Posts Tagged ‘prog rock’

Steve Hackett Sage Gateshead 22 September 2022

HACKETTIXIt has been some time since I saw in York, on which occasion he played a great selection of early Genesis classics. Now I much prefered Genesis when the great Peter Gabriel fronted the band. I have many happy memories of seeing Genesis. The first time I saw them was at Newcastle City Hall where they were bottom of the bill on a CHACKET 1harisma package tour featuring Van Der Graaf Generator, Lindisfarne and then Genesis. After that I saw them several times within a year during the period 1971 and 1972 including performances at the Reading Festival, the Lincoln Festival and Sunderland Locarno supporting Mott the Hoople! I foolishly missed the Foxtrot tour because I had seen the band so many times. I remember my friend Ian went along to see them at the City Hall and came back raving about the gig and Gabriel wearing a fox mask! Is it really 50 years since the release of Foxtrot? I then saw them at Newcastle City Hall supporting Lindisfarne, the Reading Festival again at the time “I Know What I like” was hitting the charts, and finally on the Lamb Lies down on Broadway tour. The next time I saw Genesis Phil Collins was front man on the Trick of the Tail tour at Glasgow Apollo. All of those shows were magnificent. Steve Hackett left the band around that time and I saw the And Then There Were Three tour at Knebworth, supported by Jefferson Starship. Happy days.

HACKET4Steve Hackett was an integral part of the band throughout those days, sitting quietly on a stool, weaving magical music from his Gibson Les Paul. I also saw Steve on a couple of solo tours at Newcastle City Hall and was quite impressed by his own material.

I have foolishly missed Steve Hackett the last couple of times he has played the north-east. I have promised myself not to do so again and to see him every time he plays close by in the future. It was great to run into some old friends, the aforementioned Ian, our mutual friend another Ian and Peter. We chatted about old gig experiences and very happy times. I also ran into a friend from my blog community. A great night already!

The concert comprised two sets. The first was a selection of Steve Hackett solo material. I recognised some of the songs, but many seemed new to me. I enjoyed them much more than I expected. And Steve stood up throughout the performance! Very much the front man with an excellent band supporting him. The second half comprised the entire Foxtrot album, HACKET3starting with the wonderful “Watcher of the Skies” and finishing with the magnificent, multifaceted “Supper’s Ready”. I had forgotten just how great the album was; particularly the opening track and the closing epic. Great credit must be given to vocalist Nad Sylvan who brings the songs to life without totally recreating Peter Gabriel. The guy has his own style, flowing locks and some wonderful elements of showmanship which hark back to the Gabriel days such as the red light eyes at certain points in the songs. Magical. Yet, Steve Hackett remains the front man, reminding us of how much the band and their music was down to him at the time. The encore comprises “Firth of Frith” from the Selling England by the Pound album and ends with another song I recognise from the Trick of the Tail album: “Los Endos”.

HACKETPROGA great night with a great musician to whom prog rock fans (such as me!) and Genesis owe a lot. I bought a programme and a signed copy of Steve’s autobiography! Happy days really are here again!

HACKETBOOKSet 1: Hackett Highlights: Ace of Wands; The Devil’s Cathedral; Spectral Mornings; Every Day; A Tower Struck Down; Camino Royale; Shadow of the Hierophant.

Set 2: Foxtrot: Watcher of the Skies; Time Table; Get ’em Out by Friday; Can-Utility and the Coastliners; Horizons; Supper’s Ready. Encore: Firth of Frith; Myopia / Slogans / Los Endos.

