I sometimes feel that I’m running out of things to say about the bands I see. Especially bands that I see (or have seen) reasonably regularly. If I like them, I’m unlikely to change my opinion. (And, let’s face it, if I don’t like them, I’m unlikely to see them regularly.) Also, regular acts aren’t going to change their line-ups, or even their set lists too dramatically, so there isn’t really going to be that much new that I can say. The likes of, “xxx were superb” or “another cracking performance” will begin to sound repetitive and, perhaps, gushy and aren’t going to win me any awards for creative writing. There are times, however, when I don’t care.
Tonight, I thought that I’d struggle to come up with anything new to say about Morpheus Rising. They are certainly one of my favourite local bands (I think I’ve said that before) and that would be the fourth time I’ve seen them perform in just over a year. The relatively short sets (on all but one occasion, I have seen them as support acts) mean that they have managed to stay reasonably fresh by mixing the sets up slightly. While I was expecting to enjoy the performance tonight, I didn’t realise by how much.
I don’t know what it was – maybe I found a rare sweet spot for sound in Fibbers, maybe it was my proximity to the stage which gave me a clearer view of the ease and sheer enjoyment with which the band play. It might even have been a growing familiarity with the songs, which meant I could relax a bit more while listening. Whatever it was, tonight was easily the best performance I have seen from them. Graeme’s vocals were as clear as I’ve ever heard them, Pete and Daymo’s guitar-playing was simply fantastic with some previously (to me, anyway) hidden harmonies becoming apparent, and Andy and Gibbo’s rhythms pounded me across the chest.
Even better was the fact that the much-anticipated new material finally put in an appearance. Just two songs, In The End and set-ender Hold On (possibly a brave move ending on a new song, but it worked) but they were very welcome and just as good as the more familiar material. The new songs and the fact that my personal favourite, Those Who Watch, made it back into the set after being missing last time around, gave tonight’s performance an added “Wow!” factor. Given that most of the audience would have been here for the headline act, I suspect Morpheus Rising picked up some new fans tonight, and deservedly so. Sadly, I think this will be the last time I see the band this year and there is, that I know of, no word on the proposed album. Still, it gives me something to look forward to…
At the back end of last year, when I first heard that Morpheus Rising were to be supporting The Reasoning tonight, I had heard of the headliners, but that was about it. I knew that they were part of the loose “family” of bands surrounding Mostly Autumn and that they had supported Fish in York in 2008 but that was it. I hadn’t heard any of their output but I knew that there was a good chance that I’d like it and definitely wanted to take the opportunity to see them live. Then they had a website sale and I managed to pick up both their albums very cheaply. Once they hand arrived and I’d had a chance to listen to them, there was no doubt that I would be attending tonight’s gig.
There have been line-up changes since the second album, Dark Angel, was released and the latest, Adverse Camber (which they are currently touring) was recorded and the latter is as different from the former as that one was from the debut, Awakening. Not radically different, but enough to show a progression. The Reasoning have a darker edge than some of the “related” bands and can be a little heavier musically, which is counterpointed nicely by Rachel Cohen’s lovely voice.
Tonight’s set was made up of songs from all three albums. Indeed, it opened with Awakening – first track from the first album – a track which shows the difference between Rachel’s almost delicate vocals and Dylan’s incredibly powerful voice. There was a couple of times when the sound wavered slightly but, for the most part, this was another incredible performance. Very tight playing which produced an almost solid wall of music. Unfortunately, Fibbers’ smallish stage looked a little crowded and new keyboard player Tony Turrell was relegated to a satanic brooding presence at the back, while I could barely see Jake on the drums at all (although you could certainly hear him and what a star he was!) The other new member, the red-haired firecracker Maria Owen, seemed to own the stage from the middle, dancing as though her life depended on it, playing acoustic guitar (which, being honest, I could barely make out) and producing some incredibly powerful and clear backing vocals.
The set wasn’t all dark and heavy. Two acoustic songs – (from memory, but I might be wrong) Chasing Rainbows and Dark Angel – showed a nice variety and provided a welcome lull from the more energetic numbers. Rachel is a near-perfect front-woman, engaging well with the audience (a lot of whom seemed to be regulars) and the whole band seemed to enjoy performing (which, I assume is half the battle…)
With a set weighing in at around an hour and a half, and an encore which started with Owain Roberts playing Pink Floyd’s Wish You Were Here before morphing into another track from Adverse Camber, this was as good a performance as I expected it to be, if not better.
Tonight’s two acts bands might, on paper, not immediately fit together – one heavy metal, one prog rock. Indeed with many of the other current crop of prog bands it might not have worked as well as it did, but with The Reasoning’s darker side, it was a better fit than you might have expected. The combination and the performances meant that this is easily my favourite gig of the year so far and it’s going to take something very special to beat it.