Tag Archives: ELO

Rockin’ Angels Interview

Jon Downes, editor of Gonzo Weekly interviewed me last week about my new book, Rockin’ the City of Angels. Here is the transcript, also up at GonzoWeekly.com:

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Tell us about the book

When I was a teenager (way back in the 1970s), I was lucky enough to be able to attend dozens of rock concerts staged in Los Angeles, (aka the City of Angels). Rock music was life to me, and probably due to 7 years of piano lessons I was in love with prog rock. My collection of records and concert tickets included Genesis, Yes, Jethro Tull, and Pink Floyd, along with what I felt were the highest quality rock bands like Zep, The Who, Queen, and Kansas. Music patronage became a lifelong passion for me. The concerts at that time were becoming amazing spectacles, with elaborate theatrical productions. As the lyrics were often as important as the music to me, the fact that many bands dramatized the themes of certain songs, or even whole concept albums made for artful theater.

I wrote this book as a “love letter” to rock musicians of the ‘70s— focused ultimately on the concerts and the films that captured them. I used only photos of the bands live in concert – no portraits. I wanted to show and tell the story of these concert performances from the standpoint of a fan, hoping a reader would relate to a guy who might have been a few seats down the row at these shows, who might have raved about what we just saw on the way home.

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As an example of a chapter, one covers the Genesis tour The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway. There are fantastic shots by Armando Gallo, a Melody-Maker cover showing Gabriel’s grotesque Slipperman costume, pages from the concert program, a ticket stub from the date at the Los Angeles Shrine auditorium, and sample frames from the film. The written material illuminates the album and tour, the special effects, and the film of the production’s slide show, which many fans might not realize exists (it’s on the 71-75 box set). This was a blueprint for all 36 bands covered.

How long has it taken to research and write?

At one level its taken 45 years of “field research,” record collecting, and study. But from the time I started writing and finding the photos it all took 2.5 years. I spent a lot of this time tracking down a selection of iconic photographs from around the world, sometimes digging through archives at agencies, others directly with the photographers of that day. I was fortunate to meet several of those photojournalists including Neal Preston, Armando Gallo, Neil Zlozower, and Lisa Tanner, who opened their archives for me at their studios or homes. I could not believe how many amazing shots exist that have never been seen by fans, shots that captured our musical heroes in their prime.

mccartneypaulwings_rockshowcover_72dpiAnother thing that took a lot of time was combing through more than 100 rock films from the decade, all part of my private collection. You and I know that TV appearances, professionally filmed 35mm movies—even celluloid left in the can for years, sometimes decades after light hit the film—are finally getting home video or streaming media release. I remember going to see many of these films at the local cinema that featured Led Zeppelin, Yes, AC/DC, Alice Cooper, Paul McCartney and Wings, and so many others. Now, just about every major band of the rock world can be seen performing live in one format or another, thanks to Eagle Rock Entertainment, Warner Home Video, and others who are helping to keep their legacies alive. I’m still that guy, the one who collects the high quality digital transfers available on media, rather than streaming them. Having said that, many of these films are available on streaming services like YouTube.

Were there any gigs you didn’t go to which you wished you had seen?

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Oh yeah! For each band I had to select what I think in retrospect was their finest hour –the best album and concert, and the best film covering that band, hopefully for that same tour. In the case for instance of Jethro Tull, I had not seen the Passion Play tour, but I knew through older friends and research that it would have been for me their best, and that is my favorite Tull record after all. Same with Genesis’ Lamb tour, though tribute band The Musical Box recreated it professionally just recently.

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In a few examples, I did not get to see the band in the ‘70s but instead did catch them later. Only three bands out of 36 eluded me completely. I was never inclined to see AC/DC (although I did enjoy the great film, Let There Be Rock!), and Happy The Man never toured the west coast (and, there is no film!). The worst mistake was missing the mighty Led Zeppelin. In the case of the Zep ‘77 tour, I loved Presence, and that was the concert to see, but I was instead booked to see Pink Floyd’s Animals concert just weeks before and budgets kept me from seeing more than one show every couple months.

