VENUE ST PANCRAS NEW CHURCH, LONDON DATE 03/04/2018
As Ian Dury noted, there ain’t half been some clever bastards. The prog scene is teeming with ’em, from polymath musicians to lyrical geniuses. But as a genre that prefers to let the music speak for itself, apart from Wakeman, Anderson, Eno and perhaps a Genesis alumnus or two, there are few who stick a noggin over the ‘Evening With…’ parapet.
Which is why it’s good to see Dream
Theater keyboardist Jordan Rudess don his storytelling cape for this From Bach To Rock tour. A youthful 61 and no stranger to the format (he and DT guitarist John Petrucci did this in 2000), the New Yorker has a stack of tales that date back to being recognised as a child prodigy in second grade to inventing his own music software. Sat at a Yamaha grand in this gorgeous Grade I-listed building, Rudess performs two sets that cover his life chronologically.
With the precocious Mozart as a benchmark, there’s an embellished Twinkle, Twinkle,
Little Star, then Bach’s Partita No 5. Utterly charming and at ease, Rudess describes a prog awakening as a teen, playing a great medley of Floyd, Genesis and Crimson tunes that ends with a dramatic, sung The Court Of The
Crimson King. After a little Chopin (Rudess was hailed as the next big concert pianist sensation at Juilliard, but took a rockier road) and Imagine, it’s time for a break, bums off pews for a leg stretch and a tipple from the table at the back.
Set two has the funniest vignettes of finding his way in rock, trying to slip in 7/8 breakdowns while playing prom dances and performing at bankers’ dos where a D minor could cause wallets to snap shut immediately. On to meeting Mike Portnoy, and Liquid Tension Experiment’s Hourglass – a seamless synthesis of classical and rock – before a triple whammy of Hollow
Years, The Silent Man and The Spirit Carries On sees a flurry of camera phones emerging to capture the moment.
When iamthemorning’s Marjana Semkina joins him, there’s a tender Space Oddity, then Rudess commandeers a velvet and carved-oak lecturn for a funky Blues Jam on an iPad, showcasing his GeoShred software.
After that, it’s back to the piano (we’re surprised he hasn’t seized the Victorian pipe organ just 20 feet away) for the neoclassical Interstices, his tsunami-survivors tribute For Japan, DT’s The Dance Of Eternity, and the most elaborate Chopsticks ever heard.
Time flies and attention is pin-drop rapt. Given the opportunity, a fan Q&A might have worked, and the evening could have been all Dream Theater, Liquid Tension and Rudess originals alone. But one thing’s clear: Rudess is a twinkling, not-so-little star himself.
“SAT AT A YAMAHA
GRAND IN THIS GORGEOUS GRADE I-LISTED BUILDING, RUDESS PERFORMS TWO SETS THAT COVER HIS LIFE CHRONOLOGICALLY.”
WORSHIP MUSIC: THE STUNNING ST PANCRAS NEW CHURCH.
SPECIAL GUEST MARJANA SEMKINA.