins.

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It was relaxing as hell and I wonder if it sent anyone to sleep due to it being warm, strong and hypnotising at times.

Set List: Vicars Brains/Tweakshy/Sexbots/Lemon Curse/The Mysterious Coffins Of Arthur's Seat/Edible Druid/Trains.

Next up are Moon Goose based in Hay-on-Wye on the Welsh borders who have a few more members up there on stage than the previous act that are made up of Des Davies (Guitar); Are Williams (Guitar); Rob Robinson (Bass), Dave Prescott (Keyboards) & Antoine Mouquod (Drums). These lunar like birds incorporated a lot of Hawkwind like riffs and melodies and again, totally instrumental.

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I think they would have been better if vocals were on the top of the music but it's whatever works for the band I supports. I actually had an idea where it was going when the 1st number was called 'Vicar's Brains'. 'The Mysterious Coffins Of Arthur's Seat' was flowing tranquil piece of greatness that I can imagine is great to chill to in a dark room.

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There were longish gaps between songs which for me ruined the flow somewhat although they did talk about merch being for sale. Let 'em off though, it was their 1st ever prog show and maybe they'd not played together for a while either.

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We got to hear round two of the wave machine and space sounds as well we heard with openers, MonkeyTrial.

Set List: Seeds Of Tranquility/You're No Good/Raspberry/Komodo.

Here we go: Round three of instrumental bands when it comes to Psychic Lemon from Cambridge and comprising of Andy Briston (Guitar/Synth/Loops) and Martin Law (Drums). They deliver dark, sinister and short repetitive riffs like a nightmare going over and over in your head that go under the banner of Space Rock & Kraut Rock.

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There are plenty of deep notes and thundering beats to keep your attention as well. I think they needed to have more interaction with the crowd since it was rather silent to say the least, although they did say a few words towards the end of their set.

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Guitarist Andy, visually reminded me of Paul Weller - my bad on that unless many say the same. Overall their music was intriguing but I think like the last band, it would have been the icing on the cake with some singing too. This was very much the harder, aggressive style of Hawkwind happening, here especially towards the end.

Set List: Truck/1991/Wonderful/Verbose/Magnet In Your Face/Golden Thread/Dancing Robots/Parts 7 & 8/ 666...6

Yes!!! Vocals at times featured during the 4th band on the bill who are no strangers to Metalliville Zine after us recently reviewing one of their recent live CD's. The wonderfully named, The Fierce And The Dead are quirky and aggressive with an abrasive edge to them that goes kinda towards new wave and almost punk in a strange 'n' musical melting pot.

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A band comprising of Kevin Feazey (Bass/Keyboards/Production), Matt Stevens (Guitars/Loops/Keyboards), Steve Cleaton (Guitars/Effects) & Stuart Marshall (Drums). The boys have waited to play for two years at the festival and put over a cracking sense of humour from the stage and make jokes about caring about tuning guitars.

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Highlights of the set include the opening quirky and at times aggressive instrumental 'Trucks'; the sinister and mysterious 'Verbose' with it's cooking bass line; the grating, deep grooved 'Dancing Robots' or the belting riff of a closer that is '666...6'.

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Hard to pigeon hole them and I would not even try since that's lazy journalism though they are sort of left of centre if that makes any sense. They come across dark, negative and thunderous with really strong vocals which keep you on your toes throughout.

Set List: The Opening/Fire In The Sky/Fourth Kingdom/The Gathering/End Of Days/Forever/Kingdom Keys.

Now the 5th band on the days bill, Nth Ascension well and truly grab my attention both musically and visually. They entertain us with with their strong warm songs that encompass plenty of melody with plenty of depth and an extremely full sound.

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They hail from the North West of England with their line up being Michael Alan Taylor AKA Spud Taylor (Vocals), Craig Walker (Drums/Percussion), Gav Walker (Bass) & Martin Walker (Guitars) who aptly open with 'The Opening' – a real atmospheric tune it is too.

