top of page


Saturday 1st June 2024

The 100 Club, London

British Progressive Folk Rockers Solstice are back out on the road in the UK and Europe with a handful of select dates scattered throughout the year. One of which was at London’s historic 100 Club tonight. The current lineup of Andy Glass on guitar and vocals, Jenny Newman on violin, Pete Hemsley on drums, Robin Phillips on bass, Steven McDaniel on keyboards and Jess Holland on vocals remains intact since the well-received release of the ‘Sia’ album back in 2020. The second album with this lineup ‘Light Up’ appeared in 2023 which was another critical and creative success. I believe the plan is for the band to hopefully release a third album very soon to complete the trilogy. Glass has gone on record to say how excited and enthused he is with this current lineup that he really hopes to record a third album as soon as possible to continue the momentum of this renewed energy and undeniable band chemistry.

Solstice was formed in Milton Keynes, England in 1980 by guitarist/songwriter Glass who is the sole founding member still in the band. During Solstice’s initial five-year run from 1980 - 1985 the band played many gigs and festivals, but only released one studio album called ‘Silent Dance’ in 1984. After which the band split up, reuniting in 1993 and then going on to release the studio albums ‘New Life’ (1993) and ‘Circles’ (1997), and the live album, ‘The Cropredy Set’ in 2002. Glass once more put the band on hold to focus on his other band ‘3 Sticks’ and spend time on studio session and sound engineering work. It was around this time that Andy was invited to take the job of 'front of house' sound engineer with Jethro Tull leading to five American tours and several tours through Europe and the UK. In 2007 he decided to resurrect Solstice once again, which resulted in two further studio albums ‘Spirit’ (2010) and ‘Prophecy’ (2013). When long time vocalist Emma Brown decided to leave the band, Andy only had one name in mind to replace her and that was Jess Holland. Jess had been working with Andy and violinist Jenny Newman since 2018 in Jenny's highly successful Festival ceilidh band, FCPB.

The last time Solstice played London was in April 2023 at the 229 Venue near Baker Street. Prior to that gig the band hadn’t played London for over a decade. The rejuvenation and resurgence of the band has gone from strength to strength since then with many notable gigs under their belt. The sizable queue outside The 100 Club stretched someway up Oxford Street prior to doors opening at 7.30pm, which was a strong indicator that this would be a well-attended gig. This proved to be so, as inside was almost to capacity by showtime.

Support for the evening came in the form of the delightfully wonderful Ebony Buckle, who is also a backing vocalist for Solstice. Ebony is an Australian-born singer/songwriter/actor now based in London. She has joined forces with her husband Nick Burns to make lush Folk-Pop music. Their debut album ‘Disco Lasers’ was released in 2021 with a second covers album ‘Myths from The Megaverse’ in 2022. Her much-anticipated new studio album will be released in October with an album launch show scheduled for the 17th October at The Camden Club in North London. Joining Ebony for her forty-five-minute set was her husband on guitar and Laura Williams on drums. The nine tracks they played were mainly from Ebony’s ‘Disco Lasers’ album plus several new songs destined for the next album including ‘Wonder’, ‘Fall Behind’, ‘Golden Sand’, ‘Saved My Own Life’, ‘Russian Dolls’, ‘Selkie’, ‘Wild Woman’, ‘Jupiter's Rising’ and ‘Disco Lasers’. Ebony has one of the most elegantly mellifluous voices that makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand up and shivers down your spine! A truly emotionally moving performance. Without doubt, an artist to look out for.

After a thirty-minute break Solstice kick started their ninety-minute set with the jubilantly joyous ‘Shout’ from the 2020 ‘Sia’ album. A vibrantly vivacious song with an infectiously tenacious groove and multiple intertwining layers of delectably catchy hooks. The band were fully energised and locked in tight from the off. Vocalist Jess Holland commanded the stage with her compelling charisma, buoyant energy, and expressive delivery. Backing vocalists Ebony and latest recruit Dyane Crutcher complimented Jess’s vocals with their gloriously smooth harmonies. With a jump back in time came the enthralling ‘Guardian’ from the 1993 ‘New Life’ album. A bit more laid back than the previous song, but equally captivating. Some gorgeous fiddle lilts from Jenny garnished the ambience with Jess’s vocal performance elevating the majesty of the song to another level of elegance.

Moving onto the 2023 ‘Light Up’ album in the shape of ‘Wongle No.9’ raised the upbeat Funk element into the stratosphere! An eclectic blend of James Brown and Fairport Convention! A solid steadfast drum beat from Pete set the pace with a slinky bass line from Robin snaking in and out with menace. Tantalising violin sweeps from Jenny sailed over Jess's sumptuously teasing vocal lines, with seductive guitar phrases from Andy interweaving between the grooves. Super funky Rhoads piano from Steven added mind bending dimensions to the lively scene. Apparently, the name ‘Wongle’ was just a made-up word to save the basic WAV track on the computer, with ‘no. 9’ being the version they used for the final master.

