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Ihlo + Kyros + Grace Hayhurst

Wednesday 6th September 2023

The Fiddler's Elbow, Camden

This was the first time that I had come across Grace Hayhurst and her exuberant take on the general concept of Prog Rock. Sadly, I missed most of the first song ‘Where Am I?’ due to the tube station I wanted, being closed and having to walk from Camden Town. Oh well, it was a lovely evening for a stroll…

Next we went straight into ‘The World Is Dying’, musically a strong track just a little let down on the vocal front. There’s no doubting the talent in this girl and her prowess on both keys and guitar will only get better, so she still has time. But the in-house mix was another problem. With almost no bass and predominantly drums in the mix, wasn’t doing the band any favours and sadly it didn’t improve throughout the night. Shame.

‘Take Off’ was next up and once again, it was musically excellent, with a real mash-up of styles that Grace has managed to meld together. To wind her set up, she chose ‘I’m in a Battle Against My Brain’ with it’s ultra heavy guitar during the middle 8. An interesting introduction to this new artist.

Seeing that Grace had used Kyros’s drummer and he was all set up, the set running order changed, so we had Kyros up next.

Kyros is an ambitious project under the helm of multi-instrumentalist and vocalist Shelby Logan Warne alongside the talented Joey Frevola (guitar), Robin Johnson (drums) and new boy Charlie Cawood (bass).
Barring the fact that they were originally scheduled to headline the evening, but finding themselves up second, this somewhat changed the vibe of the night. More on that later, in the meantime, on with the gig.

Kicking off with the track ‘Esoterica’, this huge sounding track set the tone for the rest of the show. Their blend of Progressive Rock, they dip into everything from the ‘70s to the present with Warne looking stunning with her blue hair and sparkly outfit (very ‘70s) and those big keyboard lines, setting the mood for the night.

‘Rumour’ swiftly followed, with Joey on vocal duties on this one, showing off the band’s versatility. Big keyboard breaks mark this more ‘80s offering alongside Shelby’s keyboard prowess. Once again, I have to say that the vocals were very low in the mix, which didn’t make sense. ‘Illusions Inside’, their latest single got it’s outing here. More big synths slightly more reminiscent of those late ‘80s/early ’90s but feeling fresher and more current than I’d have imagined. Very cool!

‘In Motion’, from their 2020 release ‘Celexa Dreams’, was another powerhouse track from a pre-pandemic era. My only gripe was the sound: I don’t think I’ve ever experienced a gig with such little bass in the mix, which was a pity, especially as the band were trying to showcase their new bassist.

‘Phosphene’ from the same 2020 release followed and took us to a very atmospheric space, which worked a treat. The added lights provided a great boost to the vibe! ‘Boiling Point’ was followed by ‘Fear Of Fear’, another impressive, anthemic, radio friendly track. ‘Cloudburst’ started to bring proceedings to an end. With it’s epic guitars, it showed off where the band were going in this early offering, not forgetting the keytar excursion into the audience, to watch the rest of the band. A nice touch! They finished somewhat appropriately, the set with the track ‘The End In Mind’.

I can only say that I was indeed suitably impressed by Kyros, pulling off a stonking set, marred only by the drum heavy/bass light mix.

So on to what had become the headline act for the evening, Scottish band Ihlo. Somewhat compromised by the fact that they found themselves at the top of the bill and that almost half the crowd left after the Kyros set, after having seen what they came to see, Ihlo had a bit of a mountain to climb. But Ihlo were certainly up for the challenge!

Starting off their set with ‘Union’, their 2019 release, their intention was clear. This was undoubtedly a heavier offering than the Kyros set, but in a good way. Phil Monro’s guitars play an important part of the mix and where finally hitting the spot, and vocalist Andy Robinson was finally properly audible, but sadly still very little bass. ‘Reanimate’ followed showing off the band’s versatility with complex arrangements, also showcasing Andy Robinson’s keyboard prowess.

‘(In Stasis)/Starseeker’ calmed things down briefly, following this powerful intro! This was far more their own thing and probably more of what I had originally expected from this talented Scottish outfit. ‘Replica’ brought things down again for a moment before building to a suitable climax. This was a song that really needed the bass in the middle 8, but unfortunately we were robbed of this, again by the ‘bass-light’ mix that we were served up. Next up was ‘Haar’, another powerful intro dropping down to an emotional verse and then building up again; nice!

‘Triumph’ was a journey through emotions and deeply engaging because of it. After a short guitar change and a track they called ‘Szechuan’, we came to the epic set closer ‘Parhelion’, another huge sounding song, and a fitting way to end the show. A big round of applause to the band as they were dealing with a lot and handled it with aplomb.

A great evening, despite the changes forced upon everyone for logistical reasons, but I’ll be checking out at least 2/3 of the bands again. Very cool.

Tim Russell

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