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The Last Domino? Tour
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Rocking Horse Music Club
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Thrilled by the event

The Music of Anthony Phillips and Mike Rutherford - live

Rocking Horse Music Club featuring Noel McCalla


Rocking Horse Music Club plays The Music of Anthony Phillips featuring songs from The Geese & The Ghost, Wise After The Event, Sides - and many more plus selections from Mike Rutherford's Smallcreep's Day with original vocalist Noel McCalla.

That’s what it said on the concert posters and flyers. While that is an accurate description of what took place at Trading Boundaries, a very special concert location, it was just that, the barest statement of facts.

PosterWhen the news came out that the American band the Rocking Horse Music Club would play two shows at Sheffield Green in East Sussex (The Sheffield Park National Trust Gardens), and, more importantly, that they would play music by Anthony Phillips and parts of Mike Rutherford’s debut album, there was simply a hope that this would be something special. Little was known about the background and the motivation for these shows at the time they were announced (this was April 2019). Who was the driving force behind it all? The fanclub found out more by and by. It turned out that it was several people who had the qualifications, the means and the courage to not only talk the talk about it, but actually walk the walk. One of the main instigators was Brian Coombes, head of the Rocking Horse Music Club band. Michael Clifford, owner of Trading Boundaries, was another. Several encounters between the two (RHMC had played at the Trading Boundaries in 2018) and the networks of those two music lovers turned the mere idea into something more concrete. Noel McCalla agreed to sing, Mike Rutherford gave his placet and Anthony Phillips gave artistic support, and with these three on board it was certain: These two concerts would become something very special. You can read more about the evolution of the project in the exclusive interview Brian Coombes gave us on April 28, 2019, and on the website of the Rocking Horse Music Club. From that moment on we knew: We must not let pass the opportunity to experience all this. We went to quite some lengths to get the trip the UK organized.


venueWhat is Trading Boundaries, then? It is not a simple event venue, but an exciting place full of music, sales rooms for furniture, arts and crafts, a café, a record store, exhibitions, a restaurant and a stage which regularly hosts concerts. Is it a special place “hidden in the countryside”, as the Trading Boundaries website has it? Yes, it is. But Trading Boundaries is becoming more popular, not least because of the tireless work of Michael Clifford and his very open love for progressive music of the 1970s. When we were there to see the concerts a most worthwhile exhibitions of the works of Roger Dean took place there, too (Dean drew several Yes album covers and created the band’s famous logo).

The long wait for the concerts was sweetened with the release of the album Which Way The Wind Blows by the Rocking Horse Music Club on October 11, 2019.


Rehearsals 1It was dark and we were feeling the journey in our legs when we arrived at Trading Boundaries in the evening of November 14. It is a rather impressive building located in the sticks of East Sussex, and this was where the magic began to unfold.

In the ensuing hours we enjoyed the privilege of listening to the band’s dress rehearsal. They were hard at work and put the finishing touches on some of the songs. We noticed right away that all the songs sounded much stronger and more impressive live than compared with the tribute album Which Way The Wind Blows.

Rehearsal 2After the band had played a number of Anthony Phillips’s songs Noel McCalla came to the stage from the background. What happened then was something to really relish: This was the very first time ever that songs from Smallcreep’s Day were played by a band live on a stage with the original album’s singer. The band were very impressed by it all and did their best, and Noel McCalla showed how great a singer he is. With goose bumps moments already happening in the rehearsals, what would be in store at the full shows?


CliffordOne of the special things about the venue is the fact that you can buy two kinds of tickets: Both obviously give you admission to the standing room, but with the one kind you also get a two-course menu before the concert. It was something we have not experienced before, and it was quite special for us. Incidentally, only the second day was sold out, but that did not dampen our anticipation at all. When Michael Clifford went on stage at around 9pm for a number of announcements and a few words that underlined the special character of the night, it was blatantly obvious: This is not a regular show. It felt like a rather special and exclusive event.

MacphailMichael then introduced none other than Richard Macphail to the stage. Richard gave a bit of background, outlined his role in the history of Genesis, and managed to insert subtle promotion for his own publication, My Book Of Genesis, which he sold in the foyer. Another special drop was added to the magic of the evening. Richard then announced the Rocking Horse Music Club, and off the went.


[Edoitor's note: photos from the show can be found at the end of our article]

The band took the stage. It consisted at first of Brian Coombes (keyboards, vocals), Justin Cohn (vocals, acoustic guitar), Patrik Gochez (keyboard, acoustic guitar, vocals), Brenden Harisiades (bass), Myron Kibbee (acoustic and electric guitars), Juli Finn (acoustic and electric guitars), Mike McAdam (electric guitar), Eric Wagley (drums). All of them can also be heard on Which Way The Wind Blows, except for Juli Finn, who joined the band only recently.

