Adrian Belew Power Trio – Live at The Mod Club, Toronto

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As The Adrian Belew Power Trio enters its last week of a mammoth 50 date North American and European tour, I caught the band at The Mod Club in Toronto. Words and pictures by Tim Darbyshire.

After playing The Mod Club in late 2014, Adrian Belew made a welcome return to the Mod Club last night, ably supported as ever by Julie Slick on bass and Tobias Ralph on drums.  Adrian and co treated the enthusiastic crowd to an eclectic mix of solo material and King Crimson numbers throughout the two hour show split over two sets.

Adrian Belew famously fronted legendary progressive band King Crimson for 30 years – unfortunately he’s not part of the current touring King Crimson – as well as working with such luminaries as Talking Heads, David Bowie, Frank Zappa and Nine Inch Nails to name but a few. The innovative guitar virtuoso sprinkled the Crimson content liberally throughout the two sets, including crowd favourites ‘Frame By Frame’, ‘Elephant Talk’, ‘Dinosaur’, ‘Neurotica’, ‘Heartbeat’, “One Time’, ‘Three of a Perfect Pair’ and finishing the second set with a rousing rendition of ‘Thela Hun Ginjeet’.

The chemistry on stage between the three talented musicians was great to see, clearly they were all enjoying themselves. Using guitar effects and looping phrases, Belew and the band build up an impressive crescendo of sound for just three performers. I’m not normally one for drum solos, but Tobias Ralph proved the exception to the rule with a precise and powerful display towards the end of the first set.

The solo material was as enjoyable, if less familiar – and the balance of old and new seemed about right. Songs ‘A’, ‘B’, ‘E’ and ‘Beat Box Guitar’ allowed more room for expression and improvisation. Hopefully Adrian will return before too long as the performance was at times mesmerising and always entertaining.

2017 is another busy year for the extended King Crimson family. In addition to the Adrian Belew Power Trio, Toronto will see King Crimson play Massey Hall on July 5th, and Stick Men (featuring current  members Tony Levin and Pat Mastelotto) playing at The Garrison on August 27th. These are shows not to be missed!

 

 

Steve Hackett – Live at The Oakville Centre, 2nd March 2017

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Steve Hackett made a welcome to Canada this week for a show at The Oakville Centre For The Performing Arts in Ontario. This was the penultimate performance of the North American leg of Steve’s  new ‘Genesis Revisited with Classic Hackett’ 2017 tour.

Review and photos by Tim Darbyshire

This was Steve Hackett’s fifth appearance at The Oakville Centre in just over three years and it’s always a pleasure to see him and his band play here. There’s not a bad seat in the house and the sound is always crystal clear in this compact 470 seat venue.  Despite being a frequent visitor, this year’s set list was very different to last year’s, such is the quality of Steve’s solo back catalogue as well as the depth of his work with Genesis.

This tour sees him showcasing new material from his as yet unreleased new studio album ‘The Night Siren’ (out later this month on Inside Out) as well as celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Genesis classic ‘Wind And Wuthering’.

The first half of the set focussed on the new material, including ‘In The Skeleton Gallery’ and ‘Behind The Smoke’ interspersed with some classic solo Hackett songs such as ‘Every Day’,  ‘The Steppes’ and ‘Shadow Of The Hierophant’.  ‘Hierophant’ ended the first part of the set with a climactic crescendo including Nick Beggs sitting cross-legged on the stage pounding his bass pedals with his fists.

Without having yet heard the ‘The Night Siren’, the songs played tonight seem to indicate that the new album is carrying on the Hackett tradition of a multicultural cross-genre collaborative approach, in a similar vein to 2015’s ‘Wolflight’, with many guest musicians from around the world. Rob Townsend (wind instruments) certainly proved his mettle on the newer songs with an impressive display and a variety of styles.