What was the best gig you ever saw?

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All of that is in the Genesis family – I will never forget the Wind & Wuthering tour in 1977, and the first time I saw Peter Gabriel solo at the Roxy Theater the next year. But number one was Gabriel’s tour for his 4th album (also dubbed Security) which came early in the ‘80s – it’s a bit of a cheat as I cover that show in this “70s” book, but it’s really for me, the epilogue of the ‘70s decade. He absolutely stunned the audience and finally emerged on his own at the level of performance he had achieved while in his former band. Armando Gallo’s unbelievable shots give a very good idea of the drama. As there is literally no film of this seminal tour, we examine the So movie, particularly those songs he performed in the same way as that prior tour (like “Lay Your Hands On Me”).

Others in the top tier include Paul McCartney’s Wings Over America tour, Queen’s News of the World tour during which Freddie held the audience in complete awe, Kansas Point on Know Return featuring Steve Walsh giving the most physical performance I’ve ever seen, Dixie Dregs with their stunning virtuosity, Camel, ELO – so many incredible shows I will never forget. For the Floyd, while Animals was spectacular, I suffered a bit of “bad vibe” that night in the gi-hugic Anaheim Stadium, and it was eventually to be Roger Water’s restaging of the Wall this decade that became the ultimate live experience of that band’s music for me.

How did you go about the picture research?

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This was the most difficult part of the book’s production, hands down. Thank God for Google, but even with all the search engines in the world, it was amazingly difficult to find some of the photographers and shots that eventually did appear in the book. One snap alone, of Camel in concert with the London Symphony Orchestra on the night they recorded The Snow Goose together, took 7 months to find and it was sitting in the vaults at The Daily Mail, having also been recently unearthed by a researcher at PROG magazine (RIP). I never found shots of Ambrosia and Happy The Man until I actually reached a member from the band themselves, who had boxes “in the attic” with old shots and memorabilia. A lot of the shots in the book came from slides I was allowed to borrow and scan at Dickermans in San Francisco.

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Ambrosia’s David Pack, Joe Puerta

What is your next project?

TalkingHeads_SMSPoster_72dpiWell, this book was so expensive to produce that I have to sell all the copies I ordered during this year. Provided that happens, I will move to the next decade, sliding into the ‘80s with late ‘70s punk, then covering the era of New Wave music, including bands like Depeche Mode, The Cocteau Twins, Japan, Echo & The Bunnymen and so many others that were part of the second “British invasion!” I’m really looking forward to that as I’ve not seen any great ‘80s genre books that include what for me were the best bands of that decade with any kind of stunning photography.

Thank you to Jon Downes and his long time support of my work at GonzoWeekly.com

Hey ma, I got the cover!

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Best Rock Concerts of 2016

Best Rock Concerts of 2016

In a year that saw the sad loss of so many musical artists, entertainers and sports heroes, there was concurrently much to celebrate, as go on we must. For this patron, there were more than two-dozen amazing classic, progressive, or goth/new wave rock concerts by legendary artists, along with some fantastic shows from more recent bands that carry the torch of rock in all of its forms.

More than half of these bands can be found in my new book Rockin’ the City of Angels which I am happy to say is now available on Amazon here.

For this patron, the best of the year:

ARW (Anderson Rabin Wakeman), Yes, Rick Wakeman

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These are a holy trinity of artists that together comprise most of the core members of Yes. First up, Mr. Wakeman absolutely nailed his one-time performance of the King Arthur album redux at the O2 earlier this year, with orchestra, choir and narration. Then, the Steve Howe / Geoff Downes led version of Yes arrived to faithfully play renditions of half the double album Tales From Topographic Oceans paired with Drama, which sounded fantastic live. But the capper was seeing ARW who played Howe and Rabin era Yes music with a fever that brings a new appreciation to the work. It was a heartwarming, wonderful experience to see Jon Anderson so happy, and sounding as good as any night I’ve witnessed in over 20 years. This topped the year off in style.

