Still reeling a bit from 5 days out to sea witnessing a terrifying battle between two sea monsters… wait, no, that’s a different story – ahem – 5 days at sea bearing witness to at least a dozen progressive rock concerts on the wonderful Cruise to the Edge voyage. Met and interviewed band members – many who are musical heroes to me, made new friends, and took in some sun & sand besides. On the plane now heading back to San Francisco, thinking about the highlights:
Three Friends (now two – featuring former members of Gentle Giant – Gary Green (guitar), and Malcolm Mortimer (drums)): The talented band they assembled played three full sets, varying the selections each time, including “Alucard” from their debut, four from Acquiring the Taste including the searing “The House, The Street, The Room”, and four from Three Friends including “Prologue” (the opener for each show), “Schooldays” (yes, really, live!), “Mister Class and Quality” and “Three Friends”. Among other mid period tracks, they did several from their masterworks, Octopus, In A Glass House, Power and the Glory, and Free Hand. I’ll have a lead story on these shows and an interview with guitarist Gary Green in an upcoming post.
Premiata Forneria Marconi (PFM): This will be the subject of a second lead story which will include an interview with the three primary band members and I’ll have a review of their latest Pfm in Classic-Da Mozart a Celebration. PFM has seldom made it to the states after the 1970’s other than the east coast Nearfest dates some years ago, and time has not diminished their musical prowess in concert. The band tore through tight renditions of “La Luna Nuova” (Four Holes in the Ground), “Mr. Nine ‘Till Five” (including the “alta loma” coda), “Romeo E Giulietta” (from the beautiful new Mozart orchestrated disc) and the ever popular “Celebration.” At their main stage show they included the songs “Promenade the Puzzle” from their first English language release Photos of Ghosts (1973) and “La Carrozza di Hans” from their first Italian release Storia Di Un Minuto (1972). PFM earned many new converts among the cruisers with these fine shows.
Marillion: This show was a real surprise for me Thursday night on the cruise. I’ve not had the chance to experience this band but we kept meeting so many very (very) dedicated fans on this cruise, and being able to talk to them, along with the very personable band members themselves over the days leading up to these headlining shows I think prepared us to finally “get it.” And we really did get into this band – Steve Hogarth is one amazing singer and performer who communicates their work in an inspiring and compelling way. Steve Rothery (guitar) had a bit of the bad back, but played beautifully, and temp drummer Leon Parr had to fill in for an ailing Ian Mosley, but the band was in fine form, and played an excellent set that opened with “The Invisible Man” – most impactful to these new ears were “Ocean Cloud,” “This Strange Engine” and “Neverland.”. One experienced fan on the way out said if he could have designed the perfect set list, that would have been it.
Steve Hackett – Genesis Revisited: Steve and his tight band played two shows on the main stage, each including Supper’s Ready (he and Nat joined on the last show by Simon Collins, son of Phil for the “Apocalypse” vocals), Firth of Fifth (with John Wetton on vocals – also last show) “The Knife” and “The Musical Box.” For the first show they wrapped these together with “Dance on a Volcano” and “Los Endos.” The second show was more extended with “Squonk” and the closer “All Along the Watchtower” joined by Chris Squire and again with John. Also added for the second show was “Unquiet Slumbers for the Sleepers…In That Quiet Earth” followed by “Afterglow” from Wind and Wurthering and “Broadway Melody of 1974” from The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway. These were rewarding shows, though the shorter format let a bit of the steam out of the proceedings given the full sets on these tour dates have been more than twice as long. Still, amazing to see this master guitarist paying respects to his early work with Genesis.
Yes – After all, the cruise is named for these headliners. The shows were very much like the current tour – the band played all of Close to the Edge, and The Yes Album, at a reduced tempo, along with “America” and “Roundabout.” The slower pace for their original work allows one to see Steve Howe (guitar) and Chris Squire (bass) hit all their notes and I think works well for any frustrated musician or technically curious fan. Unfortunately the downside is it robs a bit of the immediacy from the work. One nice surprise, most notable to this listener, was just how strong a vocalist Jon Davidson has become – he nailed several very sustained perfect notes at just the right times to drive a bit more energy into the mix.
UK – John Wetton and Eddie Jobson were joined on stage by guitar and drums to make a four piece this time out. Both shows presented their debut album in it’s entirety, plus a bit of their second, Danger Money. Each show included a nice surprise – the band doing a faithful rendition of “Starless” from King Crimson’s Red (1974). Was great to see them again and this time with deft guitarist Alex Machacek who filled in Alan Holdsworth’s parts, often missed from the first tracks when not present. No photos were allowed for these shows.
Along with these headliners we were able to catch great sets by Patrick Moraz, Sound of Contact, Tangerine Dream, Renaissance, and Soft Machine. We missed Moon Safari and Stick Men who were also favorites on the ship, and a few other bands, but overall were able to take in as much music as I suppose was possible over the five days. Even caught a bit of the midnight movie – Paul Williams in Phantom of the Paradise on the pool deck – major cheese (!) – how could that have been any better? What an awesome experience the cruise was – think about saving up for next year. In the meantime, I think now that we are back on shore, to regain my Eustachian balance we will have to listen to something a bit less prog…. maybe the Beach Boys!