Steve Hackett, Live at 20 Monroe Live, Grand Rapids, MI, October 3, 2019
Band: Steve Hackett, Nad Sylvan, Craig Blundell, Jonas Reingold, Rob Townsend, Roger King
Setlist: Set 1 Every Day
Under the Eye of the Sun
Fallen Walls and Pedestals
Beasts in Our Time
The Virgin and the Gypsy
The Red Flower of Tachai Blooms Everywhere
Clocks – The Angel of Mons
Dancing With the Moonlit Knight
I Know What I Like (In Your Wardrobe)
Firth of Fifth
More Fool Me
The Battle of Epping Forest
After the Ordeal
The Cinema Show
Aisle of Plenty
Dance on a Volcano
I had been looking forward to this concert ever since I bought tickets at the beginning of the year. I had never seen Steve Hackett live, but it had been at the top of my bucket list for a while. He’s my favorite guitarist, and I’ve loved all of the recent Genesis Revisited live albums. I consider Selling England By the Pound to be one of the finest albums ever made, so I couldn’t pass on the opportunity to see Mr. Hackett and company perform it live. They didn’t disappoint.
During the first half of the show, the band played highlights from Hackett’s 1979 solo album Spectral Mornings and this year’s At the Edge of Light. The whole set was very strong, but I particularly enjoyed Craig Blundell’s drum solo. Some drum solos can be a little boring, but not this one. Very engaging, interesting, and complex. The opening “Every Day” really highlighted the light and airy style of Hackett’s solo music, while “Beasts In Our Time” showed how heavy his music can be. Jonas Reingold’s bass was exceptional all night, but the bass line on “Under the Eye of the Sun” really allowed his talent to shine.
If you think you know what The Sea Within will sound like just from knowing who’s involved — The Flower Kings’ guitar/bass team of Roine Stolt and Jonas Reingold, Pain of Salvation’s Daniel Gildenlöw and Flying Colors’ Casey McPherson singing, Tom Brislin on keyboards and Marco Minnemann on drums — think again. Sure, put these six proggers together in a studio, and they’ll work from their signature sounds and strengths. But they also play off each other in unique ways, stretch out in unexpected directions, and come up with a rewarding, thoroughly listenable debut.
Yesterday I had the immense pleasure and privilege of talking by phone with Steve Hackett as he prepares for his 2018 Tour de Force. Over the course of 30 minutes, Steve was genial, gracious and forthcoming. He talked about life on a prog rock cruise, his busy agenda for this year, the musicians he works with, his take on where progressive music might be heading, and much more. Steve’s words (slightly edited for clarity and organized by topic) follow!
About this year’s Cruise to the Edge:
“Absolutely marvelous. I think this was our fourth Cruise, as was the case for many of the acts, and I think everyone said this time they felt that it was the best of the lot, because so many people knew each other, familiar faces. They have a boatload of about 3,000 people. In the end, when you’ve done this thing before, people just keep coming back, and saying, ‘Oh, hi, Steve.’ ‘Hi, Fred.’ All that is just wonderful, it’s mind-boggling, it’s like a sort of brotherhood on the briny, on the high seas. It’s wonderful that these cruises have become such a success. I get to hook up with all sorts of extraordinary pals, such as the guys from Marillion and all the Yes guys, of course, and Martin Barre of Jethro Tull, and so many. So there’s a great camaraderie amongst everybody, so we all got time to hang out together, see each other’s shows, and it’s become a great tradition.”
About sitting in and collaborations:
“I sat in with Dave Kerzner on the Cruise, I’ve played on a couple of albums of his. In a way, I think there’s this thing about helping each other out, as I say, this brotherhood feeling. And he’s tremendously hard working, he’s done so many things recently, and it’s great. He often says, ‘Ooh, I’ve got such and such, do you feel like using that?’ in his studio. Between all of us, we’ve got a ton of contacts and we help each other. It’s a great time in rock & roll, it’s very much everyone’s feeding everyone else, it’s really very good.”
