|It Bites/Frost* - London, The Scala - 16th December 2012|
|Written by Jim Rowland|
|Tuesday, 08 January 2013 03:00|
The Scala, located in London’s seedy Kings Cross, is a venue steeped in history. Formerly an independent cinema, I first went there to see a Russ Meyer triple bill many years ago. It went into receivership in the 90’s after losing a court battle over an illegal screening of ‘A Clockwork Orange’, and years before that is also noted for being the venue of the original Stooges only ever UK gig (although that was actually in the snooker hall next door). Tonight, however, there’s no large breasts, sinister gangs or junky proto-punks. It’s a little more sedate this evening as House Of Progression team up with Prog magazine for an Xmas bash for all the neo-prog lovers here tonight. And there’s a lot of them, as the venue is absolutely packed to the rafters for this ‘Frost* Bites’ double bill.
Frost’s set sees the first of two shifts put in tonight by It Bites frontman John Mitchell, and their set of intense, Genesis flavoured prog proves a real winner. Latecomers couldn’t even get anywhere near the hall for this one, as this neo-prog ‘supergroup’ deliver a set that goes down a storm. If anything, they actually seemed to have a bigger audience than It Bites did when they hit the stage. Frost’s career has been extremely stop/start, with line-up changes and hiatuses a plenty, but on this evidence, there’s a huge and dedicated audience waiting for their next move.
To many people, It Bites are still best known for their 80’s pop hit ‘Calling All the Heroes’ in their days with Francis Dunnery fronting their band. Although that was a big pop hit, the band has always had some pretty strong progressive rock leanings, whether it be that old Dunnery-led incarnation, or today’s John Mitchell version. Having never been a fan of ‘Calling All the Heroes’, I never really took much interest in It Bites, although hearing this year’s widely acclaimed ‘Map Of The Past’ certainly tickled my prog taste buds, calling for a re-think. Indeed, the four tracks from that album in the set tonight – ‘The Big Machine’, ‘Cartoon Graveyard’, ‘Send No Flowers’ and ‘Meadow And The Stream’ – certainly sound impressive and as good as anything else on offer. Opener ‘Ghosts’ and ‘The Wind That Shakes The Barley’ from 2008’s ‘The Tall Ships’ go down well enough with the band’s enthusiastic and dedicated audience, but it seems to be the earlier material that excites the most. The epic set closer ‘Once Around the World’, the title track of the second album clocking in at around the fifteen minute mark, really gets the crowd frothing, and encore ‘Kiss Like Judas’, a minor hit single from the same album, leaves the audience on a high.
Although It Bites’ slick pop leanings aren’t necessarily right up my prog street, this was never the less an impressive performance, of course full of great musicianship, that delighted the faithful here tonight and shows that with the acclaim that ‘Map Of The Past’ has received, there’s a bright future ahead for It Bites.
[Photos courtesy of Noel Buckley - www.noelbuckleyimages.co.uk]