October 18, 2019 - Parkvilla Theater, Alphen a/d Rijn (NL)

One of the lesser known progressive rock bands from England is Cairo. The band is led by Rob Cottingham, the former keyboard player of Touchstone. In a way his new band resembles his former band. Because both bands have a male and female lead singer and do a lot of harmony vocals together. But in contrast to the fairly abstract music and lyrics that Rob has written for Touchstone, he takes a different approach with Cairo, more human with a lot of "heart and soul". Furthermore in Rob's former band the electric guitars gave the band an occasional heavy sound. But all in all you can say that if you like Touchstone you might enjoy the music of Cairo as well. Therefore, I was hoping that a lot fans of this band would be curious to see how this other band would sound during a live performance. So, I was hoping that a fully packed Parkvilla Theater in Alphen aan de Rijn would welcome the band for their first live appearance on a Dutch stage. But I guess I was dreaming with my eyes wide open, because only a few fans made it to the venue to see an amazing live band!

Rob Cottingham (►more pics)
Considering that it was the live debut of the bands new female singer Sarah Bayley, they were amazing. During two sets and an encore the band managed to entertain the audience the best possible way.

According to Rob they were their own support act for the first set. During the one and a half hour long first set, they played material taken from Cottinghams former band and his solo album Back Behind The Orchard Tree (see review), a re-release of his 1st solo album from 2002. Of course, you could tell that Sarah was a bit nervous being in the spotlights for the very first time with this band. But looking to the left of her, was Rob standing behind his keyboards, which made her more confidence while singing the Touchstone songs Sleeping Giants and Shadow. I'll have to say she managed to sing the compositions that were originally performed by Kim Seviour very well whom she respects a lot as she told me after the show. Also, the backing vocals she provided during the two songs (Hear Me and Out Of Time) taken from Rob's solo album sounded rather good. As for the other band members on stage, I could tell they did their job really well. The rhythm section consisting of Paul Stocker (bass and backing vocals) and Graham Brown (drums) played pretty tight, even though you could tell that Graham loves to hit his instrument in a more aggressive way. Too bad Paul couldn't bring his bass pedals. His car was too small to get them to the first Dutch gig. Also, too bad James Hards couldn't completely show how capable he is on his electric guitar. Only occasionally did he solo on his instrument. Most of the time he was accompanying Rob and Sarah while they were singing the songs. Rob was of course the main man during the first act. His keyboards took most of the lead during the much too short first set. But there was still a second set to come and to enjoy.

Sarah Bayley (►more pics)
After the break, the band returned as the main act, performing only songs from Cairo. Being the main act, they of course had to change their outfit. Which they did and therefore it looked a bit as if there was another band playing. Which of course wasn't the case, because still the same faces could be seen on stage. But this time around the band members looked more confident. Not so strange of course because most of them, except for Sarah, performed their more well-known Cairo songs taken from their debut Say (2016, see review). They played most of that album along with some brand new pieces, which will be on their forthcoming new album. The up tempo pieces Shadow's Return, Wiped Out and Say kicked ass and showed a band which really could rock and roll. Here Sarah showed she could copy the vocals of Rachel Hill done on the original album tracks. But she was even better when she could do fine renditions of ballads such as Katrina and Back To The Wilderness. The three new songs Déjà Vu, Rogue and Tripwire showed that the band has a bright future ahead. Of course, they were much in the vein of the songs taken from the band's debut. One of them even gave James some space to show his talents on his electric guitar by playing an excellent solo. We can only hope he can show it even more on the bands second studio album. He really deserves it! After an even better performed second set, Rob said goodbye to the audience and they left the stage. Of course, the crowd didn't allow them to get home early and asked for an encore!

Nothing To Prove was the first song to enjoy after they returned. A song on which Rob and James could show how well they could solo on their instruments. After that it was time to introduce the band members and thank everybody else involved in organising this wonderful concert. The final song the band performed was a song which Rob loved when he was 14 years old. A song which dates from 1975 and for many other rock musicians a real guilty pleasure. Maybe they could have made a real progressive rock song of ABBA's S.O.S., but they stayed unfortunately close to the original version. Maybe they should have tried to do it a bit like how IQ changed Mamma Mia of the same band into a real prog tune during concerts. Well it didn't really matter, because this way they still ended their performance in a positive way.

Again, Serious Music managed to book a band less known to the progressive rock audience but still was worth watching. So, thanks for that!

Henri Strik (edited by Dave Smith)

Live video recordings

Henri & Roel Strik

Nothing To Prove (10:15)
Dancing The Gossamer Thread (6:48)
Wiped Out (3:13)

Setlist Cairo:

Set 1
Intro (Random Acts of Kindness mash up)
Hear Me
Sleeping Giants
Out Of Time
Set 2
Katrina (Breath mix)
Nothing To Prove Reprise
Shadow's Return
Wiped Out
Déjà Vu
Shadow's Return
Wiped Out
Back From The Wilderness
Random Acts Of Kindness Part 1
Dancing The Gossamer Thread
Nothing To Prove
S.O.S. (ABBA cover)

Pictures Cairo by Arthur Haggenburg

>>> Click here to view all pics on one page.

Click on the picture to enlarge.


Line up Cairo:

(left to right)
Paul Stocker:
bass and backing vocals
Graham Brown:
James Hards:
electric guitar
Rob Cottingham:
keyboards, lead and backing vocals
Sarah Bayley:
lead and backing vocals

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