Steve Roach Friday, November 5th, 1999 at St. Mary's Church, Penn Campus
Steve Roach walks a tight rope without a net. Somehow mixing the ancient with some distant tomorrow; the most sublime with the subliminal; twisting, turning; from sensuality to chaos; from the most uneven to the essence of flowing; from the simplest sounds of dripping water or a hiss of air through his didjeridoo to layered rhythms of ultimate complexity; he ultimately juxtaposes it all into a finely balanced performance which only he, a true genius, could master.
My, my. What a show.
I spent much of the evening focused on the projected images of Georgianne Cowen. Her images of sand and rock, of shadows and rock paintings, of discreetly sensual images of the female form, all blended perfectly with the music. Evolving images from the cover art of Body Electric accompanied much of the show also. Steve played over two hours, music ranging from as far back as Dreamtime Return to the upcoming release Atmospheric Conditions (which was available, for purchase after the show!). I nearly lost it when, emerging from a myriad of rhythms, "Looking for Safety" appeared, and later briefly reappeared, a piece that this fan holds most special inside. It was the first spacemusic piece I ever heard, some eleven years ago, and it changed my entire focus on what level music has the power to reach.
St Mary's was full to the brim tonight, though I bet most there experienced the same effect as I. When Steve's high wire act started, somehow the world simplified; a beautiful venue, the music, the artist, the images; all merged into something most unbelievably wonderful; and I felt as if I were sitting there alone...transfixed.
-- soma611, November 6th, 1999 (as posted to the spacelist)
Steve Roach appeared for his third time at a Star's End Gathering in St. Mary's Church on the U of Penn campus in Philadelphia. The place was quite full of Roach fans. John Diliberto (of Echoes) was sitting next to me :-)
This was a concert of many moods. Steve wove a fascinating mix of sounds, effects and samples.
The set started with Steve feeding a wide variety of acoustic instruments and effects into his reverbs and processors. In the darkness I couldn't tell exactly what he was using, but did see some sort of hand percussion, a rain stick and even his own hands dripping water into a bowl. Sometimes the best effect is a natural one!
Slow tribal percussion was added further along. A sampled woman's voice appeared part way through. Later I recognized a portion of his new release when he played a series of sitar-like sounds. A 'gentle landing' followed and I thought Steve would stop for a break, but then
he brought out what I think was a bendir (frame drum) and fed that into his equipment rack. Immediately after that he brought out his didgeridoo (wireless!) and jammed on it for a while, complete with the overtone vocalizations that are supposed to represent wild animals.
A faster percussive background was introduced and then sounds from "Looking for Safety" were heard, then a long airy spacey movement followed. At the end Steve was called back for a brief encore in which he played the didgeridoo again and got a standing ovation.
The lighting was subdued in order for Georgianne Cowan's video to be seen clearly. It started with images of rock paintings and wilderness, then moved to kaleidoscopic patterns and then some sort of computer generated morphing psychedelic landscapes.
Knowing Steve's prolific past, he'll need to play here again *next* fall in order to promote his next few releases!
-- Andy Wing, November 8th, 1999 (as posted to the spacelist)
I've been on the road almost nonstop since the concert, and finally can sit down and post a review.
As I said before, Steve's last Gathering appearance two years ago changed my ideas about live performance in the space music genre, and Steve did it again Friday night.
The atmostphere before the show was just electric. The place was packed, and the show was delayed slightly so that the long line of folks could squeeze in. I briefly talked to Chuck, thanking him once again for the amazing Coyote Oldman concert recently, and the Gatherings in general. He was very nice, and took time to talk with me, despite all of the folks there wanting to talk to him. I sat down across the aisle from Art & the recording equipment and settled in for the ride.
First, the obvious change was the video images being shown behind him during parts of the performance. The images fit in perfectly, and you can see some shots of the video at the Roach web site. A lot of images of the earth, and some images that were very abstract, Bryce-looking computer generated images. Very cool.
Steve made a different entrance than last time, where he came in from the back with his wireless dige. This time he just popped out from behind the video screen to thunderous applause from the Standing Room Only crowd and quickly got to work.
First, he scrapped some stones and processed the sound. And then he dipped his hand in a bowl of water, and worked with that sound. We knew things were going to be interesting already..... From there, things began to layer up with some rhythmic foundations moving in and out of the sonic landscape.
As expected, this concert touched on numerous moods, with the more rhythmic areas that Steve has been working with lately coming more to the forefront than last time. There were some peaks and valleys in the soundscapes, with some sections devolving in a sense to pure space, with the dige coming out, panpipes, the occasional breath, etc. floating out into huge, expansive areas that took advantage of the church's large area.
I recognized some of the themes from his recent works, although as others have noted, there were some older themes that propped up occasionally.
There was one extremely big climax at about an hour and a half into the set that really was something -- the lights were beaming down through the fog over Steve, the video was showing some computer-generated images I've never seeen before (they didn't seem to be fractals, but were very abstract and psychedelic, in a modern sense, constantly changing), and Steve was just going crazy. At times, I could look over and see that the PA system was being pushed to the limits! Incredible, body-shaking sounds really took over, the rhythms were pulsing. I found myself and few others in the audience moving almost uncontrollably to the beats.
And then it settled into a spacious, slowing fading finale. The audience gave him a standing ovation, cheers, etc. And he came back for an encore! I'm surprised nobody else noticed that the encore was the title track from On This Planet -- I threw it on as soon as I got home, and it seemed to me that's what it was.
Anyway, the show ended, and it was time to come back to earth. People were just amazed; I can't remember how many folks were talking about how "mind-blowing", "incredible", "unbelievable", etc. the show was. I had to agree!
I looked around for Andy & Soma, but couldn't find them. Of course, most folks were trying to talk to Steve afterwards. I saw one female fan insist on giving him a big hug, which Steve obliged. It was that kind of crowd -- people were very grateful.
I cannot thank Chuck and everybody else enough for this concert. In talking with some of the folks, it's obvious that a lot of personal sacrifices are being made, and the hard work and dedication really shows. The Gatherings are one-of-a-kind, special moments that I'm so grateful I can attend.
And of course, thank you Steve! For continuing to evolve creatively, inspire us with incredible music, and perform these amazing concerts. I've been listening almost continuously since the first collaboration with Robert Rich came out, and I always wonder what's coming next.
I can't help but imagine what the concert next year will be like, with surround sound. It would just add even more.
-- Joe, November 10th, 1999 (as posted to The Spacelist)
I was sad to hear Chuck's announcement that last night's Gathering was "it" for the year. Am I acting a little selfish here?
Any impressions out there on last night's show? With the exception of the kid sitting next to me and his green hair spike constantly poking me in my ear (well, his orange one got me twice), I was thoroughly entertained by both performances. Kevin Bartlett's set was a surprising contrast from what he did three years ago. Much darker. His music intrigues me, though. I'll be curious to hear his solo CD which is soon to be released.
You want to talk about some darkly intense moments. Sam Rosenthal's "Black Tape For a Blue Girl", wow. And how lucky is this guy? Imagine touring with that cast of lovelies. :8-).
Great weekend. A great several weeks, at that. Chuck, if you're listening...thanks.
-- Soma611, November 7th, 1999 (as posted to the spacelist)
Visit the Steve Roach webpage at: www.starsend.org/steveroach.html
Visit the Black Tape For A Blue Girl webpage at: www.starsend.org/blacktape.html
Visit the Kevin Bartlett webpage at: www.starsend.org/kevinbartlett.html