Wednesday 15th June 2016
Frost* are in good mood tonight as they take to the stage for their ‘warm up’ gig before heading out on the road for a UK tour supporting the release of their third studio album, Falling Satellites. Throughout the entire evening there is a warm, friendly and relaxed atmosphere with the scene being set by John Mitchell and Jem Godfrey (aka Twats in Hats) playing a short opening set comprising largely of an unexpected selection of excellent covers and a high degree of good natured banter.
The self-deprecating humour carries over into the Frost* set itself, with Godfrey wondering out loud at one point as to what the difference is between a ‘warm up’ gig and a ‘real’ gig. There is a lively and enjoyable bonhomie between Godfrey and Mitchell which covers all manner of things before they reach the conclusion that being a ‘warm up’ possibly affords them greater leeway when it comes to getting things wrong and being ‘a little bit shite’!
They needn’t have worried. Not only are they in good mood, they are also in exceptional form, delivering a pulsating and hugely energetic set which, from start to finish, is a sustained display of vibrant and spirited virtuosity. The musicianship is delightfully intricate, the timing in the interplay between the instruments is immaculate and from the outset there is an irresistible vitality and momentum which gathers you up, sweeps you along and leaves you completely breathless.
The addition of drummer Craig Blundell to the line-up is an inspired choice. Having recently spent time recording and performing with Pendragon, as well as touring extensively with Steven Wilson, I was cautiously curious as to what he would bring to Frost*. To put it simply, he is a stunning revelation. Kudos must go to the folks on the mixing desk tonight who create the perfect soundstage which delivers the sheer driving supremacy of his contribution in crystal clear detail. He is both inspired and seemingly possessed, a whirling dynamo driving the band forward with relentless energy and passion.
New addition Nathan King on bass builds on these foundations, a studied technical discipline blending with the spirit and rhythm emanating from the drums and creating driving, assertive bass lines which cross numerous styles and techniques to add an assured depth as well as creative novelty to the music. Jem Godfrey is a man who is clearly having fun. It is a spirit clearly conveyed and embodied in the artistry and vision with which he weaves all manner of mesmerising keyboard textures, mixed with an impressive array of synth voices and sounds.
John Mitchell positively thrives on the levels of energy and intensity being generated, using it as a cradle within which to fashion and shape guitar work which is, at times, spell-binding. Not only in the context of Frost* but also in the roles he plays in Arena and Lonely Robot, he deserves to be recognised as possibly one of the UK’s foremost guitarists. Several of his solo’s tonight are, literally, jaw-dropping. That he makes it look so effortless is bewildering.
The new album, quite rightly, dominates the set-list. After an absence of eight years, Falling Satellites marks a largely positive evolution in the Frost* sound and it is nice to be able to hear so much of it played live. What is interesting is the production values which are so prevalent in the album are carried across and accentuated in the live performance.
Again, I cannot praise the mixing team highly enough for their work this evening. The mix they created punches home and emphasises the importance of the sound stage to appreciating what the band are doing in this next phase of their evolution. It’s a big, expansive and fascinatingly contemporary amplification and development of the core Frost* sound. And whilst I have no doubt there will be some who will struggle with what the new release is trying to do on the basis of the recording alone, hearing it played live with the energy and vigour brought by the band tonight certainly helped to appreciate where and how this fits in to the Frost* project.
If you get the chance to see them on the present tour, don’t hesitate. Oh, and just for the record: after the wonderful experience tonight, I am now a firm believer that there is no such thing as a ‘warm up’ gig! This was nothing short of being a consummate performance of musical brilliance.
This review first appeared for The Progressive Aspect
Dear Dead Days
The Sunshine Suite
Closer to the Sun
The Raging Against the Dying of the Light Blues in 7/8
Nice Day for It…
Black Light Machine
The Other Me
Craig Blundell – Drums
Jem Godfrey – Vocals, Keys
Nathan King – Bass
John Mitchell – Guitars, Vocals
Band Website: http://frost.life/