Fragile, Club Riga, Southend, April 12th 2002
By Guy Rickard & Chas Loeber
9.30ish pm, Club Riga, and I'm here for my third gig in the company of the excellent Fragile. The sign on the side of the stage said "No Smoking on Stage!". To the sound of (ironically) Firebird Suite, the smoke machine started!!!! Was that it? Fragile ejected for contravening fire regulations? Six quid down the spout? With no Fireman Sam raid in sight, the band took the stage and from then on, in the words of one Jon Anderson.."We have Heaven".
As usual, no simple number to give the fingers time to warm up; Fragile are off and running with Siberian Khatru, followed by South Side of the Sky. I was really struck how good the keyboards sounded (not in quality...that's a given) - whoever was doing the sound balance was earning their money. Both songs building to great climaxes. On to "The Clap". It sounds so simple, yet is incredily complex. I STILL do not believe that the left hand of Professor Robert is of human origin. The last time I saw a finger that long, it had ET on the end of it. From that beginning, we went through the "hardcore" of the Fragile set, with Perpetual Change, Heart of the Sunrise, All Good People, Wondrous Stories, the enchanting Theme, Yours is No Disgrace, and And You and I. Every song played faultlessly.
At last Close to the Edge is part of the set, so it's a first outing in Southend for this classic, and a fine rendition it is too. I've always thought "I Get Up" must be THE challenge for Steve Carney...emotive as it is and a pivotal part of the song. Steve..I thought you were excellent! It was great to hear Cinema too, delivered in powerhouse fashion. One of my personal favourites (I know....heresy!!)
Other memorables:- I definitely saw Jon Bastable smile!! It happened in Wondrous Stories, when Steve was imitating Robert Iles on air guitar. And then the news that the Southend Fragile faithful will feature on their forthcoming "Live in Helsinki" for two tracks. I've made space on the CD shelf for that one.
All too soon, and it does come soooo quickly, we're at the final number, with Starship Trooper. Really building to a crescendo, and then ....the break for the band intro and solo slots. Don't get me wrong...I WANT to applaud very member of the band, and Tom's choice of track is always a highlight (tonight's Strange Kind of Woman no exception), but it just seemed to detract slightly from the Starship climax. It probably reflects how damn good it sounded. Gonzalo's ELP (Trilogy?), Mitch's Solsbury Hill (good to hear his vocals up front ), Jon's Dazed and Confused, Roberts "Stars in their Eyes" winning Ian Anderson and Living in the Past, and Steve's Argent classic "Hold Your Head Up". .After that back to Trooper before leaving the stage with their customary individual departures. Nice touch, that! Then with the crowd, and a good size one it was too, yelling for more, Fragile duly obliged with their storming Roundabout.
As we left the gig, and my ears had a pleasing "SSSHHHHHHing" sound, in case I forgot how loud it had been, it was good to hear a guy comment to his mates that he thought Fragile were improving each time they come to Southend. I'll second that, and judging by the increasing numbers coming to each Southend gig, so do a lot of others. You cannot get better value than this band. If ET were real I bet he'd be using that long finger to phone home and say get down here for the next gig.
As for "No smoking on stage"?..........Fragile smoked from first to last. Thanks again, guys. Roll on November!!
This was the second time seeing Fragile at this venue and was disappointed at the attendance ( not uncommon reading other reviews!!). There is a big problem in advertising. I only found out by watching the web. I drive past this club every day and not once was a poster on show.
I'm sure if the advertising was better, so would the attendance.
As for the gig itself it was performed to a high standard with an excellent set list. Fav's included Perpetual Change, And You And I, Yours is no Disgrace, I've Seen All
Good People. A special mention for "Close to the Edge". A new inclusion that went down brilliantly with much applause at the end of it.
If you have yet to see this band, don't expect to see another YES on stage as other reviews might lead you to think.
They are NOT YES nor are they trying to be. In my view ( and this may not go down too well with ardent Fragile fans), they are a bunch of excellent musicians playing YES
music to a very high standard considering they don't have the range of instruments at their disposable that YES have.
THEY ARE A MUST SEE GROUP. What ever you have to spend to see them, you WILL get more than your monies worth.
Guys, keep gigging, touring and you will make new friends and fans where ever you go. Thanks for the show and I'll see you later in the year.
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