The 3.2 featuring Robert Berry Tour - Week 1 on the East Coast. [ very, very long ]
This has been quite an enlightening venture, which actually started in 2018 when Robert started assembling the human pieces of the band. We've played a bucketful of gigs, driven a few thousand miles, met some amazing people, seen some great countryside, played some fascinating venues and slept on every shape of pillow one can imagine. Starting off on September 29, we flew to New York, where after a two hour drive we ended up in Kingston/Red Hook, New York to prepare for two days of rehearsals.
On the 30th, after meeting Andrew and his wonderful girlfriend Natalie at his studio and unpacking the many items we had shipped in advance, we drove to an abandoned restaurant to rehearse for two days. Rehearsals went as expected. You plan on setting up and just going through the set twice a day, but really end up tweaking settings, working out endings, checking vocal parts ... and you might not even get through the entire set once in a day. But the 2nd day, we did play straight through.
On Wednesday, October 2nd we rose early and drove to Montreal (About 4 1/2 - 5 hours ), grabbed a roadside motel and set off the next day to locate the Pirhana Bar downtown . This venue had one of the hardest load-ins of the tour. The bar was pretty divey, but had a pretty nice PA system and staff. We also met Denis Pepin and Dave Gallant there for the first time. Dave, a teacher from Prince Edward Island and Denis, a kind soul from the Montreal who believes that "A balanced diet is a beer in each hand" (saw that on one of his t-shirts ... both really cool people who we were very happy to see.
The Montreal gig went pretty well. Enthusiastic audience. Loading out of the 2nd floor place was made even more difficult due to the rain having started. Due to the complexity of gear on this trip, it became quickly apparent that packing up would typically take 90 minutes to 2 hours each show. That's a lot of late arrivals at our hotels where in many cases we'd be trying to leave by 9am the next day.
Our hotel in Montreal was pretty nice, but the alarm went off too early. We hit the road to Quebec City, about 3+ hours to the north. It was a pretty cold & windy day and arriving around 3pm left us just enough time to do a quick hotel check-in and then rush to the venue where we'd plan to sound check by 5pm. This sports bar, La Source de la Martinière, was a one story, medium sized club with a pretty huge beer selection. The staff was wonderful, the promotion was not. Those wonderful people who did come, really enjoyed the set and I enjoyed talking with them afterwards. While we were packing up the gear, the place turned into a Karaoke Bar and more people arrived. Back at our hotel by 1am, we'd plan to leave by 9 in order to make it to Henniker, New Hampshire by 3pm.
Saturday, October 5th. We leave Quebec City, say, 9-ish and head south. We had an interesting border stop which involved handcuffs when we reached the crossing about 2 hours later. (Sadly, we could not take photos). Turns out that the alarm warning the border patrol agent had triggered on a different lane, so they released the cuffs on our sound engineer/driver Keith and sent us on our way. It was actually quite funny in retrospect, but when everyone in the bus is told, "Please raise your hands above your shoulders where we can see them" .... it is a cause for anxiety.
About 3:00 we make it to Henniker and navigate to The Lofaro Center of the Performing Arts, a fantastic property in a stunning part of the country where we found a beautiful red barn. We met Jerry and Kathleen Lofaro who greeted us all warmly and opened the double-doors to the venue which allowed our bus to pull right up to the back of the stage. Seriously one of the 2 or 3 easiest load-ins of the trip.
As you may have concluded from some of my previous posts, this was a very special weekend. The venue was wonderful, comfortable and had a magical charm to it. The Lofaros have done a spectacular job of creating an experience for the performers, attendees and those helping with the technical aspects of their shows. We hooked up with Rolf Remlinger and Dwayne Farrell who would be helping us out with merchandise and general amusement for a number of shows going forward. We also met Julia Nichols a sound engineer and performer who would be helping us out and telling us some great stories these two days.
