Be Prog! My Friend 2017 Day 2
Day two of the Be Prog! My Friend‘s 2017 edition started with a big surprise (see our review of the first day here): Jardín de la Croix, the only Spanish/Catalan band of the whole festival (and the only fairly unknown act at that), blasted the ears of the early birds with their unique take on heavy, high-energy instrumental prog/post metal at a very loud, but still bearable level. A perfect wake-up call for all those who chose to be back early and an energetic and enthusiastic performance in the blazing sun by this young band who has for sure won over quite some new fans.
Unusally early in the billing for this day was canadian mad professor Devin Townsend, set to perform his seminal milestone solo debut album “Ocean Machine – Biomech” all the way back from 1997 in its entirety.
Being a fan of most of the Hevy Devy material from “Synchestra” (2006) onwards, I was not particularly keen on it, but a Devin Townsend show is always entertaining and this proved to be no different. Being an absolute professional and still be spontaneous when something unexpected happens doesn’t have to exclude one another, and Mr. Devin Townsend was the perfect example for it this late afternoon: As the computer with the backing tracks didn’t want to start, he came up with an incredibly funny stand-up comedy one has to witness to believe. Luckily there was one quick-thinking chap in the audience who filmed it all for everyone to enjoy:
After fifteen minutes, the computer finally decided to work and the show could begin at last. As for the first half, it is all rather straight metal tunes. The real gems came later, when atmosphere and drama began to permeate the compositions, culminating in a stunning ‘The Death of Music’. Sadly there was no time for an encore, Devin Townsend and his incredibly well-oiled band put on a great show as always and I’m sure they are going to be back as headliners on this stage next time.
Strangely enough, the next band were about to play almost exclusively newer stuff, and here I was, only into their old stuff. Anathema from the UK have been on a constant hype-high for their last couple of albums, I never seemed to get past “A Natural Disaster” from 2003 though. And even though the Liverpoolians put on a really cool show, I couldn’t help but think the whole time: please, please, could you please play doom metal again? It doesn’t matter how hard I try, I just can’t get myself to like their modern sound.
But after all, it is all a matter of taste of course and such things can’t be forced. A beautiful rendition of the haunting ‘A Natural Disaster’, sung by the charming Lee Douglas was without a doubt the highlight of their performance, which for the big crowd present and as well for part of our team here at The ProgSpace, it was a superb and very energetic show.
This year’s saturday headliner was one of the very first prog rock bands, the legend that is Jethro Tull from the UK. Their year of inception dated all the way back to 1967, half a century ago. Well, technically it was frontman and flutist extraordinaire Ian Anderson playing the music of Jethro Tull with some other, younger musicians. But instead of a lackluster best of set with hired guns, we got a top notch celebration of the Tull’s music through the decades, if not of a couple of centuries worth of musical history with an enthusiastic band and excellent performances of all the players respectively.
But first and foremost, this was Ian Anderson’s show of course. And, with his seventy years truly one of the grandfathers of progressive rock, was as agile as ever on his flute and led us through these very entertaining 100 minutes with lots of interesting anecdotes and reflections.
Now while he never had the most beautiful voice in the first place, it has not aged as well as all the rest so it seems. In a very clever move, they rearranged the songs to contain more flute and less vocals, or at least I had this impression, which worked perfectly well. The band chemistry on stage was wonderful and so was the music. Very well done and a big positive surprise, as I had approached their gig with mixed expectations.
After this nice surprise it was finally time for the last band of the festival, but since Leprous are Leprous and thus never fail to deliver a breathtakingly energetic and emotional performance, this second past-midnight show of the weekend was bound to be spectacular. Added the fact that the norwegian prog boyband had announced earlier that they are going to play a ‘by request’-setlist in Barcelona, and it is safe to say that expectations were quite high for this one to be, well, even more spectacular than one of their ‘regular’ shows. And I can assure all those who could not make it to Barcelona: the expectations were exceeded.
All but one, as was to be expected if you’ve been following the guys for some time. It is no secret that they are not too keen on their earlier sound anymore, and they ignored the fans’ incessant clamor to bring back the epic ‘White’ for years already. They refused to play it in Barcelona as well, so I can’t help but assume they tweaked the results of the poll a bit more to their liking, but I also have to be clear that it didn’t matter one single bit. ‘Forced Entry’, ‘Restless’ and the monumental ‘MB. Indifferentia’ were the choice cuts from “Bilateral“. The unusual opener ‘The Valley’, the heartbreaking ‘The Cloak’, ‘Echo’ and the haunting ‘Contaminate Me’ as final song represented “Coal” in grandiose fashion. ‘The Flood’ and ‘Rewind’ built the bridge to the (then still) latest album “The Congregation“.
And they managed to sneak in the live debut of the first “Malina“-single ‘From the Flame”, that had just been released two weeks before, but the whole audience was singing along at the top of their voices. And, just a second before I was about to give up hope they’d play something off their debut “Tall Poppy Syndrome“, they unleashed the insanely epic ‘Passing’.
A band at the top of their game, paying visit to more of their earlier stuff than usual, introducing new member Robin Ognedal, who presented himself as a stellar replacement for Øystein Landsverk, even with a Stratocaster. But he even managed to emulate the violin in ‘Contaminate Me’, so I guess he is a keeper. And even though it was around 3 am in the morning already, the ‘Leprous Leprous’ and ‘we want more’ chants wouldn’t cease for minutes on end, so when the guys finally gave in, they treated us to an unrehearsed, punkish, but nonetheless gut-wrenchingly emotional version of ‘Slave’, the best prog metal song of 2015 in my humble opinion.
Unfortunately all good things have to come to end, as they say, and so did this amazing festival in the beautiful city of Barcelona and the breathtaking surroundings of Poble Espanyol. All that is left to say is a massive thank you to the great organisation, the amazing bands and the lovely prog people and we at The Progspace sure can’t wait to be back on the first weekend of July 2018.
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