Monday, January 26, 2009
Eddie Jobson proves that prog still lives.
UKZ rolled into New York last night for the final show of their One City World Tour. Uh, wait, I think that was the debut show of the tour. No, really, they meant that literally. The only show on the “tour” was in New York. One does have to wonder about the economics of a single-city tour, but I’m not complaining.
Let’s start again.
UKZ, Eddie Jobson’s return from retirement after more than 25 years, came to New York last night and blew the doors off of the rather elegant Town Hall. The show was incredibly interesting, and Jobson was fantastic. Thick swirling textures, incredible organ, and of course his trademark violin leads. It’s almost like I’d forgotten all about him in the 25+ years since he “retired” and have now been forcibly (and happily) reminded of his existence.
When my friend and I first walked into Town Hall we couldn’t quite figure out what keyboards he had with him. He had a what looked like a Goff-modified B3 straight out of the backpage ads of Keyboard magazine from the ’80s. It looked like galvanized aluminum side panels somehow miraculously supported by very thin legs at the back. On closer inspection it was revealed that those thin legs were actually metal tubes which held the wiring, and that really there were nearly invisible lucite panels holding up the keyboards. On even closer inspection, I was rather astonished to see that Jobson was playing two Prophet T8s! I would never in a million years have guessed that he would bring, here in the 21st century, some vintage synths to his debut show. I have no idea what MIDI gear if any he had in external racks offstage, but he played no other keyboards besides those T8s. I’m still shaking my head about it in a way, and am having a little trouble expressing my sheer wonder at and appreciation of his doing that, especially in the current times when even Tangerine Dream uses Moog Modular emulation software and large onstage video monitors rather than actual hardware.
But regardless of his equipment, what really counts is that he’s still got it, and pretty much tore it up all night long. This is what prog is all about; having chops, and knowing how to use them. I realize there are bands like Dream Theater out there, and while I’m certainly a fan of theirs and they can certainly play millions more notes per minute, the sheer power with tastefulness of Eddie Jobson just can’t be beat. With Jobson, it’s all about the music, not necessarily all about the players. I guess what I’m trying to say is that Jobson has the chops, but doesn’t really need to have the flash of, say, a Keith Emerson with his knives in the organ. He doesn’t have to show you he’s the star, but his playing certainly shows that he’s the foundation.
I don’t want it to seem that Jobson was alone out there, though. He had an incredible group of players with him, including Trey Gunn on Warr guitar, Marco Minnemann on drums (with a little guitar), Alex Machacek on guitar, and Aaron Lippart on vocals (with a little guitar). After the initial U.K. album with Bruford and Holdsworth, Jobson didn’t have a guitarist with him. It was interesting to have that extra bit of texture this time, allowing him the freedom to work less and play more in a sense. To top it all off, near the end of the show they added Pat Mastelotto and Tony Levin from the opening band Stick Men for a searing rendition of one of King Crimson’s Larks’ Tongues in Aspic Part 2. For me, this was almost the perfect King Crimson lineup. Double bass, double guitars, drums, all on top of Jobson’s incredible textures and violin. If only...
It was a fantastic show, and I hope they go on to extend their One City World Tour to other cities. UKZ has a four-song EP coming out soon, with hopefully a full album to follow.
Jobson’s back, and it feels great.