Posts Tagged ‘prog rock’

Genesis Newcastle Arena 30 September 2021

“”Can you tell me where my country lies?” said the unifaun to his true love’s eyes.” Dancing with the Moonlit Knight (Genesis 1973)

GENESIS TIXSo Genesis emerged one more time, for a final tour of the world. The band has retained its massive popularity over the years and sold out two nights at the vast Newcastle Arena. I went along on the first night, intrigued to see how my old heroes would perform after all these years.

It is more than 50 years since I first saw Genesis and, for me, the original prog rock group is still the best incarnation of the band. However, you have to hand it to Phil Collins who with old sidekicks (and only remaining original members) Tony Banks and Mike Rutherford took Genesis to even greater heights than those achieved by the Peter Gabriel version of the band. Now the set list looked promising and tempting. Earlier performances revealed that the band were playing quite a few old tracks including “the Lamb lies GENESIS 1Down on Broadway”, “I Know What I like”, “Carpet Crawlers” and excerpts from “Dancing with the Moonlit Knight” and, once or twice, even “The Musical Box”. Now these songs represent the true soul of the band for me. I dream of them playing “The Knife” as the encore, but I knew this was not to be.

Phil Collins is clearly not well. You have to admire him. Earlier reviews and YouTube videos reveal that he spends the evening seated, singing but not drumming. The drum stool is now taken by his son who, apparently, does a great job and does his father justice.

So on Thursday I went along to the arena with my carer Jackie, both of us carrying our Covid passes on our phones to prove we had been double jabbed. As it happened, we were not actually asked to produce these. We took our seats on the disabled platform close to the front of the auditorium with a great view GENESIS 5of the stage. Having read all the reviews I knew what to expect, the band were due on stage at 8 PM with a 10:30 PM finish and no interval. It took some time to check all of the crowd into the arena and thus Genesis did not take the stage until around 8:15 PM.

Jackie went off to purchase a large glass of red wine for me. For some strange reason, the bar staff interpreted this as a bottle of red! Big mistake and too much temptation for me. The wine went down nicely, just as the performance progressed well also. Soon the band were on stage, Phil Collins not walking well (using a stick) and taking his seat at the front of the stage flanked by companions Mike Rutherford on bass and guitar to his left and Tony Banks on keyboards to his right. Phil’s son was behind the three front men, on his raised drum platform. The rest of the band comprised vocalists and long-term guitarist Darryl Streumer.

GENESIS 2The light show was pretty amazing, with massive video screens behind the band showing each of the performers “up close”. They started with an instrumental and then it was straight into the hits “Turn It on Again”, “Mama” and “Land of Confusion”. Now these songs were never my favourites, but on the night they sounded just great and Phil Collins did an excellent job on vocals. But for me it was the old Genesis that remained the best. So I particularly enjoyed “The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway” and, of course, “I Know What I like”. It always surprised me, and still does, how similar Phil Collins voice can be to that of Peter Gabriel. I remember the first time I saw Genesis with Phil Collins as lead vocalist, at Glasgow Apollo, I was amazed how well he took on the mantle of front man and recreated Gabriel’s singing parts. Of course, he always took on some backing vocals duties, even in the early days, so perhaps it wasn’t so surprising. Anyway, he certainly did justice to the old classics which took me back 40 odd years. Before we knew it we were on the home stretch, with more hits such as “Throwing It All away” and the closing song “Invisible Touch”. Excellent. And somehow my bottle of wine was now almost empty and I felt pretty merry (to say the least).

Soon they returned to play “I Can’t Dance”, a short excerpt from the wonderful “Dancing with the Moonlit Knight” and closing with “The Carpet Crawlers”. A triumphant return by an excellent band with a twisting,GENESIS 4 turning history that has taken them from prog rock heroes to almost middle-of-the-road pop/rock stars. And a particularly triumphant performance by Phil Collins, who clearly in ill-health, pulled off a magnificent showing. If this was to be the last time, then they couldn’t go out any better.

The taxi ride home was a bit of a blur, courtesy of the expensive (but cheap) red wine, as was being put back in the bed by Jackie and Chris. Similarly the blur and sickly feeling continued into the next day, as did the memories of Genesis. No more bottles of red wine for me!

GENESIS PROGSetlist: Behind the Lines / Duke’s End; Turn It On Again; Mama; Land of Confusion; Home by the Sea; Second Home by the Sea; Fading Lights; The Cinema Show; Afterglow; That’s All; The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway; Follow You Follow Me; Duchess; No Son of Mine; Firth of Fifth; I Know What I Like (In Your Wardrobe); Domino; Throwing It All Away; Tonight, Tonight, Tonight; Invisible Touch. Encore: I Can’t Dance; Dancing With the Moonlit Knight; The Carpet Crawlers. 

