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The Robin Hood, June 21st 2002

By Malcolm Jeffrey & Mike Weatherhead

  

Traditional Robin Reception

Hurrying home hastily after giving blood in Stourbridge, I wolf some tea down, help put the boys to bed and then am off on the bus to see Fragile for the sixth time. work colleague Dave Payne is there and we swig some cider while chatting and listening to some nice Francis Dunnery over the PA : with the clock saying 9pm, there are maybe 150 people tops in the Robin to see the UK’s Yes tribute band - are they going to be victims of the post-England-vs-Brazil blues tonight ? I pop to the cloakroom to buy the new “Live In Helsinki” CD and by the time the next round is bought, the audience has swollen to 300+, all bedecked in Fragile and Yes t-shirts again : phew - it looks like we’ll be giving Fragile their traditional Robin reception after all ! soon, the time-honoured strains of the “Firebird Suite” ring out and in the darkness Fragile swiftly take their positions, and the by now full room of Yesheads eagerly await the first number…

…and it’s “Siberian Khatru”, once more played with gusto and an excellent opener from Fragile. Gonzalo Carreras’ keyboard sound is spot on from the start, the Yes interplay between the demonic Jon Bastable on bass and “Mad Magyar” Robert Illes on guitar is tight and exciting, and right from the off, Tom Dawes is solidly producing the riffs and chords that you expect to hear (being familiar with the albums) but don’t notice him doing unless you’re looking. meanwhile, Mitch Harwood’s percussion is as enthusiastic and detailed as ever and Steve Carney, still unsettlingly bedecked in that translucent cheesecloth shirt, proves his impeccable vocal pedigree with every note sung : even when, arms outstretched, he gets to the “outboard, river, blue tail, tailfly” bit at the end, a swift peek over the monitors by yours truly reveals no cheat sheet this time ! straight into the next one, “South Side Of The Sky”, Fragile maintain the momentum with Robert frankly great on those awesome, punctuating verse arpeggio bits, Jon nailing the growling bass line and Tom noticeably grooving at the end before a top acappella arrangement brings the song to a finish and heralds a whopping big cheer from the Robin faithful. a heckler at the back calls for some Des O’Connor, and Steve glibly parries, saying he’s not brought his sweater with him…

“Perpetual Change” is next up, featuring some super slow blues from Mr Illes in the middle, somehow essentially Steve-Howey while not the recorded version of the melody, and the stereo split when the band do the two differently timed figures simultaneously is beautifully anchored by Tom. no rest for the wicked - Robert has barely time to wipe the sweat from his brow before launching bravely into “The Clap”, teasing and milking the crowd’s attentions with deft showmanship and made all the more tricky for himself by playing it on an acoustic that’s held rigid on a stand… then they play us a blistering “Cinema”, and then segue straight into “And You And I” which is as tight as I’ve ever seen them perform it and which gets the room-full of Brierley-Hillians all singing along with Steve to Jon Anderson’s lyrics about nailing sad preachers to doors… following this sterling effort, most of them go off for a rest while Gonzalo and the indefatigable Mr Illes perform the fine, suitably Yessy, Fragile-penned “Theme”.

ah ! the moment that many have been anticipating, as a familiar twittering of rare birds fills the air and, hopefully suitably re-energised, Fragile re-group on stage. Tom is wielding a tambourine, which explains why he’s the only one not looking a tad tense ! - for, true to their word on their website, Fragile are going for the Big One with “Close To The Edge”. I reckon that, on and off, it took me over ten years to play the intro bassline to this evil meisterwerk note perfectly (although I’m using a full-scale Precision, that’s MY excuse !), and for ages I would have sworn that Chris Squire had a machine that did it for him… so I’m more than eager to see how the chaps fare and hold my breath as the birds reach a crescendo. and you know what ? I reckon that Fragile nailed it. the demonic Jon Bastable reproduces The Doctor’s fabulous and monstrously intricate bass pattern without seemingly breaking a sweat, with Robert Illes duplicating the achievement with a seemingly note-perfect demonstration of Steve Howe’s manic opening salvo, while Gonzalo and Mitch maintain the atmosphere and intensity behind them. when Mr Carney joins in it only gets better, with the band’s timings and speed-changes spot-on and the three-part harmonies in the central, slower “white lace” segment also nailed with surprising accuracy and effectiveness : at the end of the “I get up, I get down” section Gonzalo bangs the organ sound out with dramatic volume, with Robert studiously damping the acoustic’s strings to prevent any feedback. meanwhile, Steve Carney is delivering Accrington Jon’s unusual and… er… eclectic lyrics with passion and commitment, Tom has relinquished the tambourine and is adding the supporting chord-work and playing which makes the audience’s experience that much more complete (more so than the sparser AWBH arrangement I attended, for example), and at the back, Mitch’s percussion is pretty damn pivotal in helping his band-mates hold it together. make no bones about it, “Close To The Edge” is a phenomenally intricate and bloody hard-to-play piece of work and, as the last notes die away and the bird-calls bring the work to a close, it would be only churlish and petty to suggest anything other than that Fragile’s musicians have pulled off a remarkable achievement.

