Last 15th of January Mark Burgess and friends arrived in Barcelona to play some Chameleons classics songs. The venue was Bikini and the name of the band: ChameleonsVOX. Caution! Not to be confused with Chameleons. Some might say "What difference does it make? Meanwhile the sound remains as close as possible to the original it doesn´t matter", but some others will think Chameleons songs are too good to be played by other people than the original members Fielding/Lever/Burgess/Smithies.
The truth is that The Chameleons are (and will be) no more, so the only real possibility of listening live those beloved songs again is without the original band. In fact, it is right now the singer Mark Burgess the only remaining original member. John Lever joined him for some months, but he is not anymore. This is the actual line-up of ChameleonsVOX:
Mark Burgess - Vox
Justin Lomery - Guitar
Stephen Foxcroft - Guitar
Chris Oliver - Guitar
Ray Bowles - Bass
Dug McLeod - Drums
This is not the first time Mark Burgess plays Chameleons songs without the rest of the band (remember Mark Burgess & The Sons of God & Invincible), but we have to recognize this is the first time the guitars sound as close as possible to the original band. If you close your eyes you can almost pretend it´s Dave and Reg... almost, although you will notice three guitars are required to reproduce a similar atmosphere.
The venue was a bit small for the amount of fans who attended the show. Both the venue and band offered a fantastic sound quality. Mark´s voice was into shape, although I prefer it when he sings and plays bass at the same time. The rest of the musicians demostrated the love and respect they have for Chameleons songs. No one attending the show (knowing beforehand it was not the original Chameleons) would be upset. It´s always a pleasure to listen to these magnific tunes, when being recreated with professionalism and respect to the spirit of the original band.
Video of Tears
Video of Second Skin
The band of Mark Burgess focused on songs from Script of The Bridge and Strange Times albums, although a devoted audience was surprised with gems like Singing Rule Britannia or In Shreds. Second Skin, Monkeyland, Seriocity & In Answer were also some of the highlights of the show, which took almost two hours. Only a couple of songs, one of them Soul in Isolation sounded a bit strange and forced. The new millenium album Why Call it Anything? was ignored by the band, surely because it lacks the magic of the three classic albums.
Mark was very happy and warm during all the show, and he mentioned the possibility of coming back in summer.
ChameleonsVOX will have for sure a successful european tour, because die-hard fans are always eager to listen to Chameleons songs. But one question remains in the air: Would it be the same if the name of the band was simply Mark Burgess & Friends? Surely not, because a product always needs good marketing to be sold, even in The Chameleons world. And one thing is for sure: the word "Chameleons" and references to Reg´s original art will always attract more people.
I won´t begin a discussion if it´s fair or not the usage of Chameleons imagery when the original band is not involved, but I have to confess I personally miss new material from Mr Burgess both live and in studio.
I know people always ask on his concerts for Chameleons songs, but I guess it has to be a bit frustrating for the artist to be recognized only for songs created a quarter century ago.
I really hope this look to the past is only temporal, although it is evident on the shows he enjoys a lot playing with his new band. I hope this period will help Mark embrace the future with renovated efforts. We still have for sure a lot of new songs from this fantastic artist to enjoy. Let´s hope people will encourage him to move one step forward, leaving behind once and for all the Chameleons era, which should not be necessary for sold-outs.
It´s about time all chameleons fans recognized Mark Burgess for what he is, not only for what he was.