Rockin’ the City of Angels during the Relayer/Solos tour:

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Steve Hackett, Sting/Gabriel

In the Genesis camp, while we wait for Phil, Mike and Tony to put something together, we always have Steve Hackett and Peter Gabriel as working musicians – the former working often, the latter not so much! Hackett has been absolutely on fire, both during his Genesis Revisited performances, and with his solo work. The night we saw him here in San Francisco at the Warfield was by far, and I am not padding here, the best show I’ve seen from him since Wind & Wuthering. His renditions of classic songs from the Genesis catalog, along with his first four albums, and newer work from Wolflight, have never been bested. He is my true prog hero. Gabriel went out with Sting this year, in a fun and pleasant show – different for him – I think both better on their own, but it was nice to see the camaraderie. Chills when Sting teased us with the first few bars of “Dancing With the Moonlit Knight.” Chills.

Rockin’ the City of Angels during the Lamb Lies Down on Broadway tour:

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The Cure

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The Cure on this year’s tour played crowd-pleasing set lists that changed each night, with a core of consistent selections from their most popular mid period work. The band played several tracks off Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me (1987), Disintegration (1989), which included career highlights “Lullaby,” “Fascination Street” and “Pictures of You,” about which my daughter says “If you wanted to play one song to someone who did not know The Cure’s music, this would be it – so sad but beautiful.” Truer words. The other featured album was Wish (1992) from which the band pulled off a most unexpected pleasure, set closer “End.” Leader Robert Smith’s uncanny way of putting words to music, making the sum of the two something more than its parts, awakening dread, a cry for help, and ultimately survival, even transcendence is unparalleled. And, fortunately for us, he is a survivor and, as seen this year in concert, he continues to thrive, in apparently good health and surprisingly strong voice.

Watch for The Cure in my next book, should this sell out!

 

David Gilmour

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Witnessing Gilmour rock and roll at the Hollywood Bowl was absolutely perfectly awesome (in the 70s we would have said, “bitchin!”) The lighting and sound was fantastic, the film projections, which were programmed to the contours of the stage’s bowl shaped awning, were amazing. And we had close up seats and the pleasure of attending with great company, photojournalist Armando Gallo and his wife Cheryl, which will forever be a special memory. On this night, Gilmour seemed on fire, grinding out his brand of searing guitar solos gracefully, matching his alternately gravelly and silky smooth voice. He absolutely owned the stage, and the moment, blowing away this crowd of Angelinos, young and old alike.

Rockin’ the City of Angels during The Wall tour:

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Photo (c) Brian Weiner / The Illusion Factory

 

LCD Soundsystem

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This band performed at San Francisco’s Outside Lands, August 5th, 2016 to an anxiously awaiting crowd, once again taking their place a the top of the electro-funk pantheon, delivering an explosive concert consisting of 14 tracks that were also played at their “farewell” concert five years ago at Madison Square Gardens, chronicled in the exceptional film Shut Up and Play the Hits (2011) and the live album Live at Madison Square Gardens. The music as presented was incredibly tight, each musician playing his or her part with aplomb. Their songs progress, contrapuntal lines are drawn, the beat is intensified, bass, guitar or treated electronics are added, until the drone or melody comes clear and captivating, and Murphy adds vocals, working his rich baritone, ultimately building into ecstatic abandon. This is the main recipe for the band, and it’s done wonders for space rock, afro funk, new wave and alt/indie bands past and present. See this band in 2017 if you possibly can.

 

ELO

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Seeing ELO last September 10, 2016, on the second of three sold-out nights at the Hollywood Bowl was like stepping back in time, as Lynne, band, and orchestra faithfully replicated every note of the original ELO compositions, along with a few newer tracks from Lynne’s most recent album. At around 80 minutes, incredibly, nearly every track on the set list was originally a hit or at least massively popular FM radio staple for ELO, including “Evil Woman,” “All Over the World,” “Livin’ Thing,” “Telephone Line,” “Turn to Stone” and on through seventeen songs, ending inevitably with “Roll Over Beethoven,” which as one would expect, highlighted the immense contribution of the Hollywood Bowl orchestra let by conductor Thomas Wilkins while fireworks lit the night sky.