The second half concentrated on the ‘Wind And Wuthering’ album – ‘Eleventh Earl Of Mar’, ‘Blood On The Rooftops’ (with drummer Gary O’Toole providing the vocals), ‘In That Quiet Earth’, ‘Afterglow’ – and other familiar Genesis classics including ‘Firth of Fifth’ and ‘Dancing With The Moonlit Knight’.  Nad Sylvan once again handles the vocals for the Genesis material and seems to be developing his own style with the songs more and more.  Roger King plays Tony Banks’ keyboard parts effortlessly – including the notoriously tricky piano intro to ‘Firth Of Fifth’.  The major surprise of the night was the inclusion of ‘Supper’s Ready’ for the first time on this tour (at the expense of ‘One For The Vine’, ‘Dance On A Volcano’ and ‘Inside And Out’). With Steve and his band due to play ‘Supper’s Ready’ with the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra the following night, I guess it’s not surprising they felt like giving it an outing. The appreciative audience was treated to ‘The Musical Box’ as the encore.

Backed as ever by his highly talented band (including the returning bassist Nick Beggs), Steve Hackett and co once again delivered a stellar performance lasting over two hours. Seeing Steve up close and playing the solo in ‘Firth of Fifth’ will always be a highlight of the show for me.

Touring continues in Europe in late March, April and May in Europe and the UK.  Steve seems to be currently on a two year new album/new tour cycle  – if so, hopefully he’ll return to Canada/North America next year when he is rumoured to be playing the Montreal and Quebec areas.

Set List – Steve Hackett, The Oakville Centre – 2nd March

Every Day
El Nino
Out of The Body
The Steppes
In The Skeleton Gallery
Behind The Smoke
Shadow Of The Hierophant (closing section)
Eleventh Earl Of Mar
Blood On The Rooftops
…In That Quiet Earth
Afterglow
Dancing With The Moonlit Knight
Firth of Fifth
Supper’s Ready

Encore
The Musical Box

Steve Hackett: Guitars, Vocals
Nad Sylvan: Vocals
Nick Beggs: Bass
Roger King: Keyboards
Gary O’Toole: Drums
Rob Townsend: Wind Instruments

Click here to read my review of Steve’s performance with The Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra on March 3rd

Click here to read my interview with Steve Hackett, discussing ‘The Night Siren’

Steve Hackett – Live at Kleinhans Music Hall Buffalo with Philharmonic Orchestra, 3rd March 2017

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Steve Hackett wrapped up the North American leg of the ‘Genesis Revisited with Classic Hackett’ 2017 tour in Buffalo with a special one-off  show of predominantly Genesis songs with the Buffalo Symphony Orchestra at Kleinhans Music Hall – an event not to be missed.

Review and photos by Tim Darbyshire.

After months of detailed planning with conductor Bradley Thachuk of the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, it was finally time to see Steve Hackett and band fuse classic Genesis material with a full orchestra.  There was a tangible sense of expectation as the audience filtered into the grand concert hall with the orchestra already seated and tuning up.

Seating 2400, Kleinhans is renowned for its excellent acoustics and as the band kicked off with ‘Dance On A Volcano’ it was clear we were in for a special evening. The orchestra added texture and colour, filling spaces normally occupied by Roger King’s lush keyboard sounds. Steve seemed to be playing with a permanent smile on his face, although the most animated person on stage was conductor Bradley Thachuk who was clearly having the time of his life.

The strong positive vibe continued throughout the show as Steve mixed full on Genesis classics such as ‘Firth of Fifth’, ‘Dancing With The Moonlit Knight’ and ‘Supper’s Ready’ with more subtle solo numbers which highlighted the orchestral contribution like ‘The Steppes’ and ‘Serpentine Song’. The rapturous applause after the set closer ‘Supper’s Ready’ was long lasting as the band and orchestra soaked up the sell out crowd’s appreciation. The band minus orchestra returned to the stage and finished the tour with a rousing version of ‘The Musical Box’.

Steve has of course been playing Genesis material on tour for the last four years, but having been influenced in so many ways by classical music this rare opportunity to play with the orchestra was one he clearly relished. Although not playing at the same volume as a regular gig,  Steve’s band delivered a superb performance as ever and special mention must go to the sound engineer Ben Fenner for giving us the perfect blend of electric band and orchestra.

I’m sure relief was among the emotions displayed at the end of the two hour show due to the nature of this one-off performance. Hopefully it’s an experiment Steve will be able to repeat again in the near future.