“We played a version of this thing called ‘Stranded,’ which was on his first album. It was a poolside thing where we did that at night, but it really took off. I’m hoping we see a film of it at some point.” [Here’s Steve’s solo from the end of ‘Stranded,” as played on Cruise to the Edge 2018. Thanks to Dave Kerzner, guitarist extraordinaire Fernando Perdomo, and Fernando’s friend Cyndi for supplying the video!]
“I think perhaps it’s a case of having been in the industry for a certain amount of time, where the people remember me via Genesis or GTR or solo stuff, or whatever it happens to be. Over and above that, I’ve worked with a tremendous amount of artists, showing up, doing the solos. Not always guitar – sometimes it’s harmonica or other strange things that I get asked to do, and if I can fit it into the schedule, I like doing it. I’ve worked with all sorts of artists. It hasn’t always been rock; sometimes it’s been other stuff – Evelyn Glennie, which is avant-garde stuff, a Hungarian band called Djabe. I do stuff with them and meet musicians all over the world.”
I´m very pleased to present the next Karmakanic/Tangent output. It will be a live CD from the upcoming European/US tour this fall. To be released Jan 2018.
So let me start bitching about this even before the tour has started and nothing is recorded yet. Why? That’s a valid question and I will try to answer it to the best of my knowledge.
WE NEED THE MONEY!!!! PERIOD!!!
We lost a well payed gig in Boston that was one of the anchor gigs to finance this tour. We run into totally overpriced VISA application costs. Do you know how much a application cost for a band like us? 2500 US dollars, just to get in. Then add flights, accommodation, hiring a van, gas, hiring a rehearsal room, paying salary for the band members, domestic travels prior the rehearsals and all other little things that I´ve forgotten right now and you´ll probably understand that the numbers are totally in the red.
So why even think of doing this? Why just not cut the whining and throw this project right out of the window? I´ll try to answer that too.
To run a band is probably the worst business idea you can have. No money coming in a lot of money going out, poor attendance, over the years I´ve also felt lack of support from band members, although, with the current line up I´ve never heard a bad word, yet. And you all know how to make a musician complain don’t ya??? Give him a gig!! But even though with all this in consideration you do it anyway. Why?????
I LOVE MUSIC!!! PERIOD!!!
I also love the people that actually supporting the scene, buying the albums and are attending the shows. That means the world to me. To see a person actually getting moved by something you wrote or played on a recording in a shabby studio somewhere when presented on a stage in another shabby and funky club somewhere in the world is the actually payment for all the hassle, you feel connected, you´re part of something bigger.
So that’s why we, Tangent and Karmakanic reaching out to you guys and giving you all a chance to support this tour but also even more important, support the scene. You can support the tour in two different ways.
Option 1: Pre-Order this live recording just like a normal CD for 15:95 Euro
Option 2: Be one of 200 that will get their full name on the actual front cover of the CD. 34:95 Euro.
And of course, if you think that this tour support is just a big chunk of bogus we’re totally fine with that as long as you attend one of this shows on the upcoming tour.
Really, who doesn’t admire wild Scandinavian hippies? One can only imagine those Viking lovers of peace returning in their long boats to establish a loving order upon all the conquered, asking for forgiveness! Even the clever name of the band, Karmakanic reveals much about the very intentions of ever-amusing Jonas Reingold (The Flower Kings, The Tangent). The band’s outstanding 2008 album, WHO’S THE BOSS OF THE FACTORY, especially exemplified the best ideals of the late 1960s.
IN A PERFECT WORLD (2011) did as well, but despite the opening track, “1969,” the album didn’t cohere as well as the previous one.
Whatever the case might have been, Reingold has just released the best of the Karmakanic albums, DOT (officially out from Insideout on July 22, 2016). It is an extraordinary release in every single and imaginable way. Not only its structure and flow, but its lyrics, especially, are quite moving.
In just two days, one of my all-time favorite albums will turn 10-years old. Happy birthday, PARADOX HOTEL (Insideout Music, 2006).
I still remember well the day it arrived from amazon.com. I had thought the previous album, ADAM AND EVE, outstanding, but I was looking for something a bit more expansive in terms of music as well as lyrical scope. Given that this new album would be a return to a two-disk format, I’d assumed that Roine and Co. would not disappoint.