Many thanks to Jackie for taking the photographs.

Ian Anderson Christmas concert Durham Cathedral 14 December 2017

jethro durham tixThe Ian Anderson Christmas concerts have become a regular part of his concert calendar. Each year he plays a few of these concerts at selected cathedrals around the country. This time we were lucky enough for him to come to the majestic surroundings of Durham Cathedral. The concerts take a similar format; a mix of festive songs, songs from the Jethro Tull Christmas album, often a special guest, and a selection of Jethro Tull favourites.

The concert was billed as “Ian Anderson plays the Christmas Jethro Tull: Ian Anderson brings his Christmas Jethro Tull concert to Durham Cathedral. A fundraising event in support of Durham Cathedral.”

Durham_Cathedral_20_July_2019So I turned up on a cold winter’s night in my taxi, with Jackie my carer, which dropped me off right at the door of Durham Cathedral. I was greeted inside by my friends Norman, his sister Barbara and our old friend Doug. Now Durham Cathedral is a wonderful venue for a concert. “Durham Cathedral is a Norman church in England, designed under the direction of the first Bishop of Durham, William of Calais. It was built to house the remains of St. Cuthbert, but also to show off the might of the new Norman rulers. Construction began in 1093 and lasted 40 years.” (study.com)

The audience were seated in the pews in the central nave of the cathedral, with the stage situated in front of the high altar. I was seated in my wheelchair, in the aisle at the end of a row, around halfway back in the cathedral, with a good view of the stage. Ian was accompanied by the rest of his “Jethro Tull” band.

1024px-Durham_Cathedral_NaveThe concert was in two halves; the first set opening with festive classics “God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen” followed by “Gaudete” made famous by Steeleye Span. This was followed by a selection of tunes from the Jethro Tull Christmas album, including the great single “Ring Out, Solstice Bells”. Highlight of this set was a performance of Greg Lakes’ “I Believe in Father Christmas”. The set ended with the beautiful flute solo “Bourrée”, written by Bach and featured on Jethro Tull’s Stand Up album.

After a short break, the second set featured Ian’s friend Loyd Grossman playing his former punk band Jet Bronx and the Forbidden’s single “Ain’t Doin’ Nothing”. The set ended with Tull classics “My God” (a particular favourite of mine), “Aqualung”, closing with the encore (as always now) “Locomotive Breath”.

jethro durham progIan was on great form all evening, entertaining us with his usual anecdotes and some excellent flute playing. I can’t think of a better way of spending a cold Christmas evening than one with old friends, festive music and Ian Anderson and his band playing Jethro Tull classics. A great start to Christmas.

Setlist.

Set 1: God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen; Gaudete; We Five Kings (Jethro Tull); A Christmas Song  (Jethro Tull); Ring Out, Solstice Bells (Jethro Tull); Pastime With Good Company; Christmastime Romance; I Believe in Father Christmas (Greg Lake); Jack-in-the-Green (Jethro Tull); Bourrée in E minor (Johann Sebastian Bach).

Set 2: Holly Herald (Jethro Tull); Ain’t Doin’ Nothing (Jet Bronx and the Forbidden AKA Loyd Grossman); Toccata and Fugue in D Minor (Johann Sebastian Bach); My God (Jethro Tull); Aqualung (Jethro Tull). Encore: Locomotive Breath (Jethro Tull)

Image of Durham Cathedral courtesy of: Rubbish computer / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)

Image of Durham Cathedral nave courtesy of: Michael D Beckwith – Own work, CC0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=79861899

Quintessential Yes: the 50th anniversary tour Newcastle City Hall 12th June 2018

So this was my second Yes experience within a few months. My conundrum continues…….When is Yes not Yes? Now this version of Yes was the intriguing yes tix 3combination of Jon Anderson, Rick Wakeman and Trevor Rabin. Jon Anderson is, of course, a founder member of the band and Rick Wakeman a member of the “classic” Yes line-up. I never saw the line-up of Yes with Trevor Rabin in the band and, I must admit, it was not one of my favourite incarnations of Yes. To me, and I guess many other fans, Jon Anderson epitomises Yes. I have an image in my mind of Jon singing “Close to the Edge” on a warm balmy evening at the Reading Festival, rising out of a smog of dry ice and smoke, wearing a smock top; his vocals soaring above the field and up into the sky. That was probably one of the best times I saw Yes, along with some wonderful shows in the early days when they were still playing covers like “Something’s Coming” from West Side Story and “Eleanor Rigby” by the Beatles. So Jon Anderson holds a special place in the Yes hierarchy for me. So was this be the true Yes that I was about to see? Why, even the ticket called the band “Yes”!