Rockin’ the City of Angels during the Out of the Blue tour:

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Coldplay

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Coldplay brought their A Head Full Of Dreams Tour to our 49ers (Levi’s) stadium in Santa Clara, south of San Francisco this year, and they will be back in 2017. It was an amazing night of lights, confetti, stagecraft, and music, courtesy of Chris Martin and band. Followers of Coldplay take no issue with their often-sentimental lyrics and gut-wrenching delivery by heartthrob Martin. I’ve read some number of critics who are dismissive of this band and their music exclaiming, “There’s no crying in a rock concert!”. Fair enough, Coldplay’s songs veer towards “adult contemporary,” with few gritty guitar licks, in favor of acoustic guitar and piano. This is, after all the man who very publicly decided to undergo a “conscience uncoupling” with ex-wife Gwyneth Paltrow, then penned a song called “Fun” featuring the lyrical refrain “Didn’t we have fun” to honor what they had together. Very adult…and, excellent!

 

Adele

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We saw Adele this year, yes we did! It was truly amazing – what a talent. Her voice was in perfect shape. The songs she close spanned her catalog sounding as good as or better than the original studio versions. Adele generally stood in place, whether main or b stage, swaying or turning a bit while her image was projected on front and rear stage screens to get everyone in the audience a great view. What was unexpected for this uninitiated punter is just how personable and funny Adele is. She greeted fans warmly, even pulling one couple on stage for selfies. She told stories from different points in her career, often in a self-deprecating way that was very endearing. There was a lot of this between song chatter, but it never wore thin, particularly since so many of her tracks are melancholic, a fact Adele herself pointed out, admitting that a lot of her songs are depressing. Yet there were enough upbeat songs in the playlist, and between those and the banter, there was a celebratory air in the room.

 

The Who

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We caught the most recent, maybe last tour, of the Who, one which comes at the heels of the seminal band’s 50th anniversary, and wherein they ”play the hits.” The Who, after a delay a several months, made it to the Oakland Arena here in the San Francisco Bay Area last week on May 19, 2016. The delay was due to health issues with singer Roger Daltrey, which involve his voice, limiting his ability to sing on consecutive nights, causing quite a logistical challenge during the tour. The show was fabulous. Daltry is still in fantastic shape, a real inspiration for clean living and fitness! Townsend still hits his vocal marks and his guitar technique is immaculate. Though he understandably does not leap into the air as in times past, he still executes his windmill-arm attack on the frets mightily. And he has attitude to spare. We were lucky recipients!

Rockin’ the City of Angels during the Tommy tour:

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Photo (c) Neal Preston

 

Alice Cooper

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Of the many rock groups in the 70s that strove to stage a theatrical performance, Alice Cooper stands among those that invested significant time and energy in the pursuit. “We were trying to create something that hadn’t been done. And what hadn’t been done is nobody took the lyrics and brought them to life…. you use the stage as a canvas. It’s all vaudeville and burlesque” according to Cooper. The man brought his crack band, stage props, dancers and costumes to San Francisco this year. While much of the stagecraft has been presented consistently throughout the years, the show is amazingly well rehearsed yet still fresh — a sonic and visual success. Musically, this was a straight-on hard-rocking show, highlighting the chops of the band’s three guitarists, most notably L.A. resident Nita Strauss, whose searing solos and flowing blonde hair punctuated many of the most metal-laden tracks. Cooper sustained his own still-intact gravelly vocals from start to finish, enthralling the crowd as the well-fashioned master of macabre ceremonies. The set list was peppered with some deep cuts and many hits like “I’m Eighteen,” “School’s Out” and “No More Mr. Nice Guy,” along with encore “Elected” during which Cooper made a fairly good case for his election to U.S. President, as a third-party candidate fronting the “Wild Party.” If only he had actually run and won!

