As promised another Celestial Fire review. Which is now the band name of David Bainbridge's live band. The album “Live in the UK” has just been released in the form of a DVD/2CD combo. The album has been recorded at Fibbers, York on October 1st 2015 during their first UK tour. Last week I rewarded the 2014 studio album Celestial Fire with the full 5 stars. But how can Dave Bainbridge play this multi layered music that was recorded with the contribution of more than 15 musicians in a live setting with a band that has only 5 members. This fact alone is already a big accomplishment. Besides the material of the “Celestial Fire” album the band plays some reels, two Yes covers and a surprising choice of Iona material.
Dave Bainbridge - guitars, keyboards, bouzouki, vocal, shaker
Sally Minnear - lead vocals, acoustic guitar, percussion
Simon Fitzpatrick - bass guitar, Chapman stick, Moog bass, darbukka
Frank van Essen - drums, percussion, violin, vocal
Dave Brons - guitars, mandolin, vocal, shakers
The night this album was recorded the band played two sets and only 1 encore because the venue had scheduled a disco for the young afterwards. People who visit prog gigs will recognize this phenomenon. Hopefully some of those young people had the opportunity to hear some of Celestial Fire's set before entering the venue. A chance to hear some really good music.
The first set opens with the title track of that wonderful “Celestial Fire” album. You will be blown away by the sound of the band. An amazing performance of this epic song that is full of rhythm changes and has some wonderful delicate parts with the most beautiful melodies. You will be impressed by the performance of Sally Minnear who not only has to perform the parts of several vocalist (masculine and feminine) but also plays percussion and acoustic guitar on some of the tracks. And I am always impressed to see Dave Bainbridge who is not only playing all those keyboard parts but also plays those amazing guitar solo's. In that guitar department he is assisted by Dave Brons. The next three tracks are from Iona. The uptempo and uplifting song “Today” and the first two tracks of the wonderful “Books of Kells” album “Kells Opening Theme” and “Revelation”. Frank van Essen who is also the drummer of Iona gives an amazing performance on this album. He is responsible for the powerful drumming, some vocal parts and some breathtaking violin parts. The choice for those wonderful “Book of Kells” tracks was a positive surprise for me. Vocalist Sally Minnear will steal your heart when she is performing those Joanne Hogg (Iona) parts. She gives her own personal twist to the Iona material and is singing in a natural way. Not forcing to sound exactly like Joanne but her voice has some similarities with the voice of the Iona vocalist. She is doing a wonderful job. After a Bainbridge arrangement of the reel “The Storm”, Sally shines in the delicate opening of the song “Until The Tide Turns”, a song from Dave Bainbridge's first solo album “Veil of Gossamer”. This song ends with a beautiful soaring guitar solo. The last track of the first set and the first CD is the epic “Love Remains”. The powerful live performance is just as amazing as on the studio album. You can find some great instrumental parts in this track. Beautiful piano and guitar parts, freaky synth and organ solo's. A song with complexity and brilliant playing of the whole band. Those wonderful instrumental parts are combined with delicate and uplifting vocal parts. For me this track is absolutely the highlight of the first set and CD 1.
Set 2 opens with the track “Over The Waters” from the David Bainbridge album “Veil Of Gossamer”. A piece with beautiful guitar melodies and celestial vocals. This is followed by the Iona favorite “Chi-Rho”. After this uplifting song with nice vocals it is now time for Simon Fitzpatrick to be in the spotlight. He is playing a very original and amazing performance of the Yes song “Roundabout” on his bass guitar. “Songs of Ascent Part 2” is a song from the Iona album “Open Sky”. It is a diverse piece of music with beautiful melodies. This is one of the tracks on which drummer Frank van Essen plays a wonderful violin melody. The guitar is taking this melody further to another level. The violin melody in the opening of the next song “Beyond These Shore” is breathtaking. Sally is also shining in this lovely Iona composition. So you see this band can play all those wonderful Iona tunes with this lineup. The only thing that you could miss are the Uilleann Pipes but those parts are performed on the guitar by Dave Brons. This is followed by two tracks of the same “Beyond These Shores” album that were never performed live by the band Iona. I am talking about the songs “Brendan's Voyage” and “Breandan's Return”. For me the second big surprise in the setlist. These songs are from one of those early Iona albums ... from the time when Nick Beggs was still a full band member of the band. For me a special album because it was my first Iona album. Love those beautiful atmospheric parts and melodies. Sally is doing a wonderful job on these songs and the guitar solo and guitar duet in “Brendan's Return” is great. After those beautiful Iona songs the band closes the second set with one of the epics of the “Celestial Fire” album. This epic is entitled“ In The Moment” and the atmosphere of the song gives me a Clannad meets Iona feeling. After Dave Brons has played the wonderful Uilleann Pipes solo on his guitar (well done) Dave Bainbridge goes mad on his keyboards and the piece is working towards a kind of climax before a beautiful violin melody accompanied by Sally's angelic voice and a delicate guitar part closes this wonderful track. The encore is a special one ... a delicate cover version of the Yes classic “Soon” which you can find on the “Relayer” album. It is pure bliss, a worthy ending of a remarkable live document.
I love live recordings because you can feel the passion and the energy of the band on stage. The quality of the audio recording is perfect and the DVD gives you the opportunity to witness the complete show. It shows you the musical craftsmanship of the band members. Is there nothing that could be better? Well the only thing which I noticed is that some shots from the back of the stage are a little bit out of focus. But it is a wonderful live document and the extra footage of the rehearsals of Dave and Sally are very interesting. Quality freaks (like myself) would love the see a BluRay version with a surround sound mix. But this will be a huge investment for a prog band. I am very happy with this 2CD/DVD combination which gives you a perfect image of a Celestial Fire gig. Can't wait to see them myself on a Dutch stage in the near future ...
Celestial Fire's live document “Live in the UK” is highly recommended by progVisions and is a must buy for all the Iona and Dave Bainbridge fans. I am sure you will be enchanted by the performance of the lovely Sally Minnear.
Note: The band will play the Progdreams VII Festival at our Dutch prog temple de Boerderij in Zoetermeer, The Netherlands that will take place in the first weekend of March 2018.
This news was confirmed yesterday on the social media platforms.