Touchstone and The Reasoning – The Duchess, 16/10/12

Sadly, it’s less easy these days for our group to get together as frequently as we used to. The days when we would head off to a pub to see a covers band if nothing else took our fancy are now behind us and that’s where tonight’s support act, Marc Atkinson, is found on a regular basis. But that’s just one string to his bow – as well as having released a small handful of solo albums, with another on the way, Marc is also involved with a number of “side” projects, including Nine Stones Close, Manadalaband and, with Brendan Eyre, the long-gestating Riversea which (finally) saw a stunningly beautiful album released earlier this year. Tonight, instead of his “usual” covers, we were treated to a mixture of tracks from some of these projects, with particular emphasis on his solo and Riversea material. Marc’s lyrics reflect the various aspects of life – childhood, growing up, the effects of religion – and seem to be heavily influenced by his family. His vocals are rich and full of emotion and, despite the fact that it is just him and an acoustic guitar on stage, playing stripped down versions of some of the songs, he soon has a large proportion of the crowd taking notice and applauding each song. in the past, it has been obvious that Marc is adept at entertaining a pub crowd in a party atmosphere. It’s nice to see that his own material is capable of entertaining a normal gig crowd to the same level. Hopefully, there will be more chances in the future to see him perform his own stuff. (There has even been a slight hint, not from Marc, that there may be a chance of seeing a full band version of Riversea perform live, although I’m not sure how serious that was…)
A couple of years ago, The Reasoning featured in my gig of the year. A few months ago, Touchstone played York for the first time and blew me and Roj away. Tonight saw both band’s playing York, thankfully as part of their Adventures In The City co-headlining tour, meaning that we didn’t have to choose between them.
I believe that the bands alternated which would be on stage first throughout the tour. Tonight, it was The Reasoning who played first, coming on stage to a cinematic backing track. The current line-up is quite a bit different from the last time I saw them perform – slimmed down to a five-piece and now with just one guitarist due in part to the sad disappearance of Owain Roberts and, if you believe what you read in some places, the less-than-harmonious departure of Dylan Thompson. Whatever the reasons, though, the band have, on stage at least, put these troubles behind them (or, perhaps more accurately, can ignore them for an hour or so). The single guitar sound allows Tony Turrell’s keyboards to feature a bit more in the mix and it is also Tony who now provides the majority of second/backing vocals. Unfortunately, from where we were standing, Rachel Cohen’s vocals were a little indistinct, meaning that even some of the songs I was familiar with, albeit with slightly different musical arrangements, with took a while to register. That said, there was an energy to her performance which more than made up for the muddiness and some of the crowd obviously recognised the tracks more quickly than I did – Matt Cohen’s somewhat nervously stoic face cracked into a wide grin at the reception that second song Dark Angel received. The set comprised of tracks from the full, four album history of the band, with particular emphasis on the latest album – Adventures In Neverland. Awakening, introduced by a superb keyboard solo which somehow seamlessly included the Benny Hill theme and The Thirteen Hour rubbed shoulders with No Friend Of Mine, Forest Of Hands And Teeth, with its moody opening and a mid-section which gives it a somewhat noirish feel, Adventures In Neverland, whose stunning instrumental section would have convinced me to buy the album if I wasn’t already going to (and did on the night) and Omega Point, which saw the band encroaching on Muse territory with a song about the end of the universe. Audience participation came in the form of Aching Hunger, which also saw Touchstone’s Moo Bass join the band on stage. Between songs, Rachel interacted playfully with the crowd, many of whom it appeared had been to other gigs on the tour, knowing what was coming when the new album and merchandise was being touted. Despite the vocal “issues” this was another brilliant performance by the band.
Touchstone took to the stage with slightly less flamboyance that The Reasoning and, as last time, it seemed to me that vocalist Kim Seviour took a little while to shrug off an apparent nervous air. Initially, she looked slightly wide-eyed and a little stilted in her dancing. She soon got over it, though, and by Shadow her “booty shaking” was a lot more natural. We had moved slightly closer to the stage by now and Kim’s vocals were a lot clearer than Rachel’s. With no new album to promote, this was more of a “best of” set and, again, featured songs from the band’s full back catalogue. If anything, despite being a shorter set, tonight was even better than when we saw them earlier in the year. I’m less familiar with Touchstone’s output than I am with The Reasoning’s and there are were at least two tracks played tonight that I couldn’t identify, but each song played, from Shadow to its sequel Shadows Fall, from Blacktide to Zinomorph and especially the brilliant Wintercoast comes across as an epic, containing a riot of drumming from Henry Rogers, which somehow manages never to overpower the music. Adam Hodgson’s guitar still gives the songs a slightly-more-heavy-than-prog feel while Rob Cottingham’s keyboards manage to help maintain the true prog sound. But, in all honesty, once she has got over her apparent initial nervousness it is Kim, with her banter with the band, introductions to the songs – “I don’t like nasty people, so I write songs about them and sing them passive aggressively..” – her dancing during the instrumentals or the way she peers out from behind her fringe and dark eye makeup, oozing a kind of coy sophistication despite being dressed more for a night on the town than as a rock-chick, with the only concession to the expected image being a single leather wristband, who is queen of the performance.
Finally, both bands and Marc Atkinson returned to the stage for an ensemble encore of Tears For Fears’ Mad World – perhaps the best encore ever.
At a time when femme-fronted prog bands seem to be making a bigger impact than ever, with both these bands, along with Panic Room, having recently signed deals with record labels, it’s nice to see two having such an obvious good time while touring. Hopefully, we will see more of them in the future, either together or on separate tours.

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About Ian

Regular gig-goer in York, both to see local and touring bands. Huge music fan, with more CDs than my wife thinks any one person should own. I also collect American comics, read a lot of SF and fantasy and am a season-ticket holder at Leeds United.
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One Response to Touchstone and The Reasoning – The Duchess, 16/10/12

  1. Tim (Kalyr) says:

    Fibbers always has horrible sound. When I saw Panic Room there back in June the sound guy swamped Anne-Marie's voice in reverb, which she didn't need. They were orders of magnitude better the next night at Bilston.

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