It was a crowning moment of the live rock music revival when Colosseum performed a sensational set at the 02 Shepherds Bush Empire on Saturday September 4th. They were among a galaxy of 14 great bands on the bill of a two day Progressive Rock festival.
Among the seven bands who kicked off at 1.30 p.m on Saturday were The Enid, the Crazy World of Arthur Brown, Atomic Rooster and Ozrick Tentacles with Mostly Autumn headlining. But it was the new version of the band founded by drum supremo Jon Hiseman and his old pal keyboard wizard Dave Greenslade we really wanted to see. During the early days they had released such albums as Those About To Die Salute You and the Valentyne Suite. With vocalist Chris Farlowe and guitarist Dave ‘Clem’ Clempson later at the helm along with singer and bassist Mark Clarke and veteran saxophonist Dick Heckstall-Smith, the band developed its own distinctive sound and style.
The original group broke up in 1971 but by 1994 they were back together with Jon, Chris, Dave, Mark, Clem and Dick releasing such albums as Colosseum Live Cologne 1994, Bread & Circuses, Tomorrow’s Blues and Time On Our Side. They toured for two decades, with Barbara Thompson replacing Dick Heckstall-Smith who died in 2003. They finally broke up in 2015 having spent 23 years on the road.
In 2017 Jon Hiseman formed JCM with Mark Clarke and Clem Clempson, recording the album Heroes (2018) released by Repertoire Records. While embarking on JCM’s debut tour of Germany, Jon Hiseman was taken seriously ill and was flown back to London for treatment but sadly passed away on June 12th, 2018.
THE NEW COLOSSEUM
Jon’s colleagues had hoped to continue touring with JCM but the concept began to evolve into the creation of a new Colosseum. Touring plans were put on hold due to Covid19 but when restrictions were eased during 2021 it was agreed the band could get back to work. And so they arrived at the O2 with the splendid line up of Clem Clempson, Chris Farlowe and Mark Clarke joined by fresh new members Kim Nishikawara (tenor and soprano saxophones), Nick Steed (keyboards) and Malcolm Mortimore (drums).
They immediately reassured Colosseum fans they meant business and were on top form when they roared into the classic Valentyne Suite. They also played new songs from a forthcoming album notably ‘If Only Dreams Were Like This’. Kim was outstanding on soprano sax while Malcolm established his command with a powerful and attacking drumming style.
Mark Clarke’s bass locked together with the drums, creating a funky team, while Nick Steed’s lightning keyboard pyrotechnics took Colosseum’s music into a new era. Clem then introduced the ‘sixth member of the band – Mr. Chris Farlowe’ who stormed into a fast blues and also made a fine tribute to his old friend Dave Greenslade (unable to join the band due to ill-health) and to the late great Jon Hiseman. He then sang ‘Theme From An Imaginary Western’ the Jack Bruce-Pete Brown favourite and on ‘Stormy Monday Blues’ he was joined by Kim drawing cheers for an emotional super charged tenor sax solo.
A rousing version of the classic ‘Lost Angeles’ had Chris improvising with a cry of ‘I’d rather be in Shepherds Bush than LA’ and it was exciting to hear Clem and Mark duetting on guitar and bass and later quoting from Cream’s ‘Sunshine Of Your Love’. A delighted audience gave the whole band a standing ovation. Jon Hiseman would have been proud of them.