After taking a break from touring for over two years and a short European tour, Pendragon finally returned to the UK to grace our shores for two nights. The first was at Tavistock Wharf, The second and final show was at Trading Boundaries, the latter show being sold out.
Trading Limits, Fletching, East Sussex – 4 November 2023
Words and photography: Adrian Stoneley
Trading Boundaries is an interesting and strange site. Set in the heart of the Sussex countryside, it has a very intimate atmosphere. With a tendency to book bands with a prog bias, they have developed a reputation as an exclusive place to play. This was not Pendragon’s first visit here, and, judging by tonight’s performance, it is unlikely to be the last.
The set lasted over two and a half hours, was split into two separate parts and was more than worth the admission fee as we saw the band in good form. After shaking off the cobwebs of the past few years, they were back to raise a serious issue. With a mini-album under his belt, Pendragon is clearly not resting on his laurels. Pendragon – Trading Boundaries, Fletching, East Sussex – 4 November 2023. Photo: Adrian Stoneley/MetalTalk
The usual humor and banter from Nick continued, and there was constant banter between songs between the band and the enthusiastic audience, providing a great atmosphere for the evening.
Although the first set was largely based on the latest material, the second set was largely greatest hits.
The first set began with If I Were the Wind (And You Were the Rain) from the Not of This World album followed by the first of five back-to-back tracks from their last full album, Love Over Fear.
Despite this being the second of two individual standalone shows and not part of a full tour, the band still pulled out all the stops. Unlike the latest new album, Love Over Fear has now become part of the band’s backlog, with the songs treated like old favourites. Certainly, numbers like Starfish and the Moon, Truth and Lies and Eternal Light were well received with the audience singing along loudly with the band. Waters was introduced with a semi-comic anecdote about surfing in Cornwall and the danger of riptides. Pendragon – Trading Boundaries, Fletching, East Sussex – 4 November 2023. Photo: Adrian Stoneley/MetalTalk
The first set closed with three songs performed acoustically with the band, which included a guest appearance by Roy Patterson, pulling chairs into a semicircle and making what was already an intimate setting even more so. Starting with fan favorite King of the Castle from the Not of This World album, this is a song that took on a new life as it was taken back to basics.
Two pieces from the latest mini-album, North Star. Phoenician Skies and Fall Away were played in this form and were also beautifully atmospheric and poignant pieces. Pendragon – Trading Boundaries, Fletching, East Sussex – 4 November 2023. Photo: Adrian Stoneley/MetalTalk
The second set looked to be much the same as the first, with another song from Love Over Fear, 360 Degrees, opening the proceedings. With Nicks playing the mandolin and Johanna Stroud taking over the fiddle, Nicks declared the song his “Pogues song”. This is clearly a piece that now holds its place alongside other greatest hits and was received as such.
The second set also featured some longer pieces that the band had recorded and enabled them to open up musically. It was clear they were seriously enjoying themselves. This Green and Pleasant Land and Paintbox rolled back the years and certainly ensured that the audience was ready to engage with the band vocally.
The wonderful thing about Pendragon is that, despite being brilliant consummate musicians who write some beautiful, emotional and technical compositions on stage, it’s clear that they are there to have a good time as much as the paying punters and certainly This enthusiasm flows from. During this show.
However, to make sure everyone got more than their money’s worth, they closed the set with their masterpiece from the Pure album, Indigo. In a 15 minute onslaught of pure prog perfection, the band whipped the crowd into a frenzy, or as close to it as an aging prog audience would get. Pendragon – Trading Boundaries, Fletching, East Sussex – 4 November 2023. Photo: Adrian Stoneley/MetalTalk
The interplay between the band members was intense, especially between Clive Nolan on keys and Nick Barrett on guitar. Yet we also cannot ignore the superb backing vocals of Sally Minnear and Johanna Stroud, who add an extra layer of musical texture to this piece. Not surprisingly, being this crowd favourite, they could do no wrong and left the stage to a deafening applause.
They returned once again for the old school favorite Breaking The Spell from the Window Of Life album. Somehow, more than two and a half hours of music had passed.
At times and in such circumstances it becomes clear what a wonderful time everyone has had. Quite simply, if Pendragon can deliver such a quality show when having only played a few dates during the year, it can only be good for the band and those in attendance the next time a full tour is announced. Could be a sign. Lucky enough to get a ticket.
One thing is clear, however, and that is that Pendragon are not a band sitting on their laurels and basking in their past. They are more relevant now, and their future certainly lies in their ability to continue writing high-quality albums and producing first-class shows. Pendragon – Trading Boundaries, Fletching, East Sussex – 4 November 2023. Photo: Adrian Stoneley/MetalTalk