Kaleidoscope, The Wicked Whispers: Leaf Tea Shop, Liverpool


Peter Daltrey’s Kaleidoscope

With the current psych revival showing little sign of burning out, Getintothis’ Jamie Bowman got misty-eyed as 60s originals Kaleidoscope floated along to Leaf. 

Mention 60s psychsters Kaleidoscope to any discernible fan of the genre and you’re bound to get a misty eyed reaction.

Despite never having a hit, the London four-piece produced two much-loved classics of the period in 1967’s Tangerine Dream and ‘69’s Faintly Blowing, but it’s the image of them on those album covers that has resonated just as much almost 50 years later. Dressed in paisley, Afghan coats and beads, they look every inch the King’s Road dandies they longed to be. Think (Listen to the) Flower People-era Spinal Tap and you’re getting the idea.

Judging by the number of saucer-eyed youngsters in a busy Leaf, Kaleidoscope’s comeback is perfectly timed; their brand of fairytale psych chimes well with the current thirst for anything mind expanding and although vocalist Peter Daltry is the only original member on show tonight, the presence of Alex Neilson-led folk band Trembling Bells as Daltrey’s backing group lends a pleasing hipster caché to this tour and Kaleidoscope’s clearly overjoyed frontman.

Also adding to the sense that this is a “happening” is the presence of Liverpool’s premier psychedelicists The Wicked Whispers as the support act. Clearly influenced by the headliners (previous single Amanda Lavender could actually be by Kaleidoscope) they go down a storm with tonight’s crowd of Tommy Saxondales and rather incongruous gaggle of screaming girls. The Whispers seem to have beefed up their sound since their 2012 debut album and there’s definitely a more Doors-y groove coming to the fore in their new tunes. A welcome return from one of the city’s best bands.

So you like these old songs do you?” beams a stick-thin Daltrey who proudly points out he is wearing the same velvet jacket he wore on Tangerine Dream as his make-shift band slowly come to life on Aries and In My Box, the first two tracks from their 1970s From Home to Home.

The sympathetic backing provided by Trembling Bells, who did a similar job for Mike Heron when he reformed The Incredible String Band, allows Daltry to ease himself into the show and by the time of a delightful Dream For Julie he’s revelling in the reciprocal love from fans both young and old singing his words back at him.

And what words they are. Lyrics like “Strawberry monkeys are smiling for Julie / With small button eyes that reflect velvet flowers” show Kaleidoscope were drawing from the same well of Lewis Carroll and Kenneth Graham as other dabblers, most notably Pink Floyd’s Syd Barrett. When listening to the bright, engaging melodies and sparkling guitar passages of other almost hits like Dive Into Yesterday and Room of Percussion it’s hard to understand  the reasons why they never had that era defining smash  à la Arnold Layne, Itchycoo Park or Pictures of Matchstick Men.

Daltry is an entertaining, if slightly bewildered frontman, explaining how one song was written when he got stuck between a bed and a wall while drunk on cheap red wine and dedicating another to recently deceased Cynthia Lennon. Despite his advancing years, his voice never falters and as the droning sitar of a wondrous Flight From Ashiya fills Leaf‘s vintage walls there’s nothing left to do but turn off your mind and float down stream.

Photos by Getintothis’ John Johnson