concert reviews

Ozric Tentacles at the State Theatre, Falls Church, VA, Sunday 20 March 2005

The phrase "prog rock" has become anathema even to the genre's most stalwart fans. Pioneered three decades ago by such bands as Yes, King Crimson and Rush, prog's original goal (to advance rock music toward the complexities of jazz and classical) has been overshadowed by its most extreme characteristics: concept albums, meandering songs and over-the-top album artwork.

British proggers Ozric Tentacles embodied some of the genre's most notable traits on Sunday night at the State Theatre in Falls Church. The group relied heavily on keyboards (played by Brandi Wynne and guitarist Ed Wynne), and its long, noodling compositions, while often melodic and engaging, were less like songs than extended jam sessions.

Rather than strumming, Wynne attacked his guitar, turning his long riffs into, essentially, one concert-long guitar solo complemented by an unwavering drum rhythm. The band's fierce tunes, the best of which swirled lithely through the theater's cavernous space, were accented by John Egan's dreamy flute melodies. When Egan wasn't playing he bounced around the stage, his energy keeping the crowd focused through songs that melted into one another with very few breaks.

About two-thirds of the way through the 2 1/2-hour show, Wynne began a song alone onstage, alternating between keyboards and guitar. Eventually the four other members filtered back for a long jam, at the end of which Egan seemed surprised to hear applause and asked the crowd, "Still awake, then?" Unaware that a few fans in the balcony actually were asleep, the group launched into another piece.

-- Catherine P. Lewis

.: Originally published: The Washington Post, 22 March 2005
.: Selected discography: Spirals in Hyperspace (Ozric Tentacles, 2004).