IT + Carola Baer + Jon Hunt Sunday Mass
Sunday 8th May 2022
The Bedford, Balham, London
Since I was raised a good Catholic boy, I made sure I arrived at the Bedford in Balham early for Sunday Mass with IT. Presented by London Prog gigs (organised by Chris Parkins) this was a running order that included two solo artists and the neo-Prog rockers IT playing a double set, the first comprising of their latest album in its entirety.
The opening act, Jon Hunt, delivered a simple set reflecting many lockdown themes as well as everyday anxieties with tracks such as 'Self-Isolation' and 'Wartime Spirit', displaying a melancholy streak at the heart of his jangly Pop, so it came as no surprise that he is also in a Smiths tribute band called “The Smyths”. He is definitely in that tradition of English songwriters such as Ray Davies and Damon Albarn with titles in his back catalogue such as 'Making Tea is Freedom'. He informs us that 'Staring Out at the Rain' is about people who think about a lot about things and those who don’t which typically contained tongue-in-cheek, dark humoured lyrics.
The second offering came in the form of the ethereal music of Carola Baer. 'Save the Day' written with her current band Ruby Dawn manages to evoke the Synth-Pop of Ultravox, whereas her third track had the hallmarks of the blinky Electronica of William Orbit. Carola explained how her career had taken a lengthy hiatus from when she started and related a heart-warming story of how a one-off cassette tape of personal recordings surfaced in a thrift store in America, only to be picked up an enamoured collector who eventually developed it into a Vinyl pressing several years later.
For the uninitiated, IT are a neo-Prog band and the most accurate way I can describe their music is maximal. In stark contrast to the singular-instrumented solo acts that preceded them on stage, I counted at least five guitars, along with additional backing vocals from Carola Baer. But this was no run-of-mill performance; accompanied by a projector screen of arranged video footage, haunting imagery and Stark newspaper headlines this was a multimedia assault on the senses along with orchestrated lighting effects.
They played their latest album, 'We Are All in This Together', and thematically it could not be more prescient. 'Born Into Debt' is a Pink Floyd inspired intro setting the tone for a set that echoes the despair of the current socio-economic climate. 'The Working Man' allows inspired wailing from Carola not too dissimilar from Claire Torry on 'The Dark Side of the Moon'. The mesmerising experience is heightened for 'Voices' which manages to include a recorded extract from a speech by former MP George Galloway and their magnum opus, 'The Path of Least Resistance', transporting the packed room to another plane. Elsewhere the soundscape combines elements of Electronica and neo-Metal ably supplied by a band that can adapt to shifting dynamics and differing sound textures.
The second set consisted of songs mainly taken from their earlier album, 'Departure', harbouring religious musings and contained existential meditations on song titles such as 'God is Dead' and 'I won’t pray on Sunday'. Of course, this wouldn’t be a mass without an offertory taking place, and members of the audience were invited come up to stage and take communion of shots and wafers as lead Singer Nick Jackson donned his priest’s vestments.
Credit must go the Bedford for having the facilities to pull of this multimedia extravaganza and I cannot think of a more complete concert experience for a venue of this size, making IT compelling prophets of the future and a must-see band to catch wherever you can. Amen.
Ivan De Mello