Royal and Derngate - Northampton 25 April 2003 by Steve Hawes

I have just seen something very, very special tonight at the Derngate theatre.....a truly extraordinary evening of innovative progressive rock music performed by four professionals at the very top of their craft, with the added ultimate bonus for die hard fans of Rick and the New English Rock Ensemble with the return of the 'voice', the amazing Ashley Holt.
Words fail me for the sheer professionalism, guts and sheer presence that he showed on stage this evening. To come in at such a very late stage, a week before the concerts were due to start according to Rick, and learn even songs that he has performed himself with the very original ERE in the past must have taken some convincing for him to do, but boy.. did he pull it off spectacularly! I found his performance more and more mesmerising as the evening went on.

As to the concert itself, many familiar most wanted and requested songs were out and dusted off, a long slice of Journey which started the proceedings with Ashley in his element rolling back the years, two superb No Earthly Connection tracks, Catherine Parr from Six Wives, a couple of King Arthur tracks, Return to the Centre of the Earth favourite the Dance of a Thousand Lights (completed with fake chandeliers), even a track from White Rock with the Winter Olympic Games film showing on the back projection and finished off with the most amazing drum solo by Tony Fernandez you are ever likely to see, to several of the new tracks from the recent album 'Out There' with back projection and visuals saying it all. (I sat behind the light desk and could read the set list on the top so I knew what was coming next!)

Rick was on absolute top form throughout (where does he get the energy from?!) with the added bonus of a camera mounted on the keyboards to see how those 'fingers' work! Several good comedy moments also as you would expect with Rick at one time sitting in the audience playing the keyboards and then inviting someone on stage, a lovely blonde lady as you would expect, to help him complete the set on stage. An absolutely storming Starship Trooper completed the evening with Ant Glynne following Rick's lead and joining us in the audience for his extended guitar solo. One small complaint if I have to make one was the poor follow spot work throughout the evening with Ant in total darkness for a few moments at the height of his solo spoiling a very profound moment. Let's not forget Lee Pomerey and applaud him as well on his bass playing of some amazing riffs hardly seeming possibly on such a difficult instrument.

I am very much hoping to see them later in the tour when I think they will be even better as they inevitably gel together more as a team. I'm not sure what the puzzling reasons are for Damian Wilson exit and quite honestly I don't care. Ashley is back where he truly belongs, with two old dear friends and two very new ones. Long may they continue.