Mixing DeskThe strong first chords of Um & Aargh rang out, the journey into the world of Anthony Phillips began. It was a good opener. Pat sang it much like on the album, very well, slightly fragile, and resembling Anthony’s voice. The band seemed overjoyed. It was a pleasure to see and hear. They then went straight into Traces from Invisible Men. This track was the first surprise as it is not on Which Way The Wind Blows. Justin Cohn’s wonderful vocals and the guitar play made it feel a bit like a Mike + The Mechanics number and showed the potential of the song. Somewhere on the internet someone said that if this song had been written by Phil Collins and released as a single, it would have been a hit. As it is, it remains a song by Anthony Phillips, an insider tip, and that’s good.

As a reverence to the maestro’s new album Strings Of Light the band decided to include Jour De Fête, and Myron played this composition on the 12-string guitar. It was an obvious choice, as Myron later told us, because its key is close to Paperchase, the piece that followed it. Hearing Justin’s voice on the album was a treat, but his live performance was stronger than the original and even better than on the CD version. Great backing vocals by Juli and accomplished guitar sounds rounded it all off.

Evelyn Cormier joined the band on stage for the next song. She participated very successfully in the 2019 series of American Idol. She sang, naturally, Something Blue from the tribute album and spread the veil of the blues across the audience. Mike McAdam (guitar) and Juli (backing vocals, guitar) added some delightful elements.

Pulling Faces stood out already on the album because of its strong interpretation that stayed close to the original yet still sounded more edgy. Justin had to go all in for this hard-to-sing number. Numerous changes in speed and keys pose a serious challenge for a singer, and he was up to it.

When they worked on the cover album they were determined not to play exact carbon copies of the pieces, Brian explained to the audience. This applies to the next song they played. Which Way The Wind Blows was sung by Phil Collins in the original release of The Geese & The Ghost. In singing on this song Noel McCalla, who now joined the band on stage, gave it the special touch Brian had been aiming for. There was a touch of soul in the air as the band played it along Noel. Interestingly, the song grew more edgy only towards the ending, and we simply must point out the incredibly great drumming by Eric Wagley. He plays like clockwork, strong and with an edge – a force the whole band can rely on to give and keep up the time. Not every band is blessed with such a good drummer. Whether the couple of bars they played right before the end were paying homage to The Knife by design or by coincidence is entirely up to the ears and the imagination of the listener.

Collections and Sleepfall: The Geese Fly West are an almost indivisible unit on The Geese & The Ghost. This is why these two songs were performed as one on the Rocking Horse Music Club album as well as live. Whereas the original focused on the orchestral sound, the cover exchanged this for subtle guitars. The slide guitar sound in particular suits the version. Pat’s vocals picked up on the vulnerability that was already present in the original. Sleepfall was changed in that the final part was much shorter than in the 1977 version.

One of the highlights from Anthony Phillips’s repertoire has found its way onto the tribute album. Nightmare was part of the live set, too, as the closer of the first half of the show. It was played audibly faster, and the drums play a crucial role in it. Eric Wagley told us he enjoyed Simon Phillips’s (the drummer on the original album) drumming very much. Eric did a great job again. We would like to point out Mike McAdams’s contribution: He played the theremin and added something very special to the song. Caroline Carter’s vocals were, as Brian freely admits, a homage to Pink Floyd. A touch of The Great Gig In The Sky was felt in the venue as Caroline accompanied the song to its end with her wordless vocals.  That bit was a bit long for the reviewer, but perhaps the band find it difficult to let go of this piece.

For what it’s worth, the sound was excellent in the venue. It was well-balanced and had just the right volume. This was due not only to the very good equipment used but also due to the incredibly experienced sound engineer (and musician) Roy Weard who has worked with the likes of Roger Chapman and Manfred Mann’s Earthband. It was through his work for the latter band that he got to know Noel McCalla. He was not the only outstanding person present. To underline the importance of the evening to everybody who were there and everybody who may be reading these lines we should mention that a number of notable people were in the audience: Roger Dean did not only present (and sell) his images in the exhibition – he also attended the show, as did Richard Macphail, “the man himself” Anthony Phillips, Dale Newman (vocals for Bleak House on Sides), and David Hentschel (producer of Smallcreep’s Day and several Genesis albums).

After the interval the show kept up its momentum. Michael Clifford introduced Juli and John Finn. They came on stage and played Tregenna Afternoons, a classic from Private Parts & Pieces I and returned the audience straight into this evening’s very special atmosphere.