Setlist – Steve Hackett at Kleinhans Music Hall, Buffalo:

Set 1:
Dance On A Volcano
Out of The Body
The Steppes
Firth of Fifth
Dancing With The Moonlit Knight
Blood On The Rooftops
Shadow Of The Hierophant (closing section)

Set 2:
….In That Quiet Earth
Afterglow
Serpentine Song
Supper’s Ready

Encore:
The Musical Box

The 2017 Touring band:

Steve Hackett: Guitars, Vocals
Nad Sylvan: Vocals
Nick Beggs: Bass
Roger King: Keyboards
Gary O’Toole: Drums
Rob Townsend: Wind instruments

and The Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Bradley Thachuk.

Click here to read my review of Steve’s performance in Oakville the night before.

Click hear to read my interview with Steve Hackett, discussing ‘The Night Siren’.

Big Big Train – Live Album ‘A Stone’s Throw From The Line’

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Recorded at the band’s sold out shows at London’s Kings Place in August 2015, ‘A Stone’s Throw From The Line’ documents Big Big Train’s return to the live stage after a 17 year absence. Review and photos by Tim Darbyshire.

Recorded over three nights (August 14th – 16th), each song performed over the three night residency is represented here, in the order they were played on this double cd. Such was the success of Big Big Train’s return to the live arena that they were awarded Prog Magazine’s prestigious ‘Live Event of the Year’ award.

Since the addition of vocalist David Longdon and drummer Nick D’Virgillo in 2009, Big Big Train have seen a welcome upturn in their fortunes. ‘The Underfall Yard’ (2009) and ‘English Electric Part One/Part Two’ (2012/13) have helped to expose the band to a wider audience. In 2014 it was decided they would plan for some live gigs, so the band assembled at Peter Gabriel’s Real World studios – some of them meeting each other for the first time – to see how their complex studio arrangements translated to the live environment. (This was captured on the 2016 blu-ray ‘Stone And Steel’).

Live, the band comprises founding members Greg Spawton (bass, backing vocals) and Andy Poole (guitars, bass, keyboards) along with  Danny Manners (keyboards, double bass, backing vocals), David Longdon (lead vocals, flute, banjo, percussion), Rikard Sjöblom (guitars, keyboards, backing vocals), Nick D’Virgilio (drums, backing vocals),  Dave Gregory (guitars, piano, backing vocals) and Rachel Hall (violin, backing vocals).  An additional five piece brass ensemble brings the number of musicians on stage up to a healthy thirteen! (Dave Desmond – trombone, Ben Godfrey – trumpet and cornet, Nick Stones – french horn,  John Storey – euphonium and Mike Poyser – tuba).

The setlist is not surprisingly dominated by songs from ‘English Electric’ (2012/13) and ‘The Underfall Yard’ (2009).  ‘Wassail’ from the then unreleased ‘Folklore’ also gets an outing.  Big Big Train are quintessentially English and take us on a two hour plus story-telling journey pinned by the epic ‘The Underfall Yard’ and the spectacular ‘East Coast Racer’. The musicianship is exemplary, providing the perfect backdrop for David Longdon’s passionate vocal performance. The band thrill their audiences with an eclectic array of dazzling melodies (‘Hedgerow’), crazy rhythms and time signatures  (‘Judas Unrepentant’) and soaring emotional songs (‘Curator Of Butterflies’), fully utilising the wide sound palette available to them.

The sound quality of the live recording is very good of course – recorded and mixed by long time band collaborator Rob Aubrey – and it’s a given that any Big Big Train fan should buy this release. As an introduction to the band though, I’d recommend ‘English Electric’ (recently remastered and repackaged), for the full lush studio experience.

Since these concerts, the band have released ‘Folklore’ – which is many people’s album of 2016 – and have announced three shows for late September 2017 at London’s Cadogan Hall, and at the time of writing some tickets remain for the last show.

The album comes in a gloss, laminated soft pack with a 40-page booklet and maintains the standard of high quality presentation we’ve come to expect from Big Big Train.

