Thursday 30th October 2014
Academy 2 in Liverpool, UK
Review by Mark Holmes
With a trio of bands from Inside Out Music's roster embarking on a nine date UK tour, tonight is Liverpool's turn to host this tasty package. However, I fail to catch both Maschine and Haken's sets due to a guestlist shambles that seemed to take an inordinate amount of time to resolve; not to mention being left hanging around indefinitely for no-show interviewees. Communication lapses aside, it's only the Norwegian contingent of this evening's progressive triumvirate that I manage to catch in live action. The most genuinely progressive out of the three (Haken and Maschine do succumb to elements of prog genericism on their studio outputs), I'm more than content with that.
Prior to tonight, I had wondered whether nine UK dates were a little too ambitious within the size of the venues that had been booked for these three bands. Sure, Leprous and Haken both have ever-rising profiles in the UK with each new release, although they're a long way from widespread recognition within the scene. Walking into Liverpool's Academy 2 tonight and seeing a partition curtain hung midway to truncate the room, it was already obvious that presales for this 500 capacity venue must've been poor. And when Leprous hit the stage, with no more than twenty people gathered to observe, my prior speculation has been reified.
Undeterred by the poor attendance, these five Norwegians still give it their all with a performance that is as emotionally immersive as it is cognitively stimulating. Airing tracks from their most recent two studio albums, 'Bilateral' and 'Coal', they maximise their set time with minimal chatting to those present (and there's only twenty people stood there anyway); opting, instead, to offer up a relentless onslaught of innovatively progressive prowess, where some tracks segue into others. It's probably the slickest I've seen them perform, and with a more emphatic energy than on previous occasions. Guitarist Tor Oddmund Suhrke is particularly animated throughout, and Einar Solberg ventures more boldly and frequently from behind the comfort zone of his keyboards for brief centre-stage stints to both bang his head and sing keyboard-less passages.
Sporting new hairdos since I last caught them live, two years ago, it seems their barnets are as progressive as their music; noticeably, gone are Solberg's long dreads. New sticksman Baard Kolstad and new-ish bassist Martin Skrebergene fit the Leprous glove well; particularly the former, who further accentuates the energy already inherent within the band's live guise. As a collective in 2014, this bunch of Scandinavian sonic subverters prove themselves, once again, to be one of the prog scene's most talented and genuinely progressive bands currently on the rise; going from strength to strength as they are. It's just a shame so few people were there to witness such a remarkable performance. I can only hope some, if not all, of the other shows have been better attended.