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Tuesday, 2 August 2016

A View From The Back Of The Room: Frost*

Frost* - Thekla, Bristol

Oh my how I had been waiting for this, since their debut record Milliontown I've been a big Frost*, however due to the bands nature I haven't seen them live, they themselves say "They have won no awards, have a prodigiously slow work rate and have split up twice." Happily they are back together and on the back of their third record, they set out on UK tour so I made my way to the boat in Bristol for what promised to be a very fun night of progressive music.

Many of you may not know Frost* so let me enlighten you a little the band is the project of keyboardist/vocalist Jem Godfrey who earns his crust writing pop songs (for Atomic Kitten, Ronan Keating, Blue and that guy from X Factor) but has a love of classic British Prog rock, so he set about writing what he loved and since then the band have become their most accomplished incarnation since the start of the band. Along with Godfrey he has Craig Blundell (Steven Wilson) on drums, Nathan King (Level 42) on bass and long term member John Mitchell (It Bites, Arena, Kino & Lonely Robot) so with a cavalcade of talent on stage it meant that there was small a but heavily invested crowd for the gig. Going into the venue it was time for a beer and a peruse of the merch table which not only had every piece of merch imaginable there was also shortbread in the shape of the bands trademark asterisk. (Bonus points acquired here)

Twats In Hats/Twats With Bats

This was a prog gig so obviously it was guaranteed to be out of the ordinary and in true prog style Frost* were also the supporting act, well John Mitchell & Jem Godfrey more accurately doing a set made up of songs from their other projects, some lesser known Frost* tracks along with a lot of improv and very little rehearsal (apparently). With just Jem on keys and John on guitars and both sharing vocal duties it was great to see this superior musicians in a more stripped back environment playing everything a bit loose. The few times they have been in this collaboration they wear top hats and use the name Twats In Hats, but due to the lack of hats they hung bats from the mics and became Twats With Bats, much amusements was abound during the set with both men letting everyone into their irreverent friendship. With two Kino tracks bookending the set Letting Go and Loser's Day Parade it was brief tour through the two men's careers with The Forget You Song and Lights Out from the Frost* back-catalogue along with a simply stunning rendition of Tall Ships from Mitchell's tenure with It Bites. These latter tracks were worth price of admission alone and it was great to see the two men having fun and joking about the headline bands upcoming three hour set (I'd watch it),    

Frost*

With so much revelry from the support the main set became a bit more po-faced with all the men totally serious about the musical endeavour, this of course is complete rubbish as with the additional rhythm section came yet more silliness, on stage banter and even some heckling between the stage and the audience. Proceedings opened with First Day which serves as throbbing intro for Numbers the insistent first track on the new record Falling Satellites which blended perfectly into the 'classic' Hyperventilate from the debut, this elongated mostly instrumental track displayed all of the bands impressive musicianship with Godfrey providing intricately woven synths above the technical rhythm section as Mitchell's oft-underrated guitar work was stunning.

With the end of the deafening Hyperventilate the call came from the audience to make it louder and proggier so the band obliged with the off-kilter Wonderland, after threatening Whole Again which weirdly got an enthusiastic from the audience and not just from the ladies, of which there seemed to be a fair few, something of a rarity in the progosphere but always very welcome. Godfrey's stage presence is a joy to behold as he is a bit mental to say the least leaving the synths to themselves for periods to annoy the rest of the band with his jests and quality face pulling, Mitchell cuts a much more stoic pose but with the aloofness of a rock god (its a good act anyway) as Nathan King bounced around like the Duracell bunny, unfortunately very little could be seen of Blundell but my god could he be heard.

After the excellent Wonderland Godfrey teased us with the promise of vocoder and along with Mitchell taking his first lead vocal of the main Frost* set on the atmospheric Signs which perfectly wrapped up the first third of the set. The rest of the main set was made up of one song; a song that was 32 minutes long, split into six parts and was all about dying. The song was the Sunlight suite from the latest album, it was played in it's entirety with the EDM of Heartstrings starting the piece off into the ethereal Closer To The Sun and the colossal The Raging Against The Dying of the Light Blues In 7/8 which is the nearest thing to prog/blues other than the Blue Floyd project. It was in this suite that the band really let loose, Mitchell peeling off some incredible solos, as Godfrey contributed the soundscapes and solos himself, behind them both Craig Blundell is one of the most dexterous and skilled drummers I've seen and Nathan King plays a mean jazz like bass and also dips in an out of yet more keys, with the crowd enraptured by the majesty on stage the 32 minutes flew by and the lights went off with the final chord of Last Day, cue the normal ravenous stomping and clapping and the band returning to the stage with the promise of more, the two encore songs both came from the debut record starting things off with the 10 minute Black Light Machine which is a majestic song that begs to be sung loud and proud with more than few fists in the air.

Frost* finished the encore with the impressive The Other Me which was stretched out and even had a drum solo in the middle of it which seemed to be a source of amusement for Godfrey and Mitchell (our opinion on drum solso are well documented) before they took up their instruments for the finale part of the song ending the night on significant high. Then that was that it was all over but for the shortbread eating, I had been looking forward to this show for months an I wasn't disappointed in the slightest, it was prog perfection from beginning to end with enough humour and technicality to appeal to everyone. Extra kudos too for finishing at 9:45 allowing those of us that don't live in Bristol to get home at a reasonable time. (These things are very important sometimes) 10/10

    

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