Posts Tagged ‘ProgRock’

Re-Genesis – Steve Hackett Live.

October 13, 2013

Steve Hackett Goes Back to Beginning at Keswick Theatre

With Yestival this past summer, gearing up for Hawkwind’s sadly postponed tour,  and now Steve Hackett revisiting his work with Genesis, it’s been a year for Progressive Rock nostalgia.  Guitarist Steve Hackett was with Genesis for their glory years and then stuck around for two post-Peter Gabriel Genesis albums before striking out on his own. He’s never really ignored his Genesis heritage, but for years, he never cashed in on it either, instead concentrating on his own compositions and occasional forays into classical guitar.

Steve Hackett Live at Keswick Theatre

Steve Hackett Live at Keswick Theatre

But in 1996 he released Watcher of the Skies: Genesis Revisited (re-issued as Genesis Revisited) and iin 2012 he followed it up with Genesis Revisited II.  Both albums were dominated by Genesis materiel from the Hackett era with a few originals tossed in.  And all featured singers that sounded nothing like Peter Gabriel. But when Hackett hit the road, he remedied that with singer Nad Sylvan from the group Agents of Mercy. With mascaraed eyes and long, curling straw-like hair, he looked like the Scarecrow from The Wizard of Oz only in a pirate suit. Given the context, you might be fooled by his voice in a blindfold test as being Peter Gabriel except on the post-Gabriel songs where he sounded like Phil Collins.  But there is a difference in authenticity between an artist’s original statement and his replicant and you could hear it here.

While Gabriel’s Genesis was always theatrical, Hackett eschewed the costumed recreations of tribute bands like The Music Box.  But given that, Sylvan was overly theatrical for the occasion: peering through a spyglass on “Watcher of the Skies,” banging an illuminated tambourine and generally playing the portentous rock star.  That may have worked in 1975 but for many in this audience  of 50-somethings, it came off as unnecessarily histrionic in 2013.

Steve Hackett at Keswick Theatre

Steve Hackett at Keswick Theatre

The band played flawless renditions of Genesis tunes, but it always took off when Hackett stepped up and blazed on guitar solos.  He’s far better at 63 than he was at 23 with Genesis and every piece was elevated by his performance. “The Musical Box” was sweetly performed, until Hackett swooped in like an avenging angel with a solo full of wailing sustains and serpentine bends, every note squeezed with impassioned emotion. Likewise, “Return of the Giant Hogweed” was feeling lugubrious until Hackett stormed the ramparts with some wild contrapuntal two-handed tapping.  Hackett is one of those wizard guitarists who make it look easy.

The audience in this first of two sold-out nights at the Keswick,  was totally engaged, singing along with many tunes, whacking tomahawk chops in the air to the “Touch me now” crescendo of “The Musical Box,” shouting out “A Flower?” at the appropriate moment on “Supper’s Ready.”

Genesis RevisitedThat Genesis epic was the climax of the set and the band nailed it, especially the “Willow Farm” segment with its tongue twister lyrics.  Sylvan captured the nuance, drama and humor of the song better than anything else that evening.  But once again, it was a Steve Hackett solo that built with volcanic intensity and exploded in a delirious climax.

This past summer I was put off by the performance of The Music Box at Yestival.  Their recreation, from Gabriel’s’ elaborate costumes right down to hair-styles and stage demeanor, seemed morbid, like a puppet rendering of the real thing.  Hackett could’ve fallen into that trap, and getting a Gabriel sound-alike was dangerously close, but Hackett himself, and a fine band, made this music come alive.  It was an exercise in nostalgia, but there was nothing nostalgic Hackett’s dizzying forays of electric guitar magic.  Hopefully, he’s gotten his history out of his system and can return to making music for this century.

The last date on the US leg of of Steve Hackett’s Genesis Revisited Tour is tonight at the Scottish Rite Auditorium in Collingswood, NJ.

