In Barcelona after a long drought of progressive concerts, we find in the last months many and varied options inside this minority musical style. Seeing a group in concert is always a good experience that gives you the authentic dimension of what they are and what they can make.
Lately we have seen groups of the last progressive generation and also (who knows if for the last time) classic groups that had not come for many years as Yes, King Crimson and now Camel. These are opportunities that we cannot avoid.
Bikini is a small small, well, very small room that is not ideal for this type of concerts but I have to recognize that it gives an intimate air to the concerts, very pleasant for the closeness of the musicians with the audience. There is a very direct contact and this gives you the sensation that they are really playing for you. This is the great advantage of the small rooms.
It is just about eight o’clock and we are in the door of Bikini, there are not too many people so we decide go to cultivate our stomachs with some simple sandwiches and beers. Once satiated we return to the locale and we enter without queues, we realize that they have enlarged the seating capacity with a small lateral that was hidden behind one of the bars and even the room was full, so we were forced to accompany the lights and sound technician at the back.
We did not have to wait for long to see the Camel of this tour as they soon came to stage: Andrew Latimer – Guitars, voice and Flute (very little), Colin Bass – Bass and voice, Denis Clement – Drums and percussion, Guy LeBlanc -Keyboards.
The concert was divided in three parts: first Camel offered us a series of pieces where they wanted to heat the public without ending up bursting them, with the lyrical and personal sound that has the group. The entry into contact was brilliant. The sensation of having introduced us in kind of a time machine was very strong. The songs were a great recital of old pieces blended with some more current ones. And that was undoubtedly what we wanted and what they knew we wanted. They gave us a first ecstasy part with pieces such as “Nimrodel/White rider”, “Chord change”, the immense “Song within a song” of “Moonmadness”, the cheerful and dynamic “Bobbins”. All this blended with brilliant current pieces as “Three wishes”, and the song that made us all feel shaky and surrender with all our forces to this great band, “The hour candle”. A piece where Andy Latimer ratified us, once again, his greatness as a musician and as a guitar player committed with his art and with his followers, emptying his mind in an interpretation where the tears and a strong expression of emotion levied his face, and that of those who filled the room, with this grandiose ballad dedicated to his father. A first part that left a tasty mouth flavor, and the satisfaction of enjoying what we were seeing and hearing. There is no doubt, and it is something evident for all those that read these lines that Camel were a giant in the phase of maximum acceptance of the prog-rock or quality music in general, and with this mean that for all that could not live that time, for reasons of age, this type of events with these big artists make us recreate and transport us back 25 years causing a flashback quite schizophrenic that made us hallucinate with big stadiums replete of fans. And it is that this big art expression doesn’t deserve to be canned in rooms of a maximum 800 seating capacity.
They proposed us a rest of ten minutes to return with an acoustic part. The four seated musicians offered us wonderful topics in an intimate mood. In this part of the concert Andrew, Colin & Co. were specially kind, nice and talkative with those that were there, creating an even more pleasant atmosphere. The audience, to these heights, was completely at ease with the group, and the visibly grateful band was also happy with the answer of the impeccable audience from Barcelona. In this second part we met again classics as “Refugee”, “Fingertips” of the “Stationary Traveler” that entered very well in acoustic version. “Slow yourself down” belonging to their first album was the most distant revision of their discography. “Eyes of Ireland” and “Rajah” closed the acoustic set that made the concert much more bearable, since although the enjoyment is constant in this type of performances, the long duration and the noise produced by the certain annoyance of the local, ends up becoming tiresome.
In the third part of the concert (this without a pause) they offered us the most dynamic and potent block in the repertoire. A final part that connected with the relaxed and intimate tone of the acoustic part and that increased itsr intensity in a progressive way (never better said). “Sahara” was the inflection point and the outburst toward an almost tremendous final. And all those we were there knew that it was going to end well. The atmosphere was of great euphoria. With “Mother road” the situation even improved with a superb Andy Latimer that was the focal point of the whole audience. His dexterity, exquisite technique and control on guitar are to be admired. As songs came and went, Andy never looked to the strings, pieces that he executes with his eyes closed in spite of their long duration. Colin Bass was also there and he played, of course, marvelously well, but people came to see Camel and in a way maybe unconscious but also understandable, they focused their enthusiasm in the figure of Latimer. Guy LeBlanc’sperformance, the excellent keyboard player of the group Nathan Mahl that he leads, was excellent, and toward the end of the concert a I magnificent and spectacular complement. The young drummer was magnificent interpreting with a great level the whole repertoire. “Little rivers”, the rock song of “Dust and dreams” was the exit point of a final straight line that made people break their hands applauding like mad, together with “Hopeless anger”. And with this the show was almost concluded.
The loose and affable character of the concert made a fan request repeatedly “Lady Fantasy”. Judging by the “faces” that Mr.Latimer put I thought that that was asking for too much. But then, they gave us a magnificent surprise and the encore was no other than the full version of the classic where again, we enjoyed the immense Camel.
The expression that we had after the concert was of authentic pleasure, a sensation of euphoria that had us hallucinating for a while and fantasizing with the images that remained in our minds. When will we enjoy again such a formidable show?. Who knows. It is the only point that anguishes the faithful progressive follower.