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Iona - Live in London CD (album) cover

LIVE IN LONDON

Iona

 

Prog Folk

4.60 | 18 ratings

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tszirmay
Special Collaborator
Crossover Team
5 stars As I celebrate 38 years as a mightily insubordinate and proudly irascible "proghead", which should surely qualify me with some kind of PHD (read Prog Heaven Diploma), I realized only recently that my misconception about power was totally misguided. I guess when we reach the teenage years, power is measured by deafening notes, booming amps, shrieking guitars, thundering organs, boisterous bass , concussive percussives, vociferous vocals and the loudest attitudes to boot. As we grow older (read more mature), the sonics evolve to somewhat gentler tendencies in search of that perfect chord. When I first heard Iona over a dozen years ago, I fell into a fairly common habit: pigeon-holing the band as Celtic-folk with Christian overtones without really paying closer attention, liking it a lot but nothing to lose one's proggy head over. The 2000 album "Open Sky" was the first "wake up and smell the java" slap , suddenly obliging a closer analysis and then becoming aware about the true subtle meaning of power. This group of stellar musicians has mastered a unique recipe, introducing at times misty ambient themes that slowly swirl, twirl and whirl in an unequivocally upward crescendo that verges on the intoxicating at its climax. When Bainbridge unleashes a quivering guitar solo or when Donockley lets his Uilleann pipes express the emotion of his soul, the true definition of power comes shining through the dense "Irish fog" atmospherics. Joanna Hogg's siren voice simply provides the lyrical cherry to the entire dreamy formula. You can now witness with your own eyes through this sumptuous DVD, the sheer passionate radiance and the overpowering spirituality of their style. While heavily influenced by folk, ethnic and Celtic elements, Iona has carved out their own inimitable imprimatur on the progressive map. This is not New Age music and has only distant connections with comparative lightweights Clannad or Enya. The five musicians express themselves imperially, so obviously entranced by the spirit emanating from their collective notes. Their honest smiles, onstage humorous banter and brotherly winks at each other as well as with the audience are simply priceless. The show is shot in London, in a steamily hot venue, with their perennial instrumental opener "Woven Cord" setting the atmospheric table, a compact non-vocal résumé of their approach. "Wave after Wave" is one of "Open Sky"s centerpiece tunes with that same startling, gushing and cascading feeling just as ever- present in a live setting as it was on record. Joanna really shines on this majestic song and the crowd responds with utter glee. A somewhat under the weather Troy Donockley jokingly introduces "Inside my Heart", warning that "In Frankfurt, Dave lost his head during his solo and it had rolled somewhere under a table" but I guess a little decorum was necessary since this was being filmed for posterity, so Dave just shred a sulfurous solo very nicely, thank you. Power indeed and you got to see this to believe it. "Wind off the Lake" and companion "A Dhia Ghleigil" serve as showcases for Troy's unique handling of the Irish pipes and Low & Tin whistles, providing some of the most poignant visuals, a true musician entranced by the outright power of the music. "Factory of Magnificent Souls" is another magnificent masterpiece, based on a poem by an Irish friend of Joanna's who was inspired by Robben Island , the South African jail that housed Nelson Mandela for a quarter of a century. The lyrics and the vocal are both heartrending, to say the very least. The towering "Encircling" is a lengthy piece of highly ambient music, with unending swaths of wind and wave, some crashing polyrhythmic drums colliding against the shoreline, screeching gulls overhead and misty rains enveloping the landscape. Tons of contrasts, gentle detail with soaring and panting vocals, brutally seared by another intrepid Bainbridge fret job, good God can this man play! A gentle low whistle outro ends this colossal piece of musical magic. "Strength" is a more conventional Iona song; much needed relief after all the afterglow from the previous thrill, supplying a spirited vocal, some mournfully beautiful lyrics and some resourceful drumming from Dutchman Frank Van Essen. Companion piece "Treasure" injects some outright Celtic folk tinges with more stunning vocals and an even poppier mood that goes down very well, especially with Troy's butterfly whistle playing and a fast country-style lead from Dave. My all-time favorite Iona track, the tremendous "Castlerigg" is twinned with "Reels", closing the main show pre-encore, a monumental arrangement that betters the recorded version with an awesome melody, some slippery rapid Uilleann pipes work that is simply mesmerizing, Phil Barker's bass popping all over the place, the gaga crowd clapping along in as if in a trance and Dave unleashing another gigantic solo. This is scintillating stuff, with an audience gone rightly berserk. MONUMENTAL! John, "youz gonna' flip yore lid" when you see this! Next up is a rousing two song encore, the lavishly sung "Irish Day", a gorgeous simply tune loaded with gusto and feeling. This is followed by a subtle Gaelic ditty "Bi-Se I mo Shuil" part 2, a lilting melodious cascade with some enchanting scat wailing from the ever impressive Joanna Hogg and another breathtaking Bainbridge rip on the 6 strings (the guy is sickening!), weaving magic with Donockley's whistle. The crowd claps them back on stage "You are not going anywhere!" yells out one patron, "Yes we are!" replies the very quick witted impish guitarist! Brilliant stuff, I tell you! The last two songs, the windswept "Flight of the Wild Goose" and the wondrous "Murlough Bay" are simply overt punctuation marks to a concert that was clearly a winner from the opening "Woven Cord". What a band, what a collectible! This powerful 2 DVD package comes with a second disc containing an enthralling 5 song acoustic stripped down folksier set, eschewing all the usual proggy elements, as well as interviews with the 5 musicians. Obviously, we are in the presence of 5 misty yet exhilarating stars.
tszirmay | 5/5 |

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