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Circa keeps rocking away.

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leonalvarado View Drop Down
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    Posted: October 20 2011 at 11:14

Progressive Rock is "live" and well with CIRCA

October 2011,
The 7th of this month marked the date of my birthday. It also marked the date for CIRCA's show in Redondo Beach. I had spoken earlier with Billy Sherwood who invited me to see the show in person. I had also arranged to meet with other music industry acquaintances over at the concert. The weather was a typical, beautifully perfect example of California weather and things were shaping up well for me to have a good evening.

I arrived at the venue somewhat early. The place called Brixton South Bay, is a nightclub located at the base of the Redondo Beach Pier which is quite the lovely place at night.  Not too long after I arrived, the first of two opening bands came out on-stage. A trio from Alabama called Thrine. The music was high-energy rock which for some reason, reminded me of Sammy Hagar's best solo stuff. I got one of the free CDs they handed out to listen to after the show on my way back to my Hotel. I felt the CD didn't quite capture the energy they had on stage. To me, they are definitely a better live band than a studio band which is good since their CD seemed to be just a tool for them to get bookings. I must say though, that they were quite good at what they do. I enjoyed watching their set which ended with a catchy tune called "Lately" that in my opinion has lots of potential.

Sometime between the first band and the second band, some of the other guys I was meeting with arrived. The second act came to the stage with what it seemed like six or seven people on the stage. The band was called Union of Saints and seemed to be well know around the area. Their music was too much like Journey and Toto which is not exactly my cup of tea. We decided to take a break and go outside to talk whilst contemplating the beauty of the pier at night.

We came back just in time for CIRCA to take the stage. The band consists of Billy Sherwood on bass and vocals and Tony Kaye on keyboards, two ex-Yes men who also were in Yoso with Bobby Kimball. On guitars, Johnny Bruhns who's a very talented guitarrist. The drum seat was occupied by Scott Connor. Scott used to be in a couple Genesis tribute bands (Gabble Ratchet and Squonk). He is also very talented and his drumming fits CIRCA like a glove. Prior to this latest lineup, the band has gone through some personnel changes. It started with Sherwood, Kaye and Alan White (all from Yes), plus the addition of Jimmy Haun (who also recorded some tracks on a couple of Yes albums) on guitars. At some point, White left to be back with Yes. This in turn, opened the door for Jay Schellen to fill the vacant drums seat. Jay himself eventually left to be in ASIA featuring John Payne. Eventually, CIRCA would loose Jimmy Haun who chose a successful career in composing music for commercial advertising. Replacing the departed were Ronnie Ciago on drums and Bruhns on guitars. But Ciago's turn wasn't meant to be as previous contractual obligations forced him to leave the band after a short period of time. Enter Scott Connor, a drummer familiar with the band's style having worked before with Sherwood and Yoso.

The lights dimmed and the band came out playing with a level of energy that I haven't seen in a progressive rock show in many years. They played as if they were divinely inspired. Tony Kaye in particular, seemed to be in the best form I have ever seen him. He played with such conviction that made it a pleasure to watch him play. The drums were also very tight and had a good tone to them. Although, it would have been interesting to watch Ronnie Ciago play the drums, I think Scott Connor fits perfectly with the band's sound. 

Billy Sherwood has that "Chris Squire bass sound" down. I guess being with him in Yes as well as in Conspiracy gave him the inside track on how to do it right.  Billy also has produced for Yes, so he has a very good understanding of all the technical aspects regarding their instruments and set ups. Needless to say, Billy was superb. The man is just plain talented and one of the hardest working musicians I have ever met. Since I known Billy, he not only has put out a solo album, (he has three to date), he also contributed extensively in John Wetton's album (co-writing some of the material, producing and playing a multitude of instruments on it). Billy also worked with his band mates in making CIRCA's latest album, doing some tracks for my own music and mixed and produced several other albums as well. It seems that every time I contact him, he is in the middle of something very interesting. On top of that, he now shoots his own videos and wouldn't you know it, he is getting better and better at that as well. There seems to be no end to the man's talents. But one of Billy's best assets is being the real deal. He is genuine, very approachable and appreciative when warranted. None of that rock-star prima-donna attitude there. For my part, I'm just very glad to know and worked with such a talented individual.

CIRCA has put together a body of work consisting of three CDs: CIRCA (debut album), CIRCA HQ and the newly released And So On. When live, CIRCA also plays a medley of Yes songs that not only sounds brilliant, but also takes us in a nostalgic trip through some of the best compositions that progressive rock had ever offered.


The show started with an energetic rendition of the title track from the band's latest effort "And So On". Then they played three more songs before the first solo of the evening.  Tony Kaye did an impressive keyboard solo that blended into the Yes medley. On this particular show, the medley was shorter than what I have seen in the past, but it still rocked the house down.  Later on, a very charged drum solo by Connor followed by drum and bass duet between him and Billy Sherwood. Johnny Bruhns came right after that and did a guitar solo that was very good and somewhat reminiscent of Steve Howe's. After the regular set, the band came out to play three songs as an encore.

Bay:
If you have never listen to a CIRCA album but love progressive rock, I urge you to check them out. Sherwoods singing style fits somewhere between Yes and Gentle Giant. I really don't know if he is a fan of the latter but his compositions have lots of cues that remind me of them, just a bit more fresh and contemporary.

Here is the playlist for CIRCA's Redondo Beach Show at Brixton South 
And So On
Everchanging World
Together We Are
True Progress
Tony Kaye Solo/Yes Medley
Castaway
Open Your Eyes
Drum Solo - Bass Feature
Guitar Solo
In My Skye
Twist of Fate
Halfway Home

Encores:
Cinema
Cut The Ties
Ending surprise (for this one you should attend to one of their shows. I promise that you'll love it).
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leonalvarado View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Quote leonalvarado Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: October 20 2011 at 11:19
You can check my blog for more articles on bands like Yes, Genesis, Jethro Tull as well as other topics related to my involvement with progressive rock.

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