Phish, Radiohead and YES: Live Concerts in Review



With 2018 coming to a close, Spotify users can now review their music history through a feature called 2018 Wrapped. This feature, which has been around for three years now, shows users cool statistics such as one’s number of minutes listened, most streamed songs and, based on one’s top artists and bands, one’s top genre. Although I rarely use Spotify for streaming, Spotify determined that my favorite genre was rock . . . and for good reason. Three of my favorite bands– Phish, Radiohead and YES– are all typically termed as rock bands. Yet, despite their collective grouping under the genre, these bands could not be more different. While listening to these bands alone demonstrates the vast variations which exist within the rock genre, nothing proves this more than experiencing each of these bands live. This year, I set out to do just that. 

I saw YES this summer at Riverbend Music Center in Cincinnati. One of the most acclaimed progressive rock bands ever, YES, in their 50th anniversary tour, continued to demonstrate their greatness. Although no founding members remain in YES (note: there are now two incarnations of YES and each had their own 50th anniversary tour: YES and YES Featuring Jon Anderson, Trevor Rabin, and Rick Wakeman–this article addresses the former), its current members, including long time guitarist Steve Howe and Alan White, continue to evoke the features which led to YES’ distinctive sound–experimentation, harmony, and avant-garde lyrics. This commitment to founding principles made up for the lack-luster lights and atmosphere and resulted in a great show. While most of YES’ music does not quite match my tastes, I still hold tremendous respect for their contributions to music and am glad that I managed to see them live.

I had waited a long time to see Radiohead and this year I finally received the opportunity. I saw them twice this summer: first at Little Caesars Arena in Detroit and second at US Bank Arena in Cincinnati. Each performance was incredible in its own way. In Detroit, Radiohead displayed its incredible versatility, playing both driving, dissonant songs such as “2+2=5,” and softer, intimate songs such as “Fake Plastic Trees.” Their performance, coupled with mesmerizing lights and the incredible atmosphere of the newly renovated arena, made for an unforgettable experience. While some set-list similarities existed in Radiohead’s Cincinnati show, overall, they played a lot of different songs and gave almost an entirely different show. Since the show did not sell out, my brother and I managed to get closer to the stage and that made it all the more memorable. The coolest moment from the Cincinnati show, however, occurred when Jonny Greenwood and Ed O’Brien both gave me a wave before exiting the stage. Radiohead closed out both shows with one of their more widely recognized songs– “Karma Police.” Hearing a stadium full of people sing along to this song was nothing short of magical. It was a moment I hope to never forget.

I saw Phish twice at Allstate Arena in Rosemont, IL. Although I had seen them live before, I did not truly appreciate the awesomeness of their live sets until this year. Many people label Phish as merely a jam band. While they do jam, they always change the structure and sound of their jams, making their music extremely interesting and fun. One never knows quite what to expect from them because of their vast number of songs and the improvisations made within those songs. Their musicianship always mesmerizes me. Phish also possesses some of the nicest, loyal fans and their concerts always feature incredible light displays. Overall, Phish’s live concerts always guarantee a unique, unforgettable experience (go to one of their live concerts and you will understand what I mean). 

While 2018 gave me some incredible memories, I look forward to 2019 and the new musical adventures that await. Although I love to stream music and follow my favorite bands and artists online, nothing truly compares to the beauty of live concerts. Music, after all, surpasses the boundaries of sound. It represents a spectrum of emotions and these emotions are best shared with other people.

Streaming Music (Editorial)

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Prog art at its finest–Jim Trainer’s Winchester Diver for Big Big Train.

A great DJ is just a step below a great producer and sound engineer.

From time to time, I’ve considered joining a streaming service permanently.  I’ve toyed around with Spotify, Pandora, and iTUNES.

I just can’t understand the attraction.

