November 27, 2019

Tight-as-a-drum ensemble playing, even when embarking on lengthy instrumental sojourns

This all started, of course, with Pink Floyd. Back in 1997 German proggers RPWL (the initials of the four band members) came together as a Floyd tribute band, and a very, very good one. Within a couple of years, however, they had outgrown the limitations of the tribute format and begun to introduce their own material, leading to their debut album, the critically acclaimed God Has Failed. To this day they still put the occasional Floyd track into their live set, though this tends to be something out of the ordinary, such a piece only ever played live by the Floyd, or at least played live in a very different way to the familiar studio incarnation.

Even though some may scoff at the whole ‘tribute band’ ethos and general experience, it can certainly be argued strongly that those beginnings, and the discipline required, created an invaluable foundation for RPWL’s own output. The Floyd influences still remain to an extent, revealing crucial compositional experience gained from the forensic deconstruction of those classic Floyd pieces, but more to the point the band’s own tight-as-a-drum ensemble playing, even when embarking on lengthy instrumental sojourns, was clearly honed in those days.

Still, this is two decades on, and what we have here is the latest in a series of RPWL live albums, which now number an impressive seven. This particular double disc offering was, as the title may suggest, recorded on the tour promoting their most recent studio album Tales From Outer Space, and indeed the first disc is made up of a complete performance of that album. The second disc delves back through the band’s archives for its six selections, as far back as the very first track on their very first album, the fan favourite Hole In The Sky.

Straight away it has to be said that the band are, as always, on exemplary form here. They seldom play a show which is anything less than exceptionally professional, and so is the case on this recording. Of the newer material on Disc One, the clear standout to these ears is the near-thirteen minute Welcome To The Freak Show, complete with climactic guitar pyrotechnics worthy of Comfortable Numb itself, though it has to be said that the rumbling, riffy A New World and the majestic Give Birth To The Sun are barely a footstep behind. Disc Two similarly impresses, with the aforementioned Hole In The Sky another Floydian winner, with another big guitar climax, and the following Sleep showing, with its very Genesis-like mid-section that, while the band may be proudly rooted in the classic ‘70s prog tradition, there are many more strings to their bow than those of a Pink origin.

If pushed, there are a couple of tracks from the first disc which I would have perhaps omitted in favour of one or two older classics – Not Our Place To Be labours a little, with its echoes of 1980s It Bites, and What I Really Need comes across like a rather unconvincing hybrid of Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark and Nine Inch Nails, and is probably not what we really need. However, a full performance of an album is just that and must by definition include everything. All in all, another strong entry from one of the best live prog bands in the business.