Two bands, a bucketful of musical royalty and one awesome night of Prog

Hasse Froberg surveys the scene about 20 minutes into his bands set. “Monday night,” he says. “It might not be the sexiest night of the week, but we are gonna play some prog. This one is about 15 minutes long….so it’s quite short actually.”

It turns out that “this one” is a quite marvellous “Pages” which, in common with just about everything else in this magnificent 75 minutes, is incredible. Much of it – including the aforementioned tune, is from their new “HFMC” record, and although it only came out this year, it has that timeless, classic quality that only the best Prog Rock has. Almost flawless, it is the stone-cold stunning “Something Worth Dying For” that really shines. Froberg and fellow guitarist Anton Lindsjo meshing superbly and trading licks just for the fun of it.

The proceedings are made all the more ridiculous when you consider these couple of facts: first HFMC – the band – was only formed by the frontman when his regular outfit, the cult prog heroes The Flower Kings, went on hiatus in 2008 and by the way, Froberg’s career as a football coach came to an end.

Second, Prog’s version the “Special One” reckons he isn’t even on top form. “we are all tired” he tells the small but enthusiastic gathering. This prompts the thought that if this isn’t the guys at full throttle, then when they are wide awake that must be a sight to see.

This is a co-headliner and they close what amounts to a full set with a trip back to their past with “Fallen Empire,” it’s dark lyrics and heavy vibe at odds with some of the other material, but that’s the skill of the five men on show here. Hasse Froberg And Musical Companion can do anything they want, it seems, and from the plaintive “Godsong” to the interesting air of “Everything Can Change,” whatever they try tonight – whether or not Monday’s are sexy – turns to gold.

Earlier this year Bay Area proggists Enchant caused something of a stir when they announced they were making their first album since 2003, the awesome “The Great Divide”. But it’s not like they’ve been idle. They’ve just been busy elsewhere, and in the case of their avuncular singer Ted Leonard, that means activity very recently. It was only a couple of weeks ago that MV saw him fronting Spock’s Beard. Aside from the particularly severe haircut he’s availed himself of, he doesn’t alter much. He’s a fantastic singer and a convivial frontman whichever band he’s in.

And actually the music is pretty similar too. The stomping “Sinking Sands” would fit neatly on both his bands’ output, although here it features Anton from HFMC’s “magic guitar pick,” bestowed on Doug Ott apparently, which perhaps is indicative of the warm atmosphere about the two bands (“we hate younger more talented people than us” jokes Leonard.)

“Hostile World” sees Ed Platt play some dexterous bass, while “Deserve To Feel” from that recently released record slots seamlessly into the set, helped hugely by the fact that Bill Jenkins on keyboards is given a run here.

This largely is the key ability of Enchant, they pack so much into their songs, that although epic they aren’t – by prog standards anyway – too long, and there is an evident joy at finding the chemistry again which permeates through their work.

The rather apt “Monday” is is intentionally depressing, but it’s got nothing on the tale of unrequited love that is “Acquaintance” – and this universal story is delivered with real passion, and seems a little looser than on the studio version too.

It would be easy for a returning band to rest on their laurels, but that wouldn’t be very prog would it? It wouldn’t exactly be challenging, so you wouldn’t expect any less than a couple more from the “…….Divide” record and both “Within An Inch” and the Dream Theater-esque storytelling title track are superb here, with the musicianship going up a notch even on the skill that has been seen even to this point.

Before the end they find time for one more dip into their history, for “Nighttime Sky” which although a staggering 22 years old (“half my age now” reminisces Leonard) sounds as fresh and vital as you could imagine and features one more wonderful solo from Doug Ott.

There’s no encore (“it seems silly to make 35 people work that hard” says the self-deprecating singer) and after “Oasis”, the night concludes as you always suspected it would. Both bands onstage, jamming and having fun with Queen’s….urmmm “classic”….”Fat Bottomed Girls” and, frankly, if you can cover Queen and make any of their output sound good you are doing very well.

Ultimately it was one of those nights, sparse crowd be damned, those that were there know that this was very special indeed. Ted Leonard had said earlier in the evening: “Next time we come back tell your friends about the Enchant guys. We might be old, but we didn’t lose it”. He’s spot on. What’s that old UK football cliche? Class is permanent, and this had class written large throughout.

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