‘A Stone’s Throw From The Line’ is available now from The Merch Desk  and Burning Shed

Full track listing:

CD1
Make Some Noise
The First Rebreather
The Underfall Yard
Uncle Jack
Victorian Brickwork
CD2
Kingmaker
Wassail
Summoned By Bells
Judas Unrepentant
Curator Of Butterflies
East Coast Racer
Hedgerow

 

 

 

Steven Wilson – Roseland Theater, Portland – 3rd November 2016

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The final leg of Steven Wilson’s extended 2016 ‘Hand.Cannot.Erase’ Tour has reached the US. I caught the band at the first date at Roseland Theater in Portland, Oregon on Steven Wilson’s 49th birthday. Words and pictures by Tim Darbyshire.

In front of an expectant sell out crowd, birthday boy Steven Wilson and band delivered an expansive three hour set encompassing his whole solo career as well as delving into the Porcupine Tree back catalogue. The first set consisted of the entire ‘Hand.Cannot.Erase’ album. ‘Hand.Cannot.Erase’ was many people’s album of 2015, and it was a privilege to hear it performed again in full.

Instantly it’s evident just how good Steven Wilson’s band are. From the jazz tinged keyboard runs of Adam Holzman to the power and precision of 2016’s Drummer of the Year Craig Blundell, the smooth fluid guitar work of Dave Kilminster and the multi-talented stick man Nick Beggs, all are performing at the top of their game, complimenting without over shadowing main man Steven Wilson.

‘Hand.Cannot.Erase’ is a consistent album full of highlights. ‘3 Years Older’ begins proceedings like an unstoppable train, followed by the title track which is almost a catchy pop song in comparison, contrasting with the beatiful ‘Perfect Life’ and the powerful and emotionally moving ‘Routine’. ‘Home Invasion’ and ‘Regret #9’ offer Adam Holzman and Dave Kilminster the chance to shine, and before we know it, the heavy ‘Ancestral’ and uplifting ‘Happy Returns’ have brought the first set to a close.

The second set blended tracks from 2016’s ‘4 1/2’ – an interim mini album consisting of ‘orphaned’ songs from the ‘Hand.Cannot.Erase’ and ‘The Raven That Refused To Sing’ sessions as well as a reworking of the Porcupine Tree song ‘Dark Matter’ – and SW’s earlier solo releases, with a smattering of Porcupine Tree offerings.  The familiar curtain is dropped in front of the stage as the set closes with a barnstorming duo of ‘Vermillioncore’ and ‘Sleep Together’. The triple encore is brought to a close with ‘The Raven That Refused To Sing’, which is described by Wilson as the best song he has ever written.

Visually of course Steven Wilson delivers a stunning spectacle with large screens and effective lighting. The stage at The Roseland Theater however is quite small meaning the full effect of the spectacle is occassionally lost. The video to ‘Routine’ remains as moving as ever…..

What’s next for man of the moment Steven Wilson? He’s heading back to the studio after this tour to work on material for his eagerly awaited fifth studio album, the follow up to ‘Hand.Cannot.Erase’. Let’s hope the results are with us sooner rather than later and he returns with a new tour at some point in 2017.

Steven Wilson – vocals, guitar, bass, keyboards
Adam Holzman – keyboards
Craig Blundell – drums
Dave Kilminster – guitars
Nick Beggs – bass, stick, guitar, keyboards

 

First Set: Hand.Cannot.Erase.
First Regret
3 Years Older
Hand. Cannot. Erase.
Perfect Life
Routine
Home Invasion
Regret #9
Transience
Ancestral
Happy Returns
Ascendant Here On…

Second Set
Dark Matter
Index
My Book of Regrets
Lazarus
Harmony Korine
Don’t Hate Me
Vermillioncore
Sleep Together

Encore:
Sign “☮” the Times
The Sound of Muzak
The Raven That Refused to Sing

Marillion – Danforth Music Hall, Toronto – 31st October 2016

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To support the release of their eighteenth studio album  – F.E.A.R (Fuck Everyone And Run) – Marillion are back on the road. I caught the band at their recent Toronto show at The Danforth Music Hall. Words and pictures by Tim Darbyshire………….

