In August 2012 I wrote something about the history of the British band Wally and the three studio albums (see review) they recorded, namely Wally (1974), Valley Gardens (1975) and Montpellier (2010). I also mentioned the DVD That Was Then released in 2009. Unfortunately I couldn't write a review then because I never got the opportunity to watch this DVD, until lately, because That Was Then got a re-release, which is certainly worth watching.
The ninety minutes of footage look as if it was filmed in a time that progressive rock wasn't even invented. It looks as if it has been recorded in an age when making movies wasn't a professional business. All images are in black and white; the silent pictures had just left the cinemas. Therefore it all evokes a nostalgic feeling. However, don't think this concert registration is of an amateur level; that's not the case at all. Everything was professionally shot with lots of good close-ups and above all a perfect 5.1 surround sound.
For people who are ignorant of what happened on the 4th of April 2009 at the Harrogate Royal Hall an explanation is needed. On that day the members of the original line-up of Wally performed after thirty years to a full house in their home town of Harrogate. This comeback show was performed with the help of several guest musicians. Band leader and founding member Roy Webber (vocals, guitars) was joined by Paul Middleton (steel guitar, bass), Pete Sage (electric violin, bass), Roger Narraway (drums, percussion) and Nick Glennie-Smith (keyboards, vocals) who were all band members in the seventies. They were complemented by the new members Frank Mizen (bass, pedal steel) and Will Jackson (guitars, keyboards), who both had a major input during this reunion concert. Some additional guests supported Wally on saxophone, guitars and female backing vocals. This means that at some points twelve people were on stage to perform the music Wally recorded in the seventies and in 2010.
I was very curious to find out which songs they had performed from their two seventies albums and especially from Valley Gardens. In my opinion this album featured the most progressive rock tunes strongly related to albums recorded by Yes and Pink Floyd. Well, this show included The Mood I'm In and The Reason Why, so I can't be too disappointed although I would have liked the performance of Valley Gardens and Nez PercÚ as well. I even found it rather odd that Nez PercÚ, one of their best-known pieces, wasn't included on this DVD. Well, I guess we'll never know. Songs from their debut were represented as well. I could enjoy fine versions of The Martyr, What To Do, Sunday Walking Lady and To The Urban Man. Obviously songs from their reunion album Montpellier were performed. The audience could enjoy Surfing, In The Night, She Said and Giving.
Unfortunately Sailor, the best track of their comeback album, isn't on the set list. This great piece is strongly related to the music of bands like Iona and Clannad. Anyway, you don't always get what you want, but you mostly get what you don't want, do you? That's also the case with this release, because I wasn't really happy with the songs they performed from the Jackson<>Webber album What It Is (2006). The kind of music on this album has nothing to do with prog rock at all. However, these songs didn't change my judgment for this release since the additional thirty-minute material featuring a fine interview with Webber, Mizen and Jackson gave me a rather good feeling. They talked about the reunion, the aforementioned Jackson<>Webber album, the early days of Wally and why they never supported for Yes and The Eagles.
All in all That Was Then is a very enjoyable DVD. It shows a band performing their music, mostly dominated by the violin and the lap steel guitar, in a rather professional way. This way they stayed close to their original and rather unique country prog sound that was also invented by Paul Gerrett (keyboards) and Pete Cosker (guitars), two band members who unfortunately couldn't join Wally on stage because they had passed away too soon. Therefore Wally dedicated this tribute concert in their memory.
**** Henri Strik (edited by Peter Willemsen)
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