The Peel, Kingston
5th February 2011
Somebody must've had a word with Paul Mackie after Pallas' last gig at The Peel in December. Shock and indignation swept through the heart of Progglerock that night when this upstart decided to teach the pot-bellied bastards a lesson and take his vest off. "Oh yes!" he might as well have declared, brandishing the discarded, sodden scrap in the face of such shuddering petulance, "You too could have a body like mine!" Ooh, sweaty. Ferchrissakes.
Tonight, then, 'Iggy Prog' remains suitably vested, a small concession to 'decent' Prog-fearing folk. ("No I will not wear the kaftan". Quite right too.) This is, after all, the launch party for Pallas' 'XXV' album, so Mackie errs on the side of caution. There is a sizeable crowd and more than a handful of rock and prog journos present. Pallas could do without the middle-aged hissy fits tonight.
Certainly, there's a rumbling of anticipation here, almost unprecedented in prog circles in which 'serious' is a buzz word. When the opening radio transmission of 'XXV' roars from the PA, the band pile onstage, foot to the floor, and drive straight into the heavy-weight 'Falling Down', the album's opening number (for this is predominantly a run-through 'XXV'). Mackie's very presence makes it clear this is now his band, so – vest or no – diehard Pallas fans had better get used to it, or get down the gym. Niall Matthewson's razor-edged guitar rips through the venue, and – remarkably for the genre - it's go go go! (not 'slow slow slow'..).
It is this pumping intensity that pins me to the floor, rather than to the wall outside smoking a fag. Normally my attention span for prog lasts about as long as Richard Burton's speech in 'War Of The Worlds' but I have to admit I'm nurturing an enduring interest in the new Pallas (well, two gigs so far, easy on the eye), even managing to cope with a two-hour set with no break (due to technical difficulties). Well, if the band can, so can I.
Mackie's voice never sounds overstretched in this mammoth set, indeed no sign of fatigue from any of the band, who have become as vibrant and edgy as their singer. It's obvious they're absolutely stoked to be sharing the stage with this live-wire, their joie de vivre injecting a more guitar-oriented hard rock into the repertoire.
After the infectious, haunting 'Monster' (wicked guitar solo), the planned 'break' turns into a bouquet of classics, aka 'Greater Glory', 'Rat Racing', 'Ghostdancers' and 'Midas Touch'. Mackie dissenters grudgingly nod approval of the new boy's fulfilment of old-school commitments.
The second part of 'XXV' kicks off with 'Alien Messiah''s warning tones, drummer Colin Fraser and bassist Graeme Murray's Kashmiresque foundation underpinning Ronnie Brown's swirling keys, evoking images of grandiose Egyptian ceremonies and the like.
The ambience of 'Violet Sky' surrenders to the final assault of 'XXV Part II (The Unmakers Awake)', and Pallas leave the stage; though with The Peel crowd's merciless calls for more, they're soon back with the cross-cut rhythms of 'Cut And Run'. But then the marathon is deservedly over. After twenty-five years, Pallas are no spring chickens, even Mackie.
Pallas are playing High Voltage this year. Hopefully, Mackie will be flexing his pecs for Progglerock. If you don't like it, wobble off.
Thanks to Sonia Waterfield and Geoff Banks for the pictures
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