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POWER OF DREAMS - London Luminaire 05 March, Guildford Boilerhouse 07 March 2010   Print  E-mail 
Written by Mark Reed  
Thursday, 11 March 2010

Better than U2, smaller than Dumpys Rusty Nuts

A long time ago, an 18 year old called Craig Walker formed a band called Power Of Dreams. A meteoric rise was equalled by an equally swift fall : and, then, an undeserved absence from history. To those with long memories, Power Of Dreams were the greatest forgotten band of all time. They coulda been contenders, but history, Nirvana, and erratic release schedules precluded them from the fates of post-split, retrospective glory afforded to The Velvet Underground and The Stooges. And Power Of Dreams were – are – better than those bands.

After a 15 year absence, built on day jobs and other bands, the fiery lineup of warring brothers and childhood friends have returned. With a mere 67 advance tickets sold for Guildford, for example, you may wonder what is the point. It’s probably not money, because there isn’t much of it. Nor the glory, because selling 300 tickets won’t exactly make you famous. Must be something else.

Take away the prism of the time, that is the messy and painful split of the band, the inevitable culling by a fickle press, and what is left is the racket of two guitar, bass, drums, and a voice. And the mirage created by the five of these elements in harmony. A painting is just blobs of colour, after all.

In truth, the shows on this tour are unashamedly exercises in nostalgia. This band, one that very few remember now, were once on the cusp of being the next U2. Such comparisons may rankle, but Craig Walkers songwriting – passionate, sincere, and fiercely memorable – made him, to my ears and many others, the deserved successor to the then vacant throne of The Greatest Irish Band Of All Time.

(Bono was more interested in irony, Mike Scott in exploring the Celtic highlands).



And, with the 20th anniversary reissue of the acclaimed debut, Power Of Dreams, each and every original member in the fold, return with what I personally thought may never happen. The sets contain every song from the debut, a smattering of b-sides, and a handful of late period classics : “There I Go Again”, “Happy Game”, “Cathy’s World”, and “Remember You Belong” in Guildford. There’s b-sides and non album singles – the fabulous “Cancer”, “A Little Piece Of God”, “Not Enough”, “Talk”. A list of song titles that means nothing to but a few. A maelstrom of sound that to a handful is as good as anything U2 ever did. Hold the first two POD albums next to “Boy” and “October”, and you’ll see Bono & Co skulking in shame.

Bono never wrote a song as direct or as honest as “Stay” or “100 Ways To Kill A Love”. These songs are direct, raw, and the most beautiful artistic element of all : truthful. The truth may not apply to a vast constituency, but sometimes what matter is not how many it affects, but how much it means.

But strike a chord, hit the fuzz pedal, and the lines and the years vanish. There may only be a few people here – 275 in London, 104 in Guildford – but as we all know, biggest does not equate to best. The sets are determindedly retrospective, but time disappears as soon as the songs start ; they speak to the common and universal truth within people, of love, of hopes, of the eternal dream of two people together in this lonely world building a new reality, a different and better future. Yes, it’s only songs, but also it’s so much more than that : the projection of hopes, dreams, and ideas to create something more than this. And whilst the set may be retrospective and aimed clearly at revisiting the first album – and anyone who was ever 18 or 19 has felt the same way as the spirit of these songs conveys – the journey continues into the future.

For London, it is the entire of the debut, a stroke of b-sides and non-album singles such as the fantastic “Cancer”, and a final, brilliant romp through “A Little Piece Of God”. At their best, Power Of Dreams were as strong, as passionate, and as meaningful as The Smiths. But not to many, but to a few.

For Guildford, the band pull two special moments out during the closing songs. A fan who has flown from Madrid to visit a suburban Surrey pub duets with Craig on “100 Ways To Kill A Love”, and for a finale, an unrehearsed version of “Remember You Belong”, one of their finest songs that was, bafflingly, only released in Japan is exhumed to a somewhat surprised silence and a handful of tears.

Music still does this to people, it still touches our souls, and that is why it matters.

PICTURES BY PETE COLE, by the way.

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