Each of the two Henniker shows was enhanced by Randy McStine, a fantastic singer/songwriter/guitarist from Sleepy Hollow, NY. We ended up seeing Randy perform in at least two other places along the way, and he's very, very good. (And of course, a great person as well). The 3.2 performances here went very well. I'm starting to get the hang of using the Line 6 Helix in place of a standard guitar amp and pedals. Traversing the set list through presets advanced with a midi switch has helped simplify the overall process, and of course, the weight of the gear is easy on my aging back. Also surprising everyone on the first night of the two Henniker dates was Gary Pihl, guitarist for Boston, Sammy Hagar, Alliance and numerous other acts. I recall seeing Gary play numerous times at the Bodega in Campbell with his band Crossfire. Gary and his wife Marilee joined us for a nice dinner on Saturday evening and joined the band for one song on Saturday night. Besides being a fantastic guitarist, he's a lovely guy with a really infectious smile.
I was put up in a lovely 200+ year-old B&B about 2 miles from the venue. Though there would be 4 more weeks of sleeping in unfamiliar beds, the two nights in this twin bed were the most restful nights of sleep I had throughout the affair. Jerry and Kathleen prepared us all wonderful breakfasts on Sunday & Monday morning, and after the Sunday night show, they built a bonfire in the forest behind their home where many tales were spun.
We met numerous people at this performance, and most special for me was seeing a friend from my 20s who had moved to Henniker years before, Karin Nelson-Carr. Also chatted with Uku Meri, Christine and her friend Kathy. ( and others, whom I apologize to for not remembering names )
I also was kindly driven around the surrounding area by one of my sister's college friends (University of Hawaii, late 60s), Deb Homer who lived about 30 minutes away from the "TLCPA" ... She took me to a large apple orchard and got me back to Jerry & Kathleen's in time for the Sunday sound check. ( And dragon belly pizza ).
The 3.2 Set List and storytelling follows:
- Robert steps up to the mic and thanks everyone for coming and one by one introduces the band:
- Jimmy Keegan (from Los Angeles) - Drums and Vocals. Playing a spectacular sounding Yamaha kit.
- Paul Keller (from Silicon Valley) - Guitar and Vocals
- Andrew Colyer (from Red Hook, New York) - Keyboards, vocals and bone rattler
[ First Song ]
Life Beyond LA - Ambrosia whom Robert played with in the 2004-5 timeframe - Robert talks about meeting Carl Palmer, Don Airey and Joe Lynn Turner in New Jersey to discuss starting a band before he moved to London to work with Steve Howe as a new member of GTR and co-writing No One Else to Blame with Steve
No One Else To Blame - Pilgrimage to a Point - Writer(s): Steve Howe/Robert Berry - This song was probably one of the 3 or 4 most fun songs for me to play. The guitar themes and solo in this song were all very sensible and there was very little I did in order of changing them from night to night, but the thing that I really liked most about this one were the opening electric guitar chords. After the main intro it was just myself playing 8 measures alternating between an F and G inversion with Jimmy ... the bass and keys came in halfway through. I really loved the sound that I was hearing and it carried me through the entire song.
- Robert talks about leaving GTR, then having lunch with Keith where 3 was born. Talks about Andrew Colyer being recruited for the 3.2 tour and the difficulty of the material Andrew would have to play. (The Piano Solo in the next song being just one part of the equation). Andrew then talks about Keith being the first keyboard player ever to use a "Large Moog Modular Syth" in a rock context. (After which Andrew shows the audience the "World's Smallest Moog Synthesizer" and intro's Desde La Vida with some wildness coming out of it) ... In addition to the Piano Solo in the middle of Desde La Vida, Jimmy Keegan plays "balls to the wall" drum fills throughout the 4/4 bass and guitar unison melody that bridges the piano solo back into the final verse.
Desde La Vida - 3 To the Power of Three - Writer(s): Keith Emerson, Robert Berry, Carl Palmer - I brought my 1987 Steinberger GL3T on the tour specifically to play on at least one of the songs that we did on the initial 3 Tour in 1988. This was the song I chose to use it on. It requires a "Drop D" tuning, so having it ready to go saved some time. The EMG Pickups still sound really nice. - Robert talks about artists who have been influenced by powerful men (and women) in their lives which inspired the lyrics of Powerful Man. He also mentions receiving a call from Keith after Keith had listened to the "3 Live in Boston" CD and telling Robert what a good band they had been. 27 years later, Robert asks Keith if he'd like to do a follow-up and Keith says "Maybe ... ". Robert negotiates a deal with Frontier Records and they start the process of writing tunes.
