Back into the glorious fray: a more than welcome return of old gladiators.
It’s that rare occasion where you can absolutely enjoy the show without actually knowing the material – or having forgotten most of it. This British band didn’t tour for more than six years, but on the strength of 2001’s “The Seventh Degree Of Separation” it would have been unwise to not grace the stage again. So they did, in style both scenic and sartorial. Filmed in Poland, in Katowice and, on bootleg part of the DVD, in Warsaw, the quintet come out of the background light coming alive to the front of a darkened space to launch the show with “The Great Escape”, one of their new compositions. With a sly question “Am I hidden from your sight?” from a new singer, Paul Manzi, it’s a perfect a cappella start to a fantastic performance.
Together with John Jowitt, who rejoined the ranks prior to the tour, Manzi, primarily a hard rock vocalist, brings force to the gems of the ensemble’s catalogue and their spectacular image. There’s a dapper-dressed theatricality in play now to elegantly fit the music, the keds adding spring to the band’s groovy step, while guitarist John Mitchell’s bare feet and plain white shirt hint at the emboldened vulnerability inherent to their oeuvre. More so, the stripes on JJt’s jacket harmonize with his four strings as do Jolly Rogers on Clive Nolan‘s chest and Mick Pointer’s slacks, and many of quite intimate close-ups make for further emotional engagement, especially when, on “Crying For Help IV” Nolan goes to the front to share his voice, crouching, with, in turns, Jowitt and Mitchell. Feelings flow en masse on-screen, the smiles exchange between two Johns during the “City Of Lanterns” keyboards solo speaking volumes of the group’s inner dynamics.
It’s riveting sight and sound indeed, and when the front man emerges in a top hat and tinted glasses for “Don’t Forget To Breathe”, it’s a creepy reminder of a gap between the real life and a musical fantasy. So albeit some momentum may be lost on the fresher tracks, the questioning “Crying For Help IV” picks the sway up for all to relate to, and “The Eyes Of Lara Moon”, with Manzi strumming the acoustic, seals the connection. Also deployed is a clever use of lighting – when, for the spoken section of “Solomon”, the stage is bathed in blue, it gets eerie before the clowning singer incites the punters to rise and join the frenzied action of instrumental blizzard. The DVD’s title is justified long before this moment, though, and it’s a crowning achievement.