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Bannermans, Edinburgh
Saturday 23rd January 2016

Ian Sutherland

ian sutherland


Scottish prog rockers Chasar and I go back a long way. I used to go and see them in their first incarnation back in the eighties when they regularly played the pub and club circuit in central Scotland. Now it's the twenty first century and they're back again despite the tragic death of original bass player Pete Marshall.

Ian Tait now covers off the bass duties with Jim Marshall still on drums and guitarist/vocalist Alec Pollock still the main man up front. In a set which seemed to be cut short due to timing issues they concentrated on playing a few songs from their eponymous debut album, released way back in 1983.

The songs are obviously Rush influenced with an epic prog metal flavour to them but Pollock's fluid style which is almost jazzy at times adds some colour as well as intensity to their sound.

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Intensity is their stock in trade as they were never a band who were big on audience interaction but the music does their talking for them and tonight's set was both an enjoyable nostalgia trip for me and a nice discovery for other people in the audience.

Hopefully we will get to see a re-release of the original album and some new material in the future.


Prog is no longer a dirty word in the UK music scene and there are a number of new and veteran bands around taking advantage of the this welcome open minded attitude.

Lifesigns are made up of a mixture of veteran musicians and younger blood who take their experience in playing many styles of music, add in a love of traditional old school prog and are in the process of steadily building a following.

Any pretensions associated with the prog genre in years gone by are long gone and the evening starts with a technical hitch which is coolly handled from the stage.

Keyboard player and singer John Young has a quiet charisma about him and despite a low key delivery holds the audience's attention as they overcome the on stage issues. As the set progresses he is quietly efficient in his performance and charming between songs with his stories of life on the road and Lifesigns' ups and downs.

The live line up is a four piece, but they have absolutely no problem covering off the band's quintessentially English take on progressive rock. The overall sound is restrained and melodic, I can hear some echoes of classic Yes in places but the individual musicians have experience of working with such diverse artists as Fish, Bonnie Tyler and The Wildhearts.

In fact drummer Frosty Beedle was a member of classy eighties popsters Cutting Crew and maybe that's where he learned to sing so smoothly while playing with all the seemingly effortless precision he displays tonight.

Bass player Jon Poole is more energetic and responsible for the majority of the band's prog dancing but puts an equal amount of energy into some really nice bass runs. All that experience seems to allow them to add flourishes and touches to their take on complex and challenging prog so it has a lighter feel. Pop prog? The catchy and intelligent 'Impossible' certainly suggests it's possible.

The jewel in the band's crown however is the youngest member, guitarist Niko Tsonev. He has something of a prog pedigree having toured with modern giant Steven Wilson and you can see why. He has a gentle, fluid style to his playing, seemingly able to coax unique sounds and phrasings out of his instrument with more of a tender caress than a fiery lick. There are a lot of great guitar players around but this guy stands out, a really special talent.


The set is based mainly around the band's debut album and tracks like 'At The End Of The World' and 'Lighthouse' sound terrific in the live environment, the dynamics adding a fresh urgency to some already accomplished material.

It all ends on an epic high with the ten minutes plus of 'Carousel' showing off all aspects of the band, the technical mastery, the fluid song writing and the ability to make complexity interesting and full of memorable little passages. I like the no encores thing too, just that was it and thanks very much - more bands should do away with the tired showbiz fraud of prepared encores.

This was my first sighting of Lifesigns live and it won't be my last. If you are a fan of melodic prog rock or just someone with an open mind and a love of quality playing then they come highly recommended. I look forward to the next album and tour.

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