Eine Kleine Nichtmusik

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Thursday, October 15, 2009

A week of prog part 2 - Progressive Nation 2009

And so to ast Sunday, when I went with my son and some of his friends to the SECC in Glasgow to see Dream Theater. But not just Dream Theater oh dear me, no: this was the kind of tour I didn't know you still got, with three support bands. As the SECC impose a 2300 curfew on bands, this meant the evening kicked off at 1800, and as it was standing only my legs definitely began to feel the strain by around ten o'clock.

We began with a blast of progressive metal from Canadians Unexpect. Imagine somebody plonked Darryl Way and Sonia Kristina out of Curved Air in front of Lordi, and you get the idea. All in matching Gothic black, mostly with long hair ideal for synchronised head-banging (and the last time I saw much of that was a Beck Bogert & Appice gig in 1974). They were good though: they did a quieter number which had me flashing back to Marc Brierley which is no mean feat. (And Googling him just now was another nostalgic wallow.) The most interesting thing about Unexpect, though, is their bass player's custom 9-string bass, which is some instrument (I thought it had ten strings, but Wikipedia reckons nine).

Then onto the next band, the even more enjoyable LA group BigElf. They prefaced their entry with the Darth Vader theme from "The Empire Strikes Back", which was quite amusing. Searching for comparisons I came up with Deep Purple and The Crazy World of Arthur Brown (but without the flames). I really liked BigElf, who while still pretty heavy are my kind of prog rock. Here's a sample of thir stuff. Their keyboards were all resolutely analogue as far as I could tell, which was a further reminder of Jon Lord.

Next came Opeth, a bunch of Swedes who while very competent left me underwhelmed. It seemed to me that they couldn't decide whether they wanted to sound like the Canterbury prog bands of the seventies (Caravan, Soft Machine etc) or like Napalm Death. Even songs that were mostly thoughtful and beautiful were bracketed by segments of screaming. 21st century Schizoid Men indeed. Their singer said we probably all knew Sweden for its hardcore porn, and I nearly shouted out "Nordman!". Though in the circumstances "Mamma Mia!" might have served as well. I bottled out though so as not to be an embarrassing Dad. reading their Wikipedia entry suggests that there may be more to Opeth than they displayed last week, but they were the evening's low point for me.

Finally, just after nine, the band we'd all come to see burst onto the stage. My previous knowledge of Dream Theater came from what I had heard spilling out from my son's room, though he lent me their latest release (Black Clouds and Silver Linings" earlier in the week. So while I knew I liked their music I was in no sense an aficionado. The obvious reference point for their music seems to be Yes: the instrumental line-up is the same, the songs tend to be long and compise many sections, and they are all extremely competent. They eschew Yes's costumes and stage sets though: just a bunch of working musos from Long Island.

They were, of course, fantastic. Five very different personalities bith as men and as musicians, all hugely capable and all enjoying every second of the performance. They opened with "A Nightmare To Remember" from the new album and followed up with Rite Of Passage". The only other one I recognised was the encore, The Count of Tuscany", again from the new album, but in between my son tells me they did "Hollow Years", "Voices", "Solitary Shell" and "Take Your Time". (He was disappointed though that they didn't do their one proper hit "Pull Me Under".) I know I enjoyed them as nuch as any band I've ever seen. Jordan Rudess had an interesting keyboard setup: mostly a single digital keyboard on a turntable so he could face whichever way he wanted, along with with a device providing true glissandi (this). He also had an iPhone hooked up to his setup. According to the Wikipedia entry it uses an app called Bebot Robot synth. Finally, he had a large flat-screen TV behind him which showed his "keyboard wizard" avatar from time to time. Sometimes it mirrored what he was doing, while at other times it mirrored what some autonomously-running synth was doing, giving the visual impression of a duet. Very impressive, and neither as gimmicky or as geeky as I probably make it sound.

A splendid evening, then. Not quite a return to the Seventies, though: standing close to the stage for five hours back then would definitely have knocked out some of my high-frequency hearing for a day or so. Not so in the more safety-conscious 21st century, and no bad thing either.


At 15 October, 2009 17:46, Blogger Tim (Kalyr) said...

Hi Rob,

Interesting to contrast your review with mine from the Manchester show of the same tour.


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