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Gig Reviews...Panic Room

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Ann-Marie Helder, by Steve Turner

Paul Davies, by Steve Turner

Ann-Marie Helder, Alun Vaughan,by Steve Turner

Panic Room by Steve Turner


Limelight, Crewe, 4 December 2008

Ann-Marie Helder, photo by Steve Turner

Having risen from the dying embers of the flame that was Karnataka, Panic Room are a very different proposition. Karnataka, a proggy melodic rock ensemble based in that Bastion of Rock otherwise known as Wales, imploded in 2004 and it needs a Pete Frame rock family tree to figure out all resulting bands that have emerged or are related. But of those, Panic Room are undoubtedly one of the best.

The band might have you believe that their debut album - Visionary Position - which is now close to selling out it's initial production of 3000 copies, isn't an album that bites you on the bum at first listen. But I can tell you it is one of the best releases of 2008, one that gets better with repeated listens, and one which is likely to prove to be one of the more enduring releases of the year.

Jonathan Edwards, photo by Steve Turner

As keyboard player Jonathan Edwards will tell you, Panic Room is a more organic unit than Karnataka, with other commitments by band members (Gavin John Griffiths drums for Fish, and Ann-Marie Helder contributes to Mostly Autumn) keeping the band fresh when they come together. Jon prides Panic Room gigs on never being the same twice, and that's the way rock music was meant to be. Who wants to go to a gig and hear a CD perfect reproduction? Not me.

Gavin Griffiths, photo by Steve Turner

But the Limelight gig didn't perhaps portray the band in the best possible light. For a start the in-house PA was poor - muddy and way too loud. Then there was the kick-off time - 10 past 10. Now I'm not going to knock a near on 2 hours set, but a midnight finish with a one and half hour drive home and an alarm set for 5:55am, is no joke. And finally there were a few gremlins - Ann-Marie needed a safety pin after here dress gave way, her vocal effects gizmo was playing up, and worse, she was suffering from a bad cold.

Ann-Marie Helder, photo by Steve Turner

Taking all those factors into account, Panic Room nevertheless pulled it off with a fine set covering most of Visionary Position, a clutch of excellent new songs which we can expect to see on the tricky second album (although from what we heard it doesn't look like there will be any banana skins) a couple of Ann-Marie solo numbers and a few covers. I wouldn't like to single out any particular band member for praise - they were clearly all 'up for it' and it was refreshing to see a band clearly having a good time.

Ironically (Jonathan Edwards isn't a fan of covers or tributes) one of the highlights - apart from Ann-Marie's skimpy Santa outfit for the encores - was an inspirational seasonal interpretation of Metallica's Enter Sandman ( we're off to winter wonderland ). Very funny, and very fine. It left me looking forward to seeing the band again (but with a better sound system and a healthy Ann-Marie) and to the successful launch of their next album.


Set list (I think): Elektra City / Sandstorms / Into The Fire / Banks Of The Ohio / Go / Endgame / How Did It Feel / Holy Night / Yasuni / Black Noise / Apocalypstick / Blood Red Sky / I Wonder What's Keeping My True Love Tonight / Happy Christmas (War Is Over) / Enter Santa


Review by Pete Whalley

Photos by Steve Turner

FM is one of the Ten for 10


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