There was a time in my life, I really loved radio.  From the years between late grade school and the end of high school (class of 1986), I listened faithfully to Wichita’s KICT-95.  The station introduced me–rather gloriously–to album rock radio, back when radio actually played entire sides of albums.  I got to know the DJs, the music, and their various programs.  I knew when to expect a full album side, and when to expect the latest news in the rock world.  I knew when T-95 broadcast concerts, and I knew when the radio station sponsored bands to play live in Wichita.  It was a golden age of rock.  I was always far more taken with prog than I was with acid or hard rock, but T-95 presented all as a rather cohesive whole, thanks to the quality of the DJs.

But, streaming?  I just don’t get it.  It’s bland.  It’s tapioca.  There’s no personality, no matter how great the music is.

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The Ignorance of Roger Waters

http://teamrock.com/news/2017-07-18/roger-waters-slams-thom-yorke-over-radioheads-israel-show

I could easily turn this into a 1500 word rant about how Roger Waters has turned into a senile ass. I won’t do that, but I will just say that his head is shoved so far up his rear that he can’t see what’s going on in reality. Just look at the recent interview with Prog magazine where he said the following:

[Trump] might not sell his own kids, though you sense that they’re like lumps of meat when you see them parading around, They’re like prized cattle. They’ve sort of been plumped up. Those Trump boys, they look as if they’ve been injected with hormones every morning before breakfast to get them that pumped up and kind of dopey.

– Prog 77, page 57

Beyond the mere fact that the above idiotic statement has absolutely nothing to do with music, it is completely absurd! Just imagine if someone in Waters’ position said the same thing about Bill and Hillary Clinton’s daughter. There would be people calling for his arrest and hanging!

This pile of crap related to the Israel boycott is nothing more than leftist anti-Semitism. The UN pulls this garbage of siding with the terrorists that run Palestine, even to the point of claiming that the Jewish people have no claim to the plot of land known as the Temple Mount. (http://www.jpost.com/Arab-Israeli-Conflict/UN-General-Assembly-supports-resolution-ignoring-Jewish-ties-to-the-Temple-Mount-474107)

It truly is sad to see the once-great cultural critic Waters succumb to this base level of stupidity. The Palestinian government monetarily supports and vocally condones the utter destruction of the Jewish people and the Jewish state. How can supporting a boycott of Israel in support of the Palestinians be anything but vitriolic racism against the Jewish people?

I’m happy there are musicians like Steven Wilson, Radiohead, Steve Hackett, Mike Portnoy, and many others that are willing to ignore the anti-Israel garbage spewed by some on the left and play in Israel and collaborate with Israeli musicians.

I would love to go to one of Waters’ upcoming shows in Chicago, but I refuse to give my hard-earned money to that man after the things he has said. For that same reason, I refuse to buy his new album, and even if somebody gave me a copy, I probably wouldn’t listen to it. I am even having trouble listening to Pink Floyd because of his absurd comments, and they are one of my very favorite bands.

Roger Waters has completely lost touch with reality, and he needs to seriously reconsider his political positions because they are in direct contrast with the anti-establishment and anti-totalitarian (and brilliant) lyrics he wrote for Animals, The Wall, and The Final Cut.

Mr. Waters, if you choose to support an egregious boycott of Israel and the Jewish people who choose to live there, then I can choose to boycott you.

soundstreamsunday: “Subterranean Homesick Alien” by Radiohead

radiohead - EditedThe figure “singing from the window in the Mission of the Sacred Heart” in ELO’s “Mission (A World Record)”, last week’s soundstreamsunday entry, could be the uptight narrator of Radiohead’s “Subterranean Homesick Alien,” from the band’s 1997 tour-de-force OK Computer.  As if in mirrored conversation, those two songs, separated in time by over 20 years but perhaps closer than they appear — in their beam-me-up guitar melodies, keyboarded grandeur and darkening moods — are to me joined at their metaphoric sci-fi hips.

