Saturday, November 21, 2015


Well, I am getting used to things not swaying from side to side after going on the 2015 sailing of Cruise To The Edge, the progressive rock cruise headlined by rock veterans Yes.

There is one occasional visitor of this blog who will disappoint me in a big way if he does not know the significance of the title of this post (in relation to one of the bands on the cruise). 

Long-time followers may remember that last year I went on two cruises, the first (and sadly, only?) Progressive Nation At Sea event and the second Cruise To The Edge. A bit excessive, but it was the first time in a long time I had taken vacations that were not centered around visiting family.

The PNAS cruise was better (in my opinion) in both environment (far better cruise ship experience, better weather) and execution (all concerts on time and scheduled so that you could see everyone), so I was excited that CTTE 2015 was on the Norwegian Pearl (the PNAS ship). While the weather did not favor us, and the execution was still not up to the high water mark (pun intended) set by PNAS, CTTE 2015 was still a far better experience than its predecessor.

The absence of Chris Squire, the only member of Yes who had (until this year) appeared in every line-up of the band, who passed away in June, was evident on this year's cruise. Many passengers posted tributes on their cabin doors, and there was a special tribute concert on the last night, led by the Neal Morse Band with guests appearances by several members of the other bands on the cruise, playing many of the songs Yes had rarely, if ever, performed live, along with several selections from Squire's solo record, Fish Out Of Water.

The headliners (Yes and Marillion) each played two shows, and you were assigned a seat to one of the performances (so everyone could see them at least once).

Having just seen Yes a few weeks ago, the headlining show was not the highlight for me, although the sound was better (the AZ show was at an outdoor stage, the show on the boat was in the theater), and my seat on the balcony was excellent (seats were assigned in the order you booked, and since I booked late I was up top but lucked out-great view of the stage).

Marillion were certainly a treat, but I decided not to wait in line in hopes of getting a seat to the first performance (I was assigned a seat to the second night, the last night of the cruise). I'd done that last year, but having seen them three nights in the spring in Montreal, I was okay with only seeing the set played once (each band I'd seen twice played pretty much the same set). Great show, good song selection (Man Of A Thousand Faces!), sadly no preview of the forthcoming record. 

Although I'd already seen Spock's Beard twice this year (ROSFest and CalProg), this was the big event for me, and I saw both shows, their midnight show on Sunday night as we set sail for the edge, and their pool show on Tuesday night in Nassau. While the show was similar to the CalProg set, these guys have made their way up to number two on my desert island list (behind Todd Who?) and since they never venture out to the Arizona desert, they were the main reason I'd caved and booked the cruise.

Similar to the Beard, I'd seen Enchant at the Gettysburg and Los Angeles shows with Spock's, but still caught both sets on the cruise. Ted Leonard, who fronts Spock's Beard, is also Enchant's singer, a band I discovered shortly before they went inactive in 2004, only to release an album out of the blue in 2014. I am not sure what the future holds for them, but since I'd never thought I would get to see them live, seeing them four times in 2015 did not seem like overkill.

Neal Morse was a founder of Spock's Beard and the front man until 2002. I'd only seen him live with the band once, when they opened for Dream Theater in Phoenix in the late 1990's. I'd only seen his band for the first time last year at the first Morsefest. They were the "sailaway" band (played as we pulled out of the Port of Miami), and the band who fronted the Chris Squire tribute as noted above. While the tribute was interesting, I was hoping the band would have done a second show in the theater.

Guitarist Steve Rothery is a founding member of Marillion who released a long-awaited solo project last year, and I was glad to finally see some of those selections performed live, although it was a show I would have rather seen in the theater (better acoustics) than the lounge setting it was given. Unless I missed it, SRB only performed once.

I have posted on Moon Safari before, a discovery I made on last year's CTTE-their harmonies...WOW. I was only able to catch one performance (the second was another midnight show, and I was too damn tired). Another band I wish had been given at least one theater show.

Some other bands I saw....

Fans of Jethro Tull remembered Martin Barre, who did a set that would have been more in line with a blues cruise, but was a nice change of pace (I saw two performances)

I only caught part of a Lifesigns performance last year, so was pleased to see a full set this year at Saturday's pre-show party.

Barracuda Triangle is a Flower Kings side-project conceived on last year's CTTE. 

Bad Dreams was a new discovery for me-their set featured a Genesis medley, and someone next to me mentioned that they'd begun as a tribute band.

Three Friends take their name from the Gentle Giant album, and feature members of the seventies progressive band best known in the US for Octopus.


Airbag wear their Pink Floyd influences on their sleeves.

Allen Holdsworth's set was plagued by wind, causing him to stop after roughly 45 minutes-and many of us were surprised he'd carried on that long.

Messenger seem to draw as heavily on folk influences as progressive, and delivered a good performance.

Caravan date back to the beginnings of the progressive rock scene, and their set leaned on their recently released album as well as their roots.

Anglagard are a hard band to describe-interesting sound with a lot of King Crimson influences. Their first set was cut short by the rain.

The weather was not kind, but CTTE still could execute better. They should hire the management team from PNAS, as they still had a lot of scheduling conflicts, few shows started on time (causing even more conflict), and they were sloppy at reporting schedule changes (although that was better on days three and four).

I was told that one show scheduled for midnight did not start until almost three am!

On PNAS, they had used the theater quite frequently, where CTTE limited it to Yes on days one and two (I think because Yes had stipulated that) and had one or two other shows (besides Marillion) on days three and four. By limited the use of stages, it created more conflicts and delays. Poor planning. 

The emcee for every show apologized a lot and said they were doing the best they could, but the weather was not a fault for everything. CTTE should look to PNAS, which had more bands, to learn how they were able to execute as well as they did.

But still, this was a fun week, and my brother, who pretty much only knew Yes from the song "Roundabout," had a good time as well.

I was a lot less frantic about seeing every band this year, in light of the scheduling conflicts in the original timetable and my desire to spend time with my brother. 

I still managed to see all or part of twenty four shows, and while I missed seven bands, I still had a great week of music-any more running around and I would be more of a zombie than I am as I compose this on Saturday.

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