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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

John Wetton

Live Via Satellite

Review by Gary Hill

This double disc set features two different concerts from John Wetton. They were both recorded for airplay. The performances are stripped down ones without band arrangements. Although the shows were about four years apart, there is a lot of overlap in terms of the set list. Both concerts are quite enjoyable. I prefer some things about the first and other things about the second. Having both is a sheer win.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2016  Volume 3 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
CD 1 – Venue: Grona Lund, Stockholm Sweden

                              
Broadcast on Stockholm Radio 103.3 FM
                       
Date: 2nd June, 1998
                                   
The Circle of St. Giles

This is a very classically oriented opening instrumental. It’s powerful and quite beautiful.

Heat of the Moment
As will be the format for the rest of the performance, this is a very stripped down arrangement of the Asia classic, just acoustic guitar and voice. It works pretty well in this format.
Book of Saturday

In some ways, this one works even better stripped like this. It’s closer to the actual recorded version to a large degree.

Battle Lines
I really love this song. For some reason, in this format, the cut really makes me think of something Asia would do.
Arkangel
There are some other sonic elements here beyond the acoustic guitar and voice. Still, they are more about sound strengthening than carrying melody or anything. This is a powerful and very proggy cut.
The Smile Has Left Your Eyes
I like this rendition of the classic Asia song.
Easy Money
This King Crimson classic works quite well in this stripped down arrangement. I’ve always loved this tune. That’s true of this version, too.
Emma
This is a slower cut that feels organically like more of a ballad. It’s pretty and poignant.
30 Years
There are keyboard layers built into this one. In some ways it makes me think of Wetton’s era of King Crimson.  Of course, Wetton originally recorded this one with UK, so it does call that band to mind, too.
Hold Me Now
The keyboards from the previous cut are heard at the start of this, but drop out after a time. The guitar part on this is nicely complex. This is one of the stronger pieces here, really. It’s quite poignant.
Rendezvous 6:02
Another from the UK era, piano starts this out. The cut is built on a keyboard and vocal arrangement, instead of the acoustic guitar and voice concept we’ve heard throughout.
The Night Watch
Here we get another King Crimson song. We’re also brought back to the acoustic guitar based treatment. This one is quite similar to the original studio rendition. It’s a great tune in any form, though. This was apparently the last song of the main set as there is a “good night” followed by a long segment of audience applause.
You're Not the Only One
This balladic cut is solid, but not one of my favorites here.
Starless
Always one of my favorite King Crimson songs, this arrangement features piano and guitar at the start. The guitar drops as the vocals join. Guitar returns later. This may be a stripped back treatment, but it’s no less powerful, really. That’s the strength of the song itself.
Disc 2 Venue: XM Radio Studio One, Washington DC, USA
                                 
Broadcast on XM Satellite Radio
                                
Date: 5th, December 2002

                          
Introduction
This is quite literally an announcer introducing John Wetton to the radio audience.
The Circle of St. Giles
Classical and electronic, this is a great instrumental, and a great way to set the tone for a show.
Heat of the Moment
This rendition of the Asia classic is quite similar to the one on the other CD. That said, I think I like this performance better.
Mondrago/Book of Saturday
The first half of this two-fer is a beautiful and quite intricate acoustic guitar solo. Then we’re brought back out into the King Crimson classic. Again, I think I like this one better than the one on the first disc of the set.
The Smile Has Left Your Eyes
I think I might prefer the version on the other CD of this one.
30 Years
This one is comparable to the version on the other CD. I don’t think I like one more than the other.
Hold Me Now
This doesn’t seem much different from the one on the other disc.
Arkangel
A bit of lightning starts this cut here. Keyboards carry a lot of this live rendition. This is a great tune, and I think I prefer this performance to the other one.
Emma
This rendition seems to have a bit more energy and passion than did the other one.
Sole Survivor
Here we get an Asia song that wasn’t performed in the other concert. I don’t think this rockers quite as well in stripped back format as some of the other tunes do. Still, it’s nice to get this.
Rendezvous 6:02
I think this one gets more energy and power here than it did in the other performance.
The Water Is Wide
A song that wasn’t on the other disc, this feels like a folk song. It’s not one of my favorites, but it’s not bad, either.
Starless
As much as I liked the rendition on the previous disc, this one captures the magic of the piece so much better. It’s a really great version of the song. Sure, it’s a bit stripped back, but it’s also so potent.
Battle Lines
This rendition seems pretty similar to the other one. I don’t think I like one over the other.
The Celtic Cross
This is basically a keyboard oriented instrumental. It’s electronic and rather tasty. At the end this is a bit of conversation between the announcer and Wetton.
 
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