Radiohead’s confidence on OK Computer, in both the intense alienation of the fragmented lyrics and the band’s break with the walls and squalls of mid-90s guitar rock, is a subtle swagger ripe with end-of-the-millenia decaying beauty.  It’s a prog goth triumph, reaching in its many directions to locate the mood of its time, a burred gloaming richly unsettled.  It’s also, I was reminded when listening again to it recently, funny, in the same way that Forever Changes is, or Fight Club, or a mad prophet preaching the end times.  There’s just no telling what the next turn will be, but there is a willful design, and so the satisfaction of a wicked lyric or the resolution of a majestic melodic sequence prompts a smile or a laugh.  The parts come together, a human victory, a denial of the end even as it’s being trumpeted.

The internally rhyming title of “Subterranean Homesick Alien,” a riff on a Dylan masterpiece (and, further back, a Kerouac novel), feels tossed off on the one hand but also maybe the only choice given its narrator’s painting a scene of alien surveillance and his desire, that he be taken “on board their beautiful ship, show me the world as I’d love to see it.”  He’s maybe one of them, maybe wants to be one of them, but who They are is undetermined and in any case moot: the point is homesickness for a place that has to be better, with the “breath of the morning” and the “smell of the warm summer air.”

soundstreamsunday presents one song or live set by an artist each week, and in theory wants to be an infinite linear mix tape where the songs relate and progress as a whole. For the complete playlist, go here: soundstreamsunday archive and playlist, or check related articles by clicking on”soundstreamsunday” in the tags section above.

One CEO’s 50 (or so) favorite pop albums

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Inspired by Brad’s fascinating and very New Wave-ish post “My 49 Favorite Pop Albums”, I decided to try my hand at listing the same. One difficulty, it turns out, is defining “pop”. Brad didn’t list Radiohead’s “OK Computer” (one of my Top 10 pop/rock albums) because he figured it was too proggy, which is hard to disagree with. But I have it in my list, and also included a couple more albums that are certainly in the realm of prog: “Queen II”, “Point of Know Return”, and “A Momentary Lapse of Reason”. But, on the whole, I think most everything here fits on the “pop” spectrum, even if it veers into rocky territory (Muse, Journey, Soundgarden) on occasion.

Also, I could have easily included several more albums by Sinatra and Torme, and I feel a bit guilty to not have anything by, say, Nancy Wilson, Sarah Vaughn, Rosemary Clooney, or Nat King Cole. But I’ve tried to capture a certain breadth chronologically while being true to what I like and return to. And that is a key criteria: all of these are albums I revisit and never tire of.  Finally, it might be surprising that the only artist who shows up here three times is Seal. But no Beatles? Rolling Stones? Simon and Garfunkel? Lady GaGa? Go figure!

1950s-60s:
Frank Sinatra: IN THE WEE SMALL HOURS (1955)
Frank Sinatra: SONGS FOR SWINGIN’ LOVERS! (1956)
Mel Tormé: IT’S A BLUE WORLD (1956)
Roy Orbison: IN DREAMS (1963)
Mel Tormé: THAT’S ALL (1965)

1970s:
Van Morrison: MOONDANCE (1970)
Elton John: ELTON JOHN (1970)
Queen: QUEEN II (1974)
Queen: NIGHT AT THE OPERA (1975)
Kansas: POINT OF KNOW RETURN (1977)
Electric Light Orchestra: OUT OF THE BLUE (1977)

1980s:
Journey: ESCAPE (1981)
ABBA: THE VISITORS (1981)
Asia: ASIA (1982)
The Police: SYNCHRONICITY (1983)
Big Country: THE CROSSING (1983)
Mr. Mister: WELCOME TO THE REAL WORLD (1985)
John Fogerty: CENTERFIELD (1985)
The Moody Blues: THE OTHER SIDE OF LIFE (1986)
Sting: NOTHING LIKE THE SUN (1987)
Pink Floyd: A MOMENTARY LAPSE OF REASON (1987)
Sam Phillips: THE INDESCRIBABLE WOW (1988)
Kate Bush: THE SENSUAL WORLD (1989)
Van Morrison: AVALON SUNSET (1989)

