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.
Earlier today I searched YouTube for some suitable music to post on Sally Collyer’s Facebook timeline since it’s her birthday and all. What would be more suitable than a nice piece of footage from a Tangent gig, I thought! 🙂 And really perfect it would be if I could find a clip from the gig I attended, the one in my old hometown Kungsbacka, south of Gothenburg, Sweden. Imagine my joy when I actually found these two clips from the absolutely fantastic Monday evening, when The Tangent and Karmakanic joined forces for the last time on the short but intense tour they were out on in the last week of May and beginning of June. They started out with two gigs in Sweden, continued with three shows in Germany and The Netherlands and played, what first was meant to be the end of the tour, for an apparently ecstatic audience at Celebr8.3 in London. But, alas, the festival gig wasn’t the last, so they actually flew back to Sweden again to finish the tour at Kungsbacka Teater! Which, naturally, I’m so very happy they did! And so, watching the clips this morning made me again feel the happiness to be here, now, in this very time, being able to enjoy all the wonderful music being played by fantastic bands like The Tangent and Karmakanic. And soon, oh soon it’s time for the highly anticipated gathering of friends, also known as Big Big Train Live at King’s Hall, which probably will be The Pinnacle of my life as a music lover. 🙂
The third, and sadly last, outing for this two-day celebration of all things prog saw it decamp from the seedier previous setting of a Kingston-Upon-Thames nightclub to the far more salubrious surroundings of Islington Assembly Hall, an elegant 1930s municipal building in a fashionable part of north London.
Aptly, veterans Twelfth Night kicked off this final incarnation of the festival with what is supposedly their last ever performance. One can only hope that they reconsider after a barnstorming set drawn for the most part from their classic Fact & Fiction album. Clive Mitten took to the stage looking more like a retired gentleman on his way to the village cricket match than a bassist in a rock band – but looks are deceptive, as Peter Gabriel once sang, and it soon became clear that age has not dimmed the musical power and presence of these Britprog legends. Longtime friend of the band Mark Spencer, guesting as frontman before a stint on bass for Galahad the following day, did a fine job of interpreting the singular vision of the late lamented Geoff Mann.
The ranks in front of the stage thinned noticeably for second act, Thumpermonkey – which was rather a shame, as these heavy progressive modernists are true innovators. Theirs was a challenging and noisy set focusing largely on new or less familiar material, although Asymptote from 2007’s Bring Me Sun For Breakfast made a very welcome appearance, eliciting the biggest response from the audience. Some of the subtlety was lost in a mix that unduly favoured Michael Woodman’s lead guitar at the expense of Rael Jones’ keyboards, but despite these small concerns this was an engrossing performance – dense and complex to be sure, and quite different from what had preceded it, but highly rewarding for those who gave it their full attention.
Those unsettled by the uncompromisingly tricky Thumpermonkey will presumably have found Karmakanic‘s particular brand of melodic prog to be the musical equivalent of an Alka Seltzer. Bassist Jonas Reingold was a tall, muscular presence on stage, commanding his troops with calm authority and taking every opportunity to impress with his virtuosity. The cast of musicians at his disposal included the versatile and precociously gifted Luke Machin on guitar, the stellar twin talents of Lalle Larsson and Andy Tillison on keyboards and the rich voice of Göran Edman. The marvellously full sound created by this starstudded ensemble also benefited from the best mix of the day thus far. A powerful and affecting Where Earth Meets The Sky was overshadowed somewhat by the bold decision to close the set with a stunning, previously-unheard 30-minute epic having the provocative working title of God, The Universe and Everything Else Nobody Cares About. It doesn’t get much more prog than this, folks!
Perennial favourites Anathema, in three-piece acoustic mode, occupied the evening session’s support slot. Those who’ve seen them in this form will know only too well that such downsizing barely diminishes their ability to excite and stir the emotions of an audience. Their opening salvo of the beautifully dovetailed Untouchable Parts 1 & 2, from 2012’s Weather Systems was followed by another crowd favourite, the achingly sublime Dreaming Light from We’re Here Because We’re Here. Longtime fans were catered for by the inclusion of older tracks Flying and a gorgeous, wistful A Natural Disaster, before the set closed with a world premiere of the hypnotic title track from new album Distant Satellites, heard here a week before its release. It was magical but over all too soon, leaving us with the hope that a full-band headlining tour will be coming our way before long.
Delight was mixed with a sense of déjà vu when headliners The Tangent took to the stage, for this group of familiar faces was nothing more than a reconfigured Karmakanic, with Andy Tillison now at the helm. Evening TV from latest release Le Sacre du Travail provided an energetic start to proceedings before a short hiatus while keyboard problems were sorted out. Consummate professional that he is, Andy was able to make light of it all, name-checking Progarchy’s own Alison Henderson for her astute observation in an earlier review that it wouldn’t be a Tangent gig without some kind of technical fuck-up.
After this uncertain start, it didn’t take long for the band to settle into their groove via an impressive Perdu Dans Paris and equally strong GPS Culture, both given additional texture and depth by the sax- and flute-based contributions of guest Theo Travis, but the highlight of the set surely had to be the lengthy closing piece, a superb rendition of the In Darkest Dreams suite that included the haunting and atmospheric Tangerine Dream homage AfterRicochet.
After an encore of an up-tempo untitled new track, the band morphed back into their Karmakanic configuration for rousing anthem Turn It Up, ending proceedings on a suitably joyous note before the tired but happy revellers dispersed to the homes and hotels of London and beyond, to recuperate for Day 2…
Coming up in Part 2: Galahad, Sanguine Hum, Cosmograf, The Fierce & The Dead and Frost*
My great friend and hero, Andy Tillison, just posted this on Facebook:
So… Jonas Reingold promises to make the Karmakanic set as simple as possible to play for everyone. Nice Guy.
Three weeks ago we received the set, which includes a brand new piece. None of their band has played it before. It is a little ditty which clocks in at around half an hour. It has about 30 sections in it. It takes as its lyrical subject matter that oft discussed little chestnut.. THE HISTORY OF THE UNIVERSE ITSELF.
“this is some definition of the word ‘simple’ i wasn’t previously aware of….”
CELEBR8.3 May 31 and on tour in Europe late May….The insanity goes on…