I know, it’s a Bank Holiday, time to be with family sitting in front of the T.V. watching the increasingly dire output. But tonight is a special night for one of my favourite York bands so there was nothing else for it – I just had to drag myself to Fibbers.
I hadn’t known in advance what time the first band was going to be on stage tonight so, after realising that I had nearly an hour between me handing in my ticket and the show starting, I headed back up the road to the Black Swan for a swift(ish) pint of the good stuff before re-entering Fibbers to find it already reasonably full, including a fair few people attired, like myself, in t-shirts proclaiming the name of the headliners. It’s not often you see that outside of big gigs these days and, perhaps, shows how far the band have come in building up a loyal fan base.
Velvet Star were tonight’s support and vocalist Danny Jones started off by asking everybody to move forward (most people were still further back than my usual, fairly conservative position. Like most people, I stayed where I was, which proved to be a good move as we were then treated to an ear-splitting scream (I pity anybody who had moved closer to the speakers) from Danny before he launched into the first song, Revolver. The performance was fast, furious and loud. The sort of rock that has a little too much punk in it for my tastes. Indeed the set finished with Danny taking a “noise vote” on whether the band covered a Sex Pistols song or one from Iggy and the Stooges. There was a nice variation in tone, with a song sounding like Run To The Hills era Iron Maiden being followed by one a lot slower with a nice melodic riff – I think this one was It Ain’t Over – while Fifteen Minutes More was one of the punkier songs. One song, the title of which I didn’t catch, even seemed to contain elements of all their influences, starting slowly before a huge change of pace towards the end. Danny is a great frontman, taking the show to the audience and riding over any audience ambivalence. Guitarist Adrian Lamming gave us some screeching, neck-in-the-air solos, while Corey Jones (bass) and Ginna Rhodes (ex-vocalist of $lash Vega$, now on drums) provided pounding rhythms. I doubt that their album will find its way into my CD collection, but Velvet Star are a very good live act and were a superb warm-up for tonight’s show.
I think I’ve seen Morpheus Rising every time they have played in York (except the first gig, which I seem to remember was acoustic and on a Boxing Day a couple of years ago). Tonight see’s the end of a relatively short era for the band is it is vocalist Graeme Tennick’s last performance with them. He’s been offered a job which is just too good to turn down and the added commute time precludes him staying with the band. Kenya is just too far away…
Taking to the stage to their usual intro music and this time adding a few pyrotechnics, the band launched into a set which contained much of the usual material, a couple of songs I hadn’t heard before and, eventually, a version of one of their songs that was just a little bit unusual. Save The Day was followed by Brave New World then Fighting Man, with Graeme milking his last performance for all it was worth – bouncing around the stage, climbing the barrier, conducting (and, in some respects, mimicking) the rest of the band. Each song was given a short introduction, in some cases explaining the inspiration behind it – like Quench Your Thirst, which I had always known was about vampires, but not that it was inspired by the film 30 Days Of Night. Fear Of Nothing was the first of tonight’s songs I didn’t recognise and Graeme himself had to revert to reading the lyric sheet. Pete and Daymo, sharing guitar duties, showed two different characters – Pete has an almost cheeky demeanour, peppering his performance with face splitting grins, while Daymo’s smoulderingly intense concentration is only rarely broken with a quick smile. Both provide some stunning sounds, whether it’s the crunching riff of Those Who Watch or the more elegant harmonics of Gypsy King. Shades Of Grey, with the vocal highlights of the set, followed In The End and then we reached the end of the set with Hold On and the band left the stage. There followed a few rather muted shouts for more before Graeme and Pete returned to the stage for an acoustic version of An Ordinary Man, which made up for what it lacked in raw power compared to the rest of the set by the emotional punch that it packed. Finally the rest of the band returned for These Four Walls.
It had been an emotional performance, you could see and feel that from off stage. But the band hadn’t let the occasion bring them down, choosing instead to treat tonight as a celebration (of Graeme’s tenure rather than the fact that he was leaving) and turned out what was, in my opinion, the best performance I have seen from them. They may not have raised the roof at Fibbers but I’m sure I saw a few cracks in the ceiling. My only regret is that the band didn’t get a chance to complete their debut album before Graeme left. Not only would it have been a worthy addition to my CD collection, but I’m fairly certain it would have been a very good legacy from his time in the band. It has already been announced that Simon Wright (Burnwylde) will be replacing Graeme on vocals and will make his debut when Morpheus Rising rise again at the Cambridge Rock Festival in August. I suspect that the band will pick up more than a few new fans from that performance.