In keeping with the high-octane vibe came another wonderfully infectious track from the ‘Light Up’ album in the form of the seductively lively ‘Mount Ephraim’. A dynamically dazzling Celtic Folk Rock stomper named after Mount Ephraim Gardens located in the heart of the Kent countryside near Faversham. The story goes that Andy asked David Rees, the promoter of A New Day Festival, which is held at Mount Ephraim, what does he have to do to get booked to play the festival again, to which Dave jokingly replied, “write me a song!” Well, they did, and this track is the result! The song is about the longing to gather in celebration with like-minded souls at a festival and the spiritual connection between the music and the people. The main driving force on this track is Jenny’s nimble fiddle playing which whipped up a storm and kept us all bouncing on our toes, Jess’s lilting vocal interludes interjected between the myriad of jigging adding sophisticated velvet textures and sumptuous warm layers. Steven's Moog synthesizer phrases added much gravitas to the overall mystical feel.

The time was right for a couple of old Solstice classics from their very first album ‘Silent Dance’, originally released in 1984. First up was the hypnotising ‘Earthsong’, which saw Ebony Buckle take on the lead vocals, to which she did a sterling job! Jenny’s decorously expressive fiddle sweeps peppered the tune with dramatic symphonic overtones. An enchantingly soothing performance by all. The second of the ‘Silent Dance’ tracks was the spellbindingly sublime ‘Cheyenne’ - ‘Cheyenne’ is a lament to the loss and suffering of all native Americans. Cheyenne being part of the Algonquian language family which is a Native American language spoken by the Cheyenne people, predominantly in Montana and Oklahoma - Jess started the piece with some amazingly powerful acapella chanting before Andy overlayed with atmospherically transcendental sustained guitar notes. Jess, Ebony and Dyane then huddled together to combine their ethereal harmony vocals. The band were clearly enjoying the moment, as were we. They made us feel united together like one big family. Heartwarming stuff indeed!

Back to the ‘Light Up’ album for the last track and longest track on the album ‘Bulbul Tarang’ - Bulbul Tarang is a Hindi phrase that means “Waves of Nightingales” in English but is also the name of a Punjabi stringed instrument which employs two sets of strings, one set for drone, and one for melody. The strings run over a plate or fretboard, while above are keys resembling typewriter keys, which when depressed fret or shorten the strings to raise their pitch - The performance opened with a drone played by Andy on the Bulbul Tarang before Jenny’s fiddle and Steven’s keyboards joined in developing the melodic intent with Robin’s bass and Pete’s drums anchoring the tempo allowing the track to grow and expand as it moved through the air, twisting and turning through a diverse progression of moods and a myriad concatenation of energies. Jess's delicately graceful vocals mingled and permeated before repeated guitar arpeggios and fiddle sweeps cajoled each other for prominence. Jess, Ebony and Dyane’s silvery harmony vocals blanketed over the interlacing melody with silky elegance. Another voraciously vibrant guitar solo from Andy elevated the drama into outer space before the track concluded on a bewitching high. A thrillingly spirited performance!

The only new song of the set was ‘Firefly’ which will not only feature on the next Solstice album but is also one of the tracks included in this month’s Prog Magazine sampler downloads. When Andy wrote the song he didn’t have a title for it, so he asked the fans to come up with a suitable title for the words he had written, ‘Firefly’ was his favourite. The band have been trying this one out live for a good while now and it would appear to be shaping up nicely! Another uplifting song with catchy hooks and thrilling melodies.

The inimitably stunning ‘A New Day’ from the 2020 ‘Sia’ album greeted us next with its softly strummed acoustic guitar intro played by Jess over which Andy added some heavenly radiant electric guitar arpeggios. Jess's beautifully angelic vocal melodies glided effortlessly as the track built up in intensity before rising to an all-consuming crescendo of audio delight!

The main part of the set came to a triumphant conclusion with the stirringly moving ‘Sacred Run’ from the 1997 ‘Circles’ album. Soaring fiddle and driving guitar harmonised together steering the melodious melody. Jess’s angelically rousing vocals furnished the harmonious theme cementing the emotive intent. Andy’s nimble-fingered guitar solo was divinely awe-inspiring and added to the overall emotion of the song. Much dancing ensued!

For the encore we were treated to the inspirationally epic 'Morning Light' from the 1984 ‘Silent Dance’ album. Another eminently gripping Solstice masterpiece very much in the classic 1970s Pink Floyd vein in that it dramatically builds with an array of hypnotic sonic textures and sustained tensions before climaxing with a prodigiously majestic guitar solo from Andy. A breathtaking performance from a band rejuvenated, firing on all cylinders and clearly at the top of their game. The future looks very bright indeed!

Steven C. Gilbert

bottom of page