“Yesterday you know it never really happened/ Tomorrow you know it never really had…”
A rare trip up to London on the train to take in the Curved Air show at the 100 Club, an overnight stay at the London Central Tower Bridge Hotel and a trip to the City of London Distillery the following day, what could possibly go wrong?
Trespassers on the line in the Egham area, some Herbert then pulling the train’s communication cord near Staines necessitating all of us to troop off and wait for the next one, getting to the hotel to find our reservation had been cancelled without anyone telling us, resulting in a fraught 30-minute argument to secure a room, oh, and a fire alarm going off in the middle of the night causing us all to wander out into the cold in our jim-jams, that’s what.
The 100 Club is always a favourite venue of mine, nice and intimate. What you lack in sharpness of sound, the narrow, elongated room makes mixing a challenge, you make up in the feeling of connection with the musos. Curved Air, in a rare outing, didn’t disappoint their fans, most of whom, by the look of them, had been followers since the band broke into the big time in the early 1970s.
I loved their first two albums (still got them on vinyl), that mix of progressive rock with folk and a smidge of the classical and amazing musical virtuosity, the interplay of violin, keyboards and guitar and the majestic, ethereal voice of Sonja Kristina, made for a distinctive and easily recognisable sound. Only Kristina is left of the original ensemble, it is a moot point as to how few of the group have to remain before it becomes a tribute act, but the line up of Chris Harris (bass), Robert Norton (keyboards), Andy Tween (drums), Grzegorz Gadziomski (violin) and Kirby Gregory (guitar) got to grips with the material, a mix of old favourites like It Happened Today, Backstreet Luv, Propositions, Marie Antoinette and some (marginally) newer stuff from the 2014 album, North Star, like Stay Human and Images and Signs.
It wouldn’t be a prog rock concert without interminably lengthy solos, the encore version of Vivaldi being a tad overlong for my liking and with a dread drum solo, to boot, but the band were in good form and deserved their moment in the sun. After a slightly shaky start, Sonja Kristina got into her stride, her voice still as fine as ever, and she soon had the crowd eating out of her hand. The range of her stage moves was her only concession to the passage of time. It’s their 50th anniversary next year, she reminded us, and promised some big, exciting things to come. This gig did seem like a band knocking the cobwebs off their music and polishing up a show. We will see.
The experience and the musicianship, though, made up for the rigours of the day that had passed and were to come. It really did happen today.