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For a Progressive Metal gig you'd expect something pretty unusual, and Unexpect are exactly that... completely unexpected. The Avant-Garde 7-piece, wielding not only a myriad of strange instruments alongside more conventional apparatus also have a fair few genres under their belt. Alongside the suddenly obvious Extreme Metal they have (among others) Circus, Gypsy, Opera, Jazz and Electro and they're not just influences either. When you hear them it all makes sense- the band flit through genres, not systematically but more erratically. It's loud and unrelentless noise really, not in a bad way though... it's interesting noise and often engaging. Main vocalist Leïlindel's haunting singing completely contrasts her energetic dancing (I'm surprised she didn't have someone's eyes out with her past bum length hair), in fact this is a suitably animated band. At times you forget they're playing the music at all because of all of the dancing. The crowd however are exactly as you'd expect them to be, confused and motionless. However, this wasn't any fault of Unexpect, the crowd remain pretty motionless throughout the night. Oddly, the last time Dream Theater were in Manchester there was much more movement. I have to admit, this band aren't my thing but they played very well and finish on the impressive ‘Desert Urbania’.
Friday 9th October 2009
The Apollo in Manchester, UK
Ordinarily, I wouldn't want to post a song by song review but for a staggeringly short set as long as 4 songs I wouldn't have anything else to write about! Interestingly, they instantly hit you with their appearance, Steve Frothingham on drums looking like the beardier side of John Lennon whilst vocalist/keyboardist Damon Fox comes across as more of a mad Victorian scientist. There's more brown going on here than at a Steampunk convention. Starting with the only track from their most recent album ‘The Evils of Rock & Roll’ it’s a brilliant starter, showcasing both their Psychedelic Rock and Heavy Metal sides perfectly and easily the heaviest of the set. The funky ‘Neuropsychopathic Eye’ follows, bringing with it a lot more of a 70s attitude, although the much calmer ‘Disappear’ is one of those tracks that, performed live, has real sense of grandeur. You kind of forget you're listening to Metal... it's not particularly calm but Bigelf carry it so well that it never really gets heavy and the last track ‘Money Machine’ is a perfect example. Powerful but not heavy and definitely not angry. The end comes across as heavily indulgent as they make the transition from long instrumental outro to striking their respective instruments for much longer, creating more of an annoying noise than a rousing end. It's hard to describe but this was powerful without being heavy, and calm without being boring. I would like to see this kind of strange retro be the new black but I don't know if Bigelf will ever be able to hit the mainstream and that’s a real shame.
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Reviews & Photography by Nicholas Dishington
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Opeth begin as they've begun every show so far of the Progressive Nation tour, with the clean and sombre ‘Windowpane’. An odd choice of opener, not only because it's completely different from every other song on this setlist but because it's horribly depressing. Nonetheless, it's a good song and is sung beautifully but, considering its lack of dynamism, you can excuse Mikael Åkerfeldt and his crew from not being exactly lively. Unfortunately, however, they remain motionlessness throughout the show which disappointed me for a band with such brutal songs. Åkerfeldt does ask at one point how 'tight' they're performing and that's one of the highlights here; it’s all brilliantly reproduced! Luckily, though, the brutality was on its way and in no time the much more exciting ‘The Lotus Eater’ fills the Apollo. 'Full' is probably best way to describe Opeth's set, with such tracks as ‘April Ethereal’, ‘Reverie/Harlequin Forest’ and an instrumental before impressive final song ‘Hex Omega’ (good point to note many of these hadn't been played in the UK yet so a treat for hardcore fans). We were treated to a dominant, angry sound... even if the band did come across as passive. Announcing that Opeth are going to be taking something of a bit of a break causes many to boo but doesn't mar the performance and I look forward to hearing if Åkerfeldt's possible acoustic solo project comes to be.
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To I'm sure everyone's surprise we weren't given the usual long orchestral intro track. Instead, the sound of thunder and the haunting opening to ‘A Nightmare to Remember’ fills the theatre as the curtain is quickly raised and Dream Theater, sans singer James Labrie, take to the stage. With the band on full form, the song really is a treat for the crowd who are singing along when Labrie does finally take the stage... and I instantly remember my only niggle with live Dream Theater. James leaves the stage at least once per song for most of the songs. Whilst you can understand why, with the lengthy indulgent musicianship going on at regular intervals, he'd no doubt feel extraneous but still it always feels somewhat rude and his occasional tambourine playing really doesn't make much of a difference. However he's on top form and the time he's on stage is a delight; in fact, all of them play brilliantly. Not exactly the liveliest of bands too just like Opeth, but they're not still either; Mike Portnoy occasionally goofing off on the dominating screen behind them (which, throughout the night, shows a mix of abstract images, music videos and live footage) and Jordan Rudess interacting with a video of a wizard also playing keyboard while he also wears a wizard's hat. In fact, his solo just after ‘A Rite of Passage’ was the only moment where the musicianship was really let down as it has no real distinction and is played too fast for quite some time before picking up towards the end. The highlight of the evening was a sort of extended medley of songs from album ‘Scenes From A Memory’, heavily featuring ‘The Dance of Eternity’, ‘One Last Time’ and ‘The Spirit Carries On’ which not only fit together perfectly but sound brilliant live. The thing Dream Theater never lack live is a real sense of emotion in their songs which really comes across in final track ‘In the Name of God’. Without milking the encore for too long, they break into the oddly chosen ‘The Count of Tuscany’, an odd 20 minute epic that goes up and down throughout but eventually ends on quite a sombre moment. Indulgent but enjoyable, it was a good night with some more colourful acts to start with, but the best were really saved for last.
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