Fernando Perdomo: Out to Sea

One look at his online presence and you know this: Fernando Perdomo lives, breathes and loves music.  His Facebook feed is chock full of great stuff he’s heard or created (including his vibrant contributions to Dave Kerzner’s work), and the discography on his Bandcamp page offers a musical feast ranging from power pop to abstract experiments.

But as Perdomo writes in the liner notes of his one-man instrumental album Out to Sea, “I discovered the magical sounds of Progressive Rock in 6th grade and became obsessed … This record is a tribute to the sounds that made me the musician and person I am today.”  It’s quite a journey, and a stellar tribute indeed.

Opening track “The Architect (Tribute to Peter Banks)” sets Perdomo’s course: a funky vamp, tasty octave licks and harmonized lines, rhythmic breakdowns a la early Yes and chunky, endlessly inventive leads.  Wide open vistas loom on the horizon, with one nifty moment leading straight into the next.  You can’t tell what’s coming, but soon you just relax and enjoy — because you’re sure it’ll be great.

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Gleb Kolyadin: The Virtuoso We Need

Progressive rock has always attracted virtuoso keyboard players.  Parallel with Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page’s moves toward British blues and heavy music, classically trained pianists like Keith Emerson and Rick Wakeman fired up Hammond organs, Mellotrons and prototype synthesizers, mashing up genres and grabbing attention with gleeful abandon.  From the maelstrom of psychedelia, jazz and modern classical, a new kind of rock emerged — and one of the unspoken standards of nascent prog was that you had to really be able to play.

That standard offered multiple paths forward for proggers: jaw-dropping shredfests by Emerson, Wakeman and disciples; seamless melds of improvisation and composition from King Crimson and Van Der Graaf Generator; long-form, ambitious suites by Yes and Genesis.  It’s also spawned countless wannabe virtuosos — sometimes trying their hardest, sometimes just following trends, but frequently lacking the compositional chops to give their playing maximum impact.  Even after prog’s fading from mass culture, the virtuoso standard keeps attracting musicians eager to prove themselves — especially keyboardists — to the genre, like moths to a No-Pest Strip.

The problem is this: when you have to prove yourself (especially to yourself),  it may come too easily to baffle with BS rather than to dazzle with brilliance — to play more notes, not necessarily the right ones, with space and taste going out the window.  And when the seemingly endless runs of 32nd notes stop, is there anything of substance behind the flash and the “oh, wows”?

That thorny dilemma is why Gleb Kolyadin is the young virtuoso progressive rock needs.

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In Concert — “The Clock … Tick, Tock:” Back in Time with The Musical Box

The Musical Box presents “Selling England by the Pound with Special Lamb Set Encore,” 20 Monroe Live, Grand Rapids, Michigan, March 2, 2018.

Back in 1977, the Broadway musical revue Beatlemania‘s tagline was “not The Beatles; an incredible simulation.”  Little did anyone know that, 41 years later, Montreal’s The Musical Box would carve out a career applying that maxim to Genesis’ Peter Gabriel-fronted concerts of the early Seventies.

If the retro stage set (authentic down to the drum kit and keyboards) didn’t clue in uninformed patrons, the opening “Watcher of the Skies” left no doubt how hardcore The Musical Box is recreating the early Genesis experience.  Clad in angelic white, “Tony Banks” (keyboardist Guillaume Rivard), “Phil Collins,” (drummer/vocalist Marc Laflamme), “Mike Rutherford” (bassist/guitarist Sébastien Lamothe) and “Steve Hackett” (guitarist François Gagnon) built the harsh, Mellotronic tension of the opening riff to a shattering climax — only for “Peter Gabriel” (Denis Gagné) to grab the spotlight with his black jumpsuit, cape of many colors, bat-winged headgear, shaved head, luminescent eye-shadow — oh, and his committed, slightly crazed vocal narrative of an abandoned Earth seen through extraterrestrial eyes.  Right away, the bar was set high: this would be a night of prog-rock epics, meticulously performed by an ensemble that’s toured worldwide far longer than the original band, replicating the musical and theatrical quirks of legendary tours with painstaking precision.

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Bill Bruford Tours Again! (Academia, That Is.)

From Bill Bruford’s website:

Further dates have been added to Bill’s series of talks on creativity in music performance … The trip ends appropriately enough in Cleveland, OH, at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame for this recent inductee. Just to clarify: excepting the R&R HoF, these talks are gently academic in nature and not about Bill or his career per se. He will not be performing, but he is happy to autograph a book and one other item only, should that be requested.

