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Porcupine Tree Posts Round Up

Porcupine Tree was, for a number of years, my favorite new progressive rock band and, as a result, I tried to go see them as much as I could when I was not seeing Yes.  I have posted about them a number of times in this blog and you can find those posts below:

 

 

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Random Concert Ticket Photos

As my readers know, I am a very avid concert goer.  Granted, since I have had children, I have had less time and less money to dedicate to seeing shows, but I still try to get two or three in every year.

For fun, I have already posted some tickets before, which you can find here:

I have also been to a variety of shows that really do not fit into any categories and I have posted a sort of grab bag of tickets below for various and miscellaneous shows.

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  • Asia (a program from this show can be found here and a review here)

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Anderson-Ponty Band Concert Review, 10/27/15 Glenside, PA

This post is part of my series of posts on progressive rock, which you can see here, and Yes which you can see here.

On October 27, 2015 the supergroup Anderson-Ponty Band (APB), led by Jon Anderson, the vocalist/harpist/guitarist co-founder of the progressive rock band Yes‘ and virtuoso progressive rock (and classic fusion bands and Zappa alumnus) violinist Jean-Luc Ponty, played show at the at the Keswick Theater in Glenside, PA in support of their “Better Late Than Never Tour” in support of their new album of the same name (see here).

The band was:

  • Jon Anderson – lead vocals, mandolin, guitars, percussion
  • Jean-Luc Ponty – violin
  • Jamie Glaser – guitars
  • Wally Minko – keyboards
  • Baron Browne – bass
  • Rayford Griffin – drums & percussion

The set list for the evening:

  • Intro (a new piece which is sort of like an overture for the APB album)
  • One in the Rhythm of Hope  (a reworked Ponty piece (see here))
  • A for Aria (a new piece)
  • Owner of a Lonely Heart  (a reworked Yes song (see here))
  • Listening with Me (a reworked Ponty piece called “Stay With Me” (see here))
  • Time and a Word (a reworked Yes song (see here))
  • One Love/People Get Ready (a Bob Marley cover (see here))
  • Infinite Mirage (a reworked Ponty piece (see here))
  • Soul Eternal  (a reworked Anderson piece (see here))
  • Enigmatic Ocean Parts 1 and 2 (a reworked Ponty piece (see here))
  • Drum solo
  • I See you Messenger  (a new piece)
  • New New World (a reworked Anderson piece (see here))
  • INTERMISSION
  • New Country (a reworked Ponty piece (see here))
  • Never Ever (a reworked Anderson song (see here and here))
  • Wonderous Stories (a reworked Yes song (see here))
  • Long Distance Runaround (a reworked Yes song (see here))
  • Renaissance of the Sun (a reworked Ponty piece (see here))
  • State of Independence (a reworked Jon & Vangelis song (see here))
  • Jig (a reworked Ponty piece (see here))
  • And You and I (a reworked Yes song (see here))
  • Roundabout (a reworked Yes song (see here))
  • Re-Remembering the Molecules (a reworked Ponty piece (see here)) – which included bits of Yours Is No Disgrace (a reworked Yes song (see here))
  • Soon (a reworked Yes song (see here))

Thoughts:

As I said when I reviewed the ABP album (see here), I am not going to comment on the songs themselves as nearly all of them are classic songs from legendary prog-rock albums and do not originate with this band.  I am only going to comment on their presentation at the show.

This was my first time seeing Jon Anderson live since the last leg of Yes’ Thirty-Fifth Anniversary Tour on September 3, 2004 (see here).  Much of what I said about Jon Anderson on the ABP album holds true here (see here).  This is post-asthma attack Anderson (see here).  His voice is not as strident or as powerful as it was in days past.  In saying that, he, as a consummate professional, does not struggle to try and duplicate his old singing style.  Instead, his voice is more soulful and breathier (is that a word?) and he conforms the music to his new singing style.  His onstage persona is much different than how he used to present himself with Yes.  Obviously his Yes stage presentation evolved with the band and their music, yet now, with ABP in 2015, Anderson comes across like a wizened and beloved person who has so many years under his belt that he is completely confident on stage playing and singing directly to the die hard fans that have followed him for fifty years now as opposed to something of a new age spiritual hippie guru.  There is very little “persona” now for him.  He does not play with long flowing robes or quasi-monk overtones.  No, instead he comes across as a man who knows he is older, knows he has been around a long time, and knows the people hearing him are the ones who have been fans for decades.  He was loose and appreciative.  He played guitars and percussion and, instead of a harp (as on the album), he plucked at a mandolin here and there (practically inaudibly for me).  Ponty was just a cool guy with no frills playing his violin.  It is amazing that both of these men are in their 70s!

