A rare treat tonight as the forgotten late 60’s UK psych band Kaleidoscope played one of just two gigs, and their first in Liverpool since 1970! Although there was only one original member in action, that was at least the lead singer Peter Daltrey. Original drummer Danny Bridgman had apparently been involved at a previous gig, but not this one. There were just two dates on this ‘tour’ so it was a real privilege to get to see them.
I made it into town in time for a quick-fire couple of pints in the Dispensary, which was packed as it was the Thursday night before Good Friday. So, I didn’t manage to get a seat but fortunately I wasn’t stopping long. Two very pleasant pints they were too – Oakham Ales’ Citra, that I’ve had in bottles before, and First Class from Titanic.
I then actually had to wait outside Leaf for a few minutes to be let in as the doors weren’t yet open. The DJ was soon spinning some top-notch psych/garage-era tunes to get the slowly growing crowd in the mood, including The Electric Prunes’ “I Had Too Much to Dream (Last Night)”, a fitting tribute in the light of the death of their drummer Preston Ritter just three days earlier. The mood was further set by the psychedelic visuals projected on the big screen behind the stage throughout the evening. I had managed to get in so early that I was able to get a bottle of Waggle Dance and then grab a seat on one of the comfy sofas at the side.
First up was the local four-piece Mama Roux, whose modern psych sounds set the scene nicely. The bassist looked a bit like Liam Gallagher if he’d been a member of The Hammersmith Gorillas, further making a statement with a bright blue bass, often held at a 45 degree angle. The lead singer sported a velvet jacket, playing guitar or keyboards. His vocals were a bit too strident for me, and seemed to striving for an American twang.
The drummer was great, and was wearing a smart waistcoat. Their oddest feature was the fact that the fourth member was a saxophonist, an unusual instrument in such a band. The last song seemed to be about voodoo and included a lovely vocal breakdown towards the end.
The DJ then proceeded to try to kill the next band’s chance of making waves, although they did their best to rise above the great music played just before they came on. “Pushin’ Too Hard” by The Seeds, Love’s “Maybe The People Would Be The Times Or Between Clark And Hilldale”, The Beatles’ George psych classic “It’s All Too Much” (that had only come up on random on my iPod while out for a run a few days earlier) and then The 13th Floor Elevators. Classic after classic.
On came The Wicked Whispers, a five piece who made an early impression with the singer’s bowl cut and some Inspiral Carpets/96 Tears-esque keyboards. The guitarist had what I would describe as early 90’s frizzy hair, while they reminded me a little of a poppier Temples. In fact, the front line of the band looked like a combination between Kings Of Leon, The Byrds and Toploader.
The new single “Maps Of The Mystic”, title song of their debut album released last year, included some nice guitar work. “Nightbird” then featured some great keyboard sounds. All in all, they were a very enjoyable listen, enough to make me snap up the album from the merch stand. There then followed more good music from the DJ, including Jimi Hendrix, Pink Floyd and Kaleidoscope’s “A Lesson Perhaps” from their 1967 debut album “Tangerine Dream”.
Finally it was time for the main event. Daltrey certainly looked like a man in his sixties (he’s 69), but was still very able to put on a good show, backed by a much younger band who played the music from (probably) before their birth very effectively. They started off with the first two tracks off the 1970 “From Home To Home” album, released under the name Fairfield Parlour, “Aries” and “In My Box”, and then “Snapdragon” from 1969’s sophomore album “Faintly Blowing”.
Daltrey, in a fetching vintage purple velvet jacket, struggled a bit vocally with “Dear Nellie Goodrich” from the debut album, but generally his voice was as strong throughout the night as it needed to be. Other early highlights included “Sunny Side Circus” from “From Home To Home” and the 1968 single “A Dream For Julie”. Daltrey told a few tales in between songs, including how he had played the Cavern in 1970 (as Fairfield Parlour), while he dedicated a song to Cynthia Lennon who had died the day before.
A sitar was added to the sounds on stage for the first time on “Song From Jon” from “White-Faced Lady” (originally recorded in 1971, but first released in 1991), actually the only album of theirs I own (something I must rectify soon), with the drummer managing to drop one of his sticks towards the end of the song. It was great to finally hear live something off this intriguing concept album that I’ve owned for more than two decades.
The set then peaked for me with the sublime “Dive Into Yesterday” and “(Further Reflections) In the Room of Percussion”, both off the debut album. After the 1970 Fairfield Parlour single “Bordeaux Rose” (apparently shortly due to be used by the wine people in their marketing activities!), Daltrey sang “Happy Birthday” to someone in the crowd.
The title track from “Faintly Blowing” came before another two songs from the debut album, the closing “The Sky Children” and “Flight From Ashiya”. The set finally closed with “Music”, the last track on “Faintly Blowing”, although I left the band to it as they extended the song in order to make my last train home.
There may have only been one original member, but the spirit of the original band shone through in what was a great gig.
I didn’t have anything particularly suitable to wear tonight, which somewhat surprised me as 60’s psych is a favourite genre of mine. I could have worn a “Yellow Submarine” tee, but instead went for my (dark) red Silent Sleep t-shirt, a 60-s inspired local band who I’ve seen playing in Leaf before. I somehow failed to identify any other band t-shirts in the audience though there were certainly a few that I couldn’t get a good glimpse of.
Here are some highlights from the set list, and the DJ’s set: