Soft Machine - Live Reviews 2016-2024

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Soft Machine - Live Reviews 2016-2024

Postby LMG » 27 Nov 2016, 13:46

Saw Soft Machine last week. This is (sort of) the band that has been touring and recording as Soft Machine Legacy since 2004. Back then the lineup was John Etheridge, Hugh Hopper, Elton Dean, and John Marshall - some heavyweight 70's Softs alumni.

Since then Elton Dean and Hugh Hopper have passed away, and John Marshall is unable to play at present due to illness. The band touring as Soft Machine in 2016 is John Etheridge, Roy Babbington, Theo Travis and on drums, Nic France - the latter has played with David Gilmour, Pete Townshend, and Alan Holdsworth, among many others.

Thursday's show at the Borderline featured two sets of about 45-60 minutes each, combining selections from the later 70’s and early 80’s Soft Machine albums and tunes from the Soft Machine Legacy albums.

My friend and I could not help but make comparisons to an early Soft Machine Legacy (SML) show, which was held around the corner at the Mean Fiddler in May 2005, which we cannot believe was nearly twelve years ago. That was a quiet, introverted show. Elton Dean remained seated throughout, and there were several stands holding written music on stage. It was noticeably underattended, the audience only a few dozen and certainly under fifty paying customers. I heard later from Hugh Hopper that the promoter had experienced problems and the shows either side were cancelled.

Last week's show was completely different – between one and two hundred fans packed into a smaller venue, barely room to breathe, the band prising their way through the crowd to the stage from the back of the venue for an early 20:15 start.

Starting with Bundles the audience was completely won over. Sound was terrific, Etheridge visibly relishing the opportunity to cut loose on electric guitar, and later proclaiming this in words throughout the set. He introduced the band several times, and interestingly when he in turn was first introduced by Theo Travis, Theo told of a 60’s show John did around the corner at the Speakeasy in Margaret Street. As John came offstage he passed by someone who complimented him ‘Nice solo, man’.

That was Jimi Hendrix. John was teased for apparently still wearing the same shirt he wore that evening, photo evidence here:

https://www.instagram.com/p/BNNY2zmhmxU/

Up next is the current band’s delicate arrangement of Chloe and the Pirates from Six, re-recorded on the SML (Soft Machine Legacy) album Steam. More SML tunes follow, in Voyage Beyond Seven, In the Back Room, and Grapehound, these are from the Live Adventures and Burden of Proof albums. The band is amazingly tight, the audience lapping it up.

Song of Aeolus from the Softs album of 1976 is another blast from the past, giving Theo Travis the chance to exhibit his skills on the flute. Roy Babbington is introduced as having been called on to replace Hugh Hopper, and reminded that he originally left the band in the 70's after announcing a full-blown Soft Machine exit, John Etheridge repeating the words Roy used to resign last time round in the back of a car he was driving.

My friend points out to me how well the Roy Babbington/Nic France rhythm section suits the two other players. I agree. I really miss Hugh Hopper, and it is nice of John Etheridge to pay tribute to him when introducing Hugh's tune Kings and Queens, for example.

The first set ends for a brief intermission, and the band is back for more explorations of the back catalogue. Etheridge has promised a fan he met earlier in a sandwich bar that they would play a certain tune, so the setlist has been modified. It includes the Tale of Taliesin (from Softs), The Man Who Waved at Trains (from Bundles), and for many the highlight of the evening, an intense Facelift, the first quarter of Third. John Etheridge explains that many bands have a piece for which they are best known to the wider rock audience – Zappa, arguably, for Peaches En Regalia. The audience reaction means he has to hastily explain ‘No, we aren’t going to DO Peaches En Regalia’.

Facelift was the tune when the evening all came together and the current lineup fully justified reclaiming the old band’s name. Magnificent. Robust? I thought so.

A few SML tunes, then an older tune from Fourth – this is Hugh Hopper’s Kings and Queens, and the band finish the main set with Hazard Profile from Bundles. They are back for the tune promised to a fan – Gesolreut from Six, which features John Etheridge’s guitar on the keyboard parts played on the album version. Our luck holds out and a second encore is negotiated before the curfew, the Crimson-like Pump from Burden of Proof. There is a live version from Cruise to the Edge on Youtube, this one was much more forceful, and ended with Etheridge and Travis up front duelling and trying to repeat and outdo phrases played by the other.

Great evening – easily one of the best Canterbury-era band performance I have seen. I miss John Marshall and Hugh Hopper a lot, and have seen them both with this band and in other contexts. But this current lineup is a true celebration, continuation and improvement on the last years (first time round) of this much loved band.
Last edited by LMG on 03 Feb 2024, 15:32, edited 3 times in total.
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Re: Soft Machine - Live Review from November 2016 Show

Postby C » 27 Nov 2016, 16:03

Great review Chris - thank you so much!

Sounds great I wish I had been there. Maybe next time.

Theo, of course, had a stint with Gong replacing Didier - he is a great talent.

Babbington is a great bassist at least as good as Hugh. What about the tubs man? That would be very difficult to fill Mr Marshall's shoes - in his heyday he was bloody phenomenal

the current line up does indeed sound like a 'true celebration'

The Softs live!

The third (groan) greatest band of all time!

ooooof!

Thanks Chris





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Re: Soft Machine - Live Review from November 2016 Show

Postby Charlie O. » 28 Nov 2016, 17:08

That is a great review, Chris. I don't know the later SM and SML material that well, but I suspect I'd've had a good time there anyway!
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Re: Soft Machine - Live Review from November 2016 Show

Postby zoomboogity » 28 Nov 2016, 17:23

Sounds like a great time was had, wonderful review. When I first heard Soft Machine 30+ years ago, I never could have conceived that they'd be performing in 2016, in whichever line-up. If only it were feasible that they could tour the US. I did get to see SML's debut at the Progman Cometh festival that took place in Seattle over three days in 2002. (The "Progman" tag was a bit misleading, it was actually a celebration of Canterbury music.) They were billed as Softworks and were comprised of Allan Holdsworth, John Marshall, Hugh Hopper and Elton Dean. Glad I got my chance, I knew that was going to be a one-shot deal.

Shame to hear about John Marshall's health preventing him from making music. Not exactly a household name, but absolutely belongs on any proper list of best drummers in history. Not just technically brilliant, but he could really make the music breathe - Hazard Profile (Part 1) and The Soft Weed Factor, to name but two. Oh yes, and Gesolreut:

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"Quite."

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Re: Soft Machine - Live Review from November 2016 Show

Postby C » 28 Nov 2016, 19:43

zoomboogity wrote:Shame to hear about John Marshall's health preventing him from making music. Not exactly a household name, but absolutely belongs on any proper list of best drummers in history. Not just technically brilliant, but he could really make the music breathe


Spot on

One of the greats - he takes some beating






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Re: Soft Machine - Live Review from November 2016 Show

Postby Hightea » 30 Nov 2016, 14:57

Nice review and glad that they are keeping the name and band alive with so many deaths and changes. I've been a big fan since the 70's. Missed a chance to see them a few years ago and really should have went. Thanks for the review looks like a great setlist.

zoomboogity wrote: I did get to see SML's debut at the Progman Cometh festival that took place in Seattle over three days in 2002. (The "Progman" tag was a bit misleading, it was actually a celebration of Canterbury music.) They were billed as Softworks and were comprised of Allan Holdsworth, John Marshall, Hugh Hopper and Elton Dean. Glad I got my chance, I knew that was going to be a one-shot deal.


Hey zoomboogity I was at Progman Cometh festival also. I flew in from NYC for the show and then went hiking for a week in great Northwest. Surpirsed to see anyone else mention they were there as there couldn't have been more than 100-150 people there. The Soft Machine set was one of the highlights along with seeing Kevin Ayers come out and play with Daevid Allen (sad both are gone now). I'll have to look at the Soft Machine pictures from that day maybe I'll post one.

Progman Cometh - Daevid Allen and Kevin Ayers
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Re: Soft Machine - Live Review from November 2016 Show

Postby zoomboogity » 30 Nov 2016, 15:43

Kevin said that he hadn't played this one since Soft Machine recorded it in 1967. He got a kick out of it. (I like his reaction near the end - "uh-oh, better get out of the way!") I wish he'd done more "odd ditties" in his later years, as he preferred to stick to the same 25-30 songs, but it was always good to see him no matter what. Yeah, that whole weekend was one for the books. I wouldn't have missed it for the world.


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Re: Soft Machine - Live Review from November 2016 Show

Postby C » 30 Nov 2016, 19:05

zoomboogity wrote:


Great to see the two old boys.

What an incredible stage presence Daevid (always has) what a talent - he looks very robust!

Love you Daevid





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Re: Soft Machine - Live Review from November 2016 Show

Postby C » 30 Nov 2016, 21:01

Breathtaking stuff from 40 years before.

Etheridge, Marshall, Jenkins, Ric Sanders and Percy Jones [Brand X] - stunning

Marshall's tubs are just mind-blowing

(a great intro from Spike Milligan too!!)











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Re: Soft Machine - Live Review from November 2016 Show

Postby Hightea » 01 Dec 2016, 03:50

zoomboogity wrote:Kevin said that he hadn't played this one since Soft Machine recorded it in 1967. He got a kick out of it. (I like his reaction near the end - "uh-oh, better get out of the way!") I wish he'd done more "odd ditties" in his later years, as he preferred to stick to the same 25-30 songs, but it was always good to see him no matter what. Yeah, that whole weekend was one for the books. I wouldn't have missed it for the world.



Nice never saw the footage, I remember someone video taping.
Yes it was a great weekend. Loved In Cahoots and Richard Sinclair stuff along with Software, I even left in between sets and ran up the street and saw Elbow for a few songs.

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Re: Soft Machine - Live Review from November 2016 Show

Postby LMG » 29 Apr 2017, 10:25

Just reviving this thread from last year for those with new and revived interest in the Soft Legacy after last night's PSL (I was there in spirit and briefly but had to attend to matters other).

