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The Jam House, Edinburgh
4th April 2014

Ian Sutherland

ian sutherland

curved air

I have a theory that just about every successful band ever is still together in one form or another, unless they're dead or Led Zeppelin, obviously.

Mind you, all the original members of The Drifters are dead and they still tour regularly so apparently there is no limit to the possibilities.

Curved Air are a good example of getting to see a band you thought you'd never see. Their most successful days were in the early 70s when their albums and even one single charted in the UK and their folky take on prog was part of the mainstream of rock music and singer Sonja Kristina was the pin up girl of many a fan.

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After that came the inevitable declines and break-ups and eventually nothing much was heard of from them for nearly 30 years. Then in 2008 they reformed!

Why? I reckon almost all musicians can't resist going back to what they love and especially the most successful part of their careers.

Now it's 2014, they have a new album out and I'm in the strange environment of The Jam House in Edinburgh, an upmarket club and music venue owned by Jools Holland and gathered with a small but enthusiastic crowd of Curved Air fans while the diners in the upstairs restaurant look on.

curved air

The band open up with the lengthy instrumental 'Spider' which lets them show off their prog chops, it all sounds extremely fluid and relaxed and a has that touch of folk and jazz that so many English prog bands of the early 70s had.

This is all just a build up to the introduction of the star turn though and old favourite 'It Happened Today' allows singer Sonja Kristina to make an entrance to great applause. Forty years on she is obviously not the beauty she was but she still shows some of the charm and charisma of old and her voice has held up pretty well. She dances around the stage and sings sweetly and is obviously enjoying being back on tour again.

curved air

The next ninety minutes or so area mixture of the old, the very old, and the new with songs from all the eras of the band's history getting an airing. This current line up features two original members in Ms Kristina and drummer Florian Pilkington-Miksa. Guitarist Kirby Gregory is a comparative new comer having first joined the band in 1975.

They have managed to assemble a group of musicians who fit completely into the folky, arty, prog rock style the band are famous for though and none more so than violinist Paul Sax who looks like a mad English professor but plays beautifully, adding that airy touch of melody to the songs which give Curved Air their unique twist and sound.

It's the older songs that obviously work best for the audience, especially 'Purple Speed Queen' and 'Metamorphosis' but everyone also seems to enjoy the newer material although the reworked twee ballad 'Cold As A Rose In Snow' is a bit of a low point in the set.

Overall though it's a joy to hear such a competent group of musicians giving life to the swirling, floating, driving range of styles which is the Curved Air sound while making it all look so easy. This allows the band's talismanic singer to play up to her adoring audience none of whom seem to care it's not 1972 any more.

curved air

Despite the small crowd and a certain lack of atmosphere in this unusual venue for a rock gig there was a genuine demand for an encore and just to show there is life in the old prog sound yet two young ladies who'd been having a whale of a time dancing away amongst all the grey hair in the audience were invited up on to the stage for the band's best known song and top five single 'Back Street Luv', a fun way to end the night.

I really enjoyed my first look at Curved Air, this was a gig which kind of opened up a window on a bygone era and showed there is still some life in the old style progressive rock which dominated the UK through much of the early 70s. It all definitely sounds of its' time though and unless they can draw audiences bigger than this one I'm not sure how much of a future such a retro scene can generate.

If you like classic English style progressive rock then you'd better catch them while you can!

curved air

Line up:
Sonja Kristina-vocals, guitar
Florian Pilkington-Miksa-drums
Kirby Gregory-guitar
Paul Sax-violin
Chris Harris-bass
Robert Norton-keyboards


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