LIVE: Brand X @ The Egg, 10/12/17

Review by Steven Stock
Photographs by Andrzej Pilarczyk

There was nothing generic about Brand X’s engrossing performance at The Egg’s Swyer Theatre last week. Although the band’s heyday was the late ’70s, when Brand X often featured a moonlighting Phil Collins on drums, the current five-piece incarnation proved there’s still a place for a bracing fusion of jazz, rock and progressive music well into the 21st century.

Guitarist John Goodsall and the mesmerizing fretless bass player Percy Jones are the only holdovers from the original 1975 lineup, but change has always been a constant for Brand X. During the group’s initial run from 1975 to 1980 fourteen members cycled though, with a further six joining the band’s first reboot from 1992 to 1999.

After a long layoff, Brand X reformed again last year, with keyboardist Chris Clark, percussionist Scott Weinberger and returning alumnus Kenwood Dennard on drums. That version of the band recorded the excellent double album But Wait… There’s More! Live 2017 in January. Since then Kenny Grahowski replaced Dennard, becoming the 23rd member of Brand X’s rotating cast.

At The Egg, Brand X’s performance was instrumental (like most of their catalog, although Collins sang occasionally) so obviously there were no words to spell out emotions, no narrative tension. But rest assured there was plenty of drama and suspense in the unexpected musical twists and turns that enlivened epic versions of “Nightmare Patrol” and the Collins-composed “And So to F.”

Clark coaxed a variety of sounds from his modest keyboard set-up – most notably a lovely vintage Fender Rhodes tone – and proved to be an apt foil to Goodsall’s guitar pyrotechnics. “Earth Dance” provided a showcase for the rhythm section, Weinberger (who eschews a stool) moving around his percussion array accenting the irresistible beat before drummer Grahowski went nuts unleashing an impressive fusillade over Clark’s repetitive chords. Part of what makes this band so engrossing is their emphasis on the interplay between musicians as opposed to individual displays of instrumental virtuosity.

That said, bassist Jones was impossible to overlook in the second set, opening alone with the muted soundscape “Magic Mist,” then taking a prominent role in the mix as the band tore through his compositions “Noddy Goes to Sweden” and “Malaga Virgen.” “Euthanasia Waltz” provided a welcome respite amidst all the Sturm und Drang, with some of Clark’s prettiest playing. “Disco Suicide” and a thunderous rendition of “Nuclear Burn” brought the night to a close and the small but enthusiastic audience to its feet. Brand X – accept no substitute.

Nightmare Patrol
Earth Dance
And So to F
Why Should I Lend You Mine (When You’ve Broken Yours Off Already)…
…Maybe I’ll Lend You Mine After All
Born Ugly
Magic Mist
Noddy Goes to Sweden
The Poke
Malaga Virgen
Euthanasia Waltz
Disco Suicide
Nuclear Burn

  1. Roger says

    It was a great show. Small crowd but that didn’t seem to lessen the band’s enthusiasm. Hope more people learn about this band and they come back to the area.

  2. Robert Sellers says

    I convinced my wife to go, although she really had no idea who Brand X were. The show had dynamics and different feels in the music far beyond any show I’ve seen in a long time. There was an intermission and suddenly I stared fearing she’d want to leave, but to my surprise she told me “This is really interesting music, it keeps changing… Now I’m curious to see what they do in the second half”. Wow I didn’t see that coming. The Egg is a great place for a show. Fantastic sound and the band used some visuals projected behind them that worked as a cool backdrop. The level of musicianship was really something, especially the Bass and Drummer. After the show, I had to remind my wife that there was no vocal, and that she had sat patiently through two hours of all instrumental music. And the weird thing was it seem to fly by so fast. That’s the mark of a really great show. Thank you Brand X and thank you The Egg for bringing such culturally diverse acts to our hometown.

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