In front of an enthusiastic near sell out crowd, Marillion delivered an eclectic two hours of music culled from all eras of their 35 year history. As well as focussing not surprisingly on material from the new album – F.E.A.R – Marillion wowed the crowd with favourites such as ‘The Invisible Man’, ‘King’ and ‘Neverland’ with the surprise final encore of ‘Kayleigh’, ‘Lavender’ and ‘Heart Of Lothian’ topping off a great evening.

‘The New Kings’ from ‘F.E.A.R’ certainly seemed to strike a chord with the majority of those in attendance. The message is clear,  corporate greed pervades society and human empathy seems to be dwindling.

Explaining the album’s title, Hogarth elaborates: “This title is adopted not in anger or with any intention to shock. It is adopted and sung (in the song “New Kings”) tenderly, in sadness and resignation inspired by an England, and a world, which increasingly functions on an “Every man for himself” philosophy. I won’t bore you with examples, they’re all over the newspapers every day. There’s a sense of foreboding that permeates much of this record. I have a feeling that we’re approaching some kind of sea-change in the world – an irreversible political, financial, humanitarian and environmental storm. I hope that I’m wrong. I hope that my FEAR of what “seems” to be approaching is just that, and not FEAR of what “is” actually about to happen”

Marillion have always done things differently of course. They are recognised as one of the first major bands to turn their backs on traditional record company involvement and have funded new releases by advance fan orders since 2001’s ‘Anoraknophopia’, including ‘F.E.A.R’. They have recognised the power of the internet, crowd funding and keeping everything in house to minimise costs. In exchange, fans are treated to signed limited editions, and ‘Marillion Weekends’ (fan conventions), and of course a band who can produce albums with no outside pressure from record company executives.

Hogarth naturally dominates proceeding throughout the evening – singing every word as if his life depends on it. Ably backed by almost ever-presents Steve Rothery, Mark Kelly, Pete Trewavas and Ian Mosley, he remains the centre of attention, and controls the stage by acting out the lyrics. The new material is greeted as enthusiastically as the earlier songs – I don’t know of many bands who would play a 16 minute new song – ‘El Dorado’ – as an encore. Clearly the band are relaxed on stage,  enjoying effortlessly playing complicated music live to devoted audiences.

It’s been four years since their last studio outing (‘Sounds That Can’t Be Made’), let’s hope we don’t have to wait that long for the next one.

Marillion are:
Steve ‘H’ Hogarth – vocals, keyboards, guitar
Steve Rothery – guitars
Mark Kelly  – keyboards
Pete Trewavas – bass
Ian Mosley – drums

Setist:
The Invisible Man
Power
Living in F E A R
Wave
Mad
Afraid of Sunlight
The New Kings: I. Fuck Everyone and Run
The New Kings: II. Russia’s Locked Doors
The New Kings: III. A Scary Sky
The New Kings: IV. Why Is Nothing Ever True?
King
Neverland

Encore:
El Dorado: I. Long-Shadowed Sun
El Dorado: II. The Gold
El Dorado: III. Demolished Lives
El Dorado: IV. F E A R
El Dorado: V. The Grandchildren of Apes

Encore 2:
Kayleigh
Lavender
Heart Of Lothian

Haken – Mod Club Toronto, 1st September 2016

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Haken’s ‘Affinitour v2.0’ in support of their fourth album ‘Affinity’ has reached Canada and the United States.   I caught the band live at Toronto’s Mod Club. Words and photos by Tim Darbyshire.

‘Affinity’ is already a strong contender to be Album of the Year for many people,  and as the band took to the stage the enthusiastic crowd greeted them like conquering heroes. Kicking off with ‘Initiate’ from the new album and ‘Falling Back To Earth’ (from 2013’s ‘The Mountain’), it was evident that this is a band playing at the top of their game. There’s a visible confidence emanating from all the band, almost a swagger – they know they’re good and they enjoy showing it.