I have seen Yes many, many times and they will always hold a special place in my heart, as the first band I ever saw and still one of my favourite bands of all time. So I can’t help but get excited each time I see them. This time the set list was a mixture of classic Yes and several (some of which I didn’t really know) songs from the Rabin era Yes. So it was the old favourites than I focused on, I really enjoyed and that I hoped would help me in my search for the true soul, spirit and ethos of “Yes”. The concert was in the form of two sets, just as the Steve Howe led Yes concert was I had seen a few months earlier. Similarly, the set comprised favourites and less familiar songs.yes prog 2

This time the first classic song was “I’ve Seen All Good People”, but it was “And You and I” which epitomised Jon Anderson and Yes, and was sung in the way in only Jon can sing it. In the second half “Heart of the Sunrise” again convinced me that there are certain songs that are so entwined with 1970s Jon Anderson that no one else can do them justice. “Owner of a Lonely Heart” saw Trevor Rabin come into his own, with some tremendous guitar solo work. The encore was a rocky version of “Roundabout”. And that was the root of the difference; that is the “rocking” nature of this band. This version of Yes were a little too classic rock, as a result of Rabin’s influence, for my liking. Somewhere along the line they had lost the prog rock, jazzy feel that epitomises the band for me. So which version of Yes is Yes? For me the Steve Howe incarnation of the band continues the lineage of the true spirit and ethos of Yes. But this version does justice to certain songs in a way that only Jon Anderson can. The truth is both bands are excellent in their own way and there is room for both; and of course it gives us two chances to celebrate the wonderful thing which is Yes music. Now I would love to see the two bands merge in a way that brings together Jon Anderson, Rick Wakeman, Steve Howe and Alan White. But perhaps I can only dream. But then you never know, time heals many wounds and stranger things have happened.

Setlist. Set 1: Cinema; Hold On; South Side of the Sky; I’ve Seen All Good People; And You and I; Changes; Rhythm of Love. Set 2: I Am Waiting; Heart of the Sunrise; Awaken; Owner of a Lonely Heart. Encore: Roundabout

A Rick Wakeman concert I couldn’t attend: and a mystery solved!

On searching through my ticket stubs, my elder daughter Ashleigh came across this signed ticket, for a concert by Rick Wakeman at South Shields Customs House. Looking at the date; the concert came a few days after my accident. In fact so close to my accident that it was impossible that I had attended the show. Now I can recall going to see Rick Wakeman with my younger daughter, Laura, at a fantastic concert at Newcastle City Hall which we both greatly enjoyed. But I have no recollection of ever having tickets for this concert in South Shields. Reading the ticket stub, it seemed that someone had gone along to the concert, met Rick Wakeman and asked him to sign the ticket with a kind “Get Better!!!” message dedicated to me. rik

To my shame I have no recollection of any of this, and I could not remember who on earth had got the ticket signed for me. In my defence, I was in intensive care at the time, high on morphine, and didn’t really know what was going on! I racked my brains which of my friends could have done such a kind thing for me. But I could not identify the friendly culprit.

I happened to mention my predicament to Laura, who managed to solve the problem immediately. “It was Ian” she said. Now Ian is a friend of both Laura and me, a fellow rock fan and concertgoer and also a very accomplished musician who leads a band in which Laura sometimes accompanies him on vocals. So the problem is solved and a big Thank You to Ian for being so kind to me at a very difficult time, and to Rick Wakeman for signing the ticket for me. Ian apparently told Rick the full sorry tale of my accident and the extent of my predicament at the time. I hope I get the chance to see Rick Wakeman again one day and thank him myself personally.

Yes Sage Gateshead 18th March 2018

yes prog fWhen is Yes not Yes? (or is it No?). Having lost founder member, some would say leader, and unique bass player Chris Squire; Yes have now no original members in the band. I realise, of course, that guitarist Steve Howe has been in the band since the early 70s and that he was a member of the classic lineup of Yes. However, when I first saw the band in 1969, the guitarist was Peter Banks. And of course keyboard player Geoff Downes was a member of the band at the time of the Drama album when he and Buggles colleague, Trevor Horn joined the band in quite a strange incarnation of Yes. And drummer Alan White remains in the band and was a member of the classic line-up. But the fact remains that, since the sad passing of Chris Squire, the current line up of Yes contains no original members. Now there are many classic rock bands with one original member including Deep Purple (drummer Ian Paice), the Moody Blues (drummer Graeme Edge), Uriah Heep (guitarist Mick Box) and Status Quo (singer/guitarist Francis Rossi). But I can think of no other well-known rock band with no original members. In the case of Deep Purple and the Moody Blues it was the second incarnation of the band who are recognised as the classic lineup and the same is somewhat true of Yes. There are a few 60s bands with no original members including The Fortunes and Marmalade.

yes tix 2Anyway back to my conundrum: when is Yes not Yes? I have written elsewhere (Smith, 2016) about how the soul and spirit of a band can transcend the members, using The Who as an example; and I think only in performance can this truly be judged. So I went along with great interest to see if the current lineup maintained the spirit, soul and ethos of what I recognise to be Yes. A few weeks later I was due to see Jon Anderson, Rick Wakeman and Trevor Rabin play “Quintessential Yes: The 50th Anniversary Tour” at Newcastle City Hall. So I was bound to make comparisons between the two incarnations of the Yes band.