John Diliberto (((echoes)))

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Krimson, Kveikur and Church tonight on Echoes

August 22, 2013

King Crimson DisciplineSigur Ros is touring the US this fall.  Hear some of what they’ll be playing when we hear a track off their latest CD, Kveikur.  We’ll also hear a sublime classic from the Discipline era of King Crimson and there’s a surprising track from Charlotte Church, the former child-prodigy opera star who tunes her pipes into electronica on the CD One & Two.  It’s all tonight, on Echoes.

John Diliberto (((echoes)))
Echoes On Line

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Echoes in Video-Hillage & Foxx

August 9, 2013

Some really great videos have been coming our way in the last two days.

hinotoriFirst up, Steve Hillage, a member of the psychedelic progressive band, Gong, and a prolific solo artist in various guises including this one as System 7.  I love Hillage’s electronic music but when he plays live, I like him better with a guitar in his hands and a band and he’s found a great one here in Rovo, a Japanese psychedelic progressive jam-band With some driving dual drummer grooves, violin and Miquette Giraudy’s electronics, they fly on this piece from the forthcoming album, Phoenix Rising.  But as good as that is, the visuals on this track, “Hinotori”  are their equal with a mix of live performance interpolated with some gorgeous Japanese animation based on images from the Manga animation pioneer Osamu Tezuka and his Phoenix series.   The entire project is a merging of live performance and programmed electronics.

image002The other video is by John Foxx, formerly the lead singer of Ultravox, but now a solo artist resolutely devoted to electronic pop with occasional forays into ambient music.  He has a new collaboration with house producer Jori Hilkkonen called European Splendour, that’s coming out in Europe on August 19.  Ahead of it, they’ve released a beautiful video by Gabriel Pulecio and Lorena Kraus of light imagery, but with an antique feel for the song, “Evangeline.”  I’m not sure what the video has to do with it, but it fits the brooding, seductive song of swampy, reverse rhythms and Foxx’s filtered vocals.

John Diliberto (((echoes)))

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Just Say YESTIVAL to Another Excess.

August 5, 2013
Jon Davison of Yes Calling to the Heavens

Jon Davison of Yes Calling to the Heavens

A Rousing Yes to Yestival with Yes,
Renaissance, Carl Palmer’s ELP Legacy, Volto! and The Musical Box

In 1971 I went to the Orpheum Theater in Boston for a double bill of Yes and King Crimson.  Being too hip for the room, I was there to see the Islands edition of Crimson. Yes of course, were just too pop for me. I mean, they had actual hits with “Roundabout” and “I’ve Seen All Good People.” Krimson gave a good performance, although this was the least interesting edition of the band.  But Yes, this night anyway, wiped them off the stage with a combination of charisma, impeccable musical virtuosity and Jon Anderson’s choirboy yearning.  I walked out a fan, and would have to wait for the Lark’s Tongue edition of Krimson for them to catch up.

Yes bassist Chris Squire Audition for Game of Thrones.

Yes bassist Chris Squire Audition for Game of Thrones.

I found myself in a similar place this past Saturday night at the Yestival, a one day festival of progressive rock headed by the latest iteration of Yes, and the most controversial. This band always had trouble holding its personnel together, but there was always at least one constant, the signature voice and lyrics of Jon Anderson.  But Anderson was effectively booted from the band in 2008, due to a combination of illness and apparent lack of commitment. With the absence of signpost members like drummer Bill Bruford and keyboardist Rick Wakeman, I felt like I was seeing a shadow of this band, no more credible than the Genesis tribute band, The Musical Box, who opened.  This couldn’t be the Yes of Fragile or Close to the edge.  This was just a touring paycheck machine.