Rockin’ the City of Angels during the Welcome to my Nightmare tour:

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Bad Company

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Bad Company is one of the most important rock bands of the 1970s. They topped a hard rock core with silky smooth yet gritty production values, hooks galore, and pedigree in each musician. They are a band I had to, regrettably leave out of my upcoming book Rockin’ the City of Angels. The omission is due in large part to a few issues – most importantly that the book is a celebration of the outstanding concerts of the ‘70s including classic rock and prog bands, and I did not get to see them in concert until recently. This show, which included opener Joe Walsh, was absolutely amazing. Importantly Paul Rodgers has kept himself and his voice in perfect shape, and the band is as tight as ever, pinned down by Simon Kirke’s “rock steady” percussion. Catch this band while you can!

 

Roger Hodgson

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Roger Hodgson performed again this year in the states to audiences of adoring fans. Our show down at Coachella was a heart rending, spiritual journey through a bit of Hodgson’s fine solo work, topping a generous helping of the songs he wrote for the band Supertramp. Hodgson was in fine voice, still able to hit all those soaring high notes, and also waxing philosophical between the hits and deep cuts, which included four from my favorite, Crisis? What Crisis? He spoke plainly and warmly about the meaning of these songs, to him and to others, sometimes reading notes he’s received from fans or sharing his thoughts about how music can bring back memories, and heal troubled spirits. Truer words.

Rockin’ the City of Angels during the Breakfast in America tour

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Styx

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Styx is a Chicago based rock band that released nearly a dozen records from the start of their most enduring lineup in 1972, through 1983’s Kilroy Was Here. Three multi-talented singer-songwriters Dennis DeYoung (vocals, keyboards, accordion), Tommy Shaw (vocals, guitars), and James Young (vocals, guitars, keyboards), backed by brothers John Panozzo (drums) and Chuck Panozzo (basses) penned a dramatic blend of rock and pop that placed them in league with stateside brethren Kansas and Journey. This author caught the group on tour supporting the Pieces of Eight album on January 27 1978 at the Long Beach arena. It was an exciting, powerful presentation, featuring a tight performance that showcased the soaring vocal prowess and instrumental credentials of each principal musician. As of the time of this writing Shaw and Young represent Styx on annual tours while DeYoung tends to his solo career. We saw the Shaw/Young band this year and several times this decade and every time they were absolutely fantastic!

Rockin’ the City of Angels during the Pieces of Eight tour:

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Ambrosia

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The band Ambrosia was founded in southern California in the early 1970s. Today they would be best known for their most popular albums Life Beyond L.A., and One Eighty each including a mega-hit single, respectively “How Much I Feel” and “You’re The Only Woman (You & I).” These hits highlighted the group’s more melodic tendencies. However, their first two albums, and much of their unjustly overlooked fifth and final release Road Island would be best filed under the progressive rock heading. Ambrosia was back on tour this year, and we caught their exceptional show in Pleasanton, California on Saturday January 23rd. Last year we caught cofounder David Pack who also continues to perform solo shows amongst many other pursuits in the music business. These musicians remain at the top of their game, and it’s been amazing to see them perform again.

Rockin’ the City of Angels during the Somewhere I’ve Never Traveled tour:

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Special mention goes to Ian Anderson’s multi-media concert about the original Jethro Tull – very innovative use of filmed sequences which help with the vocals and storyline – and, I finally got to meet Ian, one of my musical heroes! Jethro Tull of course features in my book as well, focusing on their 1973 epic, A Passion Play!

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Other shows this year that were similarly fantastic included Bryan Ferry, Radiohead, The Specials, X, Ra Ra Riot, American Football, Beach House, St. Germain, Album Leaf and Steven Wilson, who made a final victory lap in support of Hand.Cannot.Erase. All in all a big year for live music!

 

Electric Light Orchestra’s Summer Bash

elo2016_bow_144dpiElectric Light Orchestra (ELO) was an enduring British band that deftly combined orchestral instrumentation and infectious pop rock. Founder Jeff Lynne was principal writer and producer, leading the band through several incarnations, all influenced by The Beatles, Chuck Berry and other rock pioneers. From 1972 to 1986 ELO racked up more than a dozen top 20 songs on UK and US charts. Now billed as Jeff Lynne’s ELO they have been back out on the road with Lynne up front, long time band member and arranger Richard Tandy on keyboards and a crack group of musicians and vocalists, including Lynne’s daughter, as backup.

