Cabernet Sauvignon, pizza and Prog on Stokesley high street.

I have attended a lot of gigs lately the most gratifying being Steve Hackett’s Genesis revisited II at The sage Gateshead. However, it is the most unsuspecting local events that sometimes put a smile on your face without having to travel too far from home and pay a kings Ransom to watch. One such show was that of new Prog band Xenolith from the sleepy village of Swainby in North Yorkshire. However, it was at neighboring town Stokesley that they decided to stage their second ever performance which saw them playing to an almost packed to capacity hall. Stokesley town hall is somewhere that Mrs Meister and myself have become rather familiar with over the past few years and we always enjoy the quaintness of the building and the town itself.

What sets Xenolith apart from other Prog covers band in my opinion is their choice of music. Many covers bands will either base their whole set on the music of one band or the most popular pieces of prog’s finest. Not so with Xenolith. Starting their set with Deodato’s 2001 Space Odyssey the band then won me over straight away by playing Tommy by Focus. However, the best was yet to come, starting with Gluttony taken from the album Seven by one of my favourite modern Prog bands Magenta. Other songs from the Seven album were Lust and Anger as well as early Magenta songs like The White Witch from their revolutions album. The passion with which the band played the Magenta pieces made the performance very special indeed. The band seem to relish the complexities of these Magenta pieces demonstrated by Phil King’s use of Roland guitar synth and David Smerdon’s metronomic timing in the lower frequencies.

The band played three sets which allowed time to consume pizza and replenish the Cabernet Sauvignon from the bar. Opening the last set, boards man Neil Craig played a rather splendid rendition of Over The Rainbow which i thought was a shear delight. The set list was rich with some great pieces which i have yet to hear many cover bands play. Playing Focus II and III was in my opinion was very brave as was Edgar Winter’s Frankenstien and Sky’s ubiquitous little ditty Dance Of The Little Fairy’s. There were minor observations that struck me, like Rob Bailey’s use of V-drums instead of his acoustic ones, something i feel would have sharpened up the bands sound. When considering that the Stokesley town hall gig is only the bands second outing it is incredible just how together they are.

Anyone who brings culture and different musical genre to the attention of the public have my upmost respect and admiration and that is exactly what Xenolith did on a chilly Friday evening in May. The use of back projection i thought a nice touch too, especially when one of the screens gave a synopsis of the pieces as they were being played and crediting their writer. David Smerdon did a sterling job of explaining to the audience the history of the music and how it was being played. david did so with the precision and eloquence of Peter Gabriel in those very early days of Genesis.

Should Xenolith play in a town near you i would thoroughly recommend you check them out. As far as playing progressive music at an accessible level is concerned i think the band are a breath of fresh air.

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