Cairo - Alive In Holland,
Cairo are back with their second album, a live CD which was recorded at the Parkvilla Theater, Alphen Aan De Rijn in October 2019. It has been quite a wait since the release of their superb debut, ‘Say’, back in 2016 but things have been happening in the band since then and this album features new singer Sarah Bayley who replaced Rachel Hill. The rest of the line-up is of course Rob Cottingham (vocals, keyboards), James Hards (guitar), Paul Stocker (bass) and Graham Brown (drums, percussion). It is somewhat unusual to release a live album so early in a band’s career, but Rob has been around the scene for a while, releasing his debut solo album back in 2002, and then forming Touchstone who I first came across in 2005. This means the band aren’t restricted to “just” songs from the debut plus a few new ones, as there is a lengthy back catalogue, so we are treated to some songs which aren’t strictly Cairo but are here given the band treatment.
In a live environment the band are far more solidly neo-prog than some may realise from the album, with Cairo really rocking when the time is right. Having two very different singers is a real benefit to their overall sound as there are so few who really manage to capture it at this level, with both Rob and Sarah being very strong singers indeed. They can both take the lead role with ease, but also work well on harmonies such as the new number “Déjà Vu”. I am not sure if the band originally planned to release this live recording, or if it was a decision they came to later, but there is little in the way of audience sound which does gives it a rather strange feel, but it is still immensely enjoyable nonetheless. There is no doubt that Sarah has settled in really well, and her voice really shines on numbers such as “Back In The Wilderness”, while Rob has always been a strong vocalist and their voices blend well together.
This is more than an hour long and is a great introduction to Cairo for those who have yet to come across them. I only hope they are soon back in the studio to record a new album, and I am so grateful they have made this available so I can hear just what they sound like in concert, as somehow I think it will be unlikely they will ever tour New Zealand. But if you get the opportunity when they are next out on the road then make sure you see them as their dynamic songs-driven neo-prog is simply superb.