Review: Caravan, Queen’s Hall, Edinburgh

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A PECULIARLY British music form, prog rock took to the stage in an attempt to push the boundaries of traditional rock music. It did so by introducing everything from multi-layered melodies to experimental composition and technological innovation.


Queen’s Hall, Edinburgh

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At its height, bands such as Yes, Jethro Tull and Van der Graaf Generator led the field. And in 1973 Tubular Bells was released, as was Dark Side of the Moon.

Also released that year was For Girls Who Grow Plump in the Night by Canterbury-based band Caravan. Now, 40 years on, they were back in the Capital with their particular brand of music to celebrate the release of their most successful album. But those who thought that this musical form would consist of self-indulgent, pretentious noodling were in for a very pleasant surprise.

From the opening notes of Memory Lane the five musicians were keen to show they were more about rock than prog. On offer was a selection of tight, beautifully executed rock riffs that encouraged the packed venue into enthusiastic foot-tapping and hand-clapping.

While they are no longer young men – and three of them were suffering from flu – each member demonstrated that he was an expert in his field. Geoffrey Richardson moved between viola, flute and guitar with ease.

And although there’s no denying that the band members are getting on a bit, the young drummer Mark Walker injected a huge amount of energy and fun into the proceedings. He could only have coaxed more beats per minute from his drum kit had he simply kicked the whole lot down a flight of steps.

But Caravan are perhaps at their best when they slip from pounding rock riffs into more melodic numbers such as The Dog, the Dog, He’s at it Again – strangely reminiscent of Blur’s Country House.

This was fast and furious rock music, with the big number Nine Feet Underground kept back to the end. Here, they demonstrated that with age comes experience – and the ability to make it all look easy.

It was a wild finish that brought the whole audience to its feet. And rightly so.