The publicity for the tour said: “The year 2018 marks half a century since the formation of the legendary group YES, one of the biggest bands in prog-rock history and true pioneers of the genre. To celebrate this remarkable milestone, YES will embark on a 10-date UK Tour in March 2018 – #YES50. On this not-to-be-missed tour, YES [Steve Howe, Alan White, Geoff Downes, Jon Davison (vocals) and Billy Sherwood (bass)] will feature not only many of the band’s classic hits, but performances of Sides 1 and 4 and an excerpt from Side 3 of their 1973 album, Tales From Topographic Oceans, which was the first YES album to top the UK Album Charts.”

“Much has changed since I joined Yes in 1970, but the core elements of the band have remained consistent,” shares guitarist Steve Howe. “We want to mark this anniversary with a tour that encompasses some of our best-loved work and revisit a few classic pieces that have been lost for a while. We look forward to sharing the 50th anniversary with the fanbase, playing classic songs that celebrate the broad musical style of Yes.”

So back to my conundrum again; when is Yes not Yes, or rather is Yes still Yes? As I say, the answer lies somewhere in the performance. Now this time, the tour was publicised as a set of greatest hits and excerpts from Tales from Topographic Oceans. Now, Tales from Topographic Oceans was never my favourite Yes album. I saw the tour and was somewhat bored that evening. I do possess a vinyl copy of the album (which I have played once or twice). yes prog b

So I went along to the concert, with my carer Hannah, with some trepidation. As it happened the concert was much better than I expected. There were two sets, the first comprising well-known Yes classics and the second comprising excerpts from Tales from Topographic Oceans. So we took our seats in a box close to the stage and soon the concert started with a familiar opening song: “Yours Is No Disgrace” performed just as it should be and just as I remembered it. Excellent. This was followed by another Yes classic, again performed well: “I’ve Seen All Good People.” Then we were right back to the start, with “Sweet Dreams”, a song written and recorded before any of the current members were in the band and bringing back so many happy memories to me. The next song “South Side of the Sky” was less familiar to me but we were soon back on familiar territory with Steve Howe performing his guitar solo extravaganza “Mood for a Day”, which I spent many an hour trying to learn how to play on my old 1962 Fender Stratocaster (why did I ever sell that? 😦 ) Then we were treated to the truly wondrous “Wondrous Stories”, followed by another unfamiliar song “Parallels” and then a song which has grown on me over the years and is now one of my favourites “And You and I”, which closed the first set. After a short interval, and a lovely butterscotch ice cream, the second set featured excerpts from the aforementioned Tales from Topographic Oceans. I must say I enjoyed it much more than I expected. The encores were a wonderful, swirling, version of “Roundabout” and an uplifting “Starship Trooper.” My verdict? This was a powerful performance by Yes that was true to the jazzy, progressive rock roots of the band. So yes, Yes remain Yes and to my mind, deserve the title. Wonderful, uplifting, soaring and classic, bringing back memories of so many happy, happy days. Next up an evening of “Quintessential Yes.” So more to follow: yes yet more musings of Yes for another blogging soon.

 

Setlist: The Firebird Suite (intro). Set 1: Yours Is No Disgrace; I’ve Seen All Good People; Sweet Dreams; South Side of the Sky; Mood for a Day; Wonderous Stories; Parallels; And You and I. Set 2: The Revealing Science of God (Dance of the Dawn); Leaves of Green; Ritual (Nous sommes du soleil). Encore: Roundabout; Starship Trooper

Smith, P. (2016). An analysis of The Who in concert: 1971 to 2014, in Gennaro, R & Harrison, C. The Who and philosophy, Lexington, pp 209 – 222

 

