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Progressive Rock Concert Reviews

Kurt Michaels

Live in Milwaukee, January 2006

Review by Josh Turner

Kurt Michaels was selected to tag along with The Syn on their most recent Syndestructible tour. As I discovered, he was a suitable fit and a fulfilling choice. He warmed up the audience to a fever pitch, but in a very respectable gesture, did his prep work quickly. I can't say anybody else would have complemented them much better.

When I arrived at the show, I took the only available seat I could find and unfortunately, it was in the far back. This particular venue has great acoustics, but that's primarily for those who have seats within the immediate perimeter.

While it was hard enough to hear the music without any additional outside interference, there was this group of fans in front of me that had incessantly talked throughout the entire set. To make matters worse, the subject matter was spy ware, Microsoft technology, basically, a bunch of computer geeky stuff. While I myself am a computer engineer and see no need for this to carry a stigma, I don't think a concert, especially one that's going on at the moment, is really the place to talk shop. This stereotypical behavior gives computer professionals, progressive rock fans, for the most part, people like you and me, a very bad rap. It's odd, but there seems to be a correlation between the genre and this career path, so please forgive my assumptions. For the record, I don't play D&D, don't even know the rules for that matter, and never take my work home with me. I have many interests that go beyond these two telltale traits and that's where I draw the line. In any case, I can only really comment on what I heard when I could hear it and not so much on what I saw with my own eyes. To explain the latter, my vision was greatly impaired by the constant shaking of my head back and forth.

Unlike a middle manager, Kurt was no talk and all business. He didn't waste a second going through his agenda. There was no vocalist in his band. He has a completely instrumental ensemble that consists of himself, his guitar, and a fellow keyboardist named Jim Gully. His music reminded me a lot of Robert Fripp's latest solo efforts. Using sequencers along with ambient amps and filters, Kurt wove a sonic tapestry of sound. There was a lot of sameness between the songs, but that wasn't too much of a deterrent. They were each sharp-witted satellites that escaped the atmosphere and orbited around the planet. While there weren't really any titles or much of a means to differentiate between the pieces (honestly, it was difficult to determine where one ended and another began), I can say that he saved his best for last. While all were heavenly, I found this to be the dreamiest. Overall, his set was a lot of attraction for so very little action. Kurt was exactly what was needed to get the party started. He entertained the audience without the risk of overshadowing The Syn. In return, the crowd was kind to him, but it was obvious they were there strictly for the headliner. He saved himself a lot of trouble with his swiftness.

When I went to see Porcupine Tree earlier in the year, I was not as lucky with Robert Fripp. While his music shares a number of characteristics and qualifies for the very same kudos, it seemed to go on forever. In the end, Kurt's show was a major success, because he intrigued his audience with magic and then just like that, he vanished.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2006 Volume 1 at

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