Still progging after all the years.
Live at The Brudenell Social Club, Leeds 15th October 2021
When you play long-form and you’ve got 15 albums under your belt, you can be your own support band. Fifty years on from their best-known album (In The Land Of Grey and Pink), Caravan have plenty to fill their two and a half hours. Considered to be founders of British prog, Caravan were part of the Canterbury Scene, along with Soft Machine, Gong and Hatfield And The North and favour a gentle lyric, a touch of humour and the occasional rock-out.
The Brudenell wasn’t packed tonight, but it is early days in the return to gig-going and many were bracing themselves for the next day’s Live In Leeds event. It’s a great venue and, despite the band lurking in the shadows of the dim lighting, the room’s shape always creates a good atmosphere. Taking the stage with a couple of songs from For Girls That Grow Plump In The Night (other terrible punning titles are available) and a warm comfortable sound settled. Pye Hasting’s affable grin surveyed the audience as he delivered words and guitar. This was what the audience was here from, despite there being a new album just out. They were even more pleased when the title track of The Land Of Grey and Pink was played. Wisely, Caravan went on to include all the songs from that album, spread through the gig, including Winter Wine, which they didn’t play live before this tour.
Moving from the gently lilting to the shuffle to rockier numbers, everything was done with good humour and the three songs off the new album (It’s None Of Your Business) were well received. By the closing of the first half with For Richard (from early album If I Could Do It All Over Again, I’d Do It All Over You), it scarcely seemed an hour had passed. The slow blues, like many other songs shifted through two or three sections, became jazzy then a bombastic, bass-led stomp.
With a mere dozen songs over the long evening, good playing was essential and the interplay around the rhythm section was a delight. Drummer Mark Walker grinned throughout, clearly loving it, checking in with Lee Pomeroy on bass and Jan Schelhaas on keys. Lee acted as a visual key, continually on the move, smiling and musically prodding Jan, Pye and Mark. Playfulness was in the air, with the band seeming to be genuinely enjoying themselves, especially during the spoons and washboard section. Bite and colour came from Geoffrey Richardson on violin, spoons and chunky-toned electric guitar. The interplay allowed grooves to develop and that interest is essential to pieces like the closing Nine Feet Underground, which was originally a whole side of vinyl, encompassing eight sections.
The second half of the evening saw extended instrumentals, longer sections and a more complex, ‘proggier’ sound. The touchstone of the evening was seeing (and hearing) men with many decades of performing, playing live music with pleasure and enthusiasm. Hearing a slice of English music history from a band that is still writing and recording ain’t too shabby either., especially a band who know how to play in 11/4.