The rest of the band were mainly guys recruited by Ponty.  The drummer, who reminded me of Niacin’s Dennis Chambers (see here), was a powerful and loud drummer who unabashedly plays in the style of fusion.  Although he was an excellent drummer, his playing was a bit too much a lot of the time for the more mellow rest of the band.  The guitarist was very hard for me to hear from my vantage point in terms of the mix.  I was there to see Anderson and Ponty and he played well enough to keep the music going but did not distract away from the main attractions.  As a side note, he reminded me a lot of Jim Belushi in his looks and mannerisms.  The bass player looked like he stepped right out of a reggae concert.  His playing was clean and in the style of traditional jazz.  Like the guitarist, he played the music but did not distract from Anderson and Ponty.  Finally, the keyboardist is the biggest mystery.  His playing, when allowed to expand, was very jazzy, but I felt that he was not particularly creative in his arrangements and approach.  His best playing was his jazzy piano playing.  His keyboard-synthesizer playing was the weakest part of his playing.  In my review of APB’s album (see here), one of my criticisms was that it was far too twee.  After seeing them live, I have come to realize that one of the biggest culprits causing the twee sound is the keyboardist because his keyboard sound is so light, airy, and, honestly, cheesy.   This description may not be helpful to all readers, but his keyboard/synthesizer sound is more eighties than Rick Wakeman‘s was in the 80’s.

In terms of the sound mix, thankfully the violin and Anderson’s vocals were louder than everything except maybe for the pounding drums.  The keyboard was loudest after that followed by the bass, the guitar, and whatever Anderson tried to strum at a given moment.  The bass player and guitarist offered background vocals but they may as well have had their microphones switched off as they were nearly completely inaudible.

The songs on the album that were played at the show (and all of them were) all sounded basically like the album, which stands to reason as the album was a live recording.  The only differences I can remember is that the solos were sometimes a little longer), the bass player played the acoustic guitar intro to “Roundabout” on the bass (this intro was omitted on the album), and the band added the instrumental section of “Eclipse” to the end of its version of “And You And I” (also omitted from the album).  “Eclipse” was appended to the end this band’s version of “And You And I” (and lacked the steel guitar) and, I thought, was one of the most powerful, dramatic, and emotional portions of the show and it is regrettable that it was omitted from the album.

When it comes down to it, this show was really a tale of two concerts, with the line of demarcation being the intermission.  The first half was, more-or-less, in the style and sound of the APB album and my comments and criticisms about that portion of the show are basically the same as those I had for the album (see here).  Enigmatic Oceans, which was played during the first half of the show and does not appear on the album, prefigured what was to come in the second half.

The second half of the show moved away from the twee and song based approach of the first half and went headlong into a new-age-jazz-fusion direction that was extremely well performed and musically and sonically very interesting.  The keyboardist, notably, focused more on his piano than the keyboard during the second half which contributed significantly to the overall change in sound, tone, and form.  Moreover, the guitarist played acoustic guitar for several of the pieces.  So, between acoustic guitar, piano, violin, and voice, you had the makings of a very interesting sound in the new-age-jazz-fusion style.  One of the highlights for me was “Long Distance Runaround,” which really revealed the impact that arrangement can have on a song.  The original Yes song is a classic song with multiple, and fast moving, contrapuntal lines.  By contrast APB presented it without any of its traditional instrumental trademarks (e.g.: the walking bass, the bouncy piano, or the punctuated guitar).  Instead, APB turned it into a contemplative jazz piece which, if it were not for the vocal melody, I would never have guessed that it was “Long Distance Runaround.”  As an aside, it is this sort of cover of a song that I really like; why simply play someone else’s song when you can make it your own?  “State of Independence” was very powerful and quite a surprise that Anderson would try and mine that part of his career with APB.  That song is a classic that is often overlooked when thinking about Anderson and/or Yes because too many assume it is a Donna Summers song (see here).  This song, too, was a brilliant reworking.  The original (and even Summers’ version) had a terribly 80’s sound with the drum machine and synthesizer (which has an almost midi type sound) and cheesy 80’s saxophone lines.  APB transformed the song into a fast paced and powerful jazz rock song.  Fantastic.  The Ponty pieces were presented more in line with how he recorded them, which makes sense as the members of the band played with him before and they were, more-or-less, presented in the same style in which they were written.  Anderson composed and sang lyrics over some of his music.  The pieces featured long and mesmerizing instrumental sections led by the violin and it was here that the drummer’s talent really came to the fore.  The instrumental sections really showed off the musicianship and prowess of the band and their ability to tastefully, yet intensely, show off their chops while remaining musical and interesting.

