Touchstone / Heather Findlay Band - The Borderline, London (UK) - 17 December 2016
So, we got our first look at the new iteration of Touchstone with Aggie Figurska and Liam Holmes replacing Kim Seviour and Rob Cottingham on vocals and keyboards respectively. In addition, bassist Paul Moorghen has assumed Rob Cottingham's vocal duties. There was a decently sized audience on hand to check out this revised line-up despite the gig clashing with a possible counter attraction of IQ just up the road. Having witnessed a poor vocal performance from IQ at the Summer's End Festival there was never a doubt that I'd be anywhere but at this event.
First up was Heather Findlay and the acoustic version of her band and as always they produced a very pleasant set of well played and ethereal music, which for once didn't lean on her previous association with Mostly Autumn but concentrated on her solo material. As discussed with friends post-set, what we'd heard was perfectly enjoyable but a little samey with many of the songs having a similar pace and vibe. Ironically, the standout moment was the cover of Steeleye Span's Christmas A Capella hit from the seventies 'Gaudete' which the band performed superbly.
My aversion to heavily accented vocals is well documented and with a Polish singer there is always that concern, however on first evidence Figurska isn't afflicted in this way; what a relief?
From that moment the band arrived on stage you could tell that they've gone up a notch or two on the heaviness graph, there was more attack and power than hitherto. There were indications they were moving in this direction with their last album, 'Oceans Of Time', so it came as no surprise. It was clear Figurska has the voice, she has the moves and she has the presence, her hair twirling antics only added to the perception of higher energy. Keyboardist Holmes was no slouch either and he seemed to have slotted in very nicely.
Unsurprisingly, the majority of the set consisted of tracks from their most recent albums with the aforementioned 'Oceans...', 'The City Sleeps' and 'Wintercoast' being well represented and the question was how would Figurska handle the back catalogue? The answer was, with great aplomb, gusto and obvious skill. Clearly her recruitment was well thought through and she seemed to be a perfect choice.
What about the new songs? All three from their 'Lights From The Sky' EP were aired tonight and there was no doubt that these were quality, they fitted seamlessly into the band's canon of work and this bodes well for the next album. The tribute to the recently departed Greg Lake during the 'Christmas Medley' was very well done and the encores rounded out the show in fine style.