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Stone Free Festival live review - 02 Arena, London

Live Review

Venue: 02 Arena, London

Progressive music takes over one of London's largest music venues for one day only!

June is not the greatest month for outdoor festivals in the UK. So, how smug do we feel under cover and within reach of beer/seats/ pizza at prog’s takeover of the inaugural Stone Free event? Very. It’s not all a picnic, though. Even after a day to break it in (yesterday was Alice Cooper plus supports), the festival idea is lost on a venue that won’t let you out of the main arena once you’re in, thereby missing some of the satellite ents booked to add to its overall wonderfulness.

This side is not well-executed. Luckily, today’s line-up is, starting with the lush resonance of Pink Floyd’s Wish You Were Here Symphonic. There are no special guests, in spite of one being just a dressing room away. It’s a classy display with many kettle drums, but a pinch of, say, the real D Gilmour would have shifted their appearance into break-the-prog-internet territory.

Cool, collected and packing in as much action as possible, Steve Hackett and his six-piece band are near-flawless. Tender on Loving Sea, menacing on A Tower Struck Down and dazzling on Revisited numbers with that shy, retiring vocalist Nad Sylvan, the whole thing is nearly eclipsed by Firth Of Fifth’s solo, audience members erupting in tiny prisms of progressive ecstasy. And that’s without a soundcheck. Wow.

There’s little time to gather ourselves before Marillion declare ownership of this huge space, Steve Hogarth’s voice piercing every nook with The Invisible Man and a dramatic Power. Topped by Steve Rothery’s stirring guitar and Mark Kelly’s gorgeous keyboard lines, Neverland is the extraordinary cherry on this emotional gateau. We’re all in bits, and it’s brilliant.

There are no Monty Python knights, no ice rink and no pea-souper of fake fog for our headliner tonight. But the one and only caped crusader, Rick Wakeman, does have an orchestra, choir, English Rock Ensemble and extra digit power in the shape of son Oliver. Debuting his now-double-sized 1975 epic The Myths And Legends Of King Arthur…, the spectacle comes in the shape of the score, the sparkles on Rick’s outfit and a snazzy throne for narrator Ian ‘Don’t Tell ’Em Pike’ Lavender.


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