Monday, 1 July 2013

Steve Howe @ Bury Met, 21.06.13

Prog rock: so often a bucket for music critics to fill with bile (even post-Muse) is really a genre where influences from all points clash and intertwine. Yes, for example, have over their 45 years been a broad enough church to welcome everything from icy Icelandic classical sounds to 80s disco rock and make the resulting hymns sound like nothing other than themselves.

It was intriguing to see Steve Howe filter that breadth back through the prism of his formative influences of jazz and particularly flamenco. Shorn of the current origin story/tribute act version of Yes, he did cut a slightly lonely figure on stage. In addition, his bold attempts to express the many, many layers of early Yes tunes through just a simple and unadorned acoustic guitar led to the odd fret buzz and timing issue. But there was a glory to it, occasionally ragged, but definitely glorious. His own tune 'Surface Tension' was especially lovely and the piece written for his wife – selling CDs like a charismatic market trader out in the foyer – had a sentiment and not sentimentality. He also somehow imparted something new to Mason Williams’ whiskery, brown flared corduroy 'Classical Gas'. The best moment was the excerpt from Tales from Topographic Oceans, so often a big stick used to beat his group. Here it was lovely and jazzy and on which Mr H displayed a model singing voice; a surprise to many, perhaps even him.

Words: John Wigley.

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