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They instantly put me in mind of post-Gabriel Era Genesis ('A Trick Of The Tail' onwards) before they went way more commercial and poppy with healthy elements of Marillion in there too with cuts like the keyboard string-sounding 'Fire In The Sky'; the heavier, bombastic 'End Of Days'; the fabulously flowing 'Forever' or epic closer 'Kingdom Keys' that is definitely the standout of their entire set - no wonder they left it to last.

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It was lovely to see Spud play his acoustic Taylor guitar on one song in middle of the set, proving that the chair was not somewhere to place his bottle of water – wish we could have actually heard it though as it was completely lost in the mix.

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I kept forever thinking Michael McDonald and Kenny Rodgers while watching him – my bad again – but the likeness was scarily uncanny... Anyway, the 'Ascension were an outstanding band and set the standard so far with regards to songs, musicianship and overall performance. Would love to see them again doing their own headline show.

Set List: Synapse/Spaceship Breakdown/Plasma Thruster/Endorphine/Nag Kanya.

The Spacelords are a really solid and tight German 3 piece who play blues-rock tingued Space Rock comprising of Hazi (Guitar), Marcus (Drums) & Akee (Bass). Imagine Mountain, Cream and Hendrix having a collision all in one with added galactical ingredients and you are somewhere along the right lines.

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In fact opener 'Synapse' reminded me of Voodoo Chile, whilst another number was very like Ted Nugent's 'Stranglehold' riff-wise at various points that also goes into funkish blues.

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No vocals but in the case of these guys but as the old Aerosmith cliché goes, the musical did the talking. The folk here loved 'em and they were a favourite amongst the camera crew as well. Would definitely not hesitate to watch 'em if they played again here.

Set List: Speed Of Sound/Devil In Your Hand/Turn You On/We Are One/Robot (Hawkwind Cover)/The Joker/(Masters Of The Universe (Hawkwind Cover)/One Way Trip/Poem: Obscura/SR-71.

As you can probably imagine, this is classic Hawkwind sound as ever from Hawklords with Bassist, Mr. Dibbs high in the mix, sounding great throbbing out those booming notes like Alan Davey & Lemmy! He does lead vocals on 'Turn You On' song which is by Fred Reeves who for some reason is not in the line-up today.

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There is plenty of chatting with the crowd from Frontman/Guitarist, Jerry Richards who really knows how to control and keep an audience in the palm of his hands in a quirky kinda way by pointing out members of the crowd and saying he loved them etc.

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Dave Pearce was of course behind the kit beating the band in the right direction with a geezer going by the name of Chris (Mekon) Purdon taking care of all the freaky sounds on old school Audio Generators, Oscillators and other twittering devices as the band themselves put it!

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Since they were on the 'Time' Tour there were many songs performed from the album as well as a a few classics like 'Robot' and a bombastic take of 'Masters Of The Universe' that Jerry told the crowd us was by Nik Turner (another member of the band not with them at present) while they finished on that '25 Years' fave 'SR-71'.

Set List: Karn Evil 9: 1st Impression, Part 2/Tocata And Fugue In D Minor, BWV 565/Knife-Edge/Hoedown/Benny The Bouncer (Carl on Vocals)/Lucky Man/Tarkus/Fanfare For The Common Man.

 

Encore: Nutrocker.

Now these guys, Carl Palmer's ELP Legacy are Classic Emerson, Lake & Palmer as you most probably guessed by their name. Carl of course being the last living member of the legendary prog trio. He is quite a character with a great personality to say the least. He isn't a bad drummer either with his large kit positioned centre-stage at the front in order for us to get a more close-up view of the great man.

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Up there with him there are Paul Bielatowicz (Guitar/Vocals) & Simon Fitzpatrick (Bass) providing those invaluable needed ingredients that totally blow us away with their sensational, musical acrobatics and exceptional singing skills.