Next up was one of the highlights of the show. The promotion posters had promised that a number of songs from Mike Rutherford’s solo debut album Smallcreep’s Day would be played. These would be sung by the original singer on the album, Noel McCalla. The first few bars of Every Road took the audience on a journey through time and gave us something no fan would have thought possible: Noel’s brilliant vocals brought back the feeling of hearing the music for the very first time ever. Juli and Pat accompanied him as backing singers. As Brian put it, these numbers have always had a special place in his heart, and this performance certainly felt like that.

The prepared set list actually had Every Road as the second track of the Smallcreep’s Day section. The band obviously decided on short notice to change the order of the first two songs. This made Time And Time Again only the second song. Noel described it as one of his favourite songs on the album that does not seem to age at all. Another great performance that did not leave any wishes open (great vocals, excellent guitar soli). Brilliant!

Next up was the then single release of the LP, Working In Line. Before they launched into that the second night Noel, Brian, and the audience briefly discussed in the most non-committal manner whether it might be a good idea to perform the whole album. Apparently, the idea is real, and especially Noel has a really soft spot for that longplayer, which he showed many times: Working In Line was fun, and the vocals as well as the instrumental efforts were very convincing. The sound of the original version was captured well, too.

At The End Of The Day was the last song of this special part. The members of the Rocking Horse Music Club band will not have been annoyed by the fact that Mr McCalla took the centre spot. Those were special, unique moments. The audience gave them a lot of positive feedback. Noel appeared to enjoy the thing, too. At The End Of The Day was a wonderful performance and may well have been the strongest track of the collection of Smallcreep’s Day tracks they played. Noel’s vocals were outstanding, and both the audience and the people on stage applauded him.

Brian Coombes’s favourite Sides song is Bleak House, a great song with fine vocals by Dale Newman. Accordingly strong was his wish to have the song played live. Patrik Gochez accepted the vocal challenge and sang this song full of passion while accompanying himself on the piano. The audience listened raptly. Pat deserves the highest respect for the way he did honour to this composition. Apparently it was considered that Dale Newman come on stage and sing this song. Why this did not happen remains unclear.

Next up was Everywhere Is Home, a composition by Brian Coombs and Patrik Gochez. Writing a gospel song was obviously a surprising experience. With Justin Cohen’s vocals it worked so well for everybody involved that it even earned them an independent music prize. The song, it must be said, is absolutely tailor-made for Justin who shows the whole range of his voice. Caroline Carters vocals also contributed to making this a well-rounded performance of an increasingly intense song.

“We’d like to do a song about a departed friend” was Brian’s introduction to the next piece, and fans of Anthony’s music soon identified it. Silver Song is a gem, particularly since the version with Phil Collins surfaced. Fans of Ant and/of Genesis like to use it to remember the good old days. The new edgy version with lots of guitars was not to the writer’s liking even on the album. An overload of guitar parts in the live version washed away all the charm of the original.

More surprises in the encores. First up was In The Beginning of From Genesis To Revelation, the debut album of our favourite band, and the band let their proverbial hair down. Juli Finn put her guitar aside and sang this song. The outcome was a fine version that shows the potential of this song. Juli’s vocals were good though one would hope for a bit more emotion in here voice. That would have been the icing on the cake, but it still was a great performance.

One-Eyed Hound brought up the rear of the show. A wonderfully dark intense song from the early days of Genesis, it was written when Anthony Phillips belonged to the core of the band. Brian Coombes singing the song was a surprising treat. He did very well. When Myron Kibbee, Juli Finn and Mike McAdam took turns to show what they can do the song turned into a veritable fireworks display of guitars. The last notes of the song were followed by loud applause.


Group shotThe résumé of both shows is unequivocally positive. These two nights showed just what is possible if you work hard on turning a concrete idea with consistent emphasis into a wonderful product. Kudos to Brian. He and this excellent band gave us two great evenings that were more like a fan event than a “regular” concert.

We’d like to mention one thing that lead to the only major difference between the two shows: Juli Finn did not make it back to the stage on time for Nightmare the second night, so the band decided on the spot to play a song of Patrik Gochez’s. I’m Starting Over is a song from The Hats’s album Chemical Drippers (worth while getting). Patrik played this ballad on the piano, and Brittany Laine, another member of The Hats accompanied him. Together they enriched the concert with a song that hit the very flair of Anthony Phillips’s compositions.

We shall observe closely how the Rocking Horse Music Club goes on on the other side of the Atlantic. There are, apparently, already plans for a U.S. tour. They also vented some ideas about looking at Tony Banks’s debut album A Curious Feeling. We would be absolutely looking forward to seeing them again, either with a similar show or with a completely new idea


By Bernd Zindler, English by Martin Klinkhardt (01/2020)
Photos: Helmut Janisch

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