O2 Academy, Islington.

1 November 2015

I came across iamthemorning a while ago and fell in love with their music almost from the first note. But the problem with falling in love with a band from Russia playing unfashionable, uncommercial prog rock with grand piano and chamber orchestras is that you know you'll never see them live in England.

Then they announced a London date, supporting Gazpacho! Yay!

But a support slot. London's a long and expensive trip for 40 minutes of music. So I told everyone I was thinking about it...

I'm not sure who I was kidding. I didn't have to think. I knew what I was going to do the minute I read the news. And when the band came on stage, I was standing front and centre(ish) waiting for them.

So, iamthemorning are actually just a duo, Gleb Kolyadin (piano) and Marjana Semkina (vocals), with whatever guest musicians they need for the songs. On this tour, for practical reasons, they've only got a cellist and a violinist, who, with Gleb, have to fill the role of an entire chamber orchestra and/or rock band. And they do it marvellously, with all the arrangements sounding rich, full and dense.

As the support band, they don't have an elaborate stage show. They sit in front of Gazpacho's equipment, with just single white spots illuminating each band member. It doesn't matter. It's all they need. More would distract from the music and the musicians.

With the three instrumentalists sitting down to play, Marjana stands at the front, a slight figure in a long black dress and no shoes. She doesn't "just" sing the songs beautifully, she emotes them with her whole face and body. She also does all the song introductions, with friendly, engaging, and self-deprecating humour.

But though Marjana is the obvious visual focal point, your eyes can't help going back to Gleb, the musical focal point. He plays with big sweeping gestures, and sounds like... well, he doesn't sound like a rock keyboard player. He sounds like a classical pianist. During the instrumental breaks you are literally listening to a classical piano trio, and yet there's a driving rhythmic force that leaves you in no doubt you're listening to a rock band even without guitars and drums. It's really... a completely unique sound, and I feel privileged that I've been able to witness how they create the sound.

The sound is crystal clear and perfectly balanced, marred only by the noisy air conditioning and the intrusive clicking of the photographer at the front. The audience listens with complete attention as the beautiful music unfolds.

My notoriously bad set list memory is going to fail me if I try to list what they played. It was a selection from both of their albums, beginning with Scotland, then Touching from the first album, Romance (which isn't about romance, it's about lies and intolerance) and To Human Misery (about exactly what it says) from the second. Then a song about being dead... thank God they didn't play any of their really depressing songs! They did play their "only happy song", 5/4 (which isn't really happy, but has a clap-along section). I've spent the last month practicing clapping in 5/4 time and luckily didn't mess it up.

Too soon, it came to an end. Forty minutes of music. I was really hoping for an encore of Reprise of Light (their best song, beautiful but heart-crushingly sad) but no, they picked up their music stands and walked off. And that's the problem with going to a concert to see the support band, of course: they never play as much as you want. I wanted another two hours.

I suppose I should say something about Gazpacho, the headliners, who I didn't really know anything about before tonight.

I gave up my place at the front, mainly so I could go to buy an iamthemorning t-shirt (coolest t-shirt ever, by the way) and get Marjana and Gleb to sign a CD for me, but also because it seeemed more fair to let an actual fan of Gazpacho have the place. So I watched them from near the back of the hall.

Gazpacho play intricate, modern prog with complex drum patterns, guitar/violin interplay, polished and perfectly played... basically everything I like. I was very impressed by them — enough to buy a CD anyway, and I would go and see them again I think.

But, here's the other problem with going to a gig to see the support act. Because no matter how impressive Gazpacho were, I couldn't get into it the way I should get into a live gig. Because while my head is being impressed, my heart is still clapping along to 5/4. Because iamthemorning is the band I fell in love with.

So, what's the verdict? Is it worth a long expensive trip to London, a day off work and a night in a hotel to see a support band play for 40 minutes?

Yes, absolutely.

Even at 40 minutes long, it was the best concert I've ever seen.

Of course I wish they had done more, but I have absolutely no regrets about the trip. I would do it again tomorrow if I could. Because if you love something, that's what you do.

iamthemorning is a very special band. And one day the whole world will realise it, and they'll be in a position to play a full tour of England in venues with grand pianos.

And I'll be at every gig.

Did I say it was the best concert I've ever seen? Yes? Well, I'll say it again, because it's the truth.