Not only did the band NOT disappoint, but they soared.
If forced to rank this cd within the Flower Kings’ discography, PARADOX HOTEL would sit very comfortably in the second best position, just below their best album, SPACE REVOLVER.
Interestingly enough, when PARADOX HOTEL came out, Stolt expressed some concern. Usually, a band hypes its latest album as its best (well, “hype” it too strong, as bands earnestly believe this to be true, as they should), but Stolt argued that he had thought the music of ADAM AND EVE more interesting and complex. Yet, the fans had not responded to ADAM AND EVE as the band had hoped, so they had returned to a poppier sound with PARADOX HOTEL.
As is always the case with The Flower Kings, the band alternates between incredibly complicated and tight jazz-fusion-esque music to more loose and open progressive-pop and rock. If ADAM AND EVE tended toward the former, PARADOX HOTEL certainly embraces the latter.
And, yet, while the complexity might not exist track by track, it does overall. It contains some of the darkest music the band has ever written, such as track seven on the first disk, “Bavarian Skies,” but it also reveals the most expansive and joyous the band has ever been with tracks such as “End on a High Note.”
This is a fascinating album in terms of its flow and its story. Though I do not know exactly what the album is about, I have interpreted it—from my first listen to it a decade ago—as a rather Dantesque examination of some form of purgatory. The Paradox Hotel is not quite the Mansion with Many Rooms of Heaven, but it is certainly a way station between this world and the next. After all, immediately upon checking in we meet monsters, men, U2 (I think, in “Hit Me With a Hit”), aviators, the young, Nazis, moms, the jealous, the violent, and the egotistical avaricious. Yet, through all of this, hope remains. Dreams and lights keep us centered on the end of the journey.
Disk two, by far the more experimental of the two disks, gives us even more glimpses of heaven, allowing us to touch, step toward, and dance in anticipation. Further, we learn that life will kill us and come to the nearly penultimate doubts in asking the most theological existential question ever offered: what if God is alone?
Finally, on track eight of disk two, we meet many of the dead who have moved through the hotel from time to time (or time to eternity, more likely), and we end with the glorious “Blue Planet,” seeing what voyages yet remain as we get caught in the revolving hotel doors.
It really could get no more C.S. Lewis and The Great Divorce or J.R.R. Tolkien and “Leaf by Niggle” than this. Indeed, if the Inklings had made prog albums, they would’ve made PARADOX HOTEL.
Or, maybe it really is a Swedish meditation on Dante’s Purgatorio.
Truly, this is some of the most satisfying, thought-provoking, and comforting music I have encountered in my own 48 years in this world. Yet one more reason to praise Stolt and Co. for the glories they see and reveal to all of us.
There are few bands that perform as well live as they do in the studio. And, of course, there are some for which the opposite is true.
One band that only gets that much more interesting live is Andy Tillison’s ever-evolving The Tangent. This year, amazingly enough, is the tenth anniversary of the first live The Tangent release, PYRAMIDS AND STARS. Looking at the line up for that tour, one has to wonder if one is caught in some kind of heavenly time-loop or fantasy prog game. Andy Tillison, Roine Stolt, Jonas Reingold, Sam Baines, and Zoltan Csorsz. The lineup could be for a Flower Kings album or, perhaps, a Steven Wilson album.
The ever, endlessly talented Ed Unitsky painted the cover, and, of course, it’s gorgeous.
Only six songs make up this 77-minute feast: The World That We Drive Through; The Canterbury Sequence; The Winning Game; The Music That Died Alone; In Darkest Dreams; and the only song under six minutes in length, a cover version of (ELP) Lucky Man.
The songs—all of which come from the first two The Tangent albums—sound as gorgeous as Unitsky’s cover art would suggest. This is The Tangent, but it’s The Tangent fully alive. What happened in the studio is merely prologue. That the embryo, this the fine young man come of age.
Andy and Roine are especially playful and open to the spirit of the muses. Their love of this music is palatable.
Sadly, this live album is extremely hard to find, and I made it a point several years ago to dig deeply across and through the internet to find a copy. It was well worth the hunt, for I treasure this album like no other. It’s a precious thing to behold.