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Southern Empire / Damanek http://ns2.rocktopiarecords.com/media/reviews/photos/thumbnail/200x200s/5a/bc/af/southern-empire-2018-thumb-54-1545929897.jpg Hot

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Southern Empire / Damanek - Boston Music Room, London (UK) - 30 November 2018

I'd been looking forward to this gig a great deal, not least because Southern Empire's 'Civilisation' album is one of my picks of the year, and I was not to be disappointed as both bands delivered terrific sets to a decent, enthusiastic but not large crowd. It's a shame that several of the gigs have drawn small ticket sales, particularly when a band has flown some 10,000 miles from Australia to undertake a more substantial number of dates in the UK than many more well-known names.

It was refreshing that there was no messing about, Damanek came on stage promptly and Southern Empire early so they were able to play an encore and have time to mingle with the audience.

Damanek's seven song hour-long set featured tracks from both of their albums, starting with the delightful 'Nanabohzo And The Rainbow' with its fine chorus. It can only be Prog when the subject of a song is Native American Indians and how they invented the rainbow. Guy Manning is the main songwriter and it has to be said he's quite earnest, which is no bad thing as I certainly share his views on ecology and the ruination of our planet. Consequently we get to hear about the plight of Elephants and civil unrest all wrapped up in tunes that aren't the least bit gloomy as the subject matter might suggest.

The band members are all quality players, but Luke Machin was a stand-out on guitar as he peeled off lovely solos. It is testament to their skill that they were so tight despite having minimal rehearsal time together.

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It certainly helps that keyboardist Sean Timms, drummer Brody Green and sax player James Capatch appear in both bands so the changeover is a matter of minutes, so that when Southern Empire hit the stage the atmosphere has had no time to diminish and the energy the band bring with them means it continued to rise. Vocalist/guitarist Danny Lopresto is the ideal frontman as he works both the stage and the audience with a joyous smile and an attitude that exudes his pleasure at performing for us. In fact the whole band were clearly having a ball. Cam Blokland is another star with a guitar as he also delivered a series of excellent solos. When he and Lopresto double up there's a delicious hint at Thin Lizzy.

Jez Martin and Green are a terrific rhythm section and they anchored everything superbly while Timms and Capatch added delightful flourishes. The band may be Prog, but they have the knack of writing superb and memorable hooks and choruses, notably the excellent 'Goliath's Moon', it also helps that all but Capatch provide backing vocals which lends the songs depth and interesting nuances.

In true Prog style, the main set concluded with the thirty-minute epic 'Crossroads' which is truly wonderful. It was that good that the time simply flew by. Rather than doing the now hackneyed walk off stage make the audience clap and demand an encore thing, they cracked right on with 'How Long' which had the crowd singing along with great gusto. The grin on Timms' face as he observes this was heart-warming. It rounded out a memorable evening; let's hope they come back again soon.

Gary Marshall

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