Powerful Man - 3.2 The Rules Have Changed - Writer: Robert Berry - This song is a very straightforward tune featuring Andrew playing keyboards reminiscent of what Keith had done in his past. Chords and synth patches very much in the vein of Talkin' Bout. Jimmy rocks the shit out of this tune, making the overall feel of the song live up to the title. - In 1989, Robert flys to England with a recording of Last Ride into the Sun to try to keep the band 3 alive. He describes this as a 7 minute epic, but it's actually 10 1/2 minutes long. This song proved to be the hardest one of the set for me, primarily due to the buildup of speed during the outro. But, it never fell apart.
Last Ride Into the Sun - Pilgrimage to a Point - Writer: Robert Berry - Robert talks about being contacted by Magna Carta Records in Rochester about Pink Floyd and Jethro Tull tribute records. The Pink Floyd tribute was more of a "sound exactly like the original" concept. Robert, when asked to do the Jethro Tull tribute, says he'll only do it if he can record a song as how he would have imagined the tune to be performed version. This ultimately proved to provide a roadmap for future Magna Carta releases/tributes of Yes, Rush, ELP and Genesis
Minstrel In the Gallery - A Cry in the Dark - Magna Carta Records - Robert Berry & Leif Sorbye - Writer(s): Ian Anderson, Martin Barre - This tune, while not particularly difficult was one of the more complex I had to deal with. There's a lot of dynamic changes throughout. Some of it you have to feign an acoustic guitar sound shortly before switching to a powerful electric sound. I'd say about 1/2-way through the tour I had all the patches & volume setting figured out to pull it off, but in the early shows, it was probably a bit of a mess (for me)
Watcher of the Skies - Supper's Ready - Magna Carta Records - Robert Berry & Hush - Writer(s): Tony Banks, Phil Collins, Peter Gabriel, Steve Hackett, Michael Rutherford
- This version of one of the greatest Progressive Rock songs every written is really special to me. It's the only song in our setlist where I actually played on the original recording (which also included former Hush drummer, Roger Bonasera and our dear friend Michael Wible on keyboards. Mike passed away in early 2004 ). Andrew's programming of lush keyboard sounds in this tune turned me from a player into an audience member every night, except I had to shift gears whenever he hit my cue. When the song gets going, Robert's arrangement takes full flight with Zeppelin style guitar riffs and drumming. I loved playing this tune every night.
Jimmy plays everything across the dynamic spectrum on this song. From soft and subtle accenting during the 'acoustic' part of the song to the full on slamming towards the end, I just can't imagine playing this song with anyone else behind the kit. And every night, except one or two, he ends the song with a recognizable drum quote from another tune (no spoilers here) ... I literally have no idea how he wasn't completely spent after this one.
Robert announces Can't Let Go, written during a period of personal change in his life and included on his most personal record, "The Dividing Line".
Can't Let Go - The Dividing Line - Robert Berry - Writer: Robert Berry - The song features a very melodic middle guitar solo written by Robert and an improvised outro solo. This tune was the most 'straight ahead' song of the set. - Robert talks about Keith and he exchanging ideas and that 3.2 project was about 20% complete when the world lost Keith. The piano and keyboards on this song are really beautiful and very representative of Keith's style and influence. Andrew again does the heavy lifting here.
Somebody's Watching - 3.2 The Rules Have Changed - Writer(s): Robert Berry & Keith Emerson - The programming work Andrew did on this tune is just fabulous. - And Talkin' Bout. The only single off the original "3 To the Power of Three" record in 1988 and one that had some chart success as well. This song has a number of hooks, but the chord voicings that Keith added to it when Robert brought the tune, originally written for GTR, totally make the song infectious.