The First Orgone Tour: Kala, Kingdom Come? and Ange Sunderland Locarno 13 April1973

kala2A strange one this, and a bit of a mystery. I saw this advert, which is a cutting from Melody Maker, for sale on eBay. As it was for a concert which I have vague memories of attending I could not resist buying it. The advert is for The First Orgone Tour and featured a date at Sunderland Locarno, a ballroom which I frequented almost every week at the time. Now Kala were a spin-off from the band Quintessence, who played Indian influenced progressive rock and of whom I was a big fan at the time. I’m not quite sure whether I actually ever got to see Quintessence, I have vague memories of seeing them at the Locarno but can’t be sure. I also almost saw them at the Reading festival in 1972, where they were second on the bill to Ten Years After on the Sunday night. However, the proceedings ran late and Quintessence were forced to play after Ten Years After to allow Alvin Lee and his band to headline at a decent time (I think there may have been a stage curfew of midnight or so). Quintessence came on stage after a great performance by Ten Years After, but because it was so late I’m not certain that they were actually allowed to perform. I had to rush off for my train back to London as I recall. Anyway I had the Quintessence album In Blissful Company and loved the tracks “Notting Hill Gate” (“Things look great in Notting Hill Gate”) and “Pearl and Bird”. Happy days.
Now Kingdom Come were, of course, my hero Arthur Brown’s post Crazy World band. I recall seeing a simply magnificent performance by Kingdom Come at Sunderland Polytechnic around the same time as this gig which featured Arthur being crucified on a massive cross and a Brain running around the ballroom floor chasing the Pope (it had to be seen to be believed!) I am certain if Arthur Brown and his mad company had supported the aforementioned Kala I would have remembered it. I do recall seeing Kala and they were led by Raja Ram from Quintessence and performed a similarly Indian influenced form of prog rock, featuring lots of flute and were pretty great.

I found this about Kala: “Although Quintessence played many hundred of concerts and festivals all over Europe, they never made it to the United States. Although a concert at New York’s Carnegie Hall was already lined up in early 1972, they didn’t make it because Shiva and Maha Dev were asked to leave the band by Raja Ram in spring 1972. Shiva and Maha Dev went on to form the short-lived outfit called Kala. With ego clashes and problems on many frontiers, Kala quickly folded and Quintessence, now trying to make it the body without a head, and bereft of a sense of purpose, direction and being victims of the changing times, played on into the eighties, then slowly drifted into limbo.” http://www.acidvisions.com/musiccatalog/k/kala/index.html

I looked up Orgone and found this (isn’t Wikipedia wonderful): Orgone is a pseudoscientific concept variously described as an esoteric energy or hypothetical universal life force. Pretty hippie stuff, which just matches the mood of the time exactly.

First on the bill that night were a French band, about which I found this: Ange (English: Angel) is a French progressive rock band formed in September 1969 by the Décamps brothers, Francis (keyboards) and Christian (vocals, accordion, acoustic guitar and keyboards). Since its inception the band’s music has been inspired by medieval texts and fantasy. Again, pretty fitting for the time, and it seems the band still exist. Sadly, I have little recollection of seeing them that night.

So, an evening full of mystery and Indian influenced progressive rock hippie music. Very much of its time. Happy days. Wish I had a better memory and that I had kept a diary.

Yes Newcastle City Hall 26 June 2022

yes5Well it finally happened. I contracted Covid! Possibly when I went to see the Rolling Stones at Anfield (at least I was in good company as a certain Sir Mick Jagger also went down with the nasty virus). Luckily we are both clear now although it took me a week to get there, that is before I tested negative. In the meantime I missed a few concerts but I was so wiped out I couldn’t possibly have attended. Still I was feeling just about well enough to venture out last night to see one of my favourite all-time bands, Yes.

