I trusted my sat nav to get there but it tried to send me up a one way road and then because I didn’t it punished me by sending round windy unlit roads and saying I had reached my destination on a road that was one off my destination. The infernal device was then swapped for directions from the nice people at the Tesco petrol station and I arrived at the venue a little later than planned.
It was the CRS BOTY (best of the year) Awards Night with what was advertised as including performances of Frost* + Slimmed down Magenta.
I was expecting an acoustical treat from the welsh prog band but when I got inside I found the full band fully plugged in and giving what their own website said was a Special Metamorphosis performance, that being the title of their new CD which I got last week.
I had missed the first 10 minutes of the 55 minutes set but wasn’t too downhearted as that’s only half of the first of 4 tracks on the album and the other 45 minutes made up for the loss. Within those minutes was the epic title track that showed the skills of the 6 musicians on stage, especially guitarist Chris Fry with his Steve Howe influenced moments and the lovely vocals of the lovely Christina Booth who I think is the special ingredient for the band.
The Ballad Of Samuel Layne (20 mins)
Metamorphosis (23 mins)
Then the awards presented by the MD of the CRS and special guest Steve Hackett (Genesis guitarist 1970-77). The runners up for each award were read by the MD with the winner announced by Steve. If they were there then they made their way onto the stage and posed for pics with the award givers before uttering a few words of thanks or if we were lucky something amusing (of which there were enough moments of to make it interesting).
Best New Band - Panic Room - Female vocal electronica folk rock.
Roots - Troy Donockley – Folky guy
Best Album Cover - Magenta – Metamorphosis (A strange award for a band to win. I hope they give it to the artist).
Best Track – It Bites – This Is England (with Jon Mitchell on vocals)
Best CRS Gig - Magenta
Best Drummer - Johanne James (Threshold)
Best Bass - John Jowitt – IQ/Frost
Best Keyboards - Oliver Wakeman – Currently with Yes. A chip off the old block.
Best Guitarist - Chris Fry (Magenta)
MD's Award - Final Conflict
Best Female Vocalist - Christina Booth (Magenta)
Best Male Vocalist - Peter Nicholls (IQ)
Best Band - Magenta
CRS Musician of the Year - John Mitchell (Frost/It Bites/Arena)
Best Album - Pendragon - Pure (Magenta were second)
Then it was time for FROST*
Just over 2 years ago I saw what I thought might be my first and last gig of theirs. Frost* was a project by keyboardist Jem Godfrey who normally writes pop songs for pop stars for a living. But he also has a love of prog so he collected some of the best musicians out there and created a great album. So it was thought there would be no more, but the call of prog is loud and they got back together with an additional vocalist/guitarist to make Experiments in Mass Appeal and do a few gigs (including a support slot with Spock’s Beard).
The gig started with keyboard loop intro of Black Light Machine and a touch of humour as in place of the normal lyrics the new guy butted in with </i>Jem Godfrey 2nd best keyboardist of the year</i>. Normalness was then restored but there were still some other funny bits to come whenever Jem forgot how a song went or when there were 3 of the band on the same keyboard for the middle section of Hyperventilate (an 8 minute instrumental that begins in 7/8 time then descends to 6/8, 5/4, 4/4, ¾).
The majority of the material came from the first album but with still notable greats from the new like the mellow Saline and the quick punchy Pocket Sun and Toys alongside the 10 minute title track. The vocals this time have gained a bit of something extra thanks to new guy Dec Burke (nicked from a band called Darwin's Radio I think). Jem can sing ok but Dec is a little more exciting. For the old songs some sections were still handled by Jem but Dec added his own vocals fairly often too.
The penultimate song was the 26 minute epic Milliontown which featured possibly the last ever mini frost drum solo from 3rd best drummer of the year Andy Edwards who I think is quitting band work for teaching. 2nd best guitarist of the year John Mitchell was as brilliant as ever as was bassist of the year (almost ever year at the CRS) John Jowitt.
Most bands have a usual closing song and Frost* are no exception as the catchy repeated chorus of The Other Me ended over 90 minutes of great music.
It’s not certain if these guys will be back in a year or 2 with a new drummer and new material but I hope so as they gel so well together in both a musical and friendly way.
Black Light Machine
Experiments In Mass Appeal
The Other Me
I rejected my sat navs offers for the journey home and after an initial touch of doubt found myself on a well lit motorway that headed towards the chip shop :)~