(from MAGENTA)

Sunday 16th September, 2007 @ The Robin 2, Bilston, Nr Wolverhampton, ENGLAND.

As you travel through life you are repeatedly reminded that there are still some wonderful people left in this world.  On a chance conversation we were very kindly given an opportunity by Tom Oliver (the long standing Sound Engineer for 'It Bites') to spend some time at the Summers End Festival. Out of morbid curiosity we just had to accept as this would be a gig that was way leftfield to anything we would normally cover - a Prog Rock extravaganza. The festival in full was over two days, covering two afternoons and two evening sessions with three different bands on each and we attended the ultimate session on the Sunday night featuring 'Christina Booth', 'Threshold' and 'It Bites'.

Things were running really late and the sound checks were still happening as the doors opened an hour later than scheduled. It was pleasing to observe a pretty good attendance filing into the hall, however I personally was totally unprepared for the sheer weight of balding, overweight, middle aged comic book collectors that had gathered here for such an occasion! But seriously, it was genuinely nice to feel one of the youngest at the gig, instead of one of the oldest.  As a consequence of the shifting schedule and the sober reality of the clubs eleven o’clock curfew, the evenings entertainment had to be compressed down (for Prog Rock standards) to a mere three and a half hours for the three bands!

Christina Booth

Chris Fry

The opening act was from a lady called Christina Booth, who for the uninitiated is the vocalist from 70’s inspired Prog Rock band and genre favourites, 'Magenta'. Tonight she was accompanied by Rob Reed (Keyboards, Guitar) and Chris Fry (Guitar) both from Magenta, as well as Tina’s sister, Fran, on backing vocals. They performed a compact acoustic set which included a number of new songs written by Christina as part of her solo work.  On the whole an entertaining if not a little loose set, which featured some heartfelt vocals from Tina as well as a cracking cover of Kate Bush’s "Hounds Of Love" to finish.

Christina Booth and her sister Fran

Rob Reed

Then amazingly, after a mere ten minutes the next band was on stage.  Threshold were going to be interesting, as their musical style was far heavier and far more influenced by the modern metal genre than most on this festival bill, and it was quite amusing to hear many of the aging crowd describing them as ‘thrash’ and being concerned at how loud they may be - it was a little like being at a gig surrounded by your Dad and his mates. Progressive metal would be a fairly accurate indication of Threshold’s music, which draws from both the progressive rock and the metal genre and so injects a healthy measure of enthusiasm and energy while removing some of the indigenous indulgence and stuffiness that can often be found in Prog.

Threshold - Pete and SteveThreshold - JohanneThreshold - Damian and Karl

With the recent departure of long standing vocalist Andrew 'Mac' McDermott, it was their original singer Damian Wilson (from back in 93, yes they have been going for that long!) who returned to the fold and along with second guitarist Pete Morten completed the touring line-up with the more established members of Karl Groom (guitars), Steve Anderson (bass), Richard West (keyboards) and Johanne James (drums). They stormed through a condensed set that was largely based around the new album "Dead Reckoning" but with a spattering from "Subsurface" and "Hypothetical", and so was entirely recent material. Opening with the immense power of "Slipstream" and then slickly into the hook-laden "Pressure" (it stays in your head for days), it was an impressive vocal performance from Damien who is also such a good front-man, he effortlessly warmed the crowd to the band and solicited an encouraging response from a largely shellshock audience. The rest of the set just flew by with "Mission Profile", "Hollow", "Pilot in The Sky of Dreams" (giving the mayhem a slight hiatus), "Light & Space" and after being told they only have three minutes left (and Damien then deliberately spending about that time telling us they only have three minutes left!), they finished with "This is Your Life" and disappointingly never any sign of a mosh pit despite Damian's efforts and his tentative stage dive at the end.

Threshold - KarlThreshold - PeteThreshold - Damian

It was a powerful set with some great vocals and melodies, it was very enjoyable to watch the crazy axe-wielding frolics of Pete looking like a proper guitar maniac and the very strange chicken strutting antics of bass player Steve. The synchronised twin lead guitar solos and harmonies were particularly satisfying and added to an already slick and entertaining performance.

After a thirty minute break, tonight’s headliners It Bites took to the stage. It was a standalone gig for the band as most recently they had to pull out of the Classic Rock Society date in Rotherham, so maybe you subconsciously prepared yourself for a slightly rusty performance. However, to all but those closest to the band and the band members themselves, nobody particularly noticed or probably even cared, as most were just glad of the opportunity to see the band playing live once again. And not ever having seen this band before, it turned out to be a pleasant surprise to discover the enjoyable blend of heartfelt rock with pop sensibilities that It Bites perform.

It Bites - John Beck

Their ring-rustiness was only really obvious during show opener “I Got You Eating Out Of My Hand”, where things were a little loose and craggy, but this soon settled down and they were well in the groove during “All In Red” and “Plastic Dreamer”. It was also great to see that on the whole the band seemed to be enjoying themselves, with the exception of Dick Nolan (Bass) who looked as miserable as sin for the whole set. Watching the interactions between them was almost as enjoyable as hearing the music, the serious concentration and focus from Bob Dalton (Drums), but particularly John Mitchell (Vocals/Guitar) and John Beck (Keyboards) who were continually bouncing grins off of each other.  That pair seemed to put their heart and soul into the performance, with Mitchell fitting in fantastically with both his stage personality and impressive guitar skills, and of course Mr Beck the consummate performer and artist wearing his emotions all over his face. And while on the subject of what John Beck was wearing, he had obviously thought ahead to the end of the night and a quick get-a-way as it appeared like he’d already changed into his pyjamas (which was a minor improvement to the surgeons outfit he turned up to the gig in!).  Unfortunately, they don’t make them like him anymore.

It Bites - John MitchellIt Bites - Dick Nolan and John MitchellIt Bites - John Beck

After the mini-high of ‘…Dreamer’ they played a new song entitled “Playground” that was familiar to some as it featured on the recent live album. It was an expressive and absorbing song that shows promise for their next studio recording (which the band pledged to be not far away now - they just want to get it right!) and was followed with renditions of the classics “Yellow Christian” and “The Ice Melts Into Water”.  But then it was time for something completely new and “Tall Ships” was introduced by John M as a song about watching from the sea shores the ships coming and going and wondering what it would be like if you were taken away by one of these ships for your last journey from life. A pleasant enough song but you felt there is definitely more work needed to make it something more special and lasting. The rest of the set was a blur with “Old Man And The Angel”, “Screaming On The Beaches” (with much singing from the crowd), “Calling All The Heroes” into “Once Around The World” and with a single song encore (we had reached the curfew) of “Kiss Like Judas”. They played an entertaining show with a good clean sound (a tribute to their soundman Tom who managed to get things sorted under quite difficult circumstances and with very little time), and one that leaves you thinking what a shame it is that they have only recently revitalised the band after leaving it prematurely dormant for so many years - oh well they are back now so watch out for the new album and hopefully for the fans an accompanying tour.

Well this session of the Summers End Fest was an enjoyable gig, with a sufficient mix of styles across the three bands to keep most happy and Threshold being the personal highlight. Despite what seemed to be the local vicar introducing the bands and announcing the results of the church raffle, the atmosphere was largely maintained with very quick changeovers and good band performances. This was the third year for this festival and judging on how people enjoyed this weekend, it wouldn’t be a surprise if there was a fourth year of this rare outlet for Prog rock.

Dave Yates



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