In 2019, Leonardo Pavkovic started planning a short tour of Asia which would see Stick Men performing in China for the first time, as well as returning to Japan, and this time they would have a special guest in Gary Husband who would be providing keyboards. However, in November they were told that the Hong Kong gig was off due to the unrest in the city, and then in early February 2020 they were told the Chinese dates were off due to the growing pandemic. It was agreed that the Japan dates would go ahead, so on February 26th the group arrived in Nagoya, having set off from different starting points and countries. This gave them some time to rehearse, agree the setlist, and undertake some sightseeing before the first gig of the tour on the 28th, only to be told that this would be the only night as Japan was also closing down.
So, with little rehearsal time, and a tour reduced to just one night the guys did what they do best, settle in for a gig of mastery and entertainment. Husband sounds as if he has always been there, not imposing himself into the band but somehow filling spaces and gaps which benefit from his intervention. Stick Men have played many hundreds of gigs, while Levin and Mastelotto can add many more together, so the three of them inherently know where to go when it is time for improvisation, and when it keep it tight, and the combination of their skills and musical mastery make them a band like no other. Drums, stick and touch guitar, combine with the additional layering of keyboards to create something very special indeed.
With no audience noise, this sounds as if was a studio recording which has been finessed to perfection, and not like a live performance at all, but if one had been there that night, one would have heard masterful takes on their own material, such an inspired “Prog Noir”, where Husband adds an additional layer which takes it in new directions, as well as some Crimson classics given their own unique twist. If musically this were not enough, Moonjune have released the CD in a hardback picture book containing photos of the event. It makes for a very special release indeed, and one to which I will often be returning.
10/10 Kev Rowland