Dates are as follows:

  • March 5th: 5.00-6.30 pm. Rhythmic Music Conservatory, Copenhagen, Denmark.
  • March 8th. 7.00-9.00 pm. Rockheim National Museum of Popular Music, Trondheim, Norway.
  • April 10th: 2.45 pm. University at Albany, NY (uptown campus), Performing Arts Center (PAC) B-78. Visitors should park at one of the two visitor lots. Free admission.
  • April 11th: 3.00 pm. SUNY Oneonta, Oneonta, NY. Fine Arts Center M201, Ravine Parkway, Oneonta. Free admission.
  • April 13th: 4.00 pm. Onondaga Community College, 4585, W Seneca Turnpike, Syracuse NY. Classroom (P110) in the Academic II building. Free admission.
  • April 16th: 4.00 pm. University at Buffalo, Buffalo, NY. Baird Recital Hall. Free admission.
  • April 17th: 7.00 pm. University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI. Watkins Hall, School of Music, Theater & Dance. Free admission.
  • April 18th: 11.30 am. Kelvin & Eleanor Smith Foundation Ballroom C, Tinkham Veale University Center, Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland OH. Free admission.
  • April 18th: 7.00 pm. Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Cleveland OH. Admission $10.

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The Ultimate Prog Super-Hero Team-Up?

From Big Big Train’s Facebook page:

We are delighted to announce that Robin Armstrong will be joining the live line-up of Big Big Train for our shows in 2018 and beyond.

Robin is a multi-instrumentalist and the leader of progressive rock band, Cosmograf. Nick, Rachel and Greg have played as guest musicians on Cosmograf albums and we are looking forward to performing with Robin at our shows at The Anvil in Basingstoke and at the Night of the Prog festival in Loreley, Germany.


Will the good Dr. Birzer’s head explode anticipating all the proggy goodness to come?

Tune in tomorrow … same prog-time … same prog-channel!


— Rick Krueger

In Concert: The Heart of Marillion

Marillion at 20 Monroe Live, Grand Rapids, Michigan, February 18, 2018.

Waiting for Marillion to take the stage, my thoughts drifted to the rest of those gathering in this well-appointed concert club.  Why were they here?

Doubtless, there were locals who, when they heard Marillion was returning to Grand Rapids after 20+ years, anticipated pure nostalgia — “Kayleigh,” “Incommunicado,” “Hooks In You,” “No One Can,” fixtures of local rock radio in the early 1990s.  After all, why else would a band with no more than a cult following tour the States, if not to play the hits?

Then there were the hardcore fans, the ones I’d hung with in Facebook groups for a couple of years now.  People from GR, Kalamazoo, and Detroit who’ve traveled nationally and internationally to see the band since their last Michigan stops — some 30, 40 or more times.  The folks who converged on this mid-size Midwestern city from (for example): Bangor, Maine; Hillsboro, Oregon; Sioux Falls, South Dakota; Baja, Mexico; and Stoke-on-Trent, England, telling stories of their first Marillion experiences, sometimes stretching back more than four decades.  Not to mention “The Nine,” as they named themselves, who’ve seen every show on the current US tour.   They all have their favorite songs — but they knew that much more was coming than a rote run-through of career high points.

And then there was me — a Marillion fan since Seasons End, but only on my fourth show (still way behind King Crimson and Rush), bringing my wife and two friends for their first experience of the band, ten minutes away from my house.  I couldn’t help but wonder: what connects us?  Why this band?  What’s at the heart of this experience?

mezz preshow

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Marketing Marillion: More

With their USA tour winding down, Marillion have announced street dates for the rest of their 2018 limited edition live reissues through earMusic,  listed below with original years of release:

  • March 23: Unplugged at the Walls (1999) and Tumbling Down the Years (2010)
  • May 25:  Smoke and Mirrors (both 2006)
  • July 6: Happiness Is Cologne (2009) and Popular Music (2005)
  • September 21: Live in Glasgow (1993) and Brave Live (2013)

Merch copies of the “Limited USA Tour Edition” of FEAR (which includes a sampler of the live reissues) sold out at Marillion’s recent Grand Rapids show, but it’s still available from Amazon at this writing.

Other confirmed upcoming releases include:

  • March 9: Brave Deluxe Edition
  • Spring: Live at the Royal Albert Hall
  • Fall: Marillion Weekend 2017: Chile
  • ??? (nope, can’t say any more …)

Finally, watch this space for a review of that Grand Rapids show, coming soon!


— Rick Krueger