Technically superb,  mixing out and out aural assault with refined quieter passages – where the crowd were almost singing as loudly as vocalist Ross Jennings – Haken deliver dizzying rhythms with rousing melodies. ‘1985’ is the standout track from ‘Affinity’  – keyboardist Diego Tejeide wants a piece of the action and takes centre stage with his keytar. Both guitar players – Rich Henshall and Charlie Griffiths – are playing 8 string guitars and Conner Green’s bass has 6 strings…..this is prog after all.

Most of the set is culled from the last 2 albums (‘Deathless’ and encore ‘Celestial Elixir’ being the exceptions). ‘The Architect’ – the longest track on ‘Affinity’ – takes us on a journey through many styles and allows both guitarists more space to shine with solos. The highlight of the evening for me, and clearly a crowd favourite, is a storming version of ‘Cockroach King’ , complete with its quirky time signatures and Gentle Giant style vocal harmonies, which has the whole club shaking to the rafters.

‘The Endless Knot’ brings the main set to a frenzied finale and the band sign off with encore ‘Celestial Elixir’ from 2010’s debut album ‘Aquarius’.

Haken of course cross the genres. It is heavy, it is loud, but they combine this with subtlety and emotion, weaving an intoxicating medley of styles. It’s all uplifting stuff, the affinity  between the band members themselves and the band and crowd. This is a band on a roll, that seemingly can do no wrong at present – catch them if you can.

My review of Haken’s  ‘Affinity’ album is here.

Setlist:
Affinity.exe
Initiate
Falling Back To Earth
1985
Earthrise
Pareidolia
The Architect
Keyboard Solo
Deathless
Cockroach King
The Endless Knot
Encore:
Celestial Elixir

Haken:
Ross Jennings – vocals
Rich Henshall – guitars
Ray Hearne – drums
Charlie Griffiths – guitars
Diego Tejeida – keyboards
Conner Green – bass

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Tour Dates – Affinitour v2.0 2016

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Thank You Scientist – Mod Club Toronto, 1st September 2016

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Thank You Scientist are supporting Haken on their ‘Affinitour v2.0’ across Canada and the US in September 2016.  To coincide, the New Jersey seven-piece have just released their second full album ‘Stranger Heads Prevail’ (on the Evil Ink label) which is receiving rave reviews. I caught up with the band at Toronto’s intimate Mod Club…..Review and photos by Tim Darbyshire.

Thank You Scientist are hard to define. They have been described as progressive, progressive metal, post hardcore, jazz fusion – helpfully their FaceBook page has their genre as ‘post genre sweet potato polka’.  Watching the band set up pre-gig , it’s clear we are in for something refreshingly different, with trumpet, sax and violin players. There’s no keyboards at all.

What is evident from the outset, is that the band is having a lot of fun. Bundle of energy front man Salvatore Marrano dances around the stage, his soulful vocals managing to cut through the backdrop of sax, trumpet, violin and crunchy guitar riffs. When it’s time an instrumental break, Marrano joins the crowd, preferring to watch from there.

The set is made up from tracks from the new album,  the funky ‘Mr Invisible’,  ‘A Wolf In Cheap Clothing’, ‘Caverns’ and the set opener ‘The Amateur Arsonist’s Handbook’, and cuts from 2014’s ‘Maps of Non-Existent Places’ including ‘Feed The Horses’, ‘Blood On The Radio’ and ‘My Famed Disappearing Act’. The set is concluded with a cover of The Beatles’ ‘I Am The Walrus’.

Thank You Scientist already have a loyal fan base, with a sizeable proportion of the enthusiastic young crowd joining in the fun singing along to every word. The queue to buy their cds after their set would suggest they are picking up new devotees every time they play, including yours truly…… I hope they’ve brought plenty of cds with them on the tour!

Thank You Scientist remain happily uncategorisable – funky, jazzy, proggy, often all at the same time – it’s an intoxicating melange of styles. Catch this tour if you can, their merch/cds are available direct from the band  here.

