Page last updated at 08:47 GMT, Tuesday, 27 April 2010 09:47 UK

Twelfth Night return to their roots

Twelfth Night 1984
Class of 84: Twelfth Night in their heyday

By Tim Masters
Entertainment correspondent, BBC News

Reading's biggest band of the 80s is back - and is set to play the town for the first time in 25 years.

Progressive rockers Twelfth Night formed at Reading University in the late 70s, and was the first local band to play the Reading Rock Festival in 1981.

That was back in the days when a weekend ticket cost £14.50 - and headliners were Girlschool, Gillan and The Kinks.

I suppose the reason we are still doing it is because we actually can.
Brian Devoil, Twelfth Night

Now Twelfth Night are about to play their first gig in Reading since they rocked The Hexagon in 1984.

"It's a return to the spiritual home," says drummer and founder member Brian Devoil.

Twelfth Night were part of the progressive rock revival of the early 1980s, alongside bands like Marillion.

Amid changes in both line-up and musical style, the band released several albums and played over 300 gigs.

But Twelfth Night split in late 1987, and it wasn't until 2007 that several members reunited for a series of concerts in the UK and Spain.

Dry ice

TWELFTH NIGHT TIMELINE
Twelfth Night 2010
1978 - band forms at Reading University
1980 - first LP - Live At The Target
1981 - Geoff Mann joins as vocalist
1981 - First local band to play Reading Rock Festival
1983 - second Reading Festival date
1983 - Geoff Mann leaves, replaced by singer Andy Sears
1984 - band tours Art and Illusion album
1985 - record deal with Virgin
1986 - eponymous album Twelfth Night (later known as XII)
1986 - Andy Sears leaves
1987 - Twelfth Night splits
2007/8 - band reunites, original albums released on CD
2009 - biography Play On published
2010 - band play in Reading for first time since 1984

Devoil remembers the day in February 1978 when he teamed up with guitarist Andy Revell at a band competition at Reading Uni.

"It just clicked from the word go," he says. "We entered the competition and we won it. We had flashing lights and dry ice and a big backdrop - so we put on quite a show even the first time we played."

Within months they were joined by Clive Mitten on bass and Twelfth Night was born.

Along with Geoff Mann on vocals and Rick Battersby on keyboards, the band played their early shows at Reading venues like The Target, Cherries Wine Bar, the Top Rank, and around the University campus.

But how big did Twelfth Night become?

"We were nearly quite big," admits Devoil, the only band member to have played at every Twelfth Night show.

"Over our career we did pretty much everything that big bands do - we made records, we played hundreds of concerts we appeared on television, we played at festivals...

"But we never actually did those things in the premier league. We were always in the division below."

He says the "high water mark" was the tour with new vocalist Andy Sears in 1984 which included two nights at London's Dominion Theatre.

But despite taking a more commercial direction, mainstream success eluded the band and things fell apart shortly after the slickly-produced 1986 album, XII.

Andy Sears recalls: "We were all incredibly unhappy towards the end. I don't think we could even talk to each other."

Not millionaires

All of which begs the question - why get back together after two decades?

Sears says things came together after he performed some Twelfth Night songs as a solo artist at a Spanish festival.

"Through various conversations over the internet - and many glasses of wine - we thought: Let's push a couple of buttons and see what happens."

Brian Devoil says: "I'd secured re-releases of all our albums on CD - so I knew there was a small but loyal fan-base throughout the world.

"When the talk about doing some shows came, I knew there would be an audience there."

He admits he hadn't played the drums for 20 years.

"We've all got office jobs of one sort or another. None of us are millionaires.

"So why are we doing it?

"I suppose the reason we are still doing it is because we actually can. There is nothing that gives greater pleasure than going on stage and getting that immediate feedback."

'Scruffy oiks'

One of Twelfth Night's biggest moments of glory was being the first local band to play the Reading Festival. The band opened the main stage in August 1981.

"It was one of the best days of my life. Without any question," recalls Brian Devoil. "I remember not being very nervous and slightly over-confident.

"We brought on vocalist Geoff Mann for the last number. He came on in an army uniform to harangue the crowd about being scruffy oiks who should be going off to war.

"We weren't exactly playing the safe option!"

He adds: "We went down very well. That was in the days that when people didn't like you got canned off. For several months afterwards we were walking around Reading on air.

"We've never lost the support of an awful lot of people. That's the most gratifying thing to know that you've given pleasure to a lot of people and continue to do so."

Twelfth Night play at the South Street Arts venue in Reading on Friday 30 April. Other gig dates on the band's official website.



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