The audience was really into the show the entire night.  At this point in their career, and considering the size of the venue (~1000 seats), the audience seemed to have a direct relationship with Anderson and Ponty while they were on stage that perhaps would not have been there when in their prime (when they still had an image protect and project) and/or in bigger arenas where the audience and musicians are too geographically remote.  So the band, particularly Anderson, interacted personally with members of the audience the entire evening.  Anderson’s birthday was two days before the show, so there were a lot of cries of “Happy Birthday!” throughout the show (to one of them Anderson responded with “Merry Christmas!”).  Before introducing “Infinite Mirage,” Anderson starting speaking of “infinity” in a typical Andersonian-spiritual sort of way and someone shouted “You’re getting heavy Jon!” and Anderson responded with “not yet it’s too early!”  He really seemed to have fun and truly appreciate and feel the love the audience had for him.

Over all it was an excellent show and great way for Yes fans to see Anderson in a band setting singing the classics.  As indicated above, the first half of the show was somewhat uninteresting and lightweight, but during the second half the band, and, indeed, its prog-rock potential, came through with some really great new-age-jazz-fusion arrangements and some furious playing.

Photographs:

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Anderson-Ponty Band, Better Late Than Never, a Review

In September 2014 progressive rock band Yes‘ co-founder and vocalist/harpist/guitarist Jon Anderson teamed up with virtuoso progressive rock (and classic fusion bands and Zappa alumnus) violinist Jean-Luc Ponty to form the supergroup Anderson-Ponty Band (APB) to play a live concert to be recorded for an album (CD/DVD) which was released in September 2015.  The set list they played consisted of mainly reworked Yes, Anderson, and Ponty pieces with a couple new tracks thrown in for good measure.  Apparently (see here) the actual set list was a little longer and included a few more pieces left off the album.  The live concert from September 2014, upon being recorded, was then modified and edited and overdubbed in the studio.

CD Track List:

1. “Intro”
2. “One in the Rhythm of Hope”  (a reworked Ponty piece)
3. “A for Aria”  (a new piece)
4. Owner of a Lonely Heart”  (a reworked Yes song)
5. “Listening with Me”  (a reworked Ponty piece called “Stay With Me”)
6. Time and a Word”  (a reworked Yes song)
7. “Infinite Mirage”  (a reworked Ponty piece)
8. “Soul Eternal”  (a reworked Anderson piece)
9. Wonderous Stories”  (a reworked Yes song)
10. And You and I”  (a reworked Yes song)
11. “Renaissance of the Sun”  (a reworked Ponty piece)
12. Roundabout”  (a reworked Yes song)
13. “I See you Messenger”  (a new piece)
14. “New New World”  (a reworked Anderson piece)

DVD Track List:

1. “One in the Rhythm of Hope”
2. “A for Aria”
3. “Owner of a Lonely Heart”
4. “Listening with Me”
5. “Time and a Word”
6. “Infinite Mirage”
7. “Soul Eternal”
9. “Renaissance of the Sun”
10. “Roundabout”

Personnel:

  • Jon Anderson – lead vocals, harp, guitars
  • Jean-Luc Ponty – violin
  • Jamie Glaser – guitars (Jamie Dunlap was part of the original line-up of APB and thus performed live on 20 September 2014 at the Wheeler Opera House, Aspen, Colorado, United States but by January 2015, he had left the band and had been replaced by Ponty’s guitarist Jamie Glaser who, as a result, overdubbed Dunlap’s parts on the present live album)
  • Wally Minko – keyboards
  • Baron Browne – bass
  • Rayford Griffin – drums & percussion

Review:

So, like most reviews, what one thinks of an album depends on what one expects from it.  If one expects a prog-rock tour de force, then one will be sorely disappointed.  Despite the pedigree of Anderson and Ponty and, indeed, the fusion background of the rest of the band, ABP does not live up to its potential.  Instead, the music is very light (even when it is heavy like during “Owner of a Lonely Heart), often twee, and and is more a fusion of new age and rock, with jazz sounding bass, than a fusion of jazz and Anderson.  Of course the underlying Yes, Anderson, and Ponty music is amazing and the stuff of prog rock legend, but I will try and keep this review just about the interpretation that APB has given them.

