Yes Transcends

Asia Opening
Asia Opening

Finally!  After a year of uncertainty about the future of Yes, I am pleased to report here that the show last night at the Warfield theater in San Francisco exceeded my expectations making the long wait worthwhile.  Asia opened and played a set list that included several songs from their debut, two tracks from the followup, and one from the most recent release. Group members presented something from their past –  John Wetton (King Crimson/In the Court of the Crimson King), Geoff Downes (The Buggles/Video Killed the Radio Star), and Carl Palmer (ELP/Fanfare for the Common Man), each representing a bit of the the history of their 1970’s bands.  While Asia was always this “progressive supergroup gone pop”, their work was pleasent, powerful and certainly less angular than their predecessors.  John Wetton is one of my favorite vocalists and he delivered with accurate, clear vocals throughout the show – awesome and unexpected after all these years.

When Yes took the stage for the opening track, “Siberian Khatru”, any fears that this ensemble would have troubles melted away.  This first track would be a litmus test for any band, given the complex interlocking passages and strong harmonies. This band showed right away that they are up to the task, as Chris Squire (bass), Steve Howe (guitars), and Alan White (drums) played as well as I have seen, and seemed to enjoy themselves during the almost two hour set. Though this music calls for precision timing and accuracy, the band kept a the slight looseness to some passages which added to the experience.  The only minor complaint for me is that while Oliver covered his father’s material (and Geoff/Tony) faithfully, he never really stood out in the mix, but that has been a common affliction of Yes keyboard players other than Rick Wakeman.

Siberian Khatru
Siberians

Most important was the question – would the absence of lead singer Jon Anderson, the zen center of Yes, render the show a lesser form?  Would the emotional integrity of the experience be intact?  Covering for Jon Anderson is even more difficult than what we have seen with other ’70’s acts such as Alan Parsons, Journey, Foreigner, Boston, etc. because Jon is so much part of the fabric of the whole Yes experience.  The main reason most of us love this band is simple, and goes beyond exceptional musicianship and compositions – its that when Yes hits it marks, we are taken somewhere on a transcendent journey, getting in touch with an energy outside ourselves.  The band construct these intense, chaotic passages, which build, and then shift into the most angelic, harmonic major-chord-based resolves imaginable.  Jon seems at the heart of this journey, embodying his spiritual lyrics – often obtuse, but imparting radiant, positive messages.  When this is presented properly in a live concert setting, the results are powerful.  On this night, of course we missed seeing Jon himself, but even without him in this lineup, all was well in the Yes universe.

The current vocalist Benoit David has Continue reading Yes Transcends

Ozric Tentacles Indescribable at the Independent

The Ozrics Live
The Ozrics Live

How many adjectives does it take to describe a band’s sound? Defining the sound of instrumental band Ozric Tentacles could take a couple dozen, but might best be summarized as “psychedelic-hippy-jam-trance-reggae-space-rock.” More to the point, listening to a track from the 2000 release “The Hidden Step,” my son Aidan described them as “Arabian porn music!” In reality, the Ozrics mix jazz-fusion, reggae/dub, and space-rock forms with eastern flavored trance/ambient, sequencers and sound effects, creating a unique brew that is truly their own. Listen to the track “Sunhair” from 1993’s “Jurassic Shift” and you will know instantly if this music is for you. If it is, you will find more than 25 varied and rewarding album releases to explore.

Ed Wynne
Ed Wynne

Last Wednesday night, May 27, 2009 at the Independent, founding member guitarist-synth player Ed Wynne led what is now a four piece band through a cosmic three hour set. The set list included several earlier tracks, such as “Saucers” from 1991’s “Stangeitude” (a personal favorite) which Ed played on acoustic guitar.  These identifiable tracks were needed to balance the more jam-band oriented excursions, and I would have preferred more of them, particularly in the second half of the show. During many of these segments the keyboards were too far back in the mix, robbing the sound of some of the more trance-inspired bits. Still it was an amazing set, and very effectively showcased new material from 2009’s superb “The Yum Yum Tree“.

This unique band Continue reading Ozric Tentacles Indescribable at the Independent

Keane at the Fox

The band live
The band live

Keane is one of the few current bands I know whose sound is piano and keyboard driven, bursting on the scene in 2004 with their instant classic “Hopes and Fears“.  Keyboard player Tim Rice-Oxley is dynamic and assertive in concert, rocking his electric piano back and forth as he emphasizes the power chords that drive such hits as “Somewhere Only We Know”. Singer Tom Chaplin is one of the more expressive vocalists on the stage today, unafraid to be demonstrative and emotive as he puts every bit of energy into his soaring vocals. Only drummer Richard Hughes hangs Continue reading Keane at the Fox

Six Wives Live, Live!

Rick at the castle in pink
Magnificent!

Seeing Rick Wakeman perform “The Six Wives of Henry the VIII” this month with symphony, choir, and band was easily one of the top three concert experiences of my life.  A bit of background:

On a rainy day in 1974 one of my crowd’s older friends came down to our hangout with two records that would come to shape my musical tastes forever.  One was Jethro Tull’s “Aqualung”, and the second was Rick Wakeman’s “Journey to the Centre of the Earth”.  We sat transfixed by these exhilarating albums and in particular Rick’s “Journey” sounded fantastic, mystical, as a perfect blend of rock and classical music.  My record collection began when I ran out and acquired these two releases along with Continue reading Six Wives Live, Live!

First Taste

my dad
my dad

I have been a dedicated fan of music from the time I was three years old. I still have a copy of the Beatles record, “Rubber Soul” that I played repeatedly as a child, sneaking into my sister’s room to use the record player. At that early age I became a complete Anglophile. Ten years later, I was spinning anything out of Britain from the progressive rock acts of the time, including Jethro Tull, Yes, and so on – top ten 70’s list here. The “new wave” movement hit in the late 70’s and early 80’s and I was then again hooked on all types of creative bands such as Depeche Mode, Cocteau Twins, and others that mixed fashion, electronics and lots of attitude – top ten 80’s list here. My horizons expanded a bit from the 90’s on. For me, women saved the 90’s between Tori, Fiona, Natalie and other similar artists – top ten 90’s list here. The new millennium has my ever expanding collection taking up lots of disk space with music as rich and varied as any that has come before. Through each of these decades, I have played music, collected music, and attended live performances as frequently as possible. I would define myself as a music “aficionado”.

Photo on 1-29-15 at 8.56 AM #2
Me, in 2015

Since 2013, I’ve been a columnist for Gonzo Weekly magazine in Britain covering primarily progressive, alternative and other forms of artistic rock. I also own and operate Diego Spade Productions and am working on my first book about the theatricality and artistry of progressive and classical rock music.  Additionally I teach and am on advisory councils related to my prior career in information sciences.  Hope you enjoy these posts, and please do comment to let me know.  Doug

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