United Progressive Fraternity

October 5, 2014 - 't Blok, Nieuwerkerk a/d IJssel (NL)

Almost four years ago the More Than A Garden Of Dreams Tour of the Australian prog rock band Unitopia took place. At the time a dream came true for these musicians since travelling through Europe isn't a common thing to do for people from 'down under'. The band gave many concerts and the DVD One Night In Europe (2011, see review) was recorded at Cultuurpodium Boerderij in Zoetermeer (see review). The band members always had the idea to return to Europe sooner or later because in this continent live most of their fans. However, certain things in life not always turn out the way they're planned. While the band recorded a new studio album, the news arrived that they had split up. It seemed
Mark Trueack
that something had occurred between singer Mark 'Truey' Trueack and keyboard player Sean Timms, the two leaders of the band. They were no longer on good terms with each other. Both musicians decided to go their own way; maybe someday new material will be released under the banner of Unitopia.

For many fans it was good to learn that Trueack decided to start a new project called United Progressive Fraternity (UPF) and to release the debut album Fall In Love With The World in November 2014. Furthermore he had booked again a tour through Europe. Unfortunately the new album wasn't available throughout the tour. For me venue 't Blok in Nieuwerkerk a/d IJssel was the place to meet some of the musicians that gave me so much pleasure four years ago. Beside Trueack UPF consisted of three musicians who played with Unitopia as well: guitarist Matt Williams, drummer David Hopgood and percussionist Tim Irrgang. They were completed by three professional European musicians: from England bassist and backing singer Daniel Mash (Maschine, ex-Tangent) and Guy Manning (Manning, ex-Tangent, ex-Parallel Or 90 Degrees, who played keyboards, acoustic guitar and backing vocals, and from Germany Marek Arnold (Toxic Smile, Flaming Row, Seven Steps To The Door) on keyboards and sax. 

Four years ago I saw Unitopia perform a large part of their album Artificial (2010, see review) and some tracks from their back catalogue. It was obvious that some of these tunes would be performed again next to pieces that appeared on the recently released UPF-album. The concert was planned to start at three in the afternoon. However, one day before they had performed in Nancy, France, so they had to travel about 500 kilometres by car. For that reason Progfrog, the organizers of the concert, decided to plan the event one hour later. Unfortunately a complete soundcheck had to be done before they could perform, so later than expected the musicians entered the stage. I wondered how they would perform after such a long journey and little
Daniel Mash
time to sleep: they went to bed at two in the morning and had to depart from the hotel at six. How would a lead singer perform who had been driving a car from France to the Netherlands? Well, they managed very well to do two 45-minute sets and an encore. So hats off for these seven musicians!

With the sound of Overture (We Only Get One World), the opening tune of the new album, they entered the stage one by one to pick up their instruments. The first song was a familiar one, namely the Unitopia track Justify, a track with some fine bass lines by Daniel Mash. Throughout the concert he left his mark on the performed songs with strong bass playing, but I would have preferred not to see his blue underwear! Next song Don't Look Back was dedicated to the band's personal chauffeur who drove them four years ago from venue to venue. They called him Lefty because he repeatedly turned right when he had to go left. His real name was Paul de Ruiter, who couldn't witness the return of his Australian friends because he passed away too soon in July 2013...

Although Jon Anderson (ex-Yes) wasn't present, unfortunately, they played a version of The Water, another song from the new CD which features Jon's vocals. It sounded at the start and at the end a bit like Stairway To Heaven (Led Zeppelin). In 2012 Unitopia recorded Covered Mirror Vol.1, Smooth As Silk (see review), an album consisting of covers from bands they always had admired. From that album they played Everybody Got To Learn Sometimes, a song originally recorded by the British pop group The Korgis. However, it sounded completely different compared to the original version. Choices, the final song of the first set was about the theme of the new album: making choices in life.

Intersection, the opening song of the second set was again new for me. As is almost always the case, it's difficult to judge music that you hear for the first time. So no further details about this piece, but I can certainly tell you about my highlight of the concert. UPF's version of the half an hour lasting medley Tesla / The Garden was a treat to my eyes and ears. This final piece of the second set was excellently performed. Very clever they connected these two prog gems into one epic prog rock tune! During the last part of The Garden, Mark Trueack introduced all of the musicians on stage and they all got a well-deserved short solo spot. The
The audience sings 'Fall In Love With The World' along with Mark Trueack
audience gave them all a big hand, which was certainly in place because given the circumstances of being on the road and having little sleep they still performed strong musical parts. This is something many of us couldn't do! Sure, some of the musicians had to take medicines to feel better otherwise they would have collapsed!

Unfortunately, UPF skipped the excellent track The Great Reward, but I can't blame them. Mark's voice had already suffered enough. He probably wouldn't have been able to sing properly during the remainder of the tour if he had done it. However, the special version of Fall In Love With The World as an encore relieved my pain a lot. For this special version of the title track of the debut album, Trueack came down from the stage to join his fans and to sing along with them. He asked them to gather around. This certainly was a special moment for the people in the audience. I think they'll remember that moment for a very long time, just like this special concert from these musicians from Australia, Germany and the UK! Some plans have already been made to return in 2016 when they have two studio albums out to perform songs from. Well, I can hardly wait!

Henri Strik (edited by Peter Willemsen) 

Live video

   Henri & Roel Strik

Tesla/The garden (28:12)
The Water (5:57)
Fall In Love With The World (4:46)

Setlist UPF:

Set 1:
Overture (We Only Get One World)
Don't Look Back
The Water
Everybody Got To Learn Sometimes
Set 2:
Tesla/ The Garden
Fall In Love With The World

Pictures by Arthur Haggenburg

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Line up UPF:

(left to right)
David Hopgood:
Tim Irrgang:
Marek Arnold:
keyboards and sax [back]
Daniel Mash:
bass and backing vocals [front]
Mark 'Truey' Trueack:
lead vocals
Guy Manning:
keyboards, acoustic guitar and backing vocals
Matt Williams:
backing vocals, acoustic and electric guitars

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