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Seeing the new ensemble September 10, 2016, on the second of three sold-out nights at the Hollywood Bowl was like stepping back in time, as Lynne, band, and orchestra faithfully replicated every note of the original ELO compositions, along with a few newer tracks from Lynne’s most recent album. At around 80 minutes, incredibly, nearly every track on the set list was originally a hit or at least massively popular FM radio staple for ELO, including “Evil Woman,” “All Over the World,” “Livin’ Thing,” “Telephone Line,” “Turn to Stone” and on through seventeen songs, ending inevitably with “Roll Over Beethoven,” which as one would expect, highlighted the immense contribution of the Hollywood Bowl orchestra let by conductor Thomas Wilkins while fireworks lit the night sky. Highlights for this fan included “Mr. Blue Sky” during which original Tandy mouthed the refrain on an original or sound-alike vocorder, and “Wild West Hero,” a suite that always showed off their more creative side.

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Lynne has never been much of an extrovert onstage. Going right back to the band’s beginnings he stands in place, letting the music and his clear vocals communicate his message, saying almost nothing between tracks save for brief salutations. In fact, original band members who are no longer part of the group, including long time partner Roy Wood, along with violin and cello players were the most physical performers, accentuating the music back in the day. Today a lot of the expression falls to always-upbeat bass guru Lee Pomeroy and a couple of the other current players who are inclined. To augment this, the staging has always been and continues to be spectacular. The band made extensive use of unique lighting including then-emerging laser lights, and they continue in this tradition today. The stage at the Bowl, with its semi-oval canopy, lighting rig, front projections and fireworks, as seen recently when Pink Floyd’s David Gilmour played there, offer an opportunity to masterfully present these impressive lighting and visuals. It’s an entertainment on its own-threatening to but not rendering music as accompaniment to the spectacle. Instead, Lynne’s ELO with orchestra gave us a perfect show, leaving the audience enthralled long after the last notes faded.

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For this short tour, Lynne scheduled a mere five nights in Los Angeles and New York. They play Wembley in London next year – the only scheduled appearance I see for now. In my view, this would be worth a trip over the pond or for Brits, into crowded London for an evening of strange magic!

 

Lee Pomeroy’s Progressive Journey

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Lee Pomeroy with Rick Wakeman

Lee Pomeroy is a multi-instrumentalist; composer, producer and band member or session bass guitarist for the likes of Headspace, It Bites, Take That, Gary Barlow, ELO and others. Lee’s work as live performer includes tours with some of the top progressive rock acts in the world, hailing back to classic era stars such as Steve Hackett (Genesis), Three Friends (Gentle Giant), and Rick Wakeman’s English Rock Ensemble. This means that besides his own fabulous compositions, Lee has performed work originally developed by the likes of Michael Rutherford (Genesis), Ray Shulman (Gentle Giant) and Roger Newell (Rick Wakeman) – some illustrious company! He plays the original progressive masterworks from these artists faithfully and with technical mastery, but also with feeling – bringing his own unique interpretation and infectious energy and enthusiasm. Seeing him perform live is a marvelous experience.

I reached out to Lee recently to find out more about his work, and what’s coming next for his career.

Lee what led to your abiding interest in progressive rock?

I think I was drawn to progressive rock because of my two older brothers who used to play records that I would end up hearing and I think it just settled in my brain at a young age. They didn’t only play prog rock though, they’d play heavy rock, pop, reggae, jazz, classical and electronic music too so I grew up liking Bowie, Be Bop Deluxe, Stevie Wonder, The Beatles, The Zombies, Argent, Bob Marley, Genesis, Yes, Gary Numan, Ultravox, The Police, The Jam, Billy Cobham, Steve Hackett, Thomas Dolby etc…..

Last year I was witness to two shows that featured Lee as bassist – the one-off Rick Wakeman charity gig at Cheltenham, where most of Journey to the Center of the Earth and Myths and Legends of King Arthur were played with orchestra and choir.