SThe Demonic Jon Bastable

The "Sleazy" Tom Dawe

The Exotic Brierley Hill

a pretty intense and knowledgeable round of applause follows from our side, and Fragile coast back down with the ( (comparatively) easier “Wonderous Stories”. next, Steve Carney introduces “Heart Of The Sunrise” - every time I see Fragile, they surpass themselves on this one and tonight is no exception, with the overall tightness on the stops-and-starts so deceptively, easily dispatched, and then the night begins to draw to a close as “Starship Trooper” is kicked off and I begin to look forward to finding out what individual choices will be in the medley this time ! as ever, “Trooper” is jaunty and well-played, and as the music is taken down, the traditional Fragile “let them know what else we like when we’re not playing Yes” section begins. this tour, Robert Illes has brought his flute, and he entertains us with a jolly excerpt from Tull’s “Living In The Past” with Jon’s arpeggio bass a fitting accompaniment - I didn’t see if there was a cod-piece or one-legged posture in evidence, however, but while we’re clapping him, a mock-stern Mr Carney says “I TOLD you - wrong frigging Anderson !”. we get the familiar keys riff to “Dreamer” from “Noo-Noo” Gonzalo, who is apparently the Iberian peninsula’s biggest Supertramp fan ; Jon delights the Black Country rockers with the lazy, sleazy bassline to Led Zep’s “Dazed And Confused” ; Mitch leads the more art-rocky of the crowd in a rendition of Gabriel’s “Solsbury Hill” ; Argent’s “Hold Your Head Up” is the popular choice of Steve Carney ; and, in traditional crowning spot, Tom Dawes takes front and centre spot for a rousing “Strange Kind Of Woman” worthy of Purple’s repertoire, before completing the circle by producing a glorious, rampant “Würm” in only the way that Tom can ( ;-} ), and the applause from the audience is enthusiastic and warm. finally, to bring the evening to a close, Fragile play us an excellent “Roundabout” and, with a tired but seemingly satisfied group bow, the night’s over. I lurk around after to chat to the Fragile chaps and to get my CD sleeve signed, and it was good to chat to them all again, before going home with Mr Taxi Man for a satisfied kip.

verdict time then ! once again, an evening of dedication, achievement and outstanding musicianship from Fragile, transcending the usual brief of the “tribute” band by bringing the complex, wonderous, multi-layered prog-music of Yes to exotic Brierley Hill. cheers, guys, and see you at the next one !

Malcolm Jeffrey

  

A little bit nervous

Just a short review from my 3rd viewing of the band at The Robin. Great atmosphere and crowd again at this gig, eagerly awaiting like me i'm sure the first playing of 'Close to the Edge' at this venue. I won't review the rest of the gig, as i have covered this in previous reviews on this site, just to say all tracks are accomplished and get better and better in quality and delivery. CTTE is what i went for, and i was not dissapointed. AWESOME, AWESOME, AWESOME, i don't know if it is only me, but before they start, you just feel a little bit nervous on their behalf, everyone knows this is THE classic track, and musically probably one of the most difficult to replicate, but after 20 seconds, it all eases into serious appreciation of perfection playing, i can honestly say, close your eyes, and you could have been listening to the original cd at home, special praise for guitar work by Robert & John. The fact that Steve mentioned this track had been 4 years in the working, i think they made a conscious decision to wait until they had completely cracked it, rather than rush into playing it live and not nailing it as they did. As a major YEShead i cannot praise them enough, it truly is now a Classic show.

Well done all the boys, very well done, keep it up and see you again soon.

Best regards

Mike Weatherhead

S

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