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Mr. P is one of the best in the world by far and easily the best I have ever seen hands down. He came off the stool now again too, standing at the side of the kit to tell us about and introduce the next number. You would never believe this percussive legend was 72 years old! He has more life in him than 3 and a half 20 year olds put together.

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He never broke out into sweat once or got out of breath at any instance whatsoever – utterly mind-blowing and using every single part of the enormous kit that came complete with two big gongs situated behind him. One of those sets where the entire performance is one massive highlight from beginning to end that features the man singing a song about a bouncer called 'Benny The Bouncer' from 'Brain Salad Surgery' while at the kit. He jokes to us that there are no refunds – hahaha! He plays brushes during that too. You cannot beat a bit of professional stirring can you?

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'Lucky Man' really gets the crowd singing along with Carl telling us that when the original was done the 1st take of the song was used because it was the best one. What an incredible, heart-warming and emotional number it is too – even all these years later, with the Paul giving those emotional lyricals the justice they deserve, engulfing us all in every line of them!

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A set that was full-on with a mixture of Prog Rock, Classical, Jazz, Folk, Bossanova meets Calypso, Jazz and Rock in just over 70 minutes. He completely floored everybody in one track where he appeared to be playing about 3 rhythms at once with a gong finish – top that!

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The most mouth-ajar thing I have ever witnessed on a stage and I have seen many shows while I have been running the website. I was even joking later that a show must have dropped out of top ten of all shows so far since this was so up there! It really does take a lot to truly floor me these days.

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The closer 'Fanfare For The Common Man' – a classical epic in its own right by Aaron Copland & John Ryan and later redone by E.L.P. Is nothing short of spectacular with the keyboard sounds midi'd through the guitar much to many people's amazement!

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What a climax! What a Finish! Gut feeling was that no-one was gonna top this and would have a big job trying to at last match what we saw! Hey we even got 'Nutrocker' thrown in as an encore too - fun times!

Set List: Journey To The Centre Of The Earth (including a snippet of Edward Grieg's Dovregubben's Hall + Bass, Guitar and Drum Solos)/Julia/Robot Man/Catherine Parr/King Arthur And The Knights Of The Round Table.

 

Encore: Starship Trooper (Yes Cover that includes Bass/Moog/Guitar Solos).

Rick Wakeman has a full band with him who delight a full audience with his 70's sounds that are loved the world over with a classic album played in its entirety. I have to say I much prefer one of the others but you cannot win them all can you?

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His band, of course going by the name of the 'English Rock Ensemble' who are creme de la creme musicians and performers made up of Dave Colquhoun (Guitars/Backing Vocals), Adam Walker (Drums/Percussion) of the band, Headspace, Lee Pomeroy (Bass/Backing Vocals), Hayley Sanderson (Lead Vocals), and his Son, Adam Wakeman (Keyboard/Guitars/Backing Vocals).

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The caped musical genius had 9 keyboards around him that got fully used where the need be. It's just a pity he was way at the back though with no mirrors or videoscreens so you could see what he was doing from the floor area or from the photopit where we were situated for the shots.

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He seemed full of fun as he chatted to the audience and appeared to be lapping it up in great measures. The performance from all involved was utterly excellent and it really got going to max power when it go to the point of the wife who outlived Henry VII and that fictional emperor of English mythology which were magical happenings indeed.

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Each member of the 'Ensemble got to shine in their own right as well which is a nice thing for Rick to have allow, including Adam on the smaller bank of keyboards on his right (our left). Mr. Wakeman Snr. was on form as ever and Hayley as you can see is beautiful with a delightful, really powerful high range to match.

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The encore was literally out of this world since we were treated to the Yes classic 'Starship Trooper' that kept reminding me of Lynyrd Skynyrd's 'Freebird' due to some of its chord progression plus similar tempo, solos and powers shining out.

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I personally though this number was the best bit of the show since it had the ooomph and balls that we got from Carl Palmer's set right the way through. Overall, not a bad way to end Day 1.

Review & Photographs

By Glenn Milligan