Lee, far right, with Rick Wakeman
Lee, far right, with Rick Wakeman

Lee, what can you tell us about that show? Had you been able to play with the band and full orchestra and choir before this?

The Rick Wakeman shows in Cheltenham last year were really good fun. We had played with orchestras many times before so it wasn’t a learning curve this time around. I love Rick’s band because we have a real hoot and we play our arses off for two and a half hours. It’s always good fun being out with the ERE. John Noyce did the Six Wives shows in 2011 because I was on tour with Take That so I asked him as he’s a mate and brilliant player who understands that music. He played in Jethro Tull for about 15 years so he was just the right man for the job. In fact he’s now doing the Three Friends gig for me as I’m always away when they’re playing. I recommended him to Malcolm Mortimore and Gary Green and he’s doing an unbelievable job there too.

The second concert was as rare – a chance to see Steve Hackett play his Genesis Revisited show at London’s Royal Albert Hall – which is now available on a superb DVD release. Lee brought his chops to the bass, twelve string guitar, pedals and all the rest it took to create the sounds from recordings dating from 1971-1976.

Lee, one of the things that stood out for me at that show is how much fun you seemed to be having – do you find yourself being the guy that’s lightening the mood when things get stressful?

Lee right, with Steve Hackett
Lee right, with Steve Hackett

The Steve Hackett tour last year for the Genesis Revisited album was the literally a dream come true for me. Genesis are my favorite band of all time, especially the Gabriel era, so that’s why I had a permanent grin plastered over my face for the whole tour. I was into Steve’s music (Spectral Mornings, Defector, Cured, Highly Strung) before I got into Genesis so to stand on stage with the man himself really was and is a boyhood dream come true. He’s the nicest, most caring person you could wish to meet too – I love him. The whole band are brilliant too, they’re a real clever bunch too so I always come back off tour far more knowledgeable than when I went away.

Watching you play Mike Rutherford’s parts, I was struck by their complexity, particularly during the Selling England by the Pound tracks – yet Mike was pretty demure in his autobiography about his skills and this album. What are your thoughts about Mike’s playing on these and other Genesis compositions?

I’ve always loved Mike Rutherfords’ playing both on guitar and bass and this took my respect for him to another level. He has the most brilliant independence between his hands and feet so when he’s playing bass pedals he’s also switching in effects and adjusting his volume. In fact I got so good at it that I was able to add in some vocals that he could never get to and I also added in a moving bass pedal sequence that he’s played on the album version of The Musical Box but never did live. I do those things for all of the fans that come along because I’m a fan too and I hope it gives them the same thrill as I get when I’m playing those things.

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Lee on double-neck with John Wetton singing Firth of Fifth

What preparations were needed and what impact did the use of double-necked guitar have for you – was this a new feat?

The double-neck was a real challenge but it was a challenge I’d wanted all my musical life and I leapt at it with all guns blazing. When you have to play bass then switch to 12-string all while playing bass pedals and sometimes even singing you expand your own abilities massively, so now it’s not such a hardship to come back to. It’s almost like a dance that you learn: switch that switch and play that pedal note, turn the volume down while still playing bass pedals then sing that bit while switching back to bass!! It’s crazy bit it’s fantastic fun.

I know you played for a time with Three Friends (former members of Gentle Giant) but there is scant information available about their activities. What are your thoughts about playing in their style and for those shows?

Gary Green of Gentle Giant
Gary Green of Gentle Giant

Three Friends is a great band to play in. Gentle Giant are another of my favourite band and Ray Shulman is one of the most gifted bass players I’ve ever heard. His timing and his accuracy are second to none and he can play things on bass that leave you scratching your head and wondering how on earth did he do that. Gary Green is another wonderfully gifted player who has a childlike playful energy on stage that’s so infectious that it fires you up. He’s another lovely man who just is so warm and friendly but also really funny. I hope to do some more shows with them at some point but I’m not sure when that’ll be.

Headspace is a progressive metal band with Lee along with Adam Wakeman, Damian Wilson (Landmarq/Threshold vocalist), Pete Rinaldi (bass) and Rick Brook (drums). They release an EP followed by a debut album I Am Anonymous in 2012. The music is textured and dense, highlighted by tight metal riffs and Damian’s clear sustained vocals.

