Ynysddu Hotel, South Wales
31 January 2003 and 02 May 2003

Concert Review

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Review and HTML © John Morley and Russ Elliot 2002-2003
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Last updated: 11 May 2003

31 January 2003. A mad dash up from London by train after work to South Wales for this gig, as this was unchartered territory for me, so I wanted to make sure I got there in plenty of time. The venue was a pub-come-guest-house, The Ynysddu Hotel, which was useful as I was able to stay the night after the gig. The actual concert was held in a reasonably large sized function room upstairs, with the stage at the far end of the room. The hotel is often used by the local guitar club run by Rob Southall, who was also instrumental in organising the gig.

This was only the band's second gig as Magenta, though keyboard player and vocalist Rob Reed has previously been involved with projects such as Trippa, Fyreworks, and Cyan, the latter also featuring vocals from Magenta vocalist Christina. Magenta have released just one CD so far called Revolutions. The band's follow-up CD, currently titled Seven, is due for release shortly.

Revolutions album consists of four main tracks, approx 20 minutes each, with a couple of shorter tracks in between. The main songs are based around the concept of (occasionally misplaced) faith; faith in love, man-made objects, war, machines and genetics. The band also make it plain on the sleeve notes on the album that they make no bones about their prog influences, so you will hear very strong influences from Yes, Genesis, Tull, Oldfield, Renaissance, Marillion and many others.

Having lived with this album for over a year now I can testify to the fact that this is much better than it sounds on paper. Apart from being superb musicians and songwriters, the groups obvious love for the genre shines through, and transcends what could easily have been just another Yes/Genesis etc clone – of which there are too many out there already.

What we get at the gig is these four main songs played in their entirety: "Children Of The Sun" kicks off the proceedings with its slightly folky, Jethro Tull-ish feel. There were some slight sound problems here, Christina appeared to be struggling to hear her vocals occasionally, and the guitar seemed a little low in the mix in favour of the keyboards. But this did not detract from the overall sound, and was no fault of the bands, but probably down do the acoustics of the venue. Despite this, Christina showed herself to be an excellent singer and strong focal point for the band, and between her and Rob Reed handled the sometimes-complex vocal arrangements and harmonies extremely well.

Main guitarist Chris Fry is definitely a guitar hero in the making. One of those “busy” guitarists, always seemed to have something interesting up his sleeve to add a little flavour to the overall sound, but also able to handle the heavier sections when called upon.

I was initially slightly apprehensive about how the band were going to reproduce the complex sounds from the album live in a small venue, particularly the keyboard parts, as Rob Reed only had a single keyboard. But I need not have worried, as he seemed to have most of the necessary sounds at his fingertips, with the occasional keyboard part augmented by Chris Fry's guitar.

"White Witch" followed, an epic, very Marillion-like piece, sounding heavier than on record, and helped no end by the superb rhythm section of Matt Cohen on bass, Rhys Jones on drums, and second guitarist Martin Rosser. The track is brought to a rousing finish by some great guitar pyrotechnics by Chris Fry.

Next up was a slightly shortened version of "Man the Machine," with very strong hints of Trick Of The Tail- and Supper's Ready-era Genesis, with its strong guitar lines, multiple tempo changes, and some great keyboard work from Rob.

The closing track, "Genetesis," was the highlight for me, with its very strong Yes flavour. Chris Fry pulled out all the stops on this one, effortlessly echoing Steve Howe's unique style. A very upbeat, fast moving track (save for the "Awaken"-styled mid-section) with some superb vocal work and some stunning Wakeman-like organ from Rob.

A very enjoyable gig, and quite an achievement to be able to reproduce the complex sound of the album in a small venue, occasional sound problems notwithstanding. It really would be wonderful to be able to catch them at a larger venue. I understand the band is currently trying to set up a gig at the Classic Rock Society in Rotherham, Yorkshire. And those of you lucky to be attending this year's Baja Prog Festival in Mexico are in for a treat, as they are on the bill. If they can pull off a performance like this at only their second gig, then there is no stopping them.

02 May 2003. Cannot help getting a feeling of deja-vu here. I am reviewing the same band, playing the same set in the same venue they played a couple of months before. Initially I was not going to bother, as I felt it might sound a little redundant. But the more I thought about it, I really felt I had to put something to paper.

Since the previous gig in January the band have played at the Baja Prog festival in Mexico, and by all accounts went down very well indeed. I think this has obviously boosted their confidence, because they seemed much more relaxed and confident on stage this time round. Christina particularly seemed very at ease, and was in very good voice too.

Thankfully the sound problems that slightly marred the last gig were not in evidence tonight, and I know the guys went to great lengths to get it right tonight. And it certainly showed.

I could hear all of the instruments and vocals very clearly, and was particularly pleased to be able to hear Chris Fry's incredible guitar work in all its fret-shredding glory. This guy really is a revelation, one of the best guitarists I have seen for years. And let's not forget the rest of the guys--Rob Reed, skilfully pulling all of the necessary sounds from a single keyboard, the powerful rhythm section of Rhys Jones on drums, Matthew Cohen on bass, and Martin Rosser on Rhythm and acoustic guitar.

Once again, we got the four main Revolutions tracks, plus "The Warning" from the same album as an encore. If you have not heard the Revolutions album, buy it now. If you like Yes, Genesis, Tull, Oldfield--in fact if you like prog in any way shape or form, buy it anyway.

And by all means catch them live, because these guys just seem to get better and better. Next gig is at Rotherham on July 12th supporting Sleeping Giant, by which time we should be hearing material from the new album, which is currently in the works.

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