Thank You Scientist are:

Salvatore Marrano – Vocals
Tom Monda – Guitar
Cody McCorry – Bass, Theremin
Odin Alvarez – Drums
Ben Karas- Violin
Ellis Jasenovic – Saxophone
Andrew Digrius – Trumpet

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Tour Dates with Haken:

haken tour

YES – Live at The Egg, Albany NY 14th August 2016

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With YES reaching the halfway stage of their 2016 US Drama/Tales 1 & 4 Tour, we headed south again into upper New York State, to The Egg (Performing Arts Center) in Albany to find the band still on top of its game …………review and photos by Tim Darbyshire.

With a capacity of under 1000 seats, the intimate setting of the Hart Theater inside The Egg provided the ideal setting to witness YES as the venue is known for its great acoustics. Although not quite sold out, the crowd welcomed the band enthusiastically as they entered the stage to the sound of Benjamin Britten’s ‘Young Person’s Guide To The Orchestra’.

As on all dates on this tour, YES immediately powered into 1980’s ‘Drama’ album in its entirety.  Released originally in 1980, it was an interesting time in YES’ often turbulent history as founder member Jon Anderson and keyboard wizard Rick Wakeman were replaced by  Trevor Horn and Geoff Downes – aka The Buggles who were best known for their hit single ‘Video Killed The Radio Star’.  36 years later, ‘Drama’ is widely regarded as a gem in the YES back catalogue.

‘Machine Messiah’ kicks off the album, and from the off it’s clear Geoff Downes in particular is in his element,  enjoying playing the material he first co-wrote for YES.  Billy Sherwood handles Chris Squire’s bass parts with aplomb throughout, highlighted on ‘Does It Really Happen’.  The Buggles’ Yessified ‘Into The Lens’ and the rarely heard ‘Run Through The Light’ lead into the album closer ‘Tempus Fugit’ – a storming climax to a remarkably fresh sounding work.

It seems ‘Drama’ is over so quickly (all 37 minutes of it – tempus fugit indeed), and before we know it we’re back in the familiar crowd-pleasing territory of ‘I’ve Seen All Good People’. A rousing ‘Siberian Khatru’ closes the first set, with Steve Howe relishing the solo at the end of the piece.

On paper at least, by playing half of ‘Tales From Topographic Oceans’ YES is challenging their more casual fans – but that’s par for the course, YES has always demanded listeners actually listen to the material which leads to great rewards on the most part.  A typically uplifting ‘And You And I’ with the customary sublime guitar work from Steve Howe opens the second set and leads into the two 20 minute ‘Tales’ tracks.

‘Tales From Topographic Oceans’ was of course 1973’s controversial follow up to ‘Close To The Edge’, and for some fans and many critics it was a step too far.  A double album with one song per side – it even split the band. To other YES fans it’s a kind of holy grail and I think the decision to present the more accessible sides 1 and 4 (The Revealing Science Of God and Ritual) with the acoustic interlude ‘Leaves Of Green’ (from side 3 – ‘The Ancient’)  sandwiched between the two longer pieces should be applauded.

Vocalist Jon Davison effortlessly handles ‘The Revealing Science Of God’. That’s no mean feat considering some of the lengthy wordier sections, and Alan White’s temporary replacement Jay Schellen  – who does a commendable job throughout – gets the chance to shine during ‘Ritual’ which has Jon, Billy and Jay all pounding out rhythms towards the end of the song. The ‘Nous Sommes Du Soleil’ part of ‘Ritual’ remains some of the most beautiful music written by YES.

A barnstorming double encore of ‘Roundabout’ and ‘Starship Trooper’ brings the evening’s proceedings to a close – this is clearly a band on top form. The current line-up might not please every YES fan, but make no mistake, they are YES and I’m struggling  to recall any line up looking so happy to be on stage playing YES music.

(I interviewed Geoff Downes before the show which can be found here).

