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  SPOCK'S BEARD/SYNAESTHESIA/SPECIAL PROVIDENCE
Classic Grand, Glasgow
1st October 2015


Ian Sutherland: Photos by Allan Twiname

ian sutherland


spocks beard
Spock's Beard

Special Providence are an instrumental progressive Metal/jazz fusion band from Hungary who are just getting into their stride as I enter the venue. Seriously gifted musicians they are intensely focussed as they wind their way through complex compositions full of twists and turns and time changes and virtuoso guitar, bass and keyboards.

Those guys are sometimes upstaged by the sheer complexity of the drumming laid down by Adam Marko who displays a remarkable combination of relaxation and sheer potency.(Spock's Beard's Ted Leonard later called him a 'freak' in a reverential tone).

All this may sound like the stuff of nightmares to those who don't like the intricacies of instrumental jazz rock and the likes and usually I'm one of those but there is something likeable about this band and the way they do their thing that is at once ferocious, a bit crazy yet kind of charming.

I really enjoyed their set and so did the audience who listened intently and roared their approval after each song. It did feel a little like entering a parallel universe but sometimes pushing your boundaries is a fun thing to do and this was one of those occasions for me. Progtastic stuff.

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London's Synaesthesia had a hard act to follow but they gave it a good go. More of a standard five piece prog rock outfit, Adam Warne handles the keyboards and vocals from the centre of a packed stage leaving he and the rest of the band room to focus on their playing.

special providence
Special Providence

The music has what you might refer to as a neo-prog edge to it with some modern sounding edgy guitars and heavy keyboards added to the mix of involved and sometimes technical songs.

There were some excellent moments, especially when they added some extra heavy sounding keyboards to certain instrumental sections but overall I didn't find them hitting the same levels of interest for me as their Hungarian compatriots on the tour.

synaesthesia
Synaesthesia

Warne's habit of pushing his voice to the edge of its range was uncomfortable to listen to at times for me. However they went down well with most of those around me and have already got noticed in prog circles. Fortunately they are also changing their name to the much easier to spell Kyros which music journalists will be very happy about I'm sure!

Spock's Beard are a very, very confident band. Despite various line up changes over the years they know exactly what they are about. While they are only two albums into what you might describe as the Ted Leonard era they just exude a relaxed assurance as they come onto the stage and launch into the keyboard led rhythms of 'Tides Of Time'.

This is the first of five songs from the excellent new album 'The Oblivion Particle' that they play and they are obviously preaching to the converted as the audience just loves every note.

Leonard, who is also vocalist for Enchant, is a capable frontman as well as having a strong voice and he exhorts the crowd to join in any time he can during the songs and has a dry and entertaining wit in between.

spocks beard
Spock's Beard

It may come as a surprise to some that an out and out prog band like this can be fun live but there is a lot of camaraderie and good humour on the stage with lots of smiles and laughs between the band and twixt band and audience.

At one point Leonard chugs a pint of beer down in one go after a challenge from someone in the crowd. Afterwards he states 'It's your fault when I burp my way through the next vocal'.

The music is effortlessly excellent all night and the crowd love singing along to the big chorus lines of 'On A Perfect Day' and roar approval at the stellar keyboard work from Ryo Okumoto on 'Afterthoughts'.

There is much admiration throughout too for the remarkable guitar work from Alan Morse. He has a very unusual playing style where he does lead work without a pick and plucks at the strings with all the fingers of his right hand which does give him a unique sound and seemingly a huge place in the hearts of their fan base judging by the reactions here.

spocks beard
Spock's Beard

The rhythm section is formidable too with bass player Dave Meros happy to deliver a huge sound from the back of the stage while drummer Jimmy Keegan might spend most of the night behind his huge kit but makes sure he gets noticed by playing with a true anger and ferocity along with a huge amount of skill.

The rest of the band are obviously very proud of their drummer and keyboard player and a couple of times took their eye of the ball a little by letting both show off a bit mid song. Fortunately there were no solos though and mostly they kept to the modern prog thing where it's all about putting together a meaningful song, not the musicians showing off.

There is of course no limit to how long that song can be though so after ending the set with an epic thirteen minutes or so of 'Waiting For Me', Mr Leonard advised us that there was time for only one more but fortunately it was 'The Water'.

This classic Beard tune from the debut album is over twenty minutes long so there was plenty of time for the fans to marvel again at the playing, clap along to some places, sing along to the 'F**k you!' parts, laugh at the confused looks the band deliberately put on at points of the song and generally revel in being at a gig with a truly excellent prog rock band.

This was my first live sighting of Spock's Beard and it won't be my last, they are a thoroughly excellent, fun live band and anyone with an open mind about prog or any other kind of rock should check them out next time around.

spocks beard
Spock's Beard

Set list
Tides of Time
On a Perfect Day
Hell's Not Enough
The Good Don't Last
Minion
A Better Way to Fly
Afterthoughts
To Be Free Again
June
Waiting for Me
Encore:
The Water

Photos by Allan Twiname


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