Now they say that one forms allegiances to the bands that you see when you are young. This has certainly been the case with me. I first saw Yes in 1969 when I was all of 12 years old and they were supporting the Bonzo Dog Band (who had just been in the chart with “I’m an Urban Space Man”). The music was loud, exciting, bright and like nothing else I had ever experienced before. I went on my own and I was in the front row a few feet away from the band who, in those days was Jon Anderson (vocals), Peter Banks (guitar), Chris Squire (bass guitar), Tony Kaye (keyboards) and Bill Bruford (drums). Completely different from the lineup I saw last night.

yes2From that night on I was a lifelong Yes fan and must have seen them many, many times over the years since. The lineup has changed along a winding, meandering road with Steve Howe replacing Peter Banks on guitar in 1970 and Rick Wakeman and Alan White joining on keyboards and drums respectively, shortly afterwards. Then came many lineup changes, lots of classic albums, and mega prog stardom. Along the way Jon Anderson left, as did Rick Wakeman, and Steve Howe left and then rejoined the fold. Chris Squire and Alan White both sadly passed away; local hero Alan White very recently (he hailed from Chester le Street). But the true story of Yes is much much more complicated than that!

The current members of Yes are: Steve Howe – guitars (first joined in 1970); Geoff Downes – keyboards (first joined in 1980 for the Drama album in a strange incarnation of the band where he and Buggles compatriot Trevor Horn joined for a short period); Billy Sherwood – bass guitar (since 2015); Jon Davison – lead vocals (since 2012); Jay Schellen – drums (has been playing drums with the band since 2017, sometimes deputising for Alan White who sadly passed away in May 2022).

yes1The tour had originally been billed as a recreation of the Relayer album; however (and to my delight) something changed their minds and it became a recreation of the Close to the Edge album. A much better choice! The show started with something of a very pleasant surprise. Illustrator Roger Dean, creator of the Yes logo, many of their album covers and several other progressive rock LP covers, walked on stage and took us through a slideshow of his life as an illustrator and with Yes. Fantastic! This was followed by a fitting tribute to Alan White with many nice images of the great drummer appearing on the backdrop.
The band then took to the stage and started the first half of the show with a set comprising songs from throughout the band’s career. This includes to my delight “Yours Is No Disgrace” and “No Opportunity Necessary, No Experience Needed” the latter coming from the second album Time and a Word, an album on which none of the current members featured! This song, a cover of a Richie Havens track, with its swirling keyboards playing excerpts from the Western film The Big Country was always a favourite of mine in their early days. Other great songs were “Wondrous Stories” and an excellent rendition of “Clap” by Steve Howe. We were also treated to a couple of tracks from the latest Yes album The Quest, which seems to follow in the great tradition of Yes music. I have often asked “when is a band no longer a band?” In the case of Yes I think the latest incarnation does full justice to the great heritage of Yes music. The vocals are very reminiscent of the great John Anderson, who also fronts his own version of Yes music along with Rick Wakeman and Trevor Rabin, all former band members. Curiouser and curiouser! Anyway to answer my question “yes (no pun intended)” this grouping of musicians do indeed deserve the name. The first half of the show concluded with another great favourite “Heart of the Sunrise” from the Fragile album.

yes4During the interval I partook in a pint of lager (no Guinness I am afraid) and bought a couple of copies of the programme/book (one for my friend John in the USA) which is a sumptuous product celebrating the 50th anniversary of Close to the Edge and taking the reader through the whole history of the band.
The second set comprises the great album Close to the Edge played in its entirety. I had forgotten just how wonderful the tracks on this album are. The encores take us back to the early days and “Roundabout” followed by closing song “Starship Trooper”. A fantastic evening of Yes music. I hope I can experience many more such evenings.

Many thanks to Lisa for the photographs and Elaine for helping me into my bed. I must admit I was rather tired; to my shame I was finding it difficult to keep my eyes open towards the end of the set; Covid has taken its toll on me and it will take me some time to fully recover.

yes3Setlist:

First set: On the Silent Wings of Freedom; Yours Is No Disgrace; No Opportunity Necessary, No Experience Needed; Does It Really Happen?; Clap; Wonderous Stories; The Ice Bridge; Dare to Know; Heart of the Sunrise.

Close to the Edge Set: Close to the Edge; And You and I; Siberian Khatru.

Encore: Roundabout; Starship Trooper.

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