Yes guitarist Steve Howe as aged Riff Raff

Yes guitarist Steve Howe as aged Riff Raff

Uh, I was wrong, which was something that about 5500 people at the Yestival in the Susquehanna Bank Center in Camden, NJ already knew.  Anderson’s replacement, (his second actually),  Jon Davison, is frighteningly good. The singer for the American symphonic prog group Glass Hammer, he sounds like a clone of Anderson, except a clone who hits all the notes, sings with passion and ties the band together with his stage presence.  By the time they hit the “Total Mass Retain” section of Close to the Edge, no one was missing Jon Anderson and no one was thinking Davison was a substitute.  He is the lead singer of Yes.

Yes at Yestival

Yes at Yestival

Since this was a festival, Yes was slated to play only two albums straight through instead of the three they’re performing on their solo tour.  But they decided to throw in the third album anyway playing Close to the Edge, Going for the One and The Yes Album.  What magnificent works they are and beautifully performed.  Bassist and co-founder Chris Squire and guitarist Steve Howe,  a member of Yes beginning in their classic years, anchored the band.  Howe switched between electric guitar and lap steel, whipping out the slides of “Going for the One” and nailing the intensity of “Starship Trooper.”

Yes' Steve Howe and Geoff Downe spiraling into space

Yes’ Steve Howe and Geoff Downes spiraling into space

Still an underrated player, Howe matches fleet fingered runs with beautiful tone.  Squire stalked, grimaced and yowled stage left, ripping out those chunky bass-lines that are such a Yes signature.  Neither keyboardist Geoff Downes nor drummer Alan White, both members of later Yes editions, took much of the spotlight, but they provided the orchestral color and rhythmic thrust so essential to this group, who, for all their odd time signatures and multi-movement works, really drives as hard as any rock band.  I don’t care about the excess; nine keyboards stacked up just have a certain gravitas and power that the smaller keyboard set-ups of Volto! and Renaissance couldn’t match.  I can’t say the same for Chris Squire’s triple necked guitar he pulled out at one point.  One Rickenbacker bass is really all he needs.

The staging was tasteful and immersive with a wide screen projection that took the appropriate Yes album covers, animated them, ran them through digital effects and mixed them in to other surreal scenes and digital designs.

Yes is a dinosaur band that has been reborn.  Now all they need is some good new material so they don’t become a nostalgia act.  Hearing Close to the Edge, Going for the One and The Yes Album in sequence made you realize just how glorious this band was and can be.

Denis Gagné as Peter Gabriel in The Musical Box at Yestival

Denis Gagné as Peter Gabriel in The Musical Box at Yestival

Speaking of nostalgia acts, there’s The Musical Box, part of a Festival undercard thought would’ve made for an average Nearfest line-up, the late lamented annual ProgRock Festival that ended last year.  The Musical Box is a French-Canadian Genesis tribute band known for using actual costumes from the Peter Gabriel-era of the band and mimicking everything from instruments to microphones to stage stances, like François Gagnon, playing Steve Hackett, sitting down stage right.  I never saw the band during Genesis’ golden age, but I always took Gabriel’s approach to be very serious.  Although Denis Gagné does a good Peter Gabriel imitation, he turns serious to dour.  Opening with “Watcher of the Skies” they assayed several Genesis classics with Gagné going through something like nine costume changes including the bat wings and flowerhead that Gabriel used to wear.  In replicating the pre-Lamb Lies Down On Broadway-era of Genesis, The Musical Box made the mistake of creating a smaller stage within the large Susquehanna Stage.  Surrounded by white curtains that cut stage depth by two-thirds and halved the width, they made their performance space more like a large club rather than a large arena.  And the effect of their performance seemed to shrink proportionally. I know Genesis fans who love the Box, but I found them unnecessary at best.

Annie Haslam of Renaissance

Annie Haslam of Renaissance

Preceding The Musical Box was Renaissance, true veterans of the Progressive rock era although only singer Annie Haslam remains from the classic line-up of the band.  After some shaky years, Haslam’s voice has been getting consistently stronger and she hit those high, soaring notes on “Carpet of the Sun” and “Mother Russia,” although there was always an edge to it, like she might not make it.  But she did.  On tracks from their new album, Grandine il Vento, she sounded much more comfortable, working in a range more suited to her current voice.      Surprisingly, after nearly 40 years of performing, Haslam lacked any stage presence at all.  She set herself left of center on stage with the center microphone taken by her bassist.  She seemed especially uncomfortable during instrumental passages, rocking and swaying awkwardly in what could best be described as over-sized red print pajamas.  It could worst be described as unflattering. Surrounded by a relatively faceless band, Renaissance lacked the magical sound of the original band.

