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Ruphus logo flag Norway - Full Moon 165 - 02/28/10

Ruphus
Rockefeller, Oslo, 12.02.2010

Ruphus was one of the few decent rock bands in Norway in the 1970s. By the mid 70s, all in all they could be counted on about one and a half hands. Ruphus was probably the band that introduced me to the dubious world of jazz-rock, an area where it's easy to slip into an ill-smelling swamp. Ruphus proved it could be a rewarding genre to listen to, after all. It didn't do any harm that their first two (and best) jazz-rock albums were produced by a Norwegian giant within rock and jazz, Terje Rypdal. Also, it didn't do any harm that Ruphus was the first respectable band I witnessed live after buying my first camera, 31 years ago...

Ruphus - From Manmade-days, Bergen, January 1979 This was a kind of good-old-days-evening. The origins of the band can be traced down to early 1970 and they held their last gig in Germany in 1981. Until last summer, that was. The band started as a heavy progressive outfit on the first album New Born Day (1973) inspired by King Crimson, Jethro Tull, Yes, Savage Rose, maybe even early Black Sabbath and Emerson, Lake & Palmer to some extent. They developed into a purer progressive outfit on the second Ranshart (1974) before turning more and more into jazz-rock on the successors Let Your Light Shine (1976), Inner Voice (1977) and Flying Colours (1978) and added some lukewarm funk elements in addition on Manmade (1979). The band was a big hit in Norway with the debut album, the second fared less well, somehow. In 1976 they kind of breaked abroad, released albums on the semi-legendary German Brain label and lived and worked in Germany for a couple of years. In fact Ruphus was the second Norwegian rock band to gain some success abroad after Titanic (that scored a hit with "Sultana" in 1971). [Btw. the third was called a-ha, in 1985.]

Ruphus 2010 - The New Born Day-gang of 2010 The members, soon pushing 60, gathered for an unannounced informal concert for family and friends last summer in Trondheim. Around 400 showed up. Now, they wanted to play one last real gig in their home town and tried to gather as many members of the band as possible. During the 1970s, people came and went apart from Asle Nilsen (bass, and occasional flute in the early days) and Kjell Larsen (guitar). All members that participated on the albums were present at Rockefeller, apart from Rune Østdahl lead vocalist on Ranshart, who live in Spain and couldn't be traced down. Also Thor Bendiksen, drummer on all albums apart from the last one, is so troubled with tinnitus (ear problems) that he couldn't join the others on stage. Instead Bjørn Jenssen handled the drums all evening. The gig started in a fairly relaxed way with "Corner", a nice instrumental from Let Your Light Shine, by the quartet Nilsen, Larsen, Jenssen and original keyboardist Håkon Graf, that had flown in from California for the occasion. Enter Gudny Aspaas for the signature tune "Sha Ba Wah" off the same album, a demanding song in the higher register for the vocalist. She stood the test without problems. Her voice sounded as if she had sung these kind of songs on a daily basis for the last thirtysomething years.

Ruphus 2010 - The Ranshart-gang of the evening Then they introduced Hans Petter Danielsen (guitar) for a couple of songs and Rune Sundby (vocals and acoustic guitar). The seven on stage went back in time to a New Born Day. Several songs off that album and Ranshart and the single track "Flying Dutchman Fantasy" in between, exemplary presented though Rune excused some outdated lyrics of "Scientific Ways" (or was it "Day After Tomorrow"?). It seems the band particularly enjoyed playing these songs. The vocals of the songs from Ranshart were handled without any problems by Gudny and Rune. For me the highlight of the evening was "Love Is My Light" and "Back Side" off the latter despite a little bit of technical problems. Two nice little gems with progressive tendencies, great guitar and keyboards parts. Håkon Graf busy behind his Hammond organ was a worth the price of the ticket alone. I have never quite understood the criticism that Ranshart sounds too much like Yes of the early 1970s, even less so performed live in 2010. We even got a rearranged song from Manmade by this gang ("Dear Friend" was it?).

Ruphus 2010 - The jazz-rockers with Sylvi up front Time for a change of scenery. Exit Gudny Aspaas, Rune Sundby and Håkon Graf, enter Sylvi Lillegaard (vocals), Kjell Rønningen (keyboards) and a little later also Jan Simonsen (keyboards). We went into more serious stuff, it seems, or maybe this line-up had less stage personalities, or not used to perform on a big stage anymore? Purer jazz-rock anyway and Sylvi sounded as great today as she used to way back. She fronted the cool title track without words, the multifaceted "Come Into View" and "Too Late" with washes of northern light keyboards from Inner Voice, the funky "Foodlover's Diet" and happy-nice "Joy"(?) off Flying Colours. Exemplary...

Ruphus 2010 Then back to some songs from the first half of the 1970s, with a hard rockin' "Coloured Dreams" as the obvious encore performed by at least eight of the ten musicians of the evening. I first saw Ruphus live in January 1979. They sounded at least as fresh and motivated 31 years and one month on, although they had nothing really new to offer apart from the altering and expanded line-ups of the evening. Rumours say there'll be a live album and maybe also a DVD from this - probably - unique gig.

Copyright © 2010 JP (pictures also) e-mail address

You may also want to check out our Ruphus article/review: Rock på Torget - Bodø, August 14th 2010.

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