Talkin' Bout - 3 To the Power of Three - Writer: Robert Berry - One of the few songs in the set with all 4 of us singing in harmony. Jimmy hitting the high parts and Andrew somewhere in the middle. In my in-ear monitors, the vocals always sounded really nice from venue to venue. Robert's vocal on this still sounds every bit as strong as what was on the original. - Leading into 8 Miles High, Robert talks about showing Carl the guitar riff frm 8 Miles High and Carl, grabbing a drum machine, quickly came up with a beat.
8 Miles High - 3 To the Power of Three - Writer(s): Gene Clark, Roger McGuinn, David Crosby - Jimmy kicks off the song with a powerful groove like what was on Carl's drum loop and Andrew fills out the rest of the background with Keith's ideas created 31 years prior. In the middle of the song, Andrew steps out, grabs his KeyTar and plays an extended solo out front.
Deck The Halls - December People - in the Style of Rush
- This was a last minute add to the set list which we started doing after the 4 California dates. It's an intricate mash-up of Rush-like quotes with Christmas songs like Deck the Halls and I Saw Three Ships ... It typically starts out with Robert mentioning that we're gonna try something different, with a nod to his band December People and Andrew stepping in with a Radio DJ commercial voice saying, "Your favorite Christmas music done in the style of Classic Rock Songs" ... And then Jimmy counts off the whole thing with a very recognizable cartoon voice.
And after Deck the Halls, we come to the hardest song of the whole set. Andrew covering Dream Theater keyboardist Jordan Rudess' amazing keyboard gymnastics on the cover of one of the most recognizable ELP tunes ever, with Jimmy absolutely killing the Simon Phillips drum parts. And this was my most challenging guitar part of the whole thing. I had to find a way to translate Mark Wood's amazing violin solo onto an electric guitar. Took me many weeks just trying to understand what I was going to do. It's a highly effected section ... pitch shifter, auto-wah, and two delays based on a Off the Shelf Preset I purchased constructed by Michael Britt.
Karn Evil 9 - Encores, Legends and Paradox: A Tribute to ELP - Magna Carta - Robert Berry, Jordan Rudess, Simon Phillips, Mark Wood - Writer(s): Keith Emerson, Greg Lake
- Jimmy and Andrew just destroy this song. By the end of the tour I was nothing but inspired where 6 months ago the idea of playing this tune scared the living shit out of me. And, we were all given opportunities to sing solo vocals ... There's an especially infectious part of this KE9 arrangement where the volume dies down to a murmur and Andrew and I quietly sing "Welcome back my friends, to the show that never ends" in high and low octaves. Just so much fun.
Roundabout - Tales of Yesterday - Magna Carta Records - Robert Berry & Steve Howe - Writer(s): Jon Anderson, Bill Bruford, Rick Wakeman, Steve Howe, Chris Squire
- Robert's rearrangement of Roundabout is significantly different than the original. Starts off with Andrew painting a panorama of scenes with his keyboards, much of it done on a Roli Seaboard, a "fretless" keyboard that many folks, (including myself) found quite fascinating. Jimmy and Robert share lead vocals on this tune and Andrew joins on on some very full sounding 3 part harmony during this song which I absolutely enjoyed hearing in my in-ears. Robert's revamped "chorus" (in and around the lake, mountains come out of the sky ) inspired the audiences to clap along and leads into Jimmy singing the bridge (Along the drifting cloud, the eagle searching down on the land ... )
All this leads the song into a Steve Howe inspired rockabilly type guitar solo which I had decided long ago should be played as Robert originally recorded it.
About 1/2 way through the tour, the set list would be slightly altered by putting Roundabout where Watcher of the Skies was, ending the main set with Watcher of the Skies and placing Karn Evil 9 as the encore. And others may correct me on this, but I believe the gig after Henniker (Kennett Square, PA) was the last time we had an intermission. The remaining 20 or so gigs we played the set straight through and songs + stories amounted to about 2 hours.
That's the set .. After we said farewell to new, lovely and lifelong friends in New Hampshire, we'd head back to Kingston, New York where we'd rest, do laundry, go see The Joker and then head off to start the 2nd week.
That'll be in another post.