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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:

 

 

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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Program From September 13, 2006 Asia Concert

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

On September 13, 2006 I saw the progressive rock supergroup Asia during their 2006 reunion tour at the Keswick Theater in Glenside, PA.  I reviewed this concert, and that review, along with some pictures of the show, can be seen here.

The Keswick Theater often produces and distributes an event program at its shows, whether that show is a rock concert, ballet, or comedian or what-have-you, and the September 13, 2006 Asia concert was no different.  I have taken photographs of that program and posted them below as fans may enjoy and be interested in what the band authorized for its show.

Enjoy!

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Concert Review: Asia 9/13/06

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

On September 13, 2006 I saw the progressive rock supergroup Asia during their 2006 reunion tour at the Keswick Theater in Glenside, PA.

Asia, which formed and released their first album in around 1982, started its life as a progressive rock supergroup which combined members of great prog rock bands of the 1970s into a single band.  The band consisted of Steve Howe (guitarist of Yes), Geoff Downes (keyboardist of Yes and The Buggles), John Wetton (former bassist/vocalist of such bands as King Crimson, Family, Roxy Music, Uriah Heep, Renaissance, UK and Wishbone Ash), and drummer Carl Palmer (of Emerson, Lake & Palmer, The Crazy World of Arthur Brown, and Atomic Rooster), along with Roger Dean as their cover and stage designer to boot.

It is worth noting that the band, in progressive rock circles, is controversial in that, despite the pedigree of all of its band members, the music the band created is not nearly as progressive as the bands of origin for its members.  Many prog rock fans felt let down by the more accessible music Asia released, however that did not stop the band from having great success.  For me, I think much one’s impressions of music (or movies or whatever) is dependent upon one’s expectations.  So, if one approaches Asia expecting a Yes/ELP/KC mash-up will be terribly disappointed.  I think if one approaches Asia on its own terms, it provides a much different impression.  I think Asia is really fantastic at what it does and I really enjoy that: they play really good stylized rock music that features good melodies and tight arrangements with good punchy solos that is influenced by prog rock.  Taking Asia on its own terms makes them much more satisfying.  I think Steve Howe said it best.  He was asked how a Yes guitarist could play Asia’s music and he replied (I am paraphrasing) that sometimes someone needs a 7 course meal (Yes) and sometimes someone needs a light lunch (Asia) and that both of those needs are legitimate and that music is no different.

Their first album was an enormous success.  It was the number one album in the United States for 1982, spent nine weeks at number one on the Billboard Charts, went quadruple platinum in the Untied States, sold about ten million copies worldwide, and spawned the number one hit single (for six weeks) “Heat of the Moment.”

Unfortunately for Asia, their second album, Alpha, though selling in the millions, did not do nearly as well as the first album which led to a even greater decline in sales for their third album, Astra.  There was also internal unrest within the band.  The Wetton/Downes writing team that proved so popular on the first album was pushed by the record company to lead the writing on Alpha which left Steve Howe feeling sidelined.  As a result, he left after the Alpha tour to form GTR with Genesis guitar player Steve Hackett.  John Wetton had his share of problems too.  He was suffering from alcoholism around this time and that, of course, negatively affected his ability to work with the rest of the band.  He stepped out for a time during the Alpha tour and was briefly replaced by ELP alumnus Greg Lake, whose time with the band is memorialized in the Asia in Asia video (along with some keyed down songs for Lake’s voice).  Wetton returned for Astra, but by then the band had former Krokus guitar player Mandy Meyer in for Howe.

By 1986 Wetton was gone and there was little interest in the band continuing.  Downes kept the flame alive with a half-new material-half-old material album Then & Now in 1991 but could not truly reunite the”classic” Asia, which led to an essentially new Asia led by Downes and bass-player-vocalist John Payne with a host of other musicians which only occasionally featured Howe and Palmer as guests here and there on record and/or live (notably Wetton stayed away until 2006 as described below).  The Payne-led Asia released several albums and toured extensively over the next 15 years or so but to considerably less success than the original supergroup.

By 2006 the Payne-led Asia was losing steam and there was a push to reunite the classic supergroup as its twenty-fifty anniversary approached.  So, in 2006, the original line-up reunited, which led to John Payne, through legal and practical means, creating an effective schism in the band, with his incarnation of the band essentially scrubbed from Asia history by retconning it to be that of another (new) entity called Asia Featuring John Payne.  The classic line-up was restored as if they had simply went on hiatus since 1986.  From 2006 onward they have released four albums (though their most recent album Gravitas lacks Steve Howe as he left again in 2014).

In celebration of their reunion, the classic line up of Asia went on tourin 2006 and I had the pleasure of seeing them and that is the inspiration of this post.  I took three photographs at the show which you can see below.  The set list was composed entirely of material from their first album and Alpha.  Their stage set was rather simple: just some lights and a large tarp bearing the band name behind them.   The band played loudly and powerfully and were able to play all of their old classics like they did in 1982.  They even played an acoustic version of”Don’t Cry,” which Wetton indicated was how he initially conceived the song.  One aspect of the show that I especially liked is that the band played one song from another band they each had been in before Asia.  So, they played “Roundabout” (a song from Yes, Howe’s previous band), “Fanfare for the Common Man” (an ELP song, Palmer’s previous band), “Video Killed the Radio Star (a Buggles song, Downes’ previous band), and “The Court of the Crimson King” (a song from Wetton’s previous band King Crimson).  Wetton’s choice was curious as that is a song from a time when he was not part of Crimson, but no one seemed to care.  The band pulled off these other songs with aplomb.  As these guys are getting a little older, some have noticed Palmer’s drumming to be less intense and the songs a little less aggressive, and that may be so, but I do not think it was very noticeable and certainly did not to detract from the show.  Indeed, contrariwise, it could be said that Wetton’s voice is stronger than ever.  All in all, it was a fun show with great music and great performances, and especially if one is an Asia fan.

