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100 Club, London October 8 2010

For some unknown reason, most of the audience tonight didn't seem as if they were actually at this gig. Sure, the band were there, resplendent in their widdly widdly majesty, I was there, despite a bad case of a headache and the two bob bits, and my friends came too - but for such a legendary band returning to the stage, there was a feeling of subdued detachment from everybody else in the 100 Club tonight I found difficult to fathom.

Maybe Darryl Way's recent departure has mattered more than people had hitherto expected? And maybe the re-scheduling of a lot of last year's dates (the full reunion) fudged the issue and detracted somewhat from the dramatic impetus?

Still, you can't fault Curved Air. They are simply magnificent, a shimmering, tinkling oasis of psychedelic prog splendour.

Sonja Kristina - who takes to the stage for second number 'It Happened Today' after an extended instrumental opener - may be older and less svelte than in the band's early 70s heyday, and only Florian Pilkington Miksa, who now resembles Bamber Gascoigne more than John Bonham, remains from the other originals, but the essence, the core of that sound, which so many strive for today but can't quite pull off, is ever present.

There are a few fluffs and missed notes - and 'Young Mother', which I'm glad to say still features the proper synth sound, should maybe have opened the set instead of being dropped in about 20 minutes through with a rambled introduction - but isn't that all the more rock and roll?

Prog rock may be allegedly about ‘musical perfection' and virtuoso musicianship, and there's enough of that on show tonight, believe you me, to make one's jaw permanently hit the floor - but a little grit, rawness and dirt under the fingernails always made the best bands of the era more interesting, for me at any rate, and a loose approach to one's tightness prevents musical sterility.

Not that any of this is improvised, I mean we're not watching Mahavishnu here: but the joy of songs like 'Propositions' 'Marie Antionette' 'Everdance' and the chilling 'Easy' is the way they twist, twirl, carouse, slide and sway round the ears - and tonight the band captured and replicated that magic effortlessly.

It's not all space music either: 'Melinda More Or Less' is as plaintive an acoustic ballad as anything from the late Sandy Denny's canon, 'The Purple Speed Queen' an agitated blast of proto-glam-metaaal decadence, and hit single 'Back Street Luv' perfect pop in a minor key.

So why, with the exception of the lone nutter in front of me who appears to be yelling his own lyrics and offering, ahem, 'individual' between-song interjections, is the audience so bloody indifferent? I know they paid to get in, promoter Jim Driver told me they did!!!

Maybe they'd all seen them in Sutton already a week earlier? Perhaps that explains why the club wasn't as rammed as I've seen it recently. Personally, I think ANY time spent in the company of Curved Air should be an event worth looking forward to and treasuring.

And even if he isn't Darryl Way or Eddie Jobson, Menuhin-trained violinist Paul Sax (from Sonja's Acid Folk band) is a find: he tears through 'Vivaldi' with all the abandon and vigour of one who's been in the band a lot longer than he actually has.

His inspired jamming with guitarist Kit Morgan and keyboardist Robert Norton (who seems to have all Francis Monkman's moves downpat anyway) during closing number 'Stretch' ('what do you do when you get up in the morning?' quoth Sonja: I was dying to shout 'have a wank and watch a sitcom', but managed to restrain myself) seemed like the work of young musicians - elfin boys maybe? - in a new band, proving that there's a future in all this and not just a past. See you next week?

Review by Darius Drewe Shimon

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