Soft Machine Kendal Brewery Arts Centre 19 March 2016

Soft Machine Kendal Brewery Arts Centre 19 March 2016
brewery-arts-centreWhen I was a teenager I would listen intently to “In Concert” on the radio. There are three broadcasts that I recall very strongly. The first was by Led Zeppelin, recorded at the Albert Hall; the second Fleetwood Mac; and the other was Soft Machine. It will have been 1970 or 1971. Of the three, the Soft Machine concert was, for me, the most memorable. I still remember the impact it had. The strange sounds coming out of my radio intrigued me; I immediately became a fan. The music was so different to that of other bands, and to anything else I was listening to at the time. If I remember correctly, the concert was introduced by John Peel, who championed Soft Machine at the time. Their “songs’ sounded like long improvisations; however I now realise that was the nature of the band’s music and the songs were probably more planned than I thought. I think they may have played “Moon in June”, “Facelift” and a few other tracks from “Soft Machine 3”.
I only got to see Soft Machine live twice. Both occasions were in the mid-70s; by which time Soft Machine had completed its transformation from psychedelia to jazz-rock. The first time I saw the band was at the Reading Festival, and the second at Newcastle Guildhall as part of the Newcastle Jazz Festival. Last night I took up on the chance of seeing Soft Machine again; when the latest line-up performed at Kendal Brewery Arts Centre.
The current line-up of Soft Machine was launched (initially as Soft Machine Legacy) in 2004. The line-up consisted of Elton Dean, Hugh Hopper, John Etheridge and John Marshall: four long-time members from different eras of the legendary group. In 2006 Elton Dean sadly passed away and his place on sax and flute was taken by Theo Travis, who has an association with Gong and David Gilmour and is a long time fan of Soft Machine’s music. Hugh Hopper sadly passed away in 2008. His place was taken by veteran bass player Roy Babbington, who first joined the group in 1970. This reunited 3/5ths of the 1975-77 Soft Machine line-up. SoftMachine_2016Since 2010 the band has recorded a new, and highly acclaimed album “Burden of Proof” and they continue to tour. “Burden of Proof” is (from the venue website): “a collection of songs that basically has something for everyone; challenging jazz-fusion, adventurous prog-rock, bits of chaotic free-jazz, atmospheric instrumental pop-jazz, and even a little hard rock. Extraordinary!”
I had an uneventful drive over to Kendal, and took my seat in the Malt Room of the Brewery Arts Centre. Last time I was here was to see Marianne Faithful; which was some years ago. It’s a great venue and regularly features some classic acts. I have to admit that I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect from Soft Machine; I guess I thought I might find the jazzy instrumental nature of the songs a little hard going. But I also knew that it was going to be worth the effort in order to reacquaint myself with the music of Soft Machine.
The band came onstage just before 8.30pm and launched straight into “The Steamer” from the 2006 Soft Machine Legacy album “Steam”. The sound was clear, crisp. The music a mix of jazz and prog. Guitarist John Etheridge introduced the songs and seemed to be taking the lead. He explained how the last incarnation of Soft Machine had seen former members put old disputes behind them, and how time had allowed that to happen. He also explained that veteran Soft’s drummer John Marshall was unwell, suffering from a bad back and unable to make this tour. The guy standing in did an excellent job.
FullSizeRender(7)The concert comprised two sets and drew from Soft Machine’s extensive back catalogue, going back to 1970 and “3” for “Facelift” and to “4” for “Kings and Queens”. The music was much more varied than I had imagined, and ranged from guitar-riff-driven hard rock, through jazz (with mucho sax) to atmospheric flute-led prog; the latter songs being my own favourites. The musicianship was excellent, and Etheridge joked and talked to the audience a lot more than I had anticipated. In fact, he explained that “back in the day” the members of Soft Machine would never speak to, or acknowledge, the audience. The evening passed quickly, and I realised that I had after all enjoyed it; actually a lot. It was very much a concert; rather than a rock gig; but hey that’s just fine for me these days.
The concert finished shortly after 10.30pm; I was back home around 12.30am. I’ve spent this morning playing my vinyl copies of Soft Machine “3” and “4”. Happy days.
Set 1: The Steamer; Hazard Profile; Chloe and the Pirates; Voyage beyond Seven; Song of Aeolus; Grape Hound
Set 2: Burden of Proof; Facelift / the Last Day; Kings and Queens; Relegation of Pluto / Transit
Encore: Gesolreut

