Gryphon live at The Union Chapel, 29th May 2015

Gryphon 1
Photograph by Dai Jeffries

As Richard Harvey pointed out this tour – labelled None The Wiser – was the first time that the core of Gryphon had played together for about forty years and only the second time in London. I last saw them in 1973 or 74 and their performance of ‘Midnight Mushrumps’ that night still lives in my memory.

But here they were, dressed rather more soberly than in bygone years – although Graeme Taylor’s shirt was rather flamboyant – except for Brian Gulland who proved that his seventies’ stage gear still fits him right down to the mismatched shoes. He returned for the second set barefoot, probably because Harvey had changed into a gold suit. Counting Dave Oberlé’s extensive percussion rig as one unit, which probably does it an injustice, I think there were thirty instruments on stage. Bearing in mind that Jon Davie had one bass and Taylor had one guitar, that’s an awful lot for Harvey, Gulland and Graham Preskett to handle. That said, some appeared for only a few bars in a single number.

They began with their early days: ‘The Astrologer’, ‘Kemp’s Jig’ and ‘Estampie’ and ‘The Unquiet Grave’ with its solemn bassoon opening. Taylor soloed ‘Crossing The Styles’ and the set finished with ‘Juniper Suite’ and ‘Dubbel Dutch’ as a fair amount of their debut album was dusted off.

The second set began with the twin keyboards and bassoon that heralded ‘Midnight Mushrumps’ and which received a standing ovation all by itself. It is a stunning piece of shifting foci – there’s a guitar not-quite-solo, lovely interplay between bass and percussion, wind and reeds moving in and out and all the time the keyboards underpin and hold it together. The set continued with ‘Lament’ and a medley of themes from Red Queen To Gryphon Three finishing with a set of early dances. The encore began with ‘Le Cabrioleur Est Dans Le Mouchoir’ and took off into tunes that sounded familiar but whose titles remain elusive.

I was pleasantly surprised at how many people remembered Gryphon from the old days. I was stunned by the affection in which they are still held. Standing ovations were the order of the day and the fact that the hint that there may even be a new album was received rapturously tells its own story.

Dai Jeffries

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