Lee_HeadspaceHeadspace is a band I’ve been in since 2005 and it’s great fun to play with those guys. I got to know Adam Wakeman in 2000 when he was producing and playing on a Yes tribute record and a mutual friend of ours recommended me as a bassist because I knew all of the Yes material. He called me and we got together and started working and got on like a house on fire. He then recommended me to his dad Rick for a tour and that’s how I got started with Rick.

Headspace came about in 2005 when Adam worked with our guitarist Pete Rinaldi and asked him about putting a band together. Pete said yes and then Adam called me, Damian Wilson and Richard Brook to see if we wanted in as we’d all worked together with Rick. And that was it. The lads in the band are such a laugh and we spend more time laughing and taking the mick out of each other than we do rehearsing.

What was your experience with Headspace when they toured opening up for Ozzy Ozbourne?

The Ozzy shows in 2007 were great fun. We’d just released an EP entitled ‘I Am…..’ and wanted to promote it. Adam Wakeman plays with Ozzy and with Black Sabbath and when Sharon Osbourne heard our music she invited to come and open three UK shows. It was Ozzy, Black Label Society and us. We were on first but the audience each night didn’t know that we were on the shows. So when the lights went down the crowd began to cheer because they thought Black Label Society were coming on. When we walked instead there was a chorus of “Who the $#%& hell are you?!?!” which was a bit nerve-wracking!! We soldiered on though and eventually they started to listen to us and we gained quite a lot of new fans from those shows. In Dublin, they were throwing 1 euro coins at us at the start of the gig. These were smacking into our guitars and bouncing off but at the end of the gig they gave us a massive applause, plus we earned about 50 euros as a tip! We are in the process of making a follow up album to our ‘I Am Anonymous’ album of 2012. It should be out early in 2015.

lee_ELO_posterBBC Radio 2’s “Festival in a Day” was held in Hyde Park on 14 September 2014, and Lee played bass backing Jeff Lynne’s ELO with the BBC Concert Orchestra with Gary Barlow’s band. There are now rumors that Jeff will agree to stage an ELO tour in 2015.

Lee – what can you tell us about the ELO show and the potential for a tour?

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Lee (w/cool Giant Giant t-shirt) with Jeff and crew

The ELO show was absolutely incredible. The whole band were all huge ELO fans so we were completely wallowing in the glory of that music. It was one of the best gigs I’ve ever been a part of and the crowd were so full of love for Jeff that we could really feel that energy coming toward us. I’ll never forget it. In terms of an ELO tour, nothing has been said as yet so I guess it’s just wait and see what Jeff wants to do. I do know he had a great time though and he was really floored by the crowd reaction.

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Lee with the ERE, second from right

What’s up for you as we close out 2014 – what do you have booked?

I’m currently rehearsing with Take That again for a promo for their new album that is released next week. In 2015 I shall be doing a very big Take That tour – 37 British shows and then off to Europe and other places. The Take That shows are a real spectacle. Incredible lights and special effects, loads of dancers and set changes and even the odd 50 foot tall crying robot or giant elephant! So it’s more of a multi-media spectacle than a gig. Gary’s tour is a proper gig where as Take That is a show.

I’m also stepping back into the Hackett band in February for some South American dates.

Here’s hoping for more chance to see Lee this coming year plying his trade as one of our most prolific and accomplished musicians.

LEE’S DESERT ISLAND DISCS 

Lee_desertislandLee says, “Here’s a list of 10 albums I love. They are not necessarily my absolute top ten but these spring to mind at the moment. I’m including just one album per artist just for the sake of variety!”

Nursery Cryme – Genesis
Fragile – Yes
Moving Pictures – Rush
Acquiring The Taste – Gentle Giant
Discipline – King Crimson
Telekon – Gary Numan
Gentlemen Take Polaroids – Japan
The Hounds Of Love – Kate Bush
On Land And In The sea – Cardiacs
One Of A Kind – Bill Bruford