Maximo Park Newcastle City Hall 19 Nov 2015

Maximo Park Newcastle City Hall 19 Nov 2015
FullSizeRender(6)This concert was a big deal for Maximo Park. Their Facebook page proudly declared “everyone has played Newcastle City Hall: Bob Dylan, the Beatles; and now we are playing there”. The concert had sold out quickly: a hometown show with the added attraction that the band were showcasing their excellent debut album “A Certain Trigger” in full was bound to be a big draw. Laura was really excited about going but sadly came down with flu on the night of the concert, so along I went to the City Hall on my own.
Maximo Park exploded onto the stage to a big loud and friendly roar from the home crowd. The set was one of two halves, opening with 11 tracks drawing from across their career, starting with “Girls who play guitar”. This was followed by a performance of all 13 tracks from “A Certain Trigger”. Ten years on the songs from the first album sound as fresh and modern as ever. The crowd loved it, and you could see how much the band enjoyed the night, and how keen they had been to grace the City Hall stage.  A great performance from a local band who maintain a loyal and strong following.
Setlist: Girls Who Play Guitars; The National Health; A19; The Kids Are Sick Again; This Is What Becomes of the Broken Hearted; Hips and Lips; A Year of Doubt; Midnight on the Hill; Leave This Island; Our Velocity; Books from Boxes; [A Certain Trigger set:]; Signal and Sign; Apply Some Pressure; Graffiti; Postcard of a Painting; Going Missing; I Want You to Stay; Limassol; The Coast Is Always Changing; The Night I Lost My Head; Once, a Glimpse; Now I’m All Over the Shop; Acrobat; Kiss You Better

David Gilmour Royal Albert Hall London 3rd October 2015

David Gilmour Royal Albert Hall 3rd October 2015
image“Flicker, flicker, flicker blam. Pow, pow.
Stairway scare, Dan Dare, who’s there?
Lime and limpid green, the sounds around
The icy waters under
Lime and limpid green, the sounds around
The icy waters underground.”
(Astronomy Domine, Barrett & Wright, 1967)
It’s a lovely bright Sunday morning and I’m sitting on a Grand Central train which is weaving its way back home up North. I am also reflecting on last night’s concert by David Gilmour at the Royal Albert Hall. Nine years have past since Gilmour’s last album “On an Island”, and since I last saw him in concert at the same venue. Well we are all almost a decade older, maybe a little wiser, and much has changed. Some things, however, do remain comfortably and reassuringly constant, one of those being the unique crying, sustained tone and crisp guitar voice of David Gilmour. Gilmour has released a new album “Rattle that Lock” which has been well received and has also done well in terms of sales, reaching No 1 in the UK and many other countries. He has also now (just) completed a short European tour to promote the album, including five nights at the Albert Hall, and a warm-up show in Brighton. Last night was the final night of the tour; he will visit the USA in 2016.
imageThe concert was in two parts, with a healthy selection of new and old tracks sprinkled throughout. After going through the ticket collection process courtesy of legendary promoter Harvey Goldsmith (no tickets were sent out in advance, and I had to show my credit card and photo-ID in order to collect my ticket), I made my way up to my cheap (well sort of, all things are relative) vantage point in the gallery (bad decision on my part by the way, I am too old to stand all night and I am very stiff this morning). The show started with “5 AM”, an instrumental and the opening track on the new album. Gilmour stood alone, lit by a single spot, the crisp, clear sound of his Fender guitar cutting through the night; filling the hall. In that moment we all knew why we had come. It took that single note, in that unique style, to cut through the years and take us back to halcyon days. His soaring tone blends blues, psych, sci-fi and surf guitar styles; I could hear the influences: Hank Marvin, Jimi Hendrix, B B King. This was followed by the title track of the new album. The fourth song, which was of course welcomed by a massive cheer, was “Wish You Were Here”. The sound was clear, loud but not too much so, and the 1975 classic never sounded better, nor more appropriate. These songs have become a tribute to a legendary band, to Syd Barrett whose vision made it possible, and now sadly to Gilmour’s friend and fellow Floyd comrade Rick Wright, who played with him at those Albert Hall concerts nine years. Other highlights for me in the first half of the concert were the “Dark Side of the Moon” favourites “Money” and “Us and Them”. The last song before the interval was “High Hopes”, the closing track from “The Division Bell”.
imageThe second part of the concert took us back to the very start. “Astronomy Domine” is the first track on “Piper at the Gates of Dawn”, Pink Floyd’s first album, recorded before Gilmour joined the band. Today it is played as a fitting tribute to Syd and Rick (who co-wrote the song) and to days of innocent English psych, of early space-rock. The hall was bathed in colour, the giant (and familiar and Floyd-like) circular screen behind the band displaying a full-on ’60s psychedelic liquid light show. The strange chord sequence built to its screaming discordant climax. Fantastic; and for me, it was worth the ticket price for that song alone, as it was something that I thought I would never see performed live. This was followed by what has become my favourite Pink Floyd song, “Shine on you Crazy Diamond”. Searing, souring guitar, that familiar riff, a song of Syd and bitter-sweet sadness, and great visuals. The rest of the set was a mix of new and Floyd songs, including “Fat Old Sun” from “Atom Heart Mother”, “Sorrow” from “A Momentary Lapse of Reason” and closing song “Run Like Hell” from “The Wall”. I am not too familiar with “Sorrow”, to be honest, but last night it stood out for me, with some particularly fine, cavernous, deep, and heavy guitar work by Gilmour, which thundered and reverberated around us.
imageFor an encore a clang of coins greeted us, tills jangled and we were, to our great delight, taken back to “Dark Side of the Moon” and “Money”. During the extended closing song “Comfortably Numb” the light show moved up a notch, and the hall became a criss-crossed matrix of green, misty, then bright, stark red, laser light. Gilmour stood in front of us, his lone figure picked out by two spots, as if he were standing above the clouds of laser light, his guitar solo meandering and taking us to the end of a tremendous show.
Well. It was a show you truly couldn’t fault. The selection of songs, the sound, the band, Gilmour’s guitar, the vocals, the lights; simply perfect perfection. Only two things would better it for me. First (and this is probably never going to happen), I would just die to see him play “See Emily Play” as a tribute to Barrett. Oh, and finally, a seat. I am never going to scrimp on the ticket price again, and stand in that gallery. I am sure I will be stiff for days. Not good for an old guy. I remember my dad having terrible back problems (think they called it lumbago back then) and I fear that I may be inheriting it.
Walking out of the venue I heard a father telling his grown up son (who was probably in his 30s) of the 1975 Knebworth Floyd concert and of the (model) plane crashing into the stage at the end of “On the Run”. Happy happy days. I really do feel like I am getting old.
Set 1: 5 AM (new), Rattle that Lock (new), Faces of Stone (new), Wish You Were Here (Pink Floyd), A Boat Lies Waiting (new), The Blue (On an Island), Money (Pink Floyd), Us and Them (Pink Floyd), In Any Tongue (new), High Hopes (Pink Floyd)
Set 2: Astronomy Domine (Pink Floyd), Shine on you Crazy Diamond Parts I-V (Pink Floyd), Fat Old Sun (Pink Floyd), On an Island, The Girl in the Yellow Dress (new), Today (new), Sorrow (Pink Floyd), Run Like Hell (Pink Floyd)
Encore: Time (Pink Floyd), Breathe (Reprise) (Pink Floyd), Comfortably Numb (Pink Floyd)
Tour band: David Gilmour (guitars, vocals), Phil Manzanera (guitars), Guy Pratt (bass guitar), Jon Carin (keyboards, guitars), Kevin McAlea (keyboards), Steve DiStanislao (drums, percussion), João Mello (saxophones), Bryan Chambers, Louise Clare Marshall (backing vocals)

