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Progressive Rock Concert Reviews

Bruford Levin Upper Extremities

Live in Chicago, December 9, 1998

Review by Gary Hill

This was the last show of the latest leg of BLUE`s tour. If this band makes it back on to the road again, do whatever it takes to see them. The show is prog energy, atmospheric charm, and instrumental virtuosity, all delivered with a sense of fun and humor. These guys work very well together, weaving a powerful tapestry of musical wonder, all the while looking like they are having lots of fun.

Bill Bruford uses a fairly bare bones drum kit to make wonderful sounds. The man is certainly one of the finest drummers on the planet, and also proves, through serving as "ring master" of the show, that he has a strong sense of humor. It is nearly a toss up as to what is more entertaining, his world class drumming or his witty stories. Whatever the case, Bruford certainly showcases why he has been one of the premiere drummers in the business for quite a while.
Bass/Stickman Tony Levin plays spectacular lines, providing the other half of this near legendary rhythm section. However, Levin`s role is more than just rhythm, as is Bruford`s. Utilizing the Chapman Stick, Levin provides much of the melody to the work, as well. His facial expressions and occasional moments of physical silliness also add much to the fun of the show. From his use of the Stick, to bowing of the stick, to the funk finger finesse, Levin is no ordinary bass player. Certainly, he is one of the best, if not the best around.
 Textural loops and effects laden guitar dominate David Torn`s style. This man is a very unique player, quite capable of definite fretboard fireworks, while also relying heavily on a more atmospheric approach quite frequently. Torn`s work really sets much of the mode for the music of this quartet.

Last but not certainly not least, sounding much like Miles Davis at times, Chris Botti`s trumpet performance adds a nice jazz tone to much of this work. This really finishes off the sound quite well.

If you like the BLUE album, by all means, see the band if you get the chance. The material, while great on the album, really takes on a life of it`s own in this setting. This is a very entertaining and powerful show, that will leave you with one word on your lips, "Wow!"

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: The Early Years Volume 6 at
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