John Wetton is a well known and respected solo artist next to his job playing bass and doing lead vocals in acts such as Asia, King Crimson, UK, Icon and so on. Occasionally fans of this British musician can enjoy CD releases on which he looks back on his rather successful career. The double CD Live Via Satellite is one of those albums. It features two of his solo concerts which were taped for radio broadcast several years ago.
Seeing this musician myself several times, doing opening concerts on his own for other acts such as Saga means I was a bit reserved in what to expect on this release. Why? Well I am not much of a fan of unplugged concerts. Most acts can't keep an audience entertained playing their compositions only on instruments such as a piano or acoustic guitar. Furthermore the solo performances I witnessed from Wetton hardly could keep me focused throughout his entire concert.
Strangely enough the two shows I heard on Live Via Satellite in a way made me change my verdict. I have to say honestly that what I heard I really liked. Of course don't expect that the shows recorded in 1998 in Stockholm (Grona Lund) and 2002 in Washington (Xm Radio Studio One) will be played by me over and over again. That's not the case. But the way John played the songs from his past on his acoustic guitar showed what a great entertainer he is and above all what a fabulous vocalist. It certainly helps when you know the songs from the bands in which he participated. They are very recognisable, almost right from the start when you hear them performed stripped to the bone. Sure it sounds at first very strange to hear UK's Easy Money and 30 Years in a minimal version. But I guess a live album should contain the versions you don't expect, otherwise you just can play the original studio version. Other compositions work right from the start perfectly. Good examples are Asia's The Smile Has Left Your Eyes and Heat Of The Moment but also King Crimson's Book Of Saturday. Only the pieces taken from his solo albums did not always ring a bell to me. Sure most people do know the two well known compositions from his 1994 release Battle Lines. The title track and Hold Me Now could be named classic Wetton tracks. However the tracks performed from his 1998 release Arkangel, which he promoted while performing in Sweden, are not so well known in general. I am referring to songs such as The Circle Of St. Giles and the title track. But I guess that's mainly because I didn't hear them for many years.
All in all you could say that John Wetton offers his fans on this release a rather long but above all very entertaining acoustic recital. Therefore this is recommended to everybody who knows the works on which he could be heard during his long career. Although the songs performed don't have the many layers of keyboards and guitar solos played on electric guitars it doesn't mean they are less enjoyable than the whole band versions. Just try it yourself. And if you are into unplugged songs you certainly are in for having a great time while listening to all of the performed songs.
*** Henri Strik (edited by Robert James Pashman)
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