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Astoria, London 28 October 2003

With their June European excursion re-scheduled for the autumn instead, this date had been re-arranged as the final date of what was intended to be the band’s ‘farewell’ tour, but the date sold-out in advance of the tour and further UK dates were slotted in, in Milton Keynes the day before this gig and at Sheffield the day after. In fact, given the success of the tour and the response from the audiences, the band themselves appeared to be saying ‘never say never’, so we’ll have to wait and see whether or not it really was farewell to one of the grand old names of British Progressive Rock.

The band these days only features Andrew Latimer of the original line-up, plus long-time bass player Colin Bass, Canadian drummer Dennis Clement and Dutch keyboardist Ton Scherpenzeel, but they brought with them a couple of Vox AC30 amplifiers for use with Andy’s guitars and a Leslie cabinet for the keyboards enabling them to produce some authentic 70’s sounds.

With 30 years worth of material to cover, they made a good attempt at covering something from all of their albums, beginning with the awesome ‘Lady Fantasy’ from 'Mirage'. Thanks so much for the fantastic welcome. Its great to be back in London after Spain (where all the band got sick), declared Andy Latimer, clearly moved by the reaction from the sold-out Astoria crowd. Andy then introduced A song from Rain Dances, namely ‘Unevensong’ before telling the story of how the band first encountered Colin Bass.

In fact the little stories and reminiscences (even if they had been repeated each night of the tour) were well selected and added considerably to the nature of the ‘event’, which was after all, a celebration of the band’s career. Peter Bardens and I went to the Hills in Devon, smoked loads of drugs and kinda eeked out this piece said Latimer, by way of introducing A couple of pieces from 'The Snow Goose', to the inevitable huge cheers. The cheers which greeted the end of the ‘Rhyader’ medley confirmed the love that the audience still have for perhaps the band’s most successful album.

Having mentioned Peter Bardens, who sadly passed away last January, Andy continued, We always dedicate this part of the set to him. It’s a song he wrote, this is called ‘Spirit of the water’. Ton Scherpenzeel shone throughout, playing some delightful piano and harpsichord-ish sounds in accompanying Andy and his guitar, while the crowd stood in quiet reverence. Possibly the highpoint of the set for me.

‘Ice’ followed, featuring possibly Andy Latimer’s finest guitar solo of the evening, then the jazzy ‘Arubaluba’; dedicated by Andy Latimer to Andy Ward, the band’s old drummer who was supposed to be in the audience. Then, after ‘Mother Road’ there was eventually something from the band’s current album 'A Nod and a Wink' in the form of ‘Fox Hill’ and the closing number ‘For Today’ which Latimer introduced as follows, This is a song about each man making up with each other. We don’t know if we’ll meet again - I don’t know. It began with some very sad sounding piano and Andy Latimer on acoustic guitar, but the mood brightened as the rest of the band joined in and the set finished to loud applause.

Of course it couldn’t end just there and they trooped out once more. Thank you so much for your support over the years. We could not have done it without you, declared a clearly emotional Latimer. Excuse me sniffing, he added, This is a song from our first album, called ‘Never Let Go’. This final tune gave the whole band an opportunity to shine with Colin Bass and Dennis Clement performing short solo spots. Then after the usual bows, they disappeared from the stage - but will it really be for the last time in London. Who knows?

Setlist: Lady Fantasy / Unevensong / Hymn to Her / Echoes / Lawrence / Drafted / Rhayader - Rhayader Goes to Town / Spirit of the Water / Ice / Arubaluba / Mother Road / Fox Hill / For Today Encore: Never Let Go

Review: Charlie Farrell

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