Prodigal Sun by Dennis Chasse Spectrum Staff Writer July 18, 1975
They were all there. The legions of teeny-boppers wearing rock t-shirts, waving flags and carrying coolers with soon to be confiscated six-packs of Molson's and Genny Cream. Mike Amico's tin soldiers, who unofficially made sixty arrests, the festival goons saying, sprry for the hassle, man, but you have to stay in line, the airplane overhead towing “Start school in the Army this fall.” Must be the season of the witch. Ah, yes Summerfest is back again. Considering the super hype-job done by Q-FM-97, one had to wonder if this could really turn out to be as good as all the hoo-hah said it would. A rather unlikely combination of groups: Yes, J. Geils Band, Johnny Winter, and Ace, plus a recently divorced mystery guest, would vie for the attention of forty thousand people for approximately eight and a half hours.
From rags to Rich Stadium The pre-concert atmosphere was all party, waiting for the music to begin. Some groups are tailor-made for outdoor rock concerts. Ace does not happen to be one of them. Graduating from the English pub scene up into the world of American outdoor concerts is a pretty big step, and it looks as though Ace will have to wait a little longer for its diploma. Playing R&B a la mellow AWB comes out fine on record, but outdoors the sound gets lost among the multitudes waiting to boogie. They try, though. Shunning the typical English garb, they came out wearing jeans, t-shirts, and cowboy hats and boots, and opened with a country-sounding boogie tune. But they were not quite raunchy enough to set the house on fire. The rest of the set was enjoyable, though, if not mind-bending. Five songs from their album Five a Side filled thirty-five minutes, and they were finished. Audience exposure to Ace was undoubtedly limited to AM radio play, as the single “How Long” was awarded the most significant audience reaction.
Winterfest Johnny Winter followed with a much livelier set which set the mood for most of the rest of the afternoon and evening. If outdoor rock concerts are made for boogying, Johnny Winter was made for outdoor rock concerts. He loves to play and have a good time! He is one of the few performers who can take energy from the audience and give it right back, over and over again. The music and the audience become one. From the cowboy hat atop his long white locks right down to the hole in his jeans on his ass, Winter is physically all over the place. He lets you know he's having a good time simply by the way he struts and shouts through every number. Generally, long blues jams tend to put an audience to sleep, but Winter's set has to be an exception in this case. He delicately intertwines blues and rock throughout all his solos that are unmistakably unique to each song. Playing mostly cuts from his earlier albums, plus a fine rendition of ..Highway 61," Winter had everyone on their feet by the time he launched into "Jumpin' Jack Flash," the closing number. He encored with "Johnny B. Goode," leaving the crowd on its feet wondering if a set like that could ever be topped. And, he had the time of his life doing it.
Crazy Wolf The J. Geils Band succeeded in topping Winter with what proved to be the hottest set all day. J. Geils plays super macho, basic, primitive rock, the kind of stuff that gets people on their feet and keeps them there. Lead·-singer Peter Wolf challenged the audience to get crazier than he was, setting up the crunching guitar of J. Geils and the wailing harmonica of Magic Dick. Music to throw parties by. It was apparent that the majority of the people in attendance came to see the J. Geils Band. They weren't let down, although the set lasted for only an hour They left the stage amidst cries for much more. They encored with "Give it to Me," and introduced the mystery guest, a tall blonde man who wasn't recognized immediately. But when he sat down at the keyboards, Wolf introduced his friend Gregg Allman, much to the delight of the crowd. He looks none the worse despite his divorce from you know who, and accompanied the band on two final numbers.
Waiting for the electricians By the time Yes took the stage, after a delay of over an hour, the crowd had used up most of its energy, but many stayed around to hear the headliners. Despite having six out of seven gold albums, Yes has never- been a group to break attendance records. Their music has been endlessly criticized for being too weird at times and too long-winded at others. Yet, Yes is totally serious about their music, becoming completely absorbed in it. It has become the basis of their lives, and vice versa.
Steve Howe is considered one of the most gifted guitarists today from a classical standpoint. His acoustic and pedal steel work is ranked near the top, with others in his field. Chris Squire has been a pioneer in what has now become a recognizeable style of British bassists. Jon Anderson's lyrics provide a very basic foundation for the spiritual feeling prevalent in so much of their music. The success of Yessongs as a live album raised great expectations as to how much this group was capable of doing on stage, as well as curiosity as to what they actually would do. But frankly, Yes was a bit of a disappointment. With such a vast repertoire of successful music to draw upon, one wonders why Yes failed to produce a completely satisfying set.
Weak keyboards The loss of Rick Wakeman seems to have the greatest bearing on this. His replacement, Patrick Moraz, the musical genius (?) behind the now defunct electric group Refugee, is adequate, but just barely. Like a fish out ot water, he was continually lost on numbers recorded before he joined the group, "And You And I" and “Close to the Edge." Two numbers from the Relayer album, on which he appeared, were of little salvation. Moraz was stuck playing the same theme over and over again simply because he wasn't capable of playing anything else.
Howe, Squire, and drummer Alan White were required to carry the group through what became tedious instrumentals, with Moraz throwing every sound possible at the audience, but still failing to supply an adequate background. Anderson temporarily rescued the evening with- the opening strains of an old Yes favorite, "Your Move," followed by acoustic work from Howe and "Long Distance Runaround." The crowd sensed something of a comeback, but were let down by "Ritual" from Topographic Oceans, a lengthy piece with no real direction.
‘Wake up and go home’ As the set closed, the audience gave an appreciative hand hoping that Yes would rise from the dead and put on a good encore. The crowd was finally brought unanimously to its feet with Roundabout a classic hand-clapping live number.. The night closed with Sweet Dreams from the new Yesterdays album. The crowd was ready for another encore, but there would be none due to curfew regulations. The thirty thousand who had stayed to the end dispersed after a grueling but satisfying eight and a half hours of music with promises of more to come in the near future. Promoters plan at least three more similar concerts before the summer is over, enough to keep the area's young people hopping for quite a while. Not bad for eight bucks.
I would dearly love a copy of this show, because I was living in Buffalo at the time, this show was four days before my birthday, but I didn't get to go. Please e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you! You rock, Pete! This Website is awesome!