|Masters of Reality|
|October 9, 2009 - The Garage, London [UK]|
Absinthe Jim And Me
She Got Me (when she got her dress on)
Photos courtesy of Rob at Smokin' Vulture
Masters of Reality
The Garage, London - October 9, 2009
It must be frustrating being Chris Goss. Having effectively created the stoner genre, he's had to look on as others with less talent become vastly more successful. But then, the compensations are nights such as this, with a sold-out venue buzzing with excitement and awe. In the hands of Goss, this type of music is easy. It's Yes meets The Grateful Dead with blues variations along the road.
What he demands - and gets - from every lineup of MOR is discipline combined with flexibility. This manifests itself in the ease with which the band move from the claustrophobia of 'Doraldina's Prophecies' through the more grunge style of 'King Richard TLH' and onto the soaring surrealism of 'Rabbit One', followed by evergreen closer 'John Brown'.
It's a catch-all set, showcasing impressive current album Pine/Cross Dover, while never shirking their responsibilities to an illustrious past. Every song during this two hours' worth of magic is welcomed like a close friend by a crowd who appear to know every word and each musical nuance. But the highlight comes when drummer John Leamy leaves his kit for a keyboard, joining Goss for acoustic duets of 'Hey Diana' and 'Lover's Sky'. A spellbinding night. [Malcolm Dome]
Masters of Reality / We Fell To Earth
The Garage, London - October 9, 2009
Things were looking pretty ominous leading us to this show, I'd just seen Jesus on Oxford Street (well actor Joseph Mawle anyway), been drenched en route in some biblical proportion rainstorm and now people are talking in the queue outside the Garage like we are about to witness a second coming. I mean when grown men are drawing parallels to the last time Masters of Reality played in the UK with the birth of their firstborn sons, you've got to raise an eyebrow right?
But this observation in its purest and simplest form is also what makes Masters of Reality such a very special band, and why their first UK show in around eight years drew people from all parts of the United Kingdom and much further afield, ready to pay tribute to a truly seminal act.
So, as the venue (which is very nicely refurbished, by the way) started to fill up it was left to former UNKLE man Richard File and QOSTA collaborator Wendy Rae Fowler's newish band to get things moving. Thankfully, with the musical open-mindedness of the Masters of Reality crowd, the stark yet claustrophobic sounds that started to unfold weren't met with the abject horror of my previous night's support band encounter, and We Fell To Earth enjoyed a pretty cool response for what can hardly be described as an easy listening set of tunes. Equal parts punk/prog and electro I got to thinking I should check out more We Fell To Earth and I would urge you do so also.
With the usual club night beckoning, and the band's crews working like pack dogs Chris Goss and his touring band of minstrels sauntered onto the stage at around 8pm promising over two hours of 'Psycho Attack' music. The ambience of the moment slipped into the assured throb of 'Absinthe Jim and Me' and I watched amazed as the by now filled to bursting throng partook in the best show of synchronised headbanging I'd seen since Beavis and Butthead were last on our screens especially when the songs epic mid section riff expanded before our very eyes.
We were only a few songs in and the effortless delivery of 'Deep In The Hole' had me thinking that the guys in the queue really were onto something, I mean I'm a fan, but this Masters of Reality live experience was altogether something a little bit more.... umm other worldly.
New tracks like 'King Richard TLH' and 'Dreamtime Stomp' sat perfectly alongside older tracks like 'Rabbit One' and 'Third Man On The Moon' in what proved to be a fantastic night of real rock music.
And when Chris Goss donned a Telecaster guitar you could honestly close your eyes and hear primetime Jimmy Page emanating through every corner of your musical psyche, so you'll forgive me if I go all schoolboy hero and admit to throwing my horns up way high in appreciation.
Just as the band dispatched a ferocious stompalong version of 'John Brown' we were suddenly told that was it, and due to the impending club night the set was going to have be cut short. Like hell it was going to be too, not when you've got a fair few hundred rabid fans screaming for more. So, it was with a "fuck the disc spinner" that the band returned for a boogie down version of 'She Got Me' and then finally it really was all over.
