19 December 2017

Review: Cairo / Luna Kiss / Kepler Ten / John Mitchell – The Robin 2, Bilston by The Progmeister

17th December 2017. The Robin 2 – Cairo, Luna Kiss, Kepler Ten & John Mitchell (Xmas Bash)

This event, organised by Garry Foster (from WCRFM Radio) and Rob Cottingham of Cairo, has been on the cards for a few months now and at the time it was first announced, it seemed quite comical to see the band adorned with Santa regalia in the middle of Summer !!!

Anyway, fast forward several months and the big day arrived.

Doors opened a little late and the assembled multitude flooded into the Robin waving their newly acquired Santa hats, which were given away on the door. With four performances to fit in over the subsequent five hours, this had to run like a military exercise and to be honest, everything ran smoothly, due in part to Ralph the stage-hand and the two resident guys on the mixer and lights (names withheld for no particular reason other than I couldn’t be arsed to find out what their names were !!)

First up was KEPLER TEN – a relatively new band with one album under their belt (Delta-V). Drums, Bass and Guitar (with the bassist doing a Geddy Lee by handling seasonal knitwear, lead vocals and occasional synth) they dazzled the crowd with their dexterity and kick-ass Prog and I have no doubt these guys are gonna go far. Veering more into the Prog Metal arena rather than out and out Prog, they blasted through their set receiving tumultuous applause after every song, finishing with a full-on rock mix of “Wombling Merry Christmas” – this lot have a sense of humour.

A short break while the equipment was swapped and next up we have a young four-piece from Coventry called LUNA KISS, who had wowed the crowds at HRH Prog 5 earlier this year. Indie with more than a hint of Prog, these guys can play and front-man Wil Russell – jeez, this guy can sing, so much expression in his voice. Twin guitars, bass and drums with the occasional pedal (some nice harmonising at times). With a new album due out soon, there was more than the occasional plug and who can blame them, we even had a couple of tracks from said album. I get the feeling this band could be “on the verge” of success if picked up by the right avenues, check them out while you can before they get to stadium level – trust me. Following on from the previous band’s Wombling set closer, this time we were given a very soulful and bordering on emotional rendition of “Walking In The Air” from “The Snowman”.

Equipment change again, but downsized to Guitar and single keyboard for an acoustic set from the extremely versatile and workaholic JOHN MITCHELL, who was joined by Liam Holmes (both part of the Lonely Robot project). A mixed bag interspersed with JM’s usual witty repartee, we had a few Lonely Robot tunes plus Time After Time by Cyndi Lauper (one of JM’s schoolboy heart-throbs apparently) and yet another festive set-closer (John’s favourite Christmas tune – Fairytale Of New York.) You can always count on JM for much merriment and salubrious stories and tonight he did not disappoint, you really needed to have been there !!

…and so, we arrived at the headline act – the last gig of 2017 for CAIRO, the latest brainchild of Rob Cottingham. Having parted company with his original combo Touchstone, he’s back with a brand new band comprising Paul Stocker (Bass and backing vocals), James Hards (Guitar), Lisa Driscoll (Lead vocals) – who has taken over from Rachel Hill, who sang on the album, Graham Brown (Drums) and band leader Rob Cottingham on Keys and vocals.

With a pre-recorded spoken intro (Shadow’s Return Prologue) and plenty of dry ice, the scene was set and the band took to the stage launching into Shadow’s Return from their debut album “Say” which came out 2016 and has so far garnered glowing reviews from around the World, it’s even available on the High Street, Prog is on the rise people.

With only one album under their belt, we had the entire album (less the track “Cairo”) along with “Chasing Storms” from Rob’s solo album “Captain Blue” topped off with a fitting tribute to the mighty Greg Lake with “I Believe In Father Christmas” (complete with balloons falling from the ceiling and a real snow storm (you needed to have been there)). As a bonus, we even had a “special guest”, Matt Young from the Prog Metal band HeKz dueted with Lisa on “Searching”.

We had all been handed a Santa hat as we came in and at one point, looking around, it was like being at a Father Christmas Convention, even though Rob opted for the black version which stated “Bah Humbug”, but we all know he’s such a friendly guy really. In fact, it was so hot on stage, the hats were soon discarded, even though a few die-hards in the audience kept theirs on the entire time…

The set went effortlessly and with the inevitable encore, which included the aforementioned Greg Lake classic along with Katrina Breathe Mix and Nothing To Prove, the band left the stage to tumultuous applause. I think’s safe to say, the assembled masses went home happy and glowing. Once again, Mr C has surrounded himself with a superb set of musicians with whom he can bring along on his musical journey and with a new track “Tripwire” pointing the way to album No.2 I suspect, this band look set to take Prog to the next level…!!

The Progmeister