Carl Palmer at Yestival - Welcome to the Show

Carl Palmer at Yestival – Welcome to the Show

How can you tell when it’s the drummer’s band?  When the drum riser is at the front of the stage.

That was the case with Carl Palmer’s ELP Legacy band.  Think of it as the anti-Keith Emerson and Greg Lake edition of Emerson, Lake & Palmer: No keyboards and no vocals.  A slide montage during “Nutrocker” would have you think that ELP was Carl Palmer and Friends.  CPB is an instrumental power trio turning ELP songs into heavy metal.

The Barbarian at Work - Carl Palmer at Yestival

The Barbarian at Work – Carl Palmer at Yestival

Carl Palmer is aging with a golf pro’s grace, but behind the drums he whipped up a storm.  Guitarist Paul Bielatowicz looked like he snuck in from the School of Rock band that was playing the second stage, but he could play, taking Keith Emerson’s lines and Greg Lake’s vocal melodies and turning them into fret-burning licks.  Bassist Simon Fitzpatrick, who may be a refugee from the Allman Brothers Band, locked down Greg Lake’s bass riffs and then some.  They tore into “Knife Edge” (lifted from Leo Janacek’s “Sinfonietta”) and did a version of Mussorsky’s “Pictures at an Exhibition” that I found more inventive than the original ELP version.  And did I hear a Black Sabbath riff in there somewhere?

Paul Bielatowicz of the Carl Palmer Band

Paul Bielatowicz of the Carl Palmer ELP Legacy

Heavy Metal was also evident in the sound of Volto!, a new quartet consisting of Lance Morrison on bass, Danny Carey (of Tool) on drums, John Ziegler on guitar, and Jeff Babko on keyboards.  The band oscillates between Sabbath-style metal riffs and Mahavishnu Orchestra-style pyrotechnics.  Sitting in a chair and looking like a goateed Buddha with a pork pie hat, Ziegler is a ferocious player who starts in overdrive and accelerates from there. With his double-kick drums, Carey is in familiar polyrhythmic turf here while the bald Lance Morrison eschewed Jaco Pastorius fusion flash for deep, propulsive grooves.

Volta!'s John Ziegler and Danny Carey Shredding

Volto!’s John Ziegler and Danny Carey Shredding

Apparently, a band called Scale the Summit opened, however, they came on before the scheduled start time and were never announced in any material I saw.  With the departure of Nearfest, Yestival was a welcome replacement although I suspect Yes is so far above the rest of the bill that they probably could’ve gotten this audience on their own.  The only sour notes of Yestival were the absence of the advertised quadraphonic sound and the between-act music.  I like James Brown, but this was a Progressive Rock festival.  Save James Brown for the R&B shows and get a DJ who can deliver the Prog next time.

In summary, a cynic of the newborn Yes has been silenced.  That would be me.

John Diliberto (((echoes)))

Further Listening: Yes and Other Prog Rock Tales

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With the Echoes CD of the Month Club, you get great CDs like Melorman’s Waves. Follow the link to the Echoes CD of the Month Club and see what you’ve been missing.

Choose either a one time $1000 or on-going $84 Monthly PaymentSupport Echoes by becoming a member of the Echoes Sound Circle.

Think of the great artists you love on Echoes. Think of the informative interviews and exclusive live performances. Then, think of a world without Echoes. You can make sure that never happens by becoming a member of the Echoes Sound Circle.

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Join the Echoes Sound Circle and keep the soundscapes of Echoes flowing!


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