There was a reason space music was created. It was so you’d have a soundtrack for watching things like the Perseid Meteor shower, the annual storm of light streaking across the sky caused by debris falling off the Swift-Tuttle Comet, discovered back in 1862. This year NASA estimates a whopping 160 to 200 meteor hits an hour, which might be more than a Pink Floyd Laser show! Normally this shower has between 80 and 100 per hour, as seen in the time lapse capture from 2015 below. The best views this year will be Thursday night into Friday morning and Friday night through Saturday morning. Continue reading →
This review of the Yestival by John Diliberto, host and producer of Echoes, originally appeared in The Echoes Blog. Listen to Echoes on WXPN Mon-Thursday evenings from 11PM-1AM.
In 1971 I went to the Orpheum Theater in Boston for a double bill of Yes and King Crimson. Being too hip for the room, I was there to see the Islands edition of Crimson. Yes, of course, were just too pop for me. I mean, they had actual hits with “Roundabout” and “I’ve Seen All Good People.” Krimson gave a good performance, although this was the least interesting edition of the band. But Yes, this night anyway, wiped them off the stage with a combination of charisma, impeccable musical virtuosity and Jon Anderson’s choirboy yearning. I walked out a fan, and would have to wait for the Lark’s Tongue edition of Krimson for them to catch up.
I found myself in a similar place this past Saturday night at the Yestival, a one day festival of progressive rock headed by the latest iteration of Yes, and the most controversial. This band always had trouble holding its personnel together, but there was always at least one constant, the signature voice and lyrics of Jon Anderson. But Anderson was effectively booted from the band in 2008, due to a combination of illness and apparent lack of commitment. With the absence of signpost members like drummer Bill Bruford and keyboardist Rick Wakeman, I felt like I was seeing a shadow of this band, no more credible than the Genesis tribute band, The Musical Box, who opened. This couldn’t be the Yes of Fragile or Close To The Edge. This was just a touring paycheck machine.
Uh, I was wrong, which was something that about 5500 people at the Yestival in the Susquehanna Bank Center in Camden, NJ already knew. Anderson’s replacement, (his second actually), Jon Davison, is frighteningly good. The singer for the American symphonic prog group Glass Hammer, he sounds like a clone of Anderson, except a clone who hits all the notes, sings with passion and ties the band together with his stage presence. By the time they hit the “Total Mass Retain” section of Close to the Edge, no one was missing Jon Anderson and no one was thinking Davison was a substitute. He is the lead singer of Yes.
Since this was a festival, Yes was slated to play only two albums straight through instead of the three they’re performing on their solo tour. But they decided to throw in the third album anyway playing Close to the Edge, Going for the One and The Yes Album. What magnificent works they are and beautifully performed. Bassist and co-founder Chris Squire and guitarist Steve Howe, a member of Yes beginning in their classic years, anchored the band. Howe switched between electric guitar and lap steel, whipping out the slides of “Going for the One” and nailing the intensity of “Starship Trooper.”
Still an underrated player, Howe matches fleet fingered runs with beautiful tone. Squire stalked, grimaced and yowled stage left, ripping out those chunky bass-lines that are such a Yes signature. Neither keyboardist Geoff Downes nor drummer Alan White, both members of later Yes editions, took much of the spotlight, but they provided the orchestral color and rhythmic thrust so essential to this group, who, for all their odd time signatures and multi-movement works, really drives as hard as any rock band. I don’t care about the excess; nine keyboards stacked up just have a certain gravitas and power that the smaller keyboard set-ups of Volto! and Renaissance couldn’t match. I can’t say the same for Chris Squire’s triple necked guitar he pulled out at one point. One Rickenbacker bass is really all he needs. Continue reading →