Anderson, I think, does most of the heavy lifting in the creation of this album as he wrote most of the music and pushed the kickstarter campaign (see below for more on that).  Excluding “Intro” (which is something of an overture written by Minko), 7 of the 13 remaining songs are from Anderson’s prior work and at least one of the new songs “I See You Messenger” is derived from Anderson’s stock of unreleased material.  Ponty’s solo compositions are instrumental and Anderson’s contribution to them are largely adding lyrics and melodies with which to sing those lyrics over Ponty’s music.  So, Anderson has a writing credit for every track on the album save “Intro.”  Aside from singing, he also strummed a guitar, plucked a harp, and a played very small stringed instrument which seems to be turned to a specific chord for him to strum (I do not know the name of this instrument).  Ponty is an excellent, virtuoso, and experimental violinist, and his playing throughout the album is technically top notch though not particularly inspired.  He more-or-less noodles over the Yes/Anderson material – though on occasion he plays something interesting – and, probably obviously, seems much more at home with his own material.

Of course, the music – especially the Yes material – is rearranged to fit a vaguely new-age-jazz sound which is often stripped down in its complexity compared to the originals, but and some of the interpretations are interesting.   In saying that, I really did not need yet another version of “Roundabout” and “Owner of a Lonely Heart.”  It is worth noting that “Time and a Word” is a reggae interpretation with some Beatles references thrown in here and there.  Although this version is fun, it is hardly original to APB as Anderson has been doing since at least 2008.  Various quotes from songs like “I’ve Seen All Good People” or “And You And I” or even “Don’t Kill the Whale” (in “I See You Messenger”) are sprinkled throughout.  As an aside, I really like the “Don’t Kill the Whale” quote and I think that song is catchy and the quote makes it doubly so.

As a huge Yes fan, I was most interested in Anderson.  It is very nostalgic for me to hear a new recording from this legendary singer who has made so much music that has such an impact on my life, especially since he nearly died not long ago (see here).  His range is still there.  His spirit is still there.  His emotion is still there.  Despite that, his strength is not nearly what it used to be.  The power of his voice is greatly diminished.  Though still ethereal, his voice is more “breathy” (for want of a better term) and less strident now.  I have to say that, despite this, Anderson, as always, seemed to be very aware that his voice is very unique and tries to use it uniquely if only for it’s sound and he does that here as well (e.g.: the vocal sounds on “One in the Rhythm of Hope”).  Lyrically, he is not really offering anything new.  There are various Yes song references (e.g.: lyrics like “Second Attention” or “That that is”) here and there and the remaining new lyrics fit Anderson’s long standing custom of writing about the sun, light, innocence, Earth, love, moon, and other sorts of “mystical” things.

As a brief editorial, considering Anderson’s diminished voice, stale lyrical ideas, and rather pedestrian musical ideas on this album, I do not think he would be an improvement over Jon Davison (Yes’ current singer) in Yes as Davison’s voice is stronger and his writing is much more creative and interesting right now.  Of course, none of that speaks to the nostalgia and love of/for having Anderson back in Yes and I, for one, would not oppose his return in the least, nor does it in any way diminish Anderson’s influence, creativity, and impact on Yes and prog rock in general.

This collaboration started its life as Kickstarter campaign (see here) and took over a year to prepare, perform, record, produce, and release.  The extended time it took to go from inauguration to release is the inspiration for the title “Better Late Than Never.”  I have to say, as far as expectations are concerned, for an album that took over a year to put together, I was truly hoping for more than just some fairly twee rearrangements of old songs and a couple of light weight new ones.  I was hoping some true creativity would work its way into the music.

All in all this album is really only for Anderson and Ponty fans who enjoy nostalgia and enjoy the idea of these two luminaries working together and enjoying the music of other.  So, as fans of both Anderson and Ponty, I really enjoyed the music and hearing the collaborate, but I was disappointed that they did not really do anything special or creative or really stretch themselves at all.

Photographs:

 

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