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Touchstone / Von Hertzen Brothers http://rocktopia.co.uk/media/reviews/photos/thumbnail/200x200s/a2/dd/f2/Touchstone-2013-Rocktopia-Live-Review-Thumb-84-1389827991.jpg Hot

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Touchstone / Von Hertzen Brothers - Eric's, Liverpool (UK) - 26th October 2013

I must confess, Touchstone and the Von Hertzen Brothers were two bands I didn't know a lot about until recently. Both with new albums receiving excellent reviews, both here in Fireworks and across most of the music press. Both highly rated and award winners in recent Prog Rock circles had been enough to get my attention so when the chance to catch both bands on one night came along it was an opportunity not to miss.

The Von Hertzen Brothers hit the stage running with a pair of rockers 'Insomniac' and 'Coming Home' from latest album 'Nine Lives'. Rhythm guitarist and main vocalist Mikko was an energetic frontman, demanding attention with a non-stop performance whilst driving the band on relentlessly. Brother Kie may not have the same in your face presence but his guitar work was outstanding. Slightly quirky at times perhaps, he has a style and quality to his playing that defines an identity to the Von Hertzen sound whether rocking out or in the more thoughtful, sophisticated elements to their songs. Third brother Jonne supplied bass and occasional additional keyboards to supplement the sound.

The middle of the set slowed in pace a little with some of their more intricate and intimate songs – 'Lost In Time', 'Separate Forevers' and 'I Believe' – before ending on a high with the excellent 'Flowers And Rust' and 'Thy Will Be Done'. It's a real team effort from the boys, not forgetting some top drumming and keyboards from Mikko Kaakkuriniemi and Juna Kuoppala with some extra percussion, cowbells, and keyboards all thrown in to recreate the full sound of their albums. This was a lively and exciting start to the night.

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Touchstone by contrast are more about precise, sophisticated arrangements of their music than the rawness that the Von Hertzens displayed. That's not to say they don't have power and energy on stage, but in a seemingly more channelled manner. 'Flux' from latest album 'Oceans of Time' opened the set, flowing keyboards from Rob Cottingham intertwined with Adam Hodgson's guitar, full of harmonies and subtlety, but some searing guitar work makes it one of the heaviest tracks from the album and one that really came alive on stage. Bassist 'Moo' roamed the stage, playing and posing throughout with a grin that barely left his face for a second. This was the first time I've seen Touchstone live and Kim Seviour has all the attributes to be a focal centre piece of the band, yet somehow still seemed to lack a little presence on stage: not owning it as one might expect. This is a mere quibble, however, as no such reservations could be levelled at her vocal performance. Soaring and powerful, gentle and emotional, Kim's voice is an integral and essential part of band that has developed over the last couple of albums, although the vocals seemed just a little low in the mix.

We got a nice mix of old and new, 'Fragments', 'Spirit of the Age' and 'Shadows End' before 'Oceans of Time' itself ended a slightly shortened set due to curfew constraints at the venue, although there was still time for a couple of encores in 'Contact' and 'Strange Days' to end in lively style.

Touchstone were off to record a DVD at the following night's show and on the sort of form they demonstrated here, that's definitely one to keep a lookout for.

Ian Parry

Touchstone-2013-Live-Review-Rocktopia

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