Science Of Coincidence Tour

The Hermit Club - Brentwood, Essex UK - 5 March 1999

Concert Review   © 1999 Russell W Elliot

Last Updated: 09 March 1999

Despite the onset of intense Friday night rush hour traffic, a wise decision was made to venture to Brentwood to see Tracy Hitchings perform with Landmarq. The 90-mile trek from Swindon across the M4 and around the northern semi-circle of the M25 London orbital thankfully took only two and a half hours. Not far outside the city centre, the Hermit Club is an intimate venue perfectly selected by Landmarq to expose their new lineup to family and close friends. The gig was the band's first full length concert to promote their latest album Science Of Coincidence. Landmarq supported Threshold earlier this year at London's Astoria Theatre to vast acclaim with a shortened set.

Clive Nolan introduced us to Tracy Hitchings' vocal work earlier this year which led to the development of our online Illustrated Biographical Sketch reviewing her career. Tracy is currently rated as one of the top three female progressive rock vocalists -- each approaching their craft in a unique way -- with the other two being Annie Haslam (Renaissance and solo) and Joanne Hogg (Iona). Having seen Annie with Renaissance (six times), with her band in Philadelphia and touring with David Biglin in Brazil, and Joanne with Iona in Southampton, we planned to seize the opportunity to see Tracy perform in this year's first full Landmarq show in Brentwood. One has only to hear the theatricality of Tracy Hitchings' recordings to imagine what a live performance would be like and, from the soundcheck, it was clear that this concert would deliver to these expectations.

The club filled up during the support act with all seats occupied by friends, fans, family and those more curious. A significant number stood through the entire show. The female singer-songwriter support act, self-accompanied on acoustic guitar, sang a short set of heartfelt songs for about a half hour before Landmarq took the stage promptly at 9:15PM.

Steven Leigh, Dave Wagstaffe, Tracy Hitchings, Steve Gee, Uwe D'Rose
Image © Landmarq & Synergy Records 1999 (from their website)
Science Of Coincidence
Image © Synergy Records 1998

Opening with an exciting intro taken from the track "The Cutting Room," Steven Leigh (keys), Steve Gee (bass), Dave Wagstaffe (drums) and Uwe D'Rose (guitar) began Landmarq's performance. Tracy Hitchings came to centre stage and took the microphone opening her performance with "The Vision Pit" from the latest album Science Of Coincidence. (It is indeed interesting to note that Landmarq's last two albums both feature a track named the same as the title of their previous album!). The band's nintey minute set included their entire new album and several tracks from their prior releases. Here's the set list:

Cutting Room Instrumental Excerpt
The Vision Pit
More Flames For The Dancer
Between Sleeping And Dreaming
Reprise: Between Sleeping And Dreaming New
Medley: Ta Jiang / Norovlya
Solitary Witness
Science Of Coincidence
The Overlook
Summer Madness

Pinewood Avenue

The artists of Landmarq when performing live are individually remarkably strong. Their work as a group shows the high level of integration and tight close coupling found in bands that enjoy much more notariety. Landmarq is a seriously professional act, and perhaps are among the unsung heroes in the progressive rock scene. On stage they work extremely well together. Tracy inspires the vocally-led portions of the tracks in a highly animated style, interacting well with each of the other musicians on stage. Joint instrumentals are extremely tight with solo-like excursions clearly demonstrating the virtuousity of the individual artists without being overcooked in any way. The band's extremely talented sound man knows their music and did remarkable stunts with the club's modest system to produce an incredible overall effect.

The band's stagecraft is as highly polished as sensitively intimate and, as is typical of English progressive music, they effectively balance the vocal parts with instrumental movements. Although the concert certainly featured Tracy in her role as the band's lead vocalist, it was indeed a Landmarq concert in every respect. Tracy dominates the stage drawing total audience attention when appropriate, but her act has been finely honed to ensure the instrumentalists enjoy audience focus as well. During several of the instrumentals, Tracy either sat to one side of the stage or joined the audience. In the more theatrically vocal numbers, she enthusiastically took the mic and moved about humorously interacting within the other band members and engaging the audience. Tracy's stage act must be seen to be effecively appreciated. It is easy to see why the Classic Rock Society voted her Best Female Vocalist twice (so far!).

The first two songs following the intro -- "The Vision Pit" and "Heritage" -- were performed accurately with wonderful intensity and warmed up the audience perfectly. "Lighthouse" propelled the show to another level. Tracy's dynamic and animated performance effectively illustrated the lyrics and brought a unique brilliance to the song. The audience responded well to the music with resounding applause in each between-song gap.

Tracy introduced "More Flames For The Dancer" as a theatrical number written by Steve Leigh. With dramatic lyrics accentuated by Tracy's on-stage persona, only the Landmarquettes' contribution was missing from the live performance. The sound effects within the recorded song were performed live by Tracy using an extra drumstick to rhythmically bang the structures supporting Dave Wagstaffe's drum kit. Well done indeed.

"Between Sleeping And Dreaming" was initially performed as a keyboard backed solo vocal number, but a new reprise was added that featured the full band. The two portions might work better without a small break between them. The medley of "Ta Jiang" and "Norovlya" from the band's earlier albums permitted the instrumentalists to demonstrate what their individual and combined talents quite well. The band's earlier "Solitary Witness" had to be slightly reworked for Tracy's key yet the result was stunning. Hopefully the band will re-record the track with Tracy's vocals at some time in the future. It was wonderful performed live.

The band performed the new album's title track dramatically with exceptional precision. Similarly, "The Overlook," with Steve Leigh's wonderful keyboard work and Tracy's soaring sustained vocals, further illustrated the artists' individual collective virtuousity.

The evening drew to a close with a substantially expanded version of the highly accessible "Summer Madness." An edit could likely be a "single" if the band were to release it for promotion as one. Tracy again took the mic out of the stand and bopped back and forth across the stage working with each of the band members and engaging the audience to create a high level of excitement before introducing the band members, being introduced herself by Steve Gee. Steve also publicly thanked this author for coming along to the gig! A reprise of the song concluded the main set and the band left the stage.

"Pinewood Avenue," another reworked track from the band's former album The Vision Pit, made its first live debut as the band's encore. With only two weeks of rehearsal, it was performed with tremendous enthusiasm and precision; the whole band joined in the choruses as their instrumental work reached a final crescendo bringing the concert to a close.

The Landmarq artists returned to the club after the show to individually interact with their fans, family and friends and talk about their music, life and "the universe." Autographs were provided to new fans and touching new personal connections between the artists and their newest fans were also made. As their equipment was disassembled to be transported home, the evening came to an end.

Landmarq is a tremendously talented progressive rock band that really must be seen live to appreciate their capabilities. Each musician is a consummate professional, comparable to more well-promoted artists in their capabilities and overall virtuousity. The band together demonstrate an extremely tight close-coupling even in the most complex progressive instrumental excursions and are absolutely terrific when performing live. Click here to access their own website.

Despite hearing quite a bit of her highly dramatic recorded work previously, Tracy Hitchings' live performance as Landmarq's lead vocalist exceeded my wildest expectations. She has a well-honed stage persona, a dynamic and dramatic animated theatrical style and an accurate and extremely powerful voice. With several other projects planned for this year (including a planned reissue of her 1991 solo album From Ignorance To Ecstasy), her future is very bright. Click here to access our online illustrated biographical sketch.

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