1990s:
The Choir: CIRCLE SLIDE (1990)
George Michael: LISTEN WITHOUT PREJUDICE, VOL. 1 (1990)
U2: ACHTUNG BABY (1991)
Seal: SEAL (1991)
Tori Amos: LITTLE EARTHQUAKES (1992)
Maria McKee: YOU GOTTA SIN TO GET SAVED (1993)
Chris Isaak: SAN FRANCISCO DAYS (1993)
The Cranberries: EVERYONE ELSE IS DOING IT, SO WHY CAN’T WE? (1993)
Sarah McLachlan: FUMBLING TOWARDS ECSTASY (1993)
Seal: SEAL (1994)
Portishead: DUMMY (1994)
Soundgarden: SUPERUNKNOWN (1994)
Jeff Buckley: GRACE (1994)
Jars of Clay: JARS OF CLAY (1995)
The Mavericks: MUSIC FOR ALL OCCASIONS (1995)
Duncan Sheik: DUNCAN SHEIK (1996)
Radiohead: OK COMPUTER (1997)
Seal: HUMAN BEING (1998)
Burlap to Cashmere: ANYBODY OUT THERE? (1998)
Moby: PLAY (1999)

2000 on:
Martin Sexton: LIVE WIDE OPEN (2002)
Muse: BLACK HOLES AND REVELATIONS (2006)
Brandi Carlile: THE STORY (2007)
A Fine Frenzy: ONE CELL IN THE SEA (2007)
Sia: SOME PEOPLE HAVE REAL PROBLEMS (2008)
Sara Bareilles: KALEIDOSCOPE HEART (2010)
Lake Street Dive: BAD SELF PORTRAITS (2014)
Kevin Max: BROKEN TEMPLES (2015)

(Belated) Best of 2016

Please forgive my late entry, for I did not listen to as many new albums as I should have in 2016; I suppose I still have an affinity for the “classics.” Anyway, here is my all too brief list (in no particular order) of the best albums of 2016:moonpool

A Moon Shaped Pool (Radiohead): This was my first exposure to Radiohead, and I was impressed. The atmospheric, almost hypnotic vocals of Thom Yorke, supported by Jonny Greenwood’s haunting string arrangements, make this a work of eerie beauty. Burn the Witch and Daydreaming are the two stand out pieces, but the album overall is excellent.

Say So (Bent Knee): Not as well-known as the other two, but a gem nonetheless. This innovative band from Boston features the inbentkneecredible vocals of Courtney Swain, whose range will impress prog and non-prog lovers alike. You can check out my review of their first album here.


Your Wilderness
(The Pineapple Thief): I must admit that I enjoy just about anything created by Bruce Soord. The man is quite the talent – as a songwriter, vocalist, and guitarist. His latest effort is no exception; it is filled with well-crafted and accessible songs. Overall, it is a great followup to 2014’s Magnoliayour-wilderness

 

What I Liked This Year

I wasn’t too adventurous in my listening this year – maybe because artists I’m already familiar with released so much good music that they kept me busy!

Here’s what I liked in 2016 in the world of prog:

Tales_from_Topographic_Oceans_(Yes_album)10. Yes: Tales From Topographic Oceans (Blu-ray ed.)

Technically not a 2016 release, but with Steven Wilson’s 5.1 mix, this is a new album to my ears. This has everything a Yes fan could ask for – versions of TFTO that include the original mix, a radio promo, a “needle-drop” vinyl transfer, an instrumental version, in addition to Wilson’s new mixes – literally hours of music. A sometimes maligned work gets its proper release, and it really shines.

 

The Mute Gods9. The Mute Gods: Do Nothing Till You Hear From Me

I love Nick Beggs’ blend of 70s – era FM rock with snappy songwriting. Turns out he’s much more than one of the best bassists ever.

 

Continue reading “What I Liked This Year”