Sunday, 6 February 2011

777 TIN SPIRITS, Swindon Furnace, Friday 29 January 2010

Normally the prospect of a band playing "Prog Rock Covers", given that I'm a firm believer that Prog is the type of self-indulgent wibbling nonsense that we fought the punk wars to eradicate, would be one to send me scuttling for cover! However when said band, Swindon's Tin Spirits, includes XTC's virtuoso axe-man Dave Gregory in its' line-up, there's one major reason to go along. The fact that there was an XTC covers band, Fossil Fuels, supporting, gave added impetus to my getting a ticket!

I checked my last Furnace gig for running times and duly arrived at 8.30 expecting to see the support coming on. However, the band taking the stage, when I walked down the familiar staircase into the old "Lev", were the headliners - Fossil Fuels had been on between 7.15 and 8, just as I was helping to put the kids to bed! D'oh!

Nevertheless, this was what I was here for, and Tin Spirits didn't disappoint with a set that was never less than intriguing and admirable, but often rather splendid, depending on whether they were playing Prog Rock covers or XTC songs! As I mentioned, I really don't like the Prog, and having done my website checks I kind of expected this to be a gig of 2 halves for me - great when they played XTC numbers, boring when they delved into the Genesis and Zappa stuff. However, boring it wasn't - despite my lack of familiarity and enthusiasm for said Prog material, I enjoyed it more than I'd anticipated, finding lots of things to admire in the virtuoso renditions of early Led Zep and King Crimson material, rather than in the material itself. Kind of like admiring a painting really; this was music as a piece of art, played reverentially by excellent guitarists Dave Gregory (of course) and Dan Steinhardt.

However, music for me has really been about invoking an emotional response (a point I discussed with my old buddy Doug McGuire), and for that I looked no further than the XTC material tonight. An early "Mayor Of Simpleton" was joyful, sing-along pure pop, but the double whammy of the jerky, jagged "Scissor Man" and subsequent tantalising medley (riffs from "Generals And Majors" and other stuff thrown in here!), followed by a stomping "No Thugs In Our House" topped that for simple smile-inducing pop. Back to the prog after that, although a heart-cracking rendering of Jeff Buckley's "Dream Brother", with vocal gymnastics nearly worthy of the great man himself, from singer Mark Kilminster, was splendid too. A 2 hour set was climaxed with a sinewy reading of "No Language In Our Lungs" and a wonderfully languid "Towers Of London", capping a set worthy to kick off my 2010 gigs from a band who've come along very nicely thank you since my first viewing at the Vic 18 or so months ago.

Hung out afterwards awhile, chatting briefly to the band and also to Martine, Dan's wife who'd been a fellow student on the Creative Writing course which was of course the impetus for this blog. Small world - but I wouldn't want to paint it!

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