Back in 2014 one special album was made which ended up top of my personal list of that year. No one else could beat this release because it was a true masterpiece. The album I am referring to is the second solo album made by Iona member Dave Bainbridge. He named it Celestial Fire (see review) and of course people asked if the music from this excellent album would be performed on a live stage someday. This finally happened with a band Dave had put together and very appropriately named after his very successful solo album. The line-up of Celestial Fire contains the following musicians; Dave Bainbridge (guitars, keyboards, bouzouki, percussion, vocal), Sally Minnear (lead vocals, vocal looping, acoustic guitar, percussion), fellow Iona member Frank Van Essen (drums, percussion, violin, vocals) and fellow GB3 members Simon Fitzpatrick (basses, Chapman stick, synth bass) and Dave Brons (guitars, mandolin, vocals). Unfortunately the band never came for concerts to the European mainland, touring in their UK homeland only. But I have good news for those who failed to see them. They managed to record one of these concerts for a release on CD and DVD. They named it Live In The UK and Dave was so kind as to send copy for a review.
What you can hear and see on this double CD and DVD was recorded at Fibbers, a venue located in York. The date was October 1st in 2015. I guess they released the entire concert of that performance because it lasts two whole hours and is divided into two sets with a final encore. The first set can be found on the first CD and kicks off with the title track of Dave's second solo album. The band sets the standard very high right from the start. A very energetic and explosive version can be enjoyed. It is followed by one of the many Iona covers. Today shows for the first time that female lead singer Sally Minnear is a very capable replacement for Iona's own female lead singer Joanna Hogg. A great short instrumental part played on the drums and bass ensures the song gets an identity of its own and isn't just a well performed cover. Two more Iona tunes (Kells Opening Theme and Revelation) are next before Dave introduces the reel-like instrumental The Storm, a song on which he displays fast playing on the guitar. The first piece of Dave's second album Veil Of Gossamer (2004) is Until The Tide Turns. It's a great ballad which originally was sung by Hogg but again very well interpreted by Minnear. Here Fitzpatrick's fine bass playing has to be mentioned and Dave's of course, taking the spotlight by doing an outstanding guitar solo. The first set ends with the second song taken from Dave's second album. The speed goes up with Love Remains and shows how this great live band can deliver fast pieces next to more mellow parts. Excellent vocal parts shine next to the great instrumental parts performed on keyboards and electric guitars. After this awesome piece of music it was time for a break.
The second disc and set opens with the second track taken from Veil Of Gossamer. The up tempo Over The Waters is certainly one of the highlights from this album. Dave shines here all the way on his electric guitar. It gets even when Brons joins in and can we enjoy fine twin guitar playing. Before Fitzpatrick shows all of his talents on his own, Chi-Rho, another well performed Iona cover, can be enjoyed. The instrumental version of the Yes cover Roundabout performed on the bass guitar is something you like or don't. I had already seen Simon doing Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody during the GB3 concert (see review) two years ago at the W2 Poppodium in Den Bosch in the Netherlands. It's very clever what he achieved completely on his own. So bravo for that! A large selection of Iona songs follow this instrumental part. Two of them were never done by Iona on a live stage. Namely Brendan's Voyage and Brendan's Return. The second set also ends with a song taken from Dave's second solo release. In The Moment is again a superb piece of music on which the band can shine all the way. It goes from fast to mellow. From Celtic to prog and fusion. Of course the band couldn't go home before doing a final encore. They did it without leaving the stage. Another Yes piece could be welcomed but this time around done by the whole band. A great version of Soon was done and most of all very well sung by Sally and also Brons, who played the parts which were originally done by Steve Howe. It was certainly a great song to end this excellent performance and second disc.
As for the footage on the DVD I can mainly be positive. All of the musicians on the rather short stage are filmed well and with good close ups. I certainly do know that it wasn't easy for the people behind the cameras to get good shot of all of them. Most of all drummer Frank van Essen was difficult to catch. Most of all when he played on his violin. But they managed anyway. Maybe the shots of Bainbridge behind his keyboards could have been a bit better. Because you just want to see him play on the black and white keys, most of all when the keyboards are up front in the song or a synthesizer solo is done by him. But it wasn't really annoying that not everything could be seen in full splendour and therefore the shots shown will do on this release. As for the sound, it is really good even if it isn't 5.1 surround. The same goes for the sound on the two audio discs. They really sound amazing!
Next to complete concert features the DVD has some extra rehearsal footage and many previously unseen rehearsal and tour photos of the band. It is one half hour long and I enjoyed every minute, it is very tastefully put together.
All in all is Live In The UK from Dave Bainbridge's new band Celestial Fire is a very entertaining release. Highly recommended to fans of Iona and those who already have Dave's two solo albums. But also those who enjoy progressive rock with elements taken from fusion and Celtic music will enjoy what they see and hear all the way!
In 2017 the band will come to the European continent for some concerts. They are already booked in the Netherlands for the annual Progdreams Festival at Cultuurpodium Boerderij in Zoetermeer in March. I guess something to look out for when you have seen and heard such a fabulous live release!
**** Henri Strik (edited by Tracy van Os van den Abeelen)
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