Gig review: Frost*Bites

King’s Cross Scala, December 16th 2012

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Legendary bands Frost* and It Bites played a one-off Xmas gig last year at The Scala in London, and I was there! Here’s my gig review (originally posted on the Frost*ies forum)…

Arrived at King’s Cross at about 18:10 and felt quite thrilled walking around in my normal winter attire of michelin-man puffa jacket and Frost* hat as for once I was likely to be outed as a prog fan by the Frost*erisk (not likely on my normal commute to work). So I kept my eyes peeled for any nods of recognition as I trundled through St Pancras and King’s Cross. I saw none, so whether I was noticed amidst the parade of shops and sweeping ceilings I know not, but I got to the Scala at about 18:25 and the queue didn’t look too bad. Txtd my mate Lozza to say I might nip off for a coffee but decided not to, and rightly so as it rapidly got *really* long and some sort of barrier things were put in place.

Lozza was in fact running late and I was getting worried as to what to do if we started getting into the venue before he arrived, as I had the tickets, but he turned up just in time and the nice lady behind me did not mind him joining me in the queue. Then, classically, the pair of us waited for 15 minutes in the foyer whilst he ate his sandwich… :S

Anyway, we eventually got in and took a place on the RH balcony, which gave an ace view over the crowd, though the Blunderdrums were quite dimly lit. I was seriously surprised at how full it got though. Once the band came on every spot around and in front of us seemed occupied in the end and there were a few incidents of wincidence when people tried to move around our bit of the venue – not only uncomfortable squeezing but there were a few consternated folk who either didn’t wanna move or knew you couldn’t move or something. I was glad of my nice view at this point and pondered for a micro second on a night when “The Big Machine” might be played of the time that our own band, Small Machine, played the Scala and we didn’t have that packed crowd problem 🙂 (http://youtu.be/-cm4V1AW_QM if yer interested…)

All my Frost* and It Bites, erm, bits...So, to the music – it was just great to see Frost* full stop; the readings on the exciteograph had gone off the scale and it was a great choice to kick off the gig with a new track – Heartstrings. I look forward to hearing that in its final form – it sounded like the best of each player crafted into a great showcase track. Elsewhere throughout the whole set I was particularly taken by Nathan King’s immense bass tone; I couldn’t appreciate it so well last year at the Peel but this time it was the real foundation of the sound. Blunders punctuated each song with his enthusiasm and verve, and Jem seemed to be having a whale of a time, though the keys were hard to pick out at times from our sonic vantage point. There was a great vocal blend going on too. I have to say I was somewhat worried by John Mitchell though – no problem with his playing or singing, but he seemed really subdued and almost worried looking at times; I put a lot of that down perhaps to having to play both sets and be the focal point for the whole night, and later when he explained at the start of the It Bites set that their touring had shot their voices to bits I could see why he might have looked worried before his frontman role in the IB set.

Nevertheless the Frost* set was ace, and with Hyperventilate, another new song, BLM, Dear Dead Days and the whole of Milliontown it was going to be very groovy indeed – how could it not be groovy?! The silly stuff was silly, and seeing JG dancing to “Blunders Style” was truly odd. I loved the batch of the audience who were singing along to the melodies in the instrumental sections and it was good to know there was a lot of love out there in that big old audience for the band. “I saw Frost* live and they did Milliontown” – just reading that makes perfect sense of a great evening, and the band carried off a bloody complicated song with ease.

Lozza and I had a quick review of proceedings in the break and then it was on for IB. John Mitchell had perked up considerably and was taking no prisoners with the crowd; he wanted to know we were out there and I hope we got the message across. The audience had thinned out slightly after Frost* from my perspective, but though I’d not seen IB before I was struck by how much love there was in the crowd – this band had got a lot of fans in the audience and you didn’t have to look far to see someone singing along in a way that suggested this was an important moment for them. To be honest, I’ve not experienced this in many gigs outside the prog genre. Somehow with this music, these fans and these crowds you get a special sense of special music. It may not be top of the charts to the wider world but it’s clearly top of the hearts, and when you are in a crowd amongst real fans there’s always the chance of a litte musical epiphany where the next time you hear the records they all sound just that bit better for having shared the songs in a crowd.

At one point JM asked whilst tuning who had the new LP (LOUD CHEERS!) and who thought it was shit (did he say that? I think he did)? SILENCE. I’m grateful to Frost* Forumites Pedro, DS and Duey for their suggestions for preparing for the gig; it was ace to hear them rip through Ghosts and Plastic Dreamer, and when they did Meadow and The Stream and The Wind That Shakes The Barley I was blown away – live, the band injected the songs with a great deal of passion and verve. The Big Machine was epic, Cartoon Graveyard was knockout, and, just as seeing Frost* and seeing Milliontown makes perfect sense, they went and finished off with Once Around The World. I was taken back to seeing the band recording it on a Channel 4 show called Twang, Bang, Kerrang (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-AveJxs_TmY) and wondered if the young JM had seen it back then too – and now he was onstage doing it for real. Throughout the set Nathan King did some sterling bass playing (including some complex runs as well as solid foundation work) and vocals, and of course the two original “Biters” were there, with John Beck in his seated pose tickling various keyboards and the metronomic Bob Dalton nailing everything down from the back. I wonder now if all those backing vocals I’d attributed to John Beck weren’t coming from Bob Dalton…

Part of me hoped the circumstances might have meant the encore would include Blunders and Jem joining It Bites for a proper Frost*Bites collaboration on one song, but I guess logistically that would have been a tall order. Nevertheless Kiss Like Judas caused a lot of happy bopping and rounded the night and my own year of gigs off nicely.

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