What a great band!

And as a footnote, with old age comes another benefit of jotting down gig memories here in the immediate aftermath of going to a show. As well as sharing impressions with board members here, I am also able to set down memories for my future self. Prior to re-reading the initial post here just now, if you had asked me this morning when was the last time I saw the Softs, who was in the band, and what they played, I honestly would have said 'Last couple of years, I guess...John Etheridge and some guys...they played some tunes....'

So for the first and hopefully not last time I can genuinely say 'Thanks LMG!'
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Re: Soft Machine - Live Review from November 2016 Show

Postby C » 29 Apr 2017, 11:08

Good lad Chris - thanks for resurrecting this great thread

I need to check to see if/when they are touring - I'm hoping that John Marshall is still with them. Although he has slowed down (due to his age) he still has the playing dexterity of 10 men/women!

oooooof!

Out Bloody Rageous!








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Re: Soft Machine - Live Review from November 2016 Show

Postby C » 29 Apr 2017, 11:17

C wrote:Breathtaking stuff from 40 years before.

Etheridge, Marshall, Jenkins, Ric Sanders and Percy Jones [Brand X] - stunning

Marshall's tubs are just mind-blowing

(a great intro from Spike Milligan too!!)





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Of course Ric was in Fairport Convention - he violin playing is stunning (In a previous life he was in Second Vision a jazz-rock band with Ethheridge









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Re: Soft Machine - Live Review from November 2016 Show

Postby LMG » 29 Apr 2017, 13:36

On tour in November - London show again at the Borderline, Friday 17 November:

http://borderline.london/listings/soft-machine/
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Re: Soft Machine - Live Review from November 2016 Show

Postby Hightea » 30 Apr 2017, 02:20

How about this soft machine cover?


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Re: Soft Machine - Live Review from November 2016 Show

Postby LMG » 30 Apr 2017, 20:20

One of the many bizarre footnotes in Soft History.

Whitney does OK, but the cover lacks the confidence and bravado of her later tackling of material by Syd Barrett, Magma, and Emerson, Lake, and Palmer (notably 'Aquatarkus').

And her version of Van Der Graf Generator's 'Man-erg' made The Bodyguard the film it was...
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Re: Soft Machine - Live Review from November 2016 Show

Postby zoomboogity » 30 Apr 2017, 21:27

Rumors still abound that the original vocal tracks she did with Art Bears, before they got Dagmar in, were never actually erased and still exist on the multitrack tapes. Her take on Rats And Monkeys is what led to Bill Laswell hiring her to sing a Soft Machine tune. "And now you know... THE REST OF THE STORY!"

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Re: Soft Machine - Live Review from November 2016 Show

Postby Charlie O. » 01 May 2017, 16:36




I have to go to work and don't have time to listen to it - let me know how it is! :lol:
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Re: Soft Machine - Live Review from November 2016 Show

Postby zoomboogity » 01 May 2017, 18:00

Well... it's a nice melody, and it's Whitney Houston. A great voice that never moved me, but obviously lots of people love it. I hope it brought a few bucks to Hugh Hopper. This clip seems to be a mash-up with another song by another singer. Typical modern music video - lots of flashy distracting visuals and quick cuts, but when you just listen to the music, the effect is underwhelming. At least it is to me. My mind just drifts off, I'm too uninterested to even turn it off. I like to check out a new song by not looking at the screen for the first minute, then looking at the visuals once the song has had a chance to make its point. Sometimes the effect can be startling - you feel like most of the pizzazz intentionally went into the visuals, and anything that might have been exciting in the music was removed so as not to distract from what you're watching. Them's the times, old man, get with it or get out of the road.

You want an inspired mash-up? Here's one from the '60s - note that I didn't "good," just "inspired"! Maybe it's not even that, but it's... something, alright...


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Re: Soft Machine -Live Oct 20178 USA

Postby Hightea » 24 Oct 2018, 02:59

Great reading the review again. just saw Soft Machine John Marshall is back.
To me the show is the Softs album without Jenkins and add in Theo although loved the early stuff more.
I've never seen Roy Babbington or John Etheridge (zoomboogity another one of the Echo album list) , Holdsworth shadow, and haven't seen John Marshall since Progman Cometh in 02. I like the addition of Theo who I've seen with Gong members times. The band started out by stating they played Hall and Oates songs to warm up really looking like they enjoyed it. :D

The band opened with a new song then into The Man Who Waved at Trains from Bundles before delving into a few Softs songs. The band who have been on tour looked like a well oiled machine and smiling and joking all night. Soft Machine are as much jazz as they are rock and its a great mix and you can see the passion without any words. What I love is that even though one guy is soloing the rest of the band keeps playing. Killer jams and amazing bass lines by Roy. Roy was amazing popping around too underrated bass player. They then did "Out Bloody Rageous" and "Facelift" from Third.

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Soft Machine link to live video
https://flic.kr/p/29ag2iE


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