Age Of Reflection / A'Priori / Atlas Hot

Added by Central Electronic Brain     December 27, 2019    
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Age Of Reflection / A'Priori / Atlas - Birdwell Venue, Barnsley (UK) - 09 November 2019

This evening the Birdwell Venue hosted the triple-A bill of Atlas, A'Priori and Age Of Reflection. At just a tenner it was fantastic value for money, but sadly only fifty to sixty people were in attendance, including the bands themselves!

The previous evening, the groups had played on a shoebox stage in Manchester, so you could see their obvious delight of the large stage at the Birdwell Venue. In my review of their first ever gig (supporting Vega last summer) I said that Atlas (Craig Wells – vocals; Howie Little – guitars; John Moss – guitars and overcoat; James Thorley – keyboards; Christian Redfearn – bass; Ryan Briggs - drums and percussion) looked like a band of real-ale drinkers: tonight, they looked like a bunch of art students! What is in no doubt is the quality of their musicianship and songs (most of this evening's set taken from their debut album 'In Pursuit Of Memory', which I was privileged to review for Fireworks in Issue#84).

'Cross The Line', from their debut 'World In Motion' EP, was the oldest song played, whilst if new number 'Weathered Heart' is anything to go by, then the sophomore album, due for release in 2020, looks like it's going to be a belter. Wells introduced the new song; however, it took what seemed an age for keyboard player Thornley to begin the intro, to which some sharp-witted fan shouted, "They're still writing it!"

Singer Wells was in fine voice throughout, notably on 'Signal Of Hope', whilst 'Flesh & Blood' and set closer 'As Time Goes By' exemplified the aforementioned musicianship.

Setlist: Samsara / Seasons Change / Cross The Line / Weathered Heart / Lock & Key / Breathe Me In / Signal Of Hope / Flesh & Blood / As Time Goes By

This was my first time seeing Blackpool power trio A'Priori, whose brand of music centres more around hard-hitting riffs, as opposed to melody and hooks. They are an unusual trio in that drummer Mouse Lang and guitarist/vocalist Tony Lang are completed not by a traditional bass player, but keyboard wizard Mark Wilson. Their set was largely Hard Rock originals with a couple of covers, neither of which I would have predicted. Firstly, Cameo's 'Word Up' (made famous by Gun in the Rock world), then the song with arguably the most famous riff in the world, The White Stripes' 'Seven Nation Army'. This was an unusual rendition, with the keyboards taking centre-stage.
'Lady In Red' (not that one) was a highlight, before the ultra-heavy 'Better Man' that I did notice had a few of the AOR fans wincing. The set concluded with 'Wasted Years', 'Liberty' and 'Black Church'. As much as I enjoyed their energetic set, I think they would be better suited to fans of harder Rock (although most of us appreciate all genres).

The members of Age Of Reflection (Lars Nygren – vocals; Carl Berglund - guitar, backing vocals; Jonas Nordqvist - guitar, backing vocals; Jens Rüttgeroth - keyboards, backing vocals; Jan Skärming - bass, backing vocals; Peppe Vikman - drums, backing vocals) had spent the evening talking to the fans and supporting the other two bands before they hit the stage. They played like it was a full-house, and never stopped smiling throughout. The sound and mix were relatively good (although probably could have been turned down just a fraction). A large part of the set was taken from the excellent new album 'New Dawn', interspersed with older songs from the debut. Singer Nygren joked about calling them old songs as they are still only a couple of years old.

For such a small audience the participation during 'Evelyn' was impressive. Of the new material, the acoustic based 'What If I Break', 'Go' (first heard at Rockingham last year) and the ultra-Melodic 'Writing On The Wall' look like they will feature in future setlists for a long time to come.

The band took a lengthy break to thank everyone who had assisted with the tour, including fans, other bands, and in particular tour organiser Theresa whose birthday it happened to be. They brought the poor lady to tears presenting her with a present, getting the crowd to sing "Happy Birthday" and serenading her with the ballad 'Every Time'.
Their beefed-up cover of The Cutting Crew classic '(I Just) Died In Your Arms' fits perfectly with their AOR originals, and preceded the final song of the evening, the politically infused title track of their awesome debut opus 'In The Heat Of The Night'.

I love the attitude of the band, who knew they had lost money on the tour, but likened it to going on a golfing holiday; that is, paying to do something that they love! Thirty years ago a bill of this stature would have had the sold-out signs posted weeks before, but in this day and age, new Melodic Rock bands are definitely not the flavour; I doubt we will ever see a return to the glory days of the eighties, but that's not to say we cannot enjoy the great new music still being produced. AOR forever!

Setlist: Intro/ New Dawn / Stay With Me / Evelyn / Go / Borderline / What If I Break / Mirror Never Lies / Writing On The Wall / Blame It On My Heart / Everytime / Here I Stand / (I Just Died) In Your Arms Tonight / In The Heat Of The Night

Review and photos by Mark Donnelly

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