It's not the easiest of tasks to put into words what I witnessed tonight at the premiere of the new show from The Enid, marking the latest studio album 'Dust' which will be released in April 2016.
That's not a complaint at all, merely a reflection on the innovative and thought-provoking performance which in true Enid style pushed the boundaries of any genre, prog or otherwise. But words are needed, not least because the Editor and our readers quite reasonably expect something a little more than "Wow".
'Dust' is the final part of the trilogy that began with Jouney's End' in 2010, and continued with 2012's 'Invicta'. The album from earlier this year 'The Bridge' was the first in a new trilogy, however with the overlaps between the release dates, the subject matter of the albums and the live shows it's all becoming very Douglas Adams-like – language is an illusion, the meaning of trilogy doubly so...
Anyway this doesn't matter a bit, what does matter is the experience of the evening, and after the spectacular and different show produced earlier this year for 'The Bridge', 'Dust' further developed this premise. As before, Simon Drake is on board to advise and develop the visuals and with sound, vision, and the space between the two we received a memorable, heady blend of art.
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Like The Bridge, the band performed in front of a large LED screen, this time expanded with a ramp placed diagonally across it, and used to great effect throughout the performance. What is immediately clear is that this is a show rather than a gig, which works only in seated venues where attention can be fully paid.
The first act was a selection of tracks from 'Journey's End' and 'Invicta'. It says a lot about the multi-layered complexity of The Enid's catalogue that songs can be put together in myriad ways to present a theme that may be different to that from the original presentation – this theme being taking a seed, nurturing it and watching it grow.
With Act Two came the first ever performance of 'Dust' taking on themes and motifs from the previous albums and containing levels of drama, passion and insightfulness in equal or larger measures.
Tonight's line up was Joe Payne on vocals, Robert John Godfrey on piano and keyboards, Dave Storey on drums, Max Read keyboards, guitar and vocals, Jason Ducker on guitar and Dominic Tofield on bass and percussion and new member Zach Bullock on keyboards.
Joe – Prog Magazine's Male Vocalist Of The Year - has ramped up the theatrical element even more; at various points he was up on the slope doing choreography with the digital versions of himself and other objects, a brilliant effect.
This is not solely The Joe Payne Show by any means however – although the rest of the band members remain pretty much stationary they produce the goods in the most sublime way with some of the most complex and beautiful music I have heard.
To hear choral harmonies, percussion that was gratifyingly big and heavy at times, astounding guitar effects and striking piano playing to go alongside the pristine vocals was immensely enjoyable. It occurred to me at one point that this show is just as anarchic as Thrash Metal, but with a hell of lot more style.
The music that The Enid produce is recognizably more classical in style but it really defies labels. At times the sheer amount of dramatic gear-changing between styles was almost overwhelming, but it was done so seamlessly it became an alchemical blend where the contrasts became important in their own right.
For me, even though I wasn't a fan of every type of music heard, this contrast was needed and really worked in order to fully appreciate the big symphonic swoops, the heavy orchestral elements and the overall themes. It works, I don't know how, but it does.
The tracks we heard tonight also tapped into something profound in that on occasions they gave a glimpse through the veil into different dimensions. There was a real elegance that this premiere took place the day before Samhain, when the veil between worlds is at its thinnest.
'Dust' as an album needs several more listens to fully grasp. It has an immediate impact – a positive one – but I want to curl up in a comfortable room with a great sound system and really get to know it, and then go and see the show again. It wasn't a case of saturation or it all being too much, just a sense that one listen/viewing is not enough for full appreciation.
I was therefore quite relieved when Joe stated at the end of the set that 'Dust' is a grower – it's not just me. I think this is great; we need albums that take their time to reveal the full identity just as much as the ones that give you everything they've got from one listen.
In my view tonight was pitched just right with enough differences to notice the evolution while still being recognisably The Enid. And if I'm not mistaken I certainly heard the words “Aerie”, “Fairie” and Nonsense” during the new, stunning track '1000 Stars'...
There was an encore of 'One And The Many' with its astoundingly beautiful piano parts and symphonic swells. You can see why Robert John Godfrey was included on Classic FM's Top 100 Composers list, well deserved.
Joe told me that he sees 'Dust' as a return to the themes started in 'Journey's End' and developing those. The dream is to put on a show containing the full trilogy in a completely immersive performance. It's clear that there are no limitations concerning aspirations, ambition and ideas, it's the physical resources issue that slows things down.
The Enid have always been at the forefront of crowdfunding, and being completely independent rely heavily on income generated by pre-orders and via the fan club, The Enidi, which does offer an extraordinarily good return for fans wanting to support the band directly, on top of being handsomely rewarded by the band's output.
To paraphrase Maya Angelou, it's not about the details of what was done and said, it's the way it makes you feel. The number of times I got goosebumps from tonight was ridiculously high. I felt very happy to have experienced some great art that I want to know more about and experience it on different levels, and that is some achievement.
The Dust Tour is a profound show that surprises, delights and engages. This current era of The Enid may well be the most stunning, and there are plenty of signs that in many ways it's only really getting started.
Dark Corner Of The Sky
Who Created Me?
Born In The Fire
Someone Shall Rise
When The World Is Full
One And The Many
The Dust Tour:
Brighton & Hove – The Old Market – Friday 20th November 2015
Newcastle – Northern Stage 2 – Saturday 23 January 2016
Birmingham – Crescent Theatre - Saturday 30 January 2016
Bury St Edmunds – The Apex – Friday 5 February 2016
St Helens – The Citadel – Saturday 13 February 2016
Leeds – Carriageworks Theatre – Friday 26 February 2016
Glasgow – CCA – Saturday 5 March 2016
Bristol – Redgrave Theatre – Friday 18 March 2016
London – Cadogan Hall – Saturday 2 April 2016