As we made our way out into the cool London night air, it was now obvious to this reviewer at least that Masters of Reality are not in fact the second coming, they are simply a fantastic musical revelation. [Johnny H]
Masters of Reality
The Garage, London - October 9, 2009
Continuing to road-test their new album Pine/Cross Dover released earlier this year, the godfathers of desert rock Masters of Reality have played this current tour's London show on October 9 at the Highbury Garage. The 700-capacity venue was full on the night with the crowd giving as enthusiastic a response as a UK crowd can ever give on a murky English autumn night.
Despite the 5-year break which separates the new record from MOR's previous release, 2004's Give Us Barabbas, the show has proven that this band's approach to making music hasn't changed. The new album presents the same trademark mix of blues, indie rock, '80s pop, '60s surf guitars, minimalist synth-driven prog-rock, trippy psychedelic and the same penchant for stoner blues riffs repeated ad infinitum. Plus Chris Goss' voice hasn't changed one bit. To this day it sounds remarkably fresh and young, which in a live setting provides for an extraordinary contrast between Goss' craggy stance of a weathered bluesman and the bright, unsullied, at times deceptively amiable sound of his voice.
MOR's message remains the same too – sombre and with a tendency to obsess over simple harmonic ideas, it still unifies the band's disparate influences into one distinct whole through sheer determination and single-mindedness of their focus – a remarkable achievement for a band whose inspiration sources have always been more diverse than the crowd that came out to see them on the night.
The Garage on the night was heaving with punters ranging from pony-tailed beer-gut biker types to svelte indie kids of both genders, all giving an equally enthusiastic reception both to the new material and the old hits which included 'Lover's Sky', '100 Years', 'Deep In The Hole', 'Third Man on the Moon', 'She Got Me' and the epic road-trip that is 'V.H.V.'
It takes a special kind of musician to hold the crowd's attention for long with an expansive blues jam workout, but Goss is exactly that kind of performer – someone who is able to create his own environment without putting on airs and to take his listeners on a journey which is at once phantasmic but at the same time utterly compelling.
'V.H.V.' is, of course, one of those songs and on the night this multi-layered, infectious slowburner was performed perfectly. It's familiar propulsive blues groove – at once ominous and hypnotic, became the perfect platform for Goss to tap into the well of Morrison-esque shamanism – weary, dark and frayed, before building the piece up to a crescendo and going into a climatic guitar solo. And this was a perfect opportunity for him to show what he is capable of as an instrumentalist and what lies at the heart of his musicianship.
Goss' guitar parts are arguably the best and the most unique feature of him as an artist, at privileged moments providing the direct immediate connection to his personal musical vision like nothing else does. This time it was all about muscular, unvarnished, at times deliberately grisly and sludgy and at times sublime guitar craft. Almost a revelatory moment, it made you realise that beyond all of MOR's received musical forms and Goss' gift for to turning them into a personal form of expression, it is still his guitar solos where he is at his most authentic self and where he is most compelling.
Despite the band's conflicting urges which take them from guitar pop to blues and from there to moody avant-garde electronica, no matter how wild or how contradictory things get, they always manage to find focus amid the maelstrom while at the same time entertaining their audience. A lot of it is down to the band's laconic, uncluttered powerhouse of a rhythm section propelled by John Leamy's hard-hitting, full-bodied drumming. This is what makes those extrapolations possible, and what floats Goss' confidence, which becomes evident live.
To sum up, if anyone is left wondering if after 23 years we should still care about Masters of Reality or if this band is still relevant, the answer is a resounding yes. For as long as people are not afraid of surrendering to music which is capable of taking them to weird, unexpected and mystical places, there will be a place for bands like Masters of Reality. And as long as they carry on making music authentically and sincerely, this is all they are going to need to remain in demand. [Alissa Ordabai]