9th September 2018
Backstage at The Green Hotel, Kinross
My two prime obsessions during my early teens were Prog Rock and unattainable girls. The result of which combination led to my main fantasy of the period: a threesome with Sonja Kristina and Annie Haslam – vocalists with proggers Curved Air and Renaissance respectively. I saw Renaissance live back in the late Seventies, so thought it only fair to complete my set by catching Sonja performing with Curved Air.
But it was not, of course, Curved Air we got here, but just vocalist Sonja Kristina and a selection of talented musos, mostly doing their best to recreate those often fiendishly complex tunes from the band’s early Seventies output.
Curved Air had, arguably, not been Curved Air (if you see what I mean) since 1974, when the Inland Revenue had pretty much press-ganged original members Francis Monkman, Daryl Way, the wonderfully named Florian Pilkington-Miksa, as well as the aforementioned Kristina, to reform for a UK tour and associated Live album. Once the tax bill was paid, Monkman and Pilkington-Miksa scooted off, and the band line-up settled down to consisting of Sonja and a seemingly endless conveyor-belt of musicians – some more notable than others, I have to say. I am thinking Stewart Copeland and Eddie Jobson here.
The lady herself is 69 years young now, and although she may be carrying a few extra pounds, she still cuts a delightfully sensual figure on stage, with her voice having lost little of its unique flavour.
The lengthy instrumental passages seemingly integral to prog-rock do leave her a touch redundant for spells; she generally filling the spaces by doing that hippy-chick arms-like-branches-waving-in-the-breeze dancing thing. A bit like Stacia, but with clothes on.
The problem with Curved Air back in the day, I always felt, was a plain old dearth of quality songs. Much of their output appeared solid (if occasionally rather stolid) compositions, featuring loads of impressive playing and appropriately unfathomable lyrics. But lacking hooks and memorable riffs. When they were good, on the likes of Marie Antoinette, Propositions and It Happened Today, Curved Air really could give most of their contemporaries a fair old run for their money...but there was often just so much mediocrity on the albums to wade through.
Although enlivened by a clutch from the band's most recent release, 2014's North Star, the set this evening was pretty much a Best Of selection from that early Seventies output. And only during the turgid Screw did I find myself stifling a wee yawn – I had been on night shift the previous night!
The lengthy Metamorphosis (introduced as a “small epic about aliens”) however, was great fun, and I really had forgotten just how beautifully simple Melinda (More or Less) is.
There was the briefest of nods in the direction of former band member Daryl Way’s show-piece Vivaldi, even though much of Paul Sax's fine violin work was drowned out by the over-amplified drums – a common gripe of mine at The Backstage. The bands best-known tune Back Street Luv (a number 4 UK hit, I was surprised to recently learn) closed the main set, with the encores a rather odd selection.
The first was Midnight Wire, the lengthy one which closes out the group's 1975 album of the same name. It delighted a few of the wrinklies down the front, but I found it a bit of chore to sit through, and it was the one occasion during the show when Sonja's voice appeared to wobble a touch. For the second, she invited (ordered!) everyone in the place to stand up and dance.....then the band proceeded to perform Everdance, perhaps the least danceable tune of the evening.
After the gig I considered hanging around to chat to Sonja at the Merch Stall, and to perhaps casually enquire if she by any chance had Annie Haslam’s phone number. But I was (as ever) too slow, and the lady was swiftly cornered by what looked like a equally lovestruck fan.
|Curved Air - Kinross 2018|
Melinda (More or Less)
Images and Signs
It Happened Today
The Purple Speed Queen
Back Street Luv