Saturday, 4 October 2014
Dylan Howe Live at The Stables, Milton Keynes 2nd October 2014
Returning to the Stables for the second time reminded me what a fine venue this is for really listening to music.
Everyone has a good view the sound is superb and the vibe in the hospitality area is relaxed with easy access to the various refreshments.
I am a huge enthusiast of this project, Dylan has reached a point of maturity in his career where he has arrived as a musician, so all the energy is focussed on fulfilling the inherent potential of the music rather than making points from a position of insecurity and a restless desire to succeed.
I have described the music elsewhere on the blog so lets look at what the live performance adds.
The additional media, the film footage of a broken Berlin, played through out above the band, was eerily appropriate. Reminding us of the sense of disconnection of an artificially broken community where the natural energy and life of the city is replaced by a sense of empty listlessness. Indeed so powerful were the images that I see them again as I listen to the music in the comfort of my own home!
The charming elegiac spiritual pieces like Subterraneans and Moss Gardens where played with a great intuitive feel adding to the communication on the CD. It was fun to hear Steve Lodder sample Mr S Howe's mesmerising Koto parts. Art Decade, ballad like, was even more charming and engaging.
Where the real extensions came were in the pieces which really blow on the CD. Weeping Wall, All Saints, Some Are and Warszawa were tour de forces of rhapsodic fiery playing. Dylan is a ridiculously mature drummer never fancy or overcomplicated urging the players forward and like all the greats the notes not played were as important as the ones chosen. When he did offer the full La Batterie it was done sparingly and to even greater effect.
I have been brought up on the 16/32 Keyboards of Rick and Patrick so to see Steve and Ross with an instrument a piece maximise the keyboard returns, reminds me that less can be more. Steve pulled out all the effects that Dylan and Ross had painstakingly put together over 5 years and when he did come to fore the sound was entirely right for the mood of the project hard, gritty and unsentimental full of the cold darkness of Berlin in the 60's and 70's.
I am a great fan of Ross's contribution to the Steve Howe Trio and his work through out the evening was of the highest standard. Sometimes supporting the original melody or the harmonics of the arrangements but it was his heated jazz solos that were so powerful. He spent the entire night at the piano and played for two hours with a focus, fire and a passion and his solos in particular were informed with a steely commitment.
The two other new boys Andy and Percy were superb and twice Dylan reminded us how fortunate he feels having such a great band. Andy played with real authority carrying off the brass sounds with real charisma against the other 4 players and when called upon to play those anchor melodic riffs he was rich and powerful. Only once when he picked up the Clarinet and carried on a second rotating solo did the notion of "cut" come into my mind.
Percy was playfulness personified and really came in to his own in the second set, wonderful exposed complex runs across the bass (thanks to DH empathetic minimalist accompaniment) and then those single note thwacks perfectly judged adding a rock music dynamic.
It was the new players additions displaying their own brand of virtuosity that added that extra dimension to the evening. Yes it was wonderful to have Dylan & Ross actually play this stuff in front of you but those extensions in the blowing pieces took it to another level.
They received a standing ovation from the crowd and delighted us with a further piece they had been working up which had at its heart one of those nagging familiar tunes and then we finished after over two hours of powerful corporate artistry.
I offered one minor criticism and the other is myself I was very tired after a long day and only managed a quick thank you as Dylan left the hall, but it was a wonderful evening and I for one certainly dug it and deeply!