King Crimson The Usher Hall Edinburgh 17th September 2015

King Crimson The Usher Hall Edinburgh 17th September 2015
king crimson tixWhen music appears which only King Crimson can play then, sooner or later, King Crimson appears to play the music.” Robert Fripp
It is more than 40 years since my last King Crimson live experience.
7.30pm sharp. Seven guys in three piece suits, looking like they could be attending a bank managers’ conference, walk onto the Usher Hall stage. This is the 8th incarnation of King Crimson and features Gavin Harrison, Bill Rieflin and Pat Mastelotto (three drummers), Tony Levin (stick bass), Mel Collins (sax, flute), Jakko Jakszyk (guitar, vocals) and (of course) Robert Fripp (guitar). The house lights are still on. Our Crimson musos take their places without saying anything. The three drummers sit at the front of stage, one to the left, one centre and one to the right. Each drum sports the rather disconcerting image of an Edwardian-looking boy with one eye in the centre of his forehead, which features in the publicity for the tour. Jakko’s guitar is adorned with the red face from the cover of the first Crimson album. The lights go down and the music starts. The sound is crisp, clear. The songs are largely unfamiliar to me, but I gather that they are drawn from across the suite of King Crimson albums. Fripp describes the new band thus:”King Crimson VIII moved to its next stage of actualization. This is a very different reformation to what has gone before: seven players, four English and three American, with three drummers. The Point Of Crim-Seeing was of a conventional Back Line reconfigured as the Front Line, The Seven-Headed Beast of Crim is in Go! mode.”
king crimson tourThe music is a mix of dark, heavy foreboding guitar, mucho drums, very jazzy at times, almost classical at others. The tempo drifts from heavy metal through prog through folk. Robert Fripp sits stage right, wearing headphones, alternating between squeezing strange riffs from his guitar and observing and quietly leading his musicians. I am reminded how unique and ground breaking Crimson were, and are. “Epitaph” takes us back to that classic prog-defining first lp. Wonderful. I am transported back to days of my youth so many years ago, when I sat with friends; we listened to that album in total awe; we discussed it endlessly and took it to school, proudly holding that red cover for all to see. They close with “Starless”. It is 9.30pm. The lights go on. We stand and clap, and cheer, and clap some more. The seven Crimson guys return. They still have not spoken. “Devil Dogs Of Tessellation Row” gives the drummers the opportunity to show their skills. Then Crimson are transformed once again into prog-gods who tell us the exquisite tale of “The Court of the Crimson King”. Finally, the dark fear of the “21st Century Schizoid Man” takes us through a wall of screaming discordant terror to a crashing squealing climatic end. Mind blowing stuff.
A note about my drive home. Are there roadworks and diversions every night across the entire country? I always seem to hit them. I have a detour through Scottish villages just north of the border; the A1 is closed near Dunbar. Home at 1am.
Setlist: Larks’ Tongues in Aspic, Part One; Red; Suitable Grounds for the Blues; Radical Action (To Unseat the Hold of Monkey Mind); Meltdown; The ConstruKction of Light; Level Five; Banshee Legs Bell Hassle; Pictures of a City; Epitaph; Hell Hounds of Krim; Easy Money; The Letters; Sailor’s Tale; Starless
Encore: Devil Dogs Of Tessellation Row; The Court of the Crimson King; 21st Century Schizoid Man

