Spock’s Beard at Islington Academy
A group of mostly middle-aged males welcomes the eclectic vision of keyboardist Ryo Okumoto in bandana, sunglasses and stamped shirt, guitarist Alan Morse’s fringed jacket and vocalist Ted Leonards’s polo shirt. Not to mention the James La Brie lookalike that is bassist Dave Meros, next to Jimmy Keegan and his Yamaha drum set. This lack of stylistic cohesion is only applicable to their fashion choices, for as soon as they start playing Tides of Time, the opening song of their new album, The Oblivion Particle, Spock’s Beard immediately becomes a unit.
Some mild head-banging and air-playing are the first responses from the audience to the two-hour display of virtuosity they’re about to behold. The set includes many songs from the new record, such as To Be Free Again and A Better Way to Fly, as well as a small acoustic excerpt of Bennett Built a Time Machine. They also manage to throw in classics of two decades past, such as June and The Water. Of course, grand solos and vocal harmonies are the order of the day.
A slight deviation towards Lynyrd Skynyrd’s Free Bird is testament to their American country heritage, as Morse’s dexterity with the slide guitar introduces a Southern flavour to their typically progressive sonic complexity. Throughout the show, Morse does every guitar show move in the book – from tapping and skilfully using the whammy bar, to raising the instrument over his head whilst delivering a triumphant solo.
Towards the end of the show, the funk notes in a cover of Stevie Wonder’s Superstition highlight the nature of the prog genre, contrasting its intellectual persistence and ethereal obsessions with the soul and, most importantly, body of other rock sub-genres. But the most emotional moment in the night is the first half of June: with no drums played at all, its rhythm is marked by the excited members of the audience clapping.
Rhythm reaching out to people and joining them together is miles apart from the dogmatic times and tempos to which prog bands play. More so than cohesive skilful instrumentalism or mind-over-body pretensions, these moments are the reason people gravitate towards rock shows. Spock’s Beard, one of the greatest contemporary expositors of the prog genre, certainly has that required pull, which provides a magnetic, high quality show.
Photos: Zak Macro
For further information about Spock’s Beard and future events visit here.
Watch the video for Bennett Built a Time Machine here: