Josh and Co / Parade

The Duchess, York

4 December 2009

Parade: I can't tell you what songs they played because I haven't heard the album yet and most weren't announced.

What I can tell you is that Chris Johnson has written a superb collection of songs that manage to sound clever and commercial at the same time. It's hard to pigeonhole Parade into a style... imagine if a "proper" rock band had spent too much time listening to new wave punk and then sat down to write songs with an indie rock vibe. Ok, that's a rubbish description. Let's just say that the songs are moody and extremely well crafted rock.

The band is Chris Johnson on guitar and main vocals, Anne-Marie Helder on keyboards and vocals (but the two swap places a number of times, sometimes in the middle of a song), a second guitar player whose name I didn't catch but who pulled out some brilliant solos, "Paddy" on bass and Gavin Griffiths on drums.

In the middle of the show Bryan Josh ("That's not Bryan Josh!"... ah, you had to have been there...) took a guest spot on guitar for Mostly Autumn's Silver Glass. Funny, it was just a couple of weeks ago that I was saying it's a shame that we would never hear that again since Chris had left the band! Oh well, now I'm happy.

I must make one observation about Chris, though he might not thank me for it: when he was playing keyboards with Mostly Autumn I was always struck by how serious he looked, like he was engaged in intense concentration throughout the gig. But hang a guitar around his neck and he becomes a different person, completely energized and bouncing around like a maniac. Either he was really enjoying himself or he'd had one too many espressos that afternoon!

Anyway, Parade have gone on the "must see" band list. Yes they are that good. I was seriously concerned that Josh & Co wouldn't be able to live up to the standard Parade had set...

...Which might explain why I wasn't blown away by the start of the Josh & Co set. The songs just sounded a bit flat, even the (normally) completely stonking The Appian Way seeming a bit low on energy. I love the songs on the album but some factor seemed to be missing here, either in the band or in me...

But Bryan kept upping the intensity, throwing in some solos that were blistering even by his own usual standards, and by about three songs in he won me over. In fact I can pinpoint the moment when I finally realised this was something special: when Olivia came shrieking in on the latter half of Slow Down and made me completely forget comparisons with anything else. And from that point each song just got better and better, leading up to a finale that repeated The Appian Way with this time the energy completely off the scale. Honestly, I was knackered by the end of it so God knows how the band felt! The gig finished on a tremendous high and was quite possibly the best concert I've ever seen!

I'd better briefly describe the band: Bryan on guitar and vocals, obviously. He takes the majority of lead vocals, more that he normally would with Mostly Autumn, and it highlights just how much his voice has come on over the last ten years. Olivia takes lead on a couple of tracks and adds backing to the rest (just as on the album). Ian Jennings on keyboards. "Paddy" (him again) on bass, and Gavin (again) on drums.

They played the entire album, I think (actually in the exact same order, I think, including The Appian Way reprise already mentioned). Filling out the set was a medley of three covers: All Along the Watchtower (Hendrix version — and yes, Bryan can do an excellent Hendrix); Rock and Roll (Olivia singing, making Robert Plant's range sound a bit limited by comparison); and Behind Blue Eyes (Bryan singing — not a natural song for him, I would have thought, but he makes it sound great).

The set only lasted an hour and ten minutes, but added to Parade's hour made a good length gig and definitely well worth the trip.

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