July 19th, 2006
This past Monday I had the chance to catch a performance by Madison’s progressive rock cover band, PROG. The gig was rather more well-attended than I thought would be the case. And against all sociological odds, there were a few females in the audience as they ran through a set of Rush, Genesis, Yes, and Jethro Tull covers.
The last time I saw them was a few years ago at the now-departed Speedway on the west side of town. It was a chilly night and the larval PROG put on a fun show. Monday night’s gig, however, had a couple new faces, some new tunes, and was a much tighter performance. Practice definitely paid off. New to the band are guitarist Joe Allard and bassist Gordon Ranney.
They join drummer Steve Phipps, keyboardist Michael BB, and flautist/guitarist Scott Eagle. Eagle and Phipps shared the lead vocal duties while Ranney and Allard provided backup. Phipps sang the Genesis and Yes pieces while Eagle belted out the Tull and Rush material. While they picked strong material to play, it must be noted that all of the songs are infinitely better live. I would have preferred less material from Aqualung, but I was mighty pleased that they did Rush’s “Analog Kid” as I’ve been listening to it a bit recently. (For some reason, my taste in Rush as of late is their early to mid-80s period.) A few notes from “Pictures at an Exhibition” were heard during the soundcheck but, alas and alack, there was no ELP in the set.
I was disappointed that Michael BB didn’t don his best imitation Rick Wakeman cape but, with the weather being extremely hot, I understood. He approached me just before they took to the stage and asked me if I liked “this kind of music”. I was thrown for a loop briefly until I realized that I was wearing my Marillion t-shirt and looking all dapper. Actually I had one of my rare moments of haberdasherical indecision that night. Looking down into my t-shirt drawer, I wasn’t sure whether I should wear my Marillion or Porcupine Tree or Jethro Tull or Yes or Genesis or King Crimson or ELP shirt. Whatever I chose, I couldn’t go wrong.
Among the revelers, I noticed a guy who looked to be a college student wearing a WSUM t-shirt (WSUM is the university’s student station) and I assume that he was the host of Progstravagana!, the station’s prog rock show which airs Thursdays from 6-8AM. I must remember to listen one of these days.
The show was a blast! Most prog bands don’t have their guitars turned up to 11 on record, so it’s always great to hear the songs live with the geetar cranked up. “And You And I” came off really well which was especially pleasing to The Dulcinea. I didn’t see Michael BB doing the super-cross-hand keys on “The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway” but I forgive him. It was a hoot to see Allard tapping on “Return of the Giant Hogweed”. He was just such a contrast to Steve Hackett who sat during Genesis performances which, in turn, provides a funny contrast to Eddie Van Halen, who is most closely associated with the technique. But don’t forget Hackett was playing that way years before “Eruption”!
Everyone played really well and I am looking forward to their next gig which will probably be in the autumn. I spoke with Ranney after the show and requested “Squonk” by Genesis and completely forgot to suggest they slip at least a little bit of “Tarkus” into the set too. And, like a total maroon, I forgot to bring my camera. D’oh!
And so, to celebrate the fun had on Monday night, I put together a show which mimics their first set except it features performances by the original bands.
Aqualung (12 November 1980, Los Angeles, CA)
Analog Kid (2 April 1994, Madison, WI)
And You and I (11 December 1974, Boston, MA)
The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway/Fly on a Windshield/Carpet Crawlers (10 June 1976, London, UK)
Subdivisions (10 January 1992, Oakland, CA)
The Knife (25 February 1973, Leicester, UK)
Heart of Sunrise (19 September 1978, Richfield, OH)
Locomotive Breath (25 November 1987, Philadelphia, PA)
Return of the Giant Hogweed (20 March 1972, Brussels, Belgium)