Camp HRH, March 17 2017

On a soggy day in North Wales, the brightest ray of sunshine was provided by The Pretty Things. They might have been around a long, long time but the band sounds as fresh as any of rock’s young pretenders.

Singer Phil May and lead guitarist Dick Taylor have been there from the start but even second guitarist Frank Holland is hardly a new boy – with almost 30 years on and off as a fully paid up Pretty Thing!

The rhythm section is provided by Jack Greenwood on drums and George Woosey on bass – both with close on a decade of loyal service now – and the duo are every bit as talented as the senior guys.

A blues rock band with experience and quality in spades were never going to be daunted by this unlikely turn in front of a Prog-focused crowd:  brilliant tracks Mama, Keep Your Big Mouth Shut, from 1965, sitting alongside the new Same Sun from 2015. The material might have been separated by half a decade but the transition was seamless.

But why did a seemingly non-Prog band get invited to play HRH Prog V? The answer lies in the 1968 concept album SF Sorrow, which is one of the first and best albums of its genre ever recorded. It fired The Pretty Things into the ‘psychedelic’ category of Prog for many a rock fan and that record has remained a much-talked about classic.

Four tracks from the album made up a large chunk of the set – May and co. opened with the title track before Camp HRH was treated to She Says Good Morning, I See You and Old Man Going (this old man was loving every second and would have loved to have heard SF Sorrow played in its entirety).

The band also paid tribute to some of their own heroes with a Muddy Waters medley including Trouble No More – a rousing rendition that included a sumptuous acoustic solo from Taylor. Holland whipped out the harmonica during the band’s ode to Robert Johnson and the Mona/Who Do You Love /Oh You Pretty Thing medley brought the house down.

Mention of the 60s – when The Pretty Things used to jam with Keith Richards in the pub after seeing their heroes or play the Isle of Wight festival – put into perspective just how important this band continues to be and always was.

Another great old song – Midnight To Six Man – looked set to bring the show to a close but with the ok from the stage crew there was time to fit in one more: an appropriately titled track bearing in mind some of the acts that would follow. A stunning version of LSD, from the band’s second album Get The Picture, more than half a century ago, brought a standing ovation from rockers old and young. The Pretty Things would be hard to beat at HRH Prog V.

Colin Davies