Sia Live isn’t an official live release from Solstice as such, it’s a special online edition sent out to fans and supporters of the band, recorded over two gigs at the Crauford Arms, Milton Keynes, with one being a ‘secret’ gig on 27th June 2021 and the other at the same venue on 4th September. It features a run through of the entire Sia album, plus the inclusion of four of their older tracks.
Solstice have never compromised with the devil, they’ve always remained true to their musical beliefs rather than seek out popularity. Often mistakenly perceived as just being a prog band, their music includes references to jazz, folk, new age, even the occasional hint of jazz, and unlike most prog bands, their music doesn’t include layers of swirling synths and keyboards – and they remain one of the few bands who can use violin as a main instrument without making the listener think of Daryl Way playing in Curved Air!
Sia is also the album which introduced new vocalist Jess Holland, who’s added another dimension to the band’s music and, with all due respect to previous vocalist Emma Brown, Jess’s voice is a thing of beauty, which is evident right the way through, particularly on the album conclusion, the bonus track Long Gone – a track from the album not performed before where, with accompaniment from mainman Andy Glass on acoustic, her performance is simply divine. Andy concludes with ‘nice one guys, beautiful,’ and he’s right, it is.
Shout opens the evening’s festivities, and starts off with a gorgeous groove which continues for the next twelve minutes in what is a wonderfully melodic piece of music. From here we get run-throughs of the lovely Love Is Coming, Stand Up and the beautiful Seven Dreams where, as Andy Glass says, ‘it is possible to dance in 7/4 time.’
There are many standout moments on this album, noticeably a version of Find Yourself, from debut album Silent Dance. Andy Glass states the track Guardian, from their New Life album, hasn’t been played ‘live’ for thirty six years, but with violin and bass well to the fore, this is a highlight and it’s a pity it’s not been played for so long. Similarly Cheyenne, also from Silent Dance, is reprised and given a new lease of life on Sia. New Day concludes the set and begins with an acoustic intro before Jess and Andy harmonise beautifully, before Andy tears off some lovely guitar work. It may be his band but he never dominates proceedings, being content to stand back and allow every musician to express themself. And when he plays a solo, there’re no histrionics, with every note played deserving of its place in the song.
They encore with the eleven minute Sacred Run, with its gorgeous harmonies and some delightful guitar and violin interplay, and Andy’s guitar coming as near to rocking out as the band manage! Sia references Solstice’s past but is also very contemporary. All the tracks gel together into a complete whole, and everything which is good about Solstice … the songs, the vocals and top notch musicianship … can be found on this album.