Sweden’s Beardfish are an interesting proposition. 2012’s album “The Void” showcased their ample talents perfectly. A swirling, proggy mass that encompassed just about every sort of metal you could possibly imagine. It is at once challenging, accessible and fantastic (and the only reason it didn’t make RTM’s albums of the year list is simply that we didn’t hear it until early in 2013).
So, when they arrive with us for their 40 minutes at the Robin tonight it is something to be excited about. Rightly so too, as the band – led by the supremely talented Rikard Sjoblom, who plays guitar, keyboards and sings – are spectacular.
They play a few songs from the aforementioned most recent record notably “Ludwig and Sverker” and set closer, the astonishing “Voluntary Slavery” as well as a smattering of older material, such as “Love Song,” but in actuality it wouldn’t have mattered what they played, such was the fun they were clearly having playing their material. Here is a band that clearly loves what they do and knows how to transmit that to its audience.
If the starter was good then the main course is veritable feast. Spock’s Beard are prog royalty at this point. The band formed by the Morse brothers, Neal and Alan, back in 1995, have, over a string of albums, cemented their reputation as being just a bit special.
This year’s record “Brief Nocturnes and Dreamless Sleep” is no exception and it’s safe to say already it will feature high in RTM’s end of year best of. Happily the band have realised how good it is too, and proceed to play about half of it in their 1 hour and 45 minute set.
They with “…Sleep’s” “Something Very Strange” – which although it doesn’t start the record is actually a natural gig opener for the band, with its slow burning intro the perfect excuse for an opening jam, before it builds into a fine, catchy prog song.
A couple of other highlights come from the new record too, with “Afterthoughts” featuring some stunning acapella vocals, while “Submerged” showcases some superb swirling keyboards.
If the musicianship was almost a given, what you perhaps didn’t expect from the band was just how many, smiles and laughs there was during the course of the set. It is, shall we say, on the warm side in the Robin tonight, so much so that Beard’s keyboard man Ryo Okumot wanders into the crowd and asks someone to give him a beer, they do and he gives them a tshirt at the end of the show. It is that sort of relaxed atmosphere that in part makes this show so special.
If Okumot appears to be SB’s most extrovert presence, Alan Morse is content to largely stand behind his dark glasses and rather like Steve Rothery in Marillion (with whom Beard share obvious comparisons) and kick out the jams, as it were.
Front man Ted Leonard, who took over singing duties in 2011 has fitted in effortlessly, with his fine voice and casual, all American charm, and only once do things go wrong, when in the encore of “Go The Way You Go” the computer that contains all of Okumot’s special effects gives up causing a delay. Not that this matters at all, it only proves the band are human.
Quite stunning, Spocks Beard have proved this evening why some of the most exciting music in rock and metal today is coming from the Prog sphere. There surely cannot be any better way to spend a bank holiday than this.