 

Line Up:

Jon Davison – vocals
Geoff Downes – keyboards
Steve Howe – guitar
Jay Schellen – drums
Billy Sherwood – bass

Set list:

Set 1 (8:00pm – 9:00pm)
Intro – Benjamin Britten The Young Person’s Guide To The Orchestra
Machine Messiah
White Car
Does It Really Happen?
Into the Lens
Run Through the Light
Tempus Fugit
I’ve Seen All Good People
Siberian Khatru

Set 2 (9:20pm – 10:50pm)
And You And I
The Revealing Science of God
Leaves of Green
Ritual (Nous Sommes du Soleil)

Encore:
Roundabout
Starship Trooper

 

YES – Live at Artpark, Lewiston NY 2nd August 2016

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With no Canadian dates scheduled for the Drama/Tales 1 & 4 YES Summer 2016 tour, we headed over the border to ArtPark in Lewiston NY to catch the band as they entered the second week of the tour…………review and photos by Tim Darbyshire.

As part of Artpark’s $12 open-air Tuesday night series, YES returned to Lewiston after an absence of 4 years with a brave set of 1980’s ‘Drama’ album in its entirety and half of 1973’s controversial ‘Tales From Topographic Oceans’, interspersed with classic YES staples ‘I’ve Seen All Good People’, ‘Siberian Khatru’, ‘And You And I’, ‘Roundabout’ and ‘Starship Trooper’.

Shortly before the tour began, it was announced that Alan White – ever present drummer since 1972 – had had to have back surgery and would be absent from (at least) the first few weeks of the tour. Thankfully Jay Schellen has stepped up to fill the drum-stool at short notice. Jay is known to most YES fans through his work with Circa and Asia, and it has to be said, he’s doing a great job.

In bright sunshine, the band kicked off with the ‘Drama’ album – released in 1980, it was at the time a difficult moment in YES’ history as founder member Jon Anderson and keyboard wizard Rick Wakeman were replaced by successful chart toppers  Trevor Horn and Geoff Downes – aka The Buggles.  36 years later, ‘Drama’ is widely regarded as a gem in the YES back catalogue.

Album opener ‘Machine Messiah ‘ is about as heavy as YES gets, and from early on it was clear that this was a relaxed band that appeared just to be happy to play. As an album, ‘Drama’ has a nice flow to it with ‘Does It Really Happen’ and ‘Into The Lens’ being neatly bookended by standout tracks ‘Machine Messiah’ and ‘Tempus Fugit’.

Having rejoined YES in 2011, I’m sure Geoff enjoyed playing the material he wrote (mostly) for the first time. Jay provided the energy the material required, and before you knew it we were back in familiar live territory with ‘I’ve Seen All Good People’ and ‘Siberian Khatru’ where Steve Howe rightly came to the fore. Set 2 started with the welcome return to the live set of the sublime ‘And You And I’, which as ever received a particularly strong reaction from the appreciative and large crowd.

I’m not sure what the more casual fan made of the ‘Tales’ tracks. 2 twenty minute pieces, with ‘Leaves Of Green’ (an acoustic duet from Steve Howe and Jon Davison from the third side – ‘The Ancient’) sandwiched in between. It’s heaven of course to the deep YES fan, culminating in Jon, Billy and Jay all pounding out rhythms towards the end of ‘Ritual’. In ‘Ritual’ especially Billy once again showed how comfortable he is filling Chris Squire’s shoes.

Jon Davison takes whatever YES throws at him in his stride, even if he did need an iPad to guide him through some of the lengthier, wordier passages of ‘The Revealing Science Of God’.  Jon’s voice always seems spot on, effortlessly rising to the challenge – I’d love to hear him tackle ‘Relayer’ in full, surely the only YES challenge remaining to him?

After a rousing double encore of ‘Roundabout’ and ‘Starship Trooper’ the enthusiastic crowd left happy, knowing that once again YES had undoubtedly delivered.

Line Up:

Jon Davison – vocals
Geoff Downes – keyboards
Steve Howe – guitar
Jay Schellen – drums
Billy Sherwood – bass

Set list:

Set 1 (7:00pm – 8:00pm)
Intro – Benjamin Britten The Young Person’s Guide To The Orchestra
Machine Messiah
White Car
Does It Really Happen?
Into the Lens
Run Through the Light
Tempus Fugit
I’ve Seen All Good People
Siberian Khatru

Set 2 (8:20pm – 9:50pm)
And You And I
The Revealing Science of God
Leaves of Green
Ritual (Nous Sommes du Soleil)

Encore:
Roundabout
Starship Trooper