Magenta and Sleeping Giant

The Herringthorpe Leisure Centre - Rotherham, England - 12 July 2003

Concert Review

Review © Stephen Lambe 2003
Images © Chris Walkden 2003
HTML and Editing © Russ Elliot 2003
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Last updated: 12 October 2003

This was an interesting prospect--a double-bill of Magenta, the "great white hope" of European melodic prog, combined with the more song-orientated Sleeping Giant, in so far, a rare headlining gig.

Magenta brought with them a feeling of rare expectation. With their debut album Revolutions (review) having received ecstatic reviews throughout the prog world, what would they be like as a live unit? Thankfully, they were a revelation! Within the first few minutes of set opener a full length "Children of the Sun" it became clear that the band were seriously good!

Though the Revolutions album is deliberately derivative, as a live unit the band seem to have developed a character of their own. Christina Boothís vocals were powerful and well pitched--note perfect, in fact--she can certainly produce the goods in a live setting, while band leader Rob Reed--on keyboards only in the live band--also impressed with his dexterity and subtlety. Martin Rosser provided some useful rhythm guitar, and, in particular, some very tasteful acoustic moments. However, star of the performance, and indeed the evening, was guitarist Chris Fry who turned in a virtuoso performance. Chris is very much a "Strat" player, playing his Fender with genuine invention and joy. He turned in one of the best--and most unexpected--instrumental performances I have seen for years.

As I enjoyed their hour long set of wonderfully performed, shortened versions of their first album, (and an impressive new song), it occured to me that I like their style as well. Rob Reed, for instance, knows that with modern keyboard patches, there is no need for huge banks of keyboards, so he did it all on just one! The audience gave them a superb reception and the message was from the band loud and clear. Itís the music that matters, and the music is simply wonderful.

View an exclusive selection of Chris Walkden's photos of Magenta taken at the gig. The images will appear individually in a new window and will advance under your control.

I have grown to like Sleeping Giant a lot over the last year or so, and was looking forward to seeing them stretch their wings a little over a full set.

I was not disappointed, with Charlotte Evans in fine voice and in confident mood, and Dave Foster, playing a variety of wildly exotic guitars, in excellent form as always, and soloing with great skill when he got the chance. James Rimmerís keyboard work was understated in the main, but occasionally it delighted, especially during his lovely piano riff on "Nothing More" from the excellent "Embers" EP. The rhythm section of Leon Parr (drums) and especially Simon Crumley on bass particularly impressed over the longer set.

The main feature of Sleeping Giant's music is that it is very difficult to categorise. I suppose it is unusually complex pop-rock with elements of funk and a lot of restraint in the playing to emphasise the quality of the songs. The songs, of course, are excellent, certainly rewarding familiarity. However, there was a lack of emotion about the band, despite Charlotte's soulful vocal efforts, that made the set feel a little one-paced. As a result, one wonders if they will ever really break through to a wider audience? It is not difficult to imagine people liking them, but do they have the capacity to make people love them in the same way that Mostly Autumn (for instance) do? Nonetheless, an excellent performance by a very talented and amiable band.--Stephen Lambe

View an exclusive selection of Chris Walkden's photos of Sleeping Giant taken at the gig. The images will appear individually in a new window and will advance under your control.

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