Paul Menel & Sky Architect

February 12, 2011 - De Boerderij, Zoetermeer (NL)

Something old, something new!
To plunge at once into the matter: I'm not an IQ-fan or an authority first hand. I know the band exists and I know some songs, but I really began to like them with Frequency. Rather late thus. For this occasion I listened to the old IQ-albums Nomzamo (1987) and Are You Sitting Comfortably (1989) because these are the ones on which Paul Menel is singing. Both albums proved to be IQ's most commercially successful albums. I also read a lot about IQ and Paul Menel to figure out how things turned out the way it did. It was all very interesting and worth-while. After all, IQ is an icon in the prog scene and thus information is required for a reviewer. And now, after more than twenty years, Paul Menel has gone solo and performed at De Boerderij, which isn't the world's smallest venue. I was really curious to see what I was in for.

Sky Architect

But first there was the young Dutch band Sky Architect. I was very glad I had the chance to see them, because I missed their performance in Helmond. It was actually after that gig that other prog heads pointed them out to me. It took me a while to get into their music, but when I did, I was hooked. They have a lot of potential, but I remember other young and promising bands that were terrible on stage, so the question was: how are they live? Well, in one word: great! They're very professional with a perfect sound and a good live show. The musicians are neither pretentious nor modest. Actually, they could be more cocky, it would suit them right! I didn't have the impression at all that I was looking at a band that's just been starting. They're all great musicians - three of them studied at the music academy. And let's not forget their ages varying from 22 till 24 and the fact that Excavation Of The Mind (2010) is the only album they recorded so far...

Some people say their music is too technical; it would lack emotion. Well, I can get into trance at some moments, and for me that ís emotion. I must admit that I don't like all songs on the album from beginning to end. The coherency of the songs sometimes seems to fail with some strange transitions which I don't quite get. But then again, some albums take ages to get into my system and those are usually the ones that stick to mind forever. Anyway, the whole performance was very impressive. I've got images in my head of the young Steven Wilson, seeing guitarist Wabe Wieringa doing his thing on socks. Maybe that was the resemblance? But the feel I got with some songs, especially the title track of their debut album, also reminded me of Porcupine Tree. And in my book, there's no bigger compliment than that. I'm really looking forward to their new album coming out this year. I think these boys have a golden future.

Paul Menel & Band

Then it was Paul Menel's turn. His band consisted of bass player John Jowitt (Frost*, IQ, arK), guitarist Steve Harris (arK) introducing Paul's songwriting partner Ian Diment on keyboards, Bill Devey on drums and Mat Taylor on sax and flute. Ian and Paul worked together on songs for the upcoming album Three Sides To Every Story. Over the last few months they have been putting the finishing touches to this album from which a taster single Twenty One was issued in August 2010. Initially John Mitchell would join the band, but due to other commitments he couldn't make it.

It was a bit difficult to get in the right mood. After Sky Architect, this was something totally different. The songs, especially the solo stuff, had a large party content and had nothing to do with prog. Still, they rock! I was pleasantly surprised by Paul Menel's energy. He's a real entertainer and a show man who gave the songs an extra boost. The audience loved it, as I could see. Of course there were high levels of nostalgia, hearing those old songs again and a great vibe with a joke here and there. It must have been strange for old IQ-fans to hear these songs again; a trip down memory lane. But that also applied to Paul Menel. His voice hasn't lost much by time; it's like he never left. When I listen to the songs as a newcomer, all I can say is that I heard some great parts, but overall they are too commercial for me.

All musicians played very well. Steve Harris was impressive with his single handed playing at one point during Human Nature. John Jowitt stole the show by joining the audience, singing Promises (As The Years Go By). Paul Menel and Steve Harris performed this song acoustically in a very personal way. It was an intimate and personal gig anyway. Much had to do with the fact that there weren't so many people; the people who attended this gig were in general die-hard fans. I think they couldn't ask for more and were very happy with it. Paul Menel is back and although there's still a lot of work to do, I think he has been noticed.

Highlight to me was the song Common Ground from the Nomzamo-album. I just love this track, if only it could last longer. A special mention goes out to Mat Taylor, who did a wonderful job in the back on flute and saxophone. It was yet again a great night at De Boerderij, with a nice, but brief chat afterwards. And of course I saw many familiar faces. Paul couldn't tell us much about the future, so we just have to check his website for further updates. Paul Menel's solo material is even more pop-orientated than the two aforementioned IQ-albums, but that doesn't automatically mean that I didn't like it. Strangely enough, the new songs didn't misfit in the set, which contained 75 percent of IQ-songs. The IQ-feel was definitely there, but it felt a bit like Phil Collins after he left Genesis. For Paul's sake I hope the comparison doesn't end there...

Janke Rijpkema (edited by Peter Willemsen)

Setlist Sky Architect:

Deep Chasm The Grey Legend Excavations of The Mind

Pictures Sky Architect by Miranda Bril

Click on the picture to enlarge.

Line up 'Sky Architect':

(left to right,
picture by Arthur Haggenburg)
Wabe Wieringa:
Christiaan Bruin:
drums, backing vocals
Rik van Honk:
keyboards, backing vocals
Guus van Mierlo:
Tom Luchies:
lead vocals, guitar

Setlist Paul Menel:

Falling Apart At The Seams
Drive On
Under Your Wing
The Nurse
Still Life
Sold On You
Twenty One
Little Gorgeous Fool
Nothing At All
She's Up On The Chair Again
Common Ground
Walk In My Shoes
No Love Lost

Promises (acoustic)
Human Nature

Pictures Paul Menel & Band by Miranda Bril

Click on the picture to enlarge.

Line up Paul Menel:

(left to right)
Mat Taylor:
sax, flute 
John Jowitt:
bass guitar, vocals
Bill Devey:
Paul Menel:
lead & backing vocals
Steve Harris:
Ian Diment:

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