The Pitz Club at Milton Keynes obviously meant a lot to the musicians of Solstice. The now defunct venue was an important location for this British band to perform live gigs. The bonus live-DVD, part of their latest studio album Spirit (2010, see review), was shot at this venue in 2009 and also the CD-launch of Spirit took place in the Pitz Club. This show has been filmed which resulted in the DVD Kindred Spirits. It marks the band's second live release after The Cropredy Set which was originally released in 1998. Later on, this album was re-released in 2007 as a CD/DVD-version of the same concert.
The ninety minutes of concert footage show that the guitar sound of founding member Andy Glass dominates the music of Solstice together with the violin of Jenny Newman and the voice of Emma Brown. Unfortunately the largest part of the set includes songs from the Spirit- album which doesn't contain the strongest pieces of the band's back catalogue. Not that these new tunes are weak or mediocre; that's certainly not the case, but they're less adventurous than the early compositions. Then, their music contained better solos and more prog rock influences. The new songs just don't linger that easy as the old stuff does. However, I still could enjoy this DVD. The sound is right and you see enough close-ups that keep you focussed.
I won't go into detail of all performed songs, but I like to mention a few. The opening tune Morning Light from New Life (1993) is a strong one and brings the old days back to mind. It always used to be the opening tune and it still is. Another fine piece is Freedom taken from Spirit and announced as a tune with guest appearances. This isn't quite true, but one guest is certainly present. From a tape you can hear the voice of Adam Kokesh. He's an extraordinary man having the gift to inspire, empower and to translate feelings into words. This song made me think of Peter Gabriel's Biko. Another track that's worth mentioning is Ducks, a kind of jig or a piece you can use for line dancing. During the next song, the audience at the Pitz Club were invited to join the band in making some kind of hand clapping and singing along on 5456. Next is a drum solo by Pete Hemsley. To be honest, drum solos aren't my favourite thing during live gigs. However, this solo during Here & Now made quite an impression on me, mainly due to the use of samples taken from other songs, especially from Tubular Bells by Mike Oldfield.
Nowadays, the keyboards have a much smaller part in the music of Solstice than before the split, but the keyboard part on Oberon's Folly partly brings back the old days. In a way it reminded me of Riders On The Storm, a popular hit single by The Doors from the L.A. Woman album (1971). As usual the sting is in the tail; Sacred Run from Circles (1996) is undoubtedly the highlight of the band's performance together with the opening tune. It strongly reminded me of the lack of old classic Solstice-pieces on this DVD except for the bonus tracks. Unfortunately only New Life and Brave New World were included from their gig at the Loreley Festival 2010 in Germany. It would have been great if the entire gig had been included as a bonus because these two pieces certainly hit my fancy. They were perfectly filmed as well just like the main program of Kindred Spirits.
People who want to hear more classic superbly performed Solstice-songs must listen to the CD Kindred Spirits as well. This CD is a bonus to the DVD and contains a compilation of live tunes performed in 2007 and 2008. It covers a lot of old material they didn't play at the Spirit launch gig. I find those songs, again performed at the Pitz Club, very entertaining. It proved that Solstice could play my favourite album tracks as professional musicians. The CD-credits mention six tracks, but there's also an additional 'ghost track' lasting for eight minutes. That brings the total playing time of this live-CD to merely fifty minutes. I won't tell which songs you can enjoy on this additional track, but they're certainly worthwhile listening!
I was rather surprised that no photographs of the musicians were included in the booklet of this live release. The information explains why they had chosen to exclude live shots. A month or so before Kindred Spirits was due to be printed Andy got an e-mail from someone saying how much he enjoyed his recently purchased copy of Spirit. That someone turned out to be Barry Kitson, a big fan of prog rock music, but also a very talented designer of artwork. The result of this typical moment of synchronicity is the brilliant art that runs through the booklet. While turning over the pages of the booklet it's like you're reading a short comic book instead of looking at the package of a live album.
The sleeve notes, provided by Steven Wilson (Porcupine Tree), are another surprise in the booklet. Wilson used to be a Solstice-fan since he was fourteen years old as he visited a Marillion-concert opened by Solstice. Even without the pictures this release is a fine live document. The absence of a number of classic Solstice-pieces hardly influenced my judgment. The band still have the ability to entertain an audience as I experienced on this DVD-release. Therefore I can only say: well done!
*** Henri Strik (edited by Peter Willemsen)
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