Saturday, February 20, 2010

Yes - February 15 - Warner Theatre

This show was scheduled for Saturday 2/6, but the Snowmageddon pushed it back to Monday 2/15. Yes was such an iconic band in the early 1970's, they were far and away the most popular "progressive rock" band. Now forty years later they're still doing the same thing, but the line up has changed slightly. Lead singer Jon Anderson is sidelined with health problems and is replaced by Canadian Benoit David. Benoit made a name for himself in Yes cover bands and was drafted into the real band when Jon went down. Also keyboard maestro Rick Wakemen has been replaced by his son, Oliver. I don't know why Rick is retired, maybe he just doesn't care anymore.

But original band members, Chris Squire (bass/vocals), Alan White (drums), and Steve Howe (guitar/vocals) are still kicking out the progressive rock classic jams and they look like they're having more fun than ever. We had some great seats, in the first couple of rows, directly in front of guitar virtuoso Steve Howe. Steve Howe looks like one of those guys you see sitting in the lobby of an assisted living facility, but when he straps on that Gibson guitar he is simply amazing. Chris Squire is full of energy and approaches each song with utmost enthusiasm.
And the band performed all of their big hits from the heyday, starting with "Siberian Khatru" (someone in the audience yelled "Welcome to Siberia!" with 2 feet of snow outside) and they whipped through "I've Seen All Good People", "Your is No Disgrace", "Heart of the Sunrise", and "And You and I". Each song was close to the studio version, but did include extended solo's for everyone (except Wakeman for some reason). They also did a wonderful version of "Machine Messiah", a song from the Drama album that I'm not very familiar with, but this might have been the musical highlight. Steve Howe played two songs solo acoustic that were just marvelous. And of course they did "Roundabout" for an encore.
The audience was all old guys and a few wives (including the Bird, who is a big Yes fan). The Boy was there as part of his Continuing Music Education. In January we saw Dweezil Zappa play his tribute to his father's music, then we saw the Furthur show, which is a tribute to the Grateful Dead with a couple of original members and several younger players, then Yes with three original members and two youngsters filling in. I'm a little tired of "recreating" musical experiences from decades past and ready for some young musicians playing some new music. Bring on the festival season!

 The Boy, Greg Barnes, myself, the Bird

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Furthur - February 13 - George Mason University

For those of you that don't know, Furthur is a band put together by Phil Lesh and Bob Weir of the Grateful Dead, to keep Dead music alive and out there. Joining them for this tour are keyboardist Jeff Chimenti (from Bob Weir's band Ratdog and he also played with the Dead last year), drummers Jay Lane and Joe Russo (we've seen him before with Benevento/Russo) and a couple of backup singers. But what had me most perplexed and anxious was the presence of guitarist/singer John Kadlicek. We've enjoyed John's performances for years as the lead guitarist for Dark Star Orchestra, which is the very popular Grateful Dead cover/tribute band. He plays and sings just like Jerry Garcia and when he plays with Dark Star and he has been essential to their ability to "re-create" the live Dead experience. So I was apprehensive when I heard that this Jerry imitator was filling in with Phil and Bobby. I did not have this feeling when the Dead toured last year with Warren Haynes as the lead guitarist. Warren didn't try to be Jerry, instead he brought his own sound and his own style which meshed really nicely with the Dead songs.

We rolled in the GMU Patriot Center, it was a near sold out crowd, a suprisingly older demographic. Of course you expect there to be many gray hairs there, but these shows usually attract a good number of young folks as well, especially on a college campus, but for whatever reason it was just us old folks.

They opened with "Playing in the Band" and my apprehension quickly slipped away. The band was tight, they were having fun and the music was good. Unlike earlier shows in the tour, Saturday night turned into a greatest hits sort of show, with "Friend of the Devil", "Ship of Fools", and "Truckin'" in the first set. I was particularly impressed with Jeff Chimenti's \crazy piano solo on "Wang Dang Doodle".

The second set kicked off with the superb trilogy "Help on the Way>Slipknot>Franklin's Tower" from the Blues for Allah album. This was followed by a really nice version of "Cassidy", it was here that Phil, Bobby, Jeff, and John seemed to get into a synergistic state where they were really listening to each other and playing together well. "Lovelight" had a nice part where the backup singers and Bobby were calling back and forth, almost gospel style. However the backup singers were mostly redundant on the other songs as they only sang the chorus lines where the crowd sings along anyway.

The band jammed on with "St. Stephen", a loose version of the Beatles' "Revolution", then "The Eleven" and "So Many Roads". Now I've always thought that John Kadlicek really sings "So Many Roads" very well, he sort of makes it his own song (as they might say on American Idol) and he rose to the occasion here as the band let him take the spotlight. So what was I all worried about? Let the music play! They finished up with "Let it Grow" and then slipped back into "Playing in the Band" to put a nice bookend on a fine evening of music. The crowd called for more so they came out and ripped through "Johnny B. Goode" to get us fired up for the long trip home.

Furthur is named for the bus that Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters drove through history in the 1960's. Phil and Bob were there and it's inspirational that some 40+ years they're still out there playing music and having fun. In fact watching Phil on Saturday night I've never seen him in such an great mood, laughing, singing and playing. I salute him and wish him the best as he celebrates his 70th birthday next month