MUSICIAN’S CORNER … LIVE …
Yes, something a tad different this time. With a series of gigs occurring within a short space of time I thought it might be interesting to give you my thoughts on them here …
First up, Yes … . A band who have not so much a family tree as a family forest! This was the version fronted by Steve Howe these days. The band(s) are currently celebrating their fiftieth anniversaries in their own inimitable way. This version chose to do so with the emphasis on the earlier classics and a hefty slice of the infamous Tales From Topographic Oceans album (but thankfully the best bits only!).
I admit I had reservations about this gig, Topographic … has never been my favourite album by the band, but hey, it was a free gig and a front row seat thanks to my good friend Mr Hall, and so away I went. Having seen this version of the band a couple of years ago, I had no doubts that front man Jon Davidson could sing the stuff and tonight was even more proof of that.
Over the two and a half hours that followed, I and the rest of the packed Philharmonic Hall here in Liverpool were treated to an absolutely amazing journey through some of the band’s most famous songs: Time And A Word, Close To The Edge, and many more. For me, without doubt the highlights of the evening was Wondrous Stories, which transported me back to the cow shed that was the \New Hall in Stafford in 1977 when I first saw the band. Performed absolutely flawlessly, here was a band with something to prove.
The second half of the show was dedicated to Topographic … and, I have to say that it was surprisingly good. Musically this was Yes at their most out there, and it isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but there was no denying the passion in the music here tonight and I loved it. If I never get to see Yes again (in whatever incarnation) at least they went out on a high tonight - superb stuff.
Next up a gig by Rhyl’s finest : Chasing Shadows, a young band who have been paying their dues by gigging at venues in and around the North West and North Wales over the last couple of years. This time they were in the salubrious surroundings of “ Peaky Blinders ” a new venue in the centre of Liverpool carved out of what was once the Cains Brewery building. A crowd made of up of mainly indifferent punters for whom the band were merely a part of their Friday night out were treated to a superb two sets in which the band mixed things up with excellent covers of such varied fare as Faith (George Michael), Crazy Little Thing Called Love (Queen) and even Breakfast At Tiffany’s that one hit from Deep Blue Something, remember them? Sandwiched in between these were examples of their own material including a couple from their own forthcoming new LP (can I still call it such a thing these days … ?). The end result was a thoroughly enjoyable evening and by the end of it, the band had deservedly won over the crowd who brought them back for two encores.
Next in this live round up, my all time favourite band. Nooo, not Genesis but the mighty Jethro Tull who, like Yes, are currently celebrating their fiftieth anniversary. Another front row seat at Liverpool’s brand new Auditorium. With so much material to draw upon the band opted to pretty much ground their set in the heady days of the 1970’s with tracks such as Beggar’s farm and Dharma For one, and personal favourite Living In The Past (yes, tears did flow during that one!) with stops off at just about every album between their 1968 debut and 1978 along the way. A surprise exception to this was the inclusion of Farm On The Freeway from their Grammy award winning 1987 album, Crest of A Knave.
Ian Anderson may not have the set of pipes on him that he once had, but he is still a consummate showman of the highest calibre. With cameo video links from past band members (sadly not including long time stalwart Martin Barre though) and from such well known musicians as Slash and Tony Iommi, this was a show as visually pleasing as it was musically excellent. They simply don’t make bands like this any more.
And bringing up the rear is the most recent gig hat yours truly attended by Prog veterans Marillion. Hard to believe now that the band have been going now for thirty seven years since their inception as (Sil)Marillion back in the early 1980’s. A lot of water has passed under the bridge since then and it is equally hard to believe that it has been thirty years since the band parted company from former front man Fish, ushering in the reign of Steve Hogarth.
Tonight’s show placed the emphasis firmly on the band’s latest release: F E A R and its predecessor, Sound That Can’t Be Made, albums which, I have to admit, I am not familiar with. There were passing nods to previous albums going back as far as 1994’s Brave and the album that started it all for Hogarth, Season’s End which got two tracks peformed - the title track and Easter … well, the band couldn’t not play the track which mentions our fair city now, could they? The only concession to the previous period of the band’s existence was in their final encore - Garden Party.
Visually the show was excellent with a brilliantly constructed light show. Musically too the band put their hearts into the performance and the crowd loved it. Me? Well, I hate to be the dissenting voice, but I found the entire thing a rather soulless performance. Hogarth’s humour seemed somewhat forced to me and the new material lacks the essential punch that always marked the band out as a cut above their peers. That said, they didn’t stint the crowd with a two hours plus show so it certainly represented good value for money and the crowd loved every moment of it so that’s what counts.