Ian Anderson performs the rock opera Jethro Tull @ Sage Gateshead 13th September 2015

Ian Anderson performs the rock opera Jethro Tull @ Sage Gateshead 13th September 2015
ian anderson tixThings come full circle. The touring band known as Jethro Tull seems to have been shelved, with Tull frontman and our manic flautist hero Ian Anderson touring under his own name, and Tull guitarist Martin Barre doing likewise. But Ian Anderson couldn’t keep away from the Tull moniker and concept for too long. So, as “a tribute to the original 18th Century agriculturalist” whose name the band borrowed back in February 1968, our hero has “imagined a scenario where the pioneering pursuit of improved crop-growing and farming methodology might apply to the world of today and tomorrow”. This led to the development of “Jethro Tull: the Rock Opera”, the delights of which Norm, Will and I experienced a few days ago at the Sage Gateshead. Anderson’s rock opera concept is this: take the story of the original farmer and inventor Jethro Tull and bring it up to date; tell that tale through the songs of Jethro Tull the band (and a few new ones written especially for the occasion), and create a theatrical stage show which takes the audience through the story. The show is very much just that; “a show” rather than a concert. The band provide the music, playing in front of a giant HD video screen. On the screen appear a cast of “virtual guests” who play the parts of Mr Tull and his family, narrate the story and sing segments of the songs. Anderson explains it thus: “Instead of spoken introductions to the songs in the show, there will be the use of that operatic device, the “recitative”, where the links are made by short sung vocal segments in a usually-simple musical backdrop”. So the songs are sung in part by Anderson live, and in part by virtual singers on the screen. The songs flow from one to the next with short video segments as bridges.
ian anderson progThe show started at 7.30pm prompt. Parking problems made us a little late, and we had to wait outside until first song “Heavy Horses” was finished (“a suitable break in the performance”). The first half was around one hour and there was a short interval before “the show” resumed. How did it work? Very well actually. The video was high quality and the sequencing between Anderson and band and the virtual singers was faultless. Anderson’s voice may not be quite as strong as it was “back in the day” so the use of video allowed him some vocal rest, and gave welcome variety to the performance. However, I must say that Ian’s flute playing remains as excellent as ever, and his stage presence and antics are undiminished. The virtual sets were as you might imagine; we were transported onscreen to Preston station for “Cheap Day Return” and deep into the forest for “Song from the Wood”. Great Tull fun. Special mention to Unnur Birna Bjornsdottir whose vocals were exquisite and made for great reworkings of Tull classics, particularly “The Witch’s Promise” and Florian Opahle, whose guitar playing was tremendous. A very different and highly enjoyable Tull evening. Great to see old friend Doug and other fellow Tullites.
What next Ian?
Part 1: Heavy Horses; Wind-Up; Aqualung; With You There to Help Me; Back to the Family; Farm on the Freeway; Prosperous Pasture; Fruits of Frankenfield; Songs From the Wood
Set 2: And the World Feeds Me; Living in the Past; Jack-in-the-Green; The Witch’s Promise; Weathercock; Stick, Twist, Bust; Cheap Day Return; A New Day Yesterday; The Turnstile Gate; Locomotive Breath
Encore: Requiem and Fugue
The Musicians: Ian Anderson (flute, vocals, guitar), Florian Opahle (guitar), John O’Hara (piano; Hammond organ), Greig Robinson (bass), Scott Hammond (drums, percussion).
The (virtual) Players: Ryan O’Donnell (the younger Jethro, and Jasper son of Jethro), Unnur Birna Bjornsdottir (Susannah, wife of Jethro), David Goodier (Jethros’ father), Ian Anderson (Narrator and the older Jethro), John O’Hara (scientist and choirmaster).