As I have mentioned in a previous post (a review of The Green Album – an early post on my blog, so please forgive me!) Eddie Jobson is one of those musician/composers who really should be better known. Having contributed to many albums and featured live with bands such as Roxy Music (where he replaced Brian Eno), Jethro Tull, King Crimson, Frank Zappa, Curved Air and (temporarily) Yes among others; as well as a couple of solo albums after forming U.K. with John Wetton.
In my opinion U.K. was the last of the great Progressive Rock groups from the original age of Prog and should be more highly regarded and generally better known (but then again, you could say that for the whole of the Prog genre in general). I have known Eddie’s music for many years and own a few of his albums on vinyl – partly because it is so difficult to get hold of his solo and U.K. work on CD in his home country! I have also known of John Wetton for about the same amount of time, largely through his work with King Crimson, so I had high expectations of both of them – expectations which were not disappointed.
I initially kept King Crimson at arm’s length (I found them quite intimidating, as I sure many people would understand) and it wasn’t until I saw John Wetton live in Southampton about fifteen years or so ago and heard him play ‘Starless‘ live that I really woke up to the power and emotional range of both King Crimson and John Wetton’s voice. In terms of the band U.K. I instantly fell in love with the second album Danger Money (featuring the trio of Eddie Jobson, John Wetton and Terry Bozio), but for some strange reason have never moved on to the self-titled first album (with Bill Bruford and Allan Holdsworth) nor the third one Night After Night (a live recording). I have no idea why, maybe it has been partly due to the difficulty in getting hold of the recordings, or maybe I just refused to believe they could live up the dazzling Danger Money.
In more recent years U.K. had reformed and played a few gigs, but to my frustration I always found out about their fleeting visits to London after the event! I don’t know if Eddie is still based in the U.S. but the Americans do get far more live shows, as do Japan, than Great Britain – and I still don’t know why we appear to be so neglected, it seems to be a particularly British thing of not appreciating our own talent. Anyway, I managed to hear about this concert long before it happened and booked the tickets on the day they were issued to make sure I got them – and thank goodness I did, this is the last U.K. tour and the first of only two gigs in the country!
Under the Bridge is round the back and underneath Stamford Bridge Football Stadium and although I’d never been there before was very easy to find, being a short walk from Fulham Broadway underground station. It is a new venue but with all the photo’s on the wall, reminded me a lot of Ronnie Scott’s (but with better air conditioning!). Luckily we got there early enough to get seats and actually heard the band do a sound test, finishing with a run through of ‘Caesar’s Palace Blues‘ – jokingly said that we could go now, but I was glad we stayed for the main show. The sound quality was excellent – although I was certainly glad of the ear-plugs! The performance seemed to be predominately music from the first album to begin with, but they did throw in a few tracks from the second album too and ended up performing pretty much all of the songs from both albums – I did lose track of exactly what they played, so I may be wrong. As well as the obligatory drum solo (well, this is prog after all!) – and I must mention Virgil Donati, who’s drumming was outstanding throughout! – there was also the Eddie Jobson solo feature. He began by pointing out how he’d managed to avoid having any ‘hits’ throughout his career but was recently surprised to discover at a gig in Poland that one of his pieces had become regularly requested on a radio station there during the Soviet era. Apparently it was known as the Ping Pong Ball Song – if you know Eddie’s Theme of Secrets album you’ll know which one I mean (‘Inner Secrets‘ is such a strange and melancholic theme to become ‘popular’) – so he began his keyboard solo with this then moved onto his classic acrylic electric-violin, back-lit to heighten and emphasise its clarity. He actually used three acrylic violins – one clear, one transparent green (as featured on the back of The Green Album) and what looked like a dark transparent blue one. During the performance I wondered why they didn’t finish ‘Carrying No Cross’ in the main set, but this was solved later on by morphing ‘The Only Thing She Needs’ into the final verse of ‘Carrying No Cross’ as the final track of the second and last encore – and it was a perfect end to the evening. The first encore included the essential ‘Caesar’s Palace Blues’ and was a great way to come back on stage. I should also mention the guitarist, Alex Machacek, who was evidently an excellent Allan Holdsworth replacement, although did seem a little superfluous a lot of the time (who needs a guitarist when you have such a powerful trio anyway!). They played for about two hours and a very satisfying concert it was – it is a shame that this is their last tour (but you never know!) and I would be glad to see any of them perform live again in any combination they choose in the future.