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Curved Air Mesmerize a Dedicated Audience at London’s Borderline

Curved Air’s distinctive, folk and classical-influenced progressive rock sound is still exciting several decades on. They originally formed in 1970 in London after vocalist Sonja Kristina joined the group Sisyphus, consisting of violinist Darryl Way, keyboardist and guitarist Francis Monkman, bassist Rob Martin and drummer Florian Pilkington-Miksa. Their new name was inspired by the 1969 album ‘A Rainbow in Curved Air’ by experimental musician Terry Riley.

The band has gone through numerous line-up changes over the decades. Their first active period lasted until 1976, and they then briefly reunited in 1984, 1988 and 1990. They re-formed in 2008, with Kristina, Way and Pilkington-Miksa joined by guitarist Andy Christie and bassist Chris Harris.

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Way left the band in 2009 and Pilkington-Miksa in 2017, leaving Kristina as the only founding member. The line-up that’s currently touring the UK features Kit Morgan on guitar, Chris Harris on bass, Paul Sax on violin, Robert Norton on keyboards and Andy Tween on drums.

A lady next to me at the Borderline on 16th February who saw Curved Air live several times in the early 70s, but not since then, told me that the music made her feel the same way as it had done decades ago. She also said that Kristina’s vocals sounded as powerful as ever. Indeed, her gorgeous voice had a stronger sound to it than on the recordings at times, and her enthusiasm and passion hasn’t faded either.

Much of Curved Air’s material is quite challenging and requires the sometimes complicated interplay of the instruments. Nonetheless, all the musicians had plenty of opportunities to show off their talent and skill.

Morgan’s guitar style was spot on: his solos showed signs of virtuosity without overdoing it, and Sax brilliantly channelled Way’s elegant violin sound. Norton’s keyboard added another beautiful layer to the experience, and his parts on ‘Metamorphosis’ were especially beautiful. Harris and Tween are an adept and colourful rhythm section with often unique and complex timings.

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The set list mostly included songs from the band’s most commercially successful early years and their most recent, seventh studio album ‘North Star, released in 2014 – which is, by the way, probably one of their best records. We heard all the compulsory numbers: ‘It Happened Today’, ‘Marie Antionette’, ‘Metamorphis’, ‘Propositions’, ‘Young Mother’, ‘The Purple Speed Queen’, and, of course, the band’s 1971 hit single ‘Back Street Luv’ and the stunning instrumental Way composition ‘Vivaldi’. Tracks performed from ‘North Star’ were ‘Stay Human’, ‘Time Games’, ‘Images and Signs’ and ‘Spider’.


Visit Curved Air’s official website to find out where they are playing next.

 

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