Before I forget, let me add that the theater is a very nice, old, beautiful theater that sits about 1000 people and there is not a bad seat in the house for either visuals or sound.  It is a great place to see a show!

Finally, after the show was a reunion of sorts as my concert-mate (my father-in-law) bumped into some of his old band mates from his younger years and I bumped into my old co-workers from my years at Acme Markets.  So, a fun time was had by all.

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Progressing Toward the Avant-Garde: A Definition of Progressive Rock

Fifteen years ago (May 1999) I graduated from Penn State University as a member of the Honors Program.  In order to graduate from the Honors Program I had to write a thesis that was out of my discipline.  My discipline, and what I eventually secured a bachelors of science degree in, was Public Policy.

Prior to my senior year in college, when I wrote my Honors Program thesis, I spent the better part of a year wracking my brain as to what I could possibly research and write about that was out of my discipline and remotely feasible for me to do.  What other discipline could I possibly write about in a credible fashion without having to, more or less, go to college for it?

Ironically, what I did not realize until the summer between my junior and senior years, was that the sounds flowing into my ears nearly twenty-four hours a day since 1991, which also occupied many hours of life in books and in person, would become the subject for my thesis.  As I sat in my bedroom, with my stereo near constantly blaring music from the band Yes, or other progressive rock bands, it suddenly hit me that my thesis subject was there the whole time: I would write about the band Yes (for those who do not know, I am an enormous Yes fanatic).  After spending some time researching and developing ideas, I expanded from writing about Yes to writing about the genre of music Yes plays, which is progressive rock.

I was lucky to have written this thesis when I did.  Progressive rock, which got its start around 1967, saw its heyday around 1971 – 1977 (peaking around 1974) when it was a huge concert draw and selling millions of records. The late seventies saw punk knock progressive rock down a peg and the eighties pop revolution (thanks, in part, to Michael Jackson) saw progressive rock nearly disappear (most bands folded) or change form to what we now call “arena” rock (or “AOR”) which includes bands like Styx and Journey and such.  As a result, the 1980s and at least the first half of the 1990s reduced progressive rock bands to either extinction, change in form (e.g.: Yes and Genesis became pop bands), and/or nostalgia acts.  Yet, strangely enough, perhaps because enough time had passed, the late 1990s saw a renewed interest in progressive rock that lasted over a decade thereafter, which, as a result, saw the come back of many progressive rock bands, the formation of new progressive rock bands, the popping up of progressive rock festivals up across the US, and the production of many books, articles, and interviews about/with progressive rock and its history, music, bands, and musicians.  So, needless to say, in 1999 I unexpectedly had access to this resurgence and the new wealth of material produced therefrom in order to flesh out my thesis.

Unfortunately, while progressive rock did make a come back, it was not the comeback that was hoped for that would raise the genre back into the top of the charts and cultural influence and relevance.  In saying that, from a personal point of view, I relished the resurgence regardless of its modesty as it has allowed me, as a fan, to do what I never thought would happen: see in concert many bands long broken up and have access to new music produced by old and new bands alike.

Progressive rock, as one may gather from clicking the link above, is not an easy category of music to describe by any means.  As progressive rock fans all tend to have their own spin on what the genre is and what is consists of, I thought I would take a stab at it myself.  So, I went ahead and listened to my entire music collection (which is included in the discography appended to my thesis) and did fairly deep research into music, music theory, music history, and music influences, and developed, I think, a fairly credible thesis.  As the Honors Program at Penn State included some additional funding to students to help advance the writing of the thesis, I was also able to enhance my music collection with a wide variety of CDs from a lot of diverse and obscure artists.

Looking back at my thesis, fifteen years hence, I realize that my writing is not as sophisticated, mature, and/or polished as it may be now; and, I am sure fifteen years from now I will look back at my writing today and think the same thing.  So, if you decide to read my thesis, please offer a little grace to my twenty-two year old self who wrote it.  This thesis was my first foray into extensive research and very long form writing, so I am sure it could be vastly improved upon today.

So, if you are interested and/or are a progressive rock fan of some sort, I have taken the time to scan and post my thesis below in six parts (it is quite long with a fair amount of photographs, references, and discography) to read.  I am glad to have this blog in which to post my thesis as, before today, it existed exclusively as my own hardcopy at home.  I am glad I am able to convert it to a digital form in order to preserve it longer than my hardcopy may survive.

Thanks and happy reading; here is my Penn State Honors Program senior Thesis: Progressing Toward the Avant-Garde: A Definition of Progressive Rock

progressing toward the avant garde – part 1

progressing toward the avant garde – part 2

progressing toward the avant garde – part 3

progressing toward the avant garde – part 4

progressing toward the avant garde – part 5

progressing toward the avant garde – part 6

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