The Enid are a bit like Doctor Who, they've been around for a long time and every few years the faces change a little and they regenerate! The core elements remain the same but there is something different about them and what a difference there has been in the last few years. The sometimes meandering and overtly classical feel of much of their back catalogue has given way to more structured, vocal orientated pieces with a slightly darker edge and those who had previously dismissed the band are finding themselves more than a little surprised at how good the new Enid are.
Founding father Robert John Godfrey is still at the helm (for now) but increasingly to the fore are the younger members lead by frontman Joe Payne. Payne's impressive vocal range and charismatic stage presence are immediately evident in set opener One And The Many, which centres around some dazzling falsetto work. The first half of the set draws predominantly on material from recent albums Journeys End and Invicta and really showcases where the band are at right now.
RJG takes the opportunity between some pieces to engage the capacity audience with some lengthy yet amusing banter and it all adds to the appeal of the band. It's intimate and the fact that it's 40 years since their inception leaves you in no doubt that it's genuine and it makes you feel part of their journey.
What becomes evident as the set progresses is that The Enid really are the sum of their parts. Each member almost sub-consciously takes the reigns and holds it all together at different times, allowing the others the freedom to showcase what they can do. A common criticism of progressive music is that it's rather dull to watch but even without Joe Payne's theatrical posturing, there is so much going on up on stage it's impossible to get bored. It's like watching a fluid jigsaw that constantly changes its picture but remains tightly joined and it's very impressive. The highlight of the set comes after the break with their second album, 1977's Aerie Faerie Nonsense getting aired in full. There are some changes in the interpretation but it sounds completely relevant and up to date in this setting and when the final note of the rather epic Fand dies away it has the majority of the audience up on their feet.
The encore of Dark Hydraulic is a fine way to round of the evening, it's dance infused rhythm and menacing guitar riff resulting in a familiar sea of bobbing heads in the audience. The Enid are never going to be everyone's cup of tea but there was something special about this performance and as we leave, even those who have been following the band for much of their 40 years proclaim this to be the best The Enid have ever been. It's hard to argue with that on tonight's evidence.