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.