UK 2013

April 19, 2013
Highline Ballroom
New York, NY

Review by Ralph Greco, Jr.

Progressive rock legends UK made it back to New York City (as UK 2013 on their “Azure Seas” Tour) and I caught them at the very same place they played in 2012 — the Highline Ballroom.

This space is cozy, comfortable and intimate (it’s a wonder I have never been before). For the chance to catch this band — something I am not sure any of us will get to do after this tour — I was damn happy indeed to munching some yummy spring rolls and enjoying the two hours of keyboardist/violinist Eddie Jobson, bassist/vocalist John Wetton, guitarist Alex Machacek and drummer Virgil Donati’s spectacular playing.

Way back in the dim and distant past, I managed to see UK in 1978 when they warmed up for Jethro Tull. They were then a trio that consisted of Jobson, Wetton and drummer Terry Bozzio in what would be the last incarnation of the band in the 70s. These days, Bozzio has been in and out of the tour, replaced tonight (and subsequent dates) by Donati. The Allan Holdsworth parts (he and Bill Bruford, along with Jobson and Wetton, started the band in 1977) were expertly played by the equally expert Machacek. I’m happy to report Jobson and Wetton were pretty much delivering every bit as well as they ever have.

The song selection was a real treat as the band opened with “In The Dead Of Night” and worked through the spacy instrumental bridge to deliver the companion piece, “By The Light Of Day,” followed by much of the first UK album. At this point, it was evident that Donati is a monster with a capitol “M,” while Machacek would not only nail every single Holdsworth nuance but be the perfect foil for Jobson. The guitarist was especially convincing on “Nevermore” as Donati handled the staccato in his own inimitable fashion.

Not that Wetton or Jobson were slouching. They play so effortlessly you forget Jobson is manning those kinetic keyboard parts and Wetton is singing as well as he ever did and playing those big bass runs!
Jobson’s first use of his infamous glowing violin was on a version of King Crimson’s “Starless,” which included a great jam and saw Donati’s superb mastery. From my vantage point, I could see and hear everything the players were doing. On these complicated first tunes — real movers each — these guys were definitely up to the task.

I am a huge Bozzio fan, but I can say I was truly thrilled with Donati. What he’s got going with his feet and how he read the stops and starts was just mind-boggling. Plus, he’s got a much more solid hit than Bozzio’s splash and it really fit with the rest of what was happening.

Jobson’s violin and keyboard solo spots as part of the “Nostalgia/Prelude/Theme of Secrets” medley provided a nice amalgamation of feedback violin and floating keys. A real good read into “Alaska” (one of my favorite UK tracks) saw Machacek stabbing away before the band rounded it out with “Caesar’s Place Blues,” with Jobson wailing on the violin — as much with the bow as his fingers. The regular set finished with “The Only Thing She Needs.”

The encores of King Crimson’s “Red” and the truly magical “Rendezvous 6:02” (with just Jobson on keys and Wetton singing) were real treats to end what was pretty much a flawless show at a great venue.

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