Robert RichLive at
The Gatherings Concert Series
22 April 2006 8:00pmSt. Mary's Hamilton Village
3916 Locust Walk in Philadelphia, PA
Review: Robert Rich Gatherings Show
Robert Rich returned to Philadelphia last weekend, making his fourth Gatherings Concert Series appearance. His first, nearly ten years ago, was held in a relatively small venue on the Penn Campus called the Bowl Room in Houston Hall. The seventh in this wonderful, ongoing series of innovative music, it would only be my second, yet personal recollections of that night remain vivid. These were days of curiosity, days of a recent discovery of an interesting form of musical expression; and Robert Rich's Bowl Room performance, as much as any other, brought forth a realization that this concert series would represent a perfect sanctuary, and a place I needed to be.
Much of the material Robert played on this night in 1996 was revisited during this 2006 event, notably in the second set, when classics from his fine releases "Propagation" (Animus, Lifeblood, Terraced Fields) and "Gaudi" (Minaret/Mosiac) sandwiched some of Rich's darker material. This successful set formula has been incorporated into each of Rich's performances I've attended, with the exception of his "Humidity" tour. Geometric laser splashes projected on a large screen enhanced the hypnotic effect of the music. The evening's quite lengthy opening set, which consisted of more-recent material, including selections from "Bestiary" and from Rich's brand new "Electric Ladder," and concluding with Lapus from "Seven Veils," was accompanied by a rather stunning video produced by Daniel Colvin for the non-profit Global Mindshift organization. This group "promotes an expanded view of what it means to be human based on knowledge of our evolutionary journey." I couldn't help drawing comparisons of the Rich-music/Global Mindshift-video to the recent Michael Bentley "This World" video-musical odyssey; with time and contemplation of man's role in the universe as a common theme. Notable throughout both of Rich's sets were countless musical transitions as the artist varied paces and moods; cyclic trips from his large MOTM modular synthesizer to his deep-thought producing array of flutes and that piercingly beautiful sound-producing lap steel guitar (oh my) flawlessly flowed. Finally, even as the hour pushed late, the gracious artist returned to the stage for an encore and entertained the appreciative full house with Drumsong from "Rainforest."
Amiability was further revealed after the concert; during the equipment packing procedure the artist turned to those giving a helping hand apologizing for the length of time it was taking to pack all his gear away. Robert would be on the road to Pittsburgh first thing the following morning; another day, another concert. He's touring the country by car; when all is finally said and done, the man deserves a lengthy vacation.
by soma611 as posted to the Spacemusic List (#10529) 30 April 2006
Review: Robert Rich at The Gatherings Concert Series
It was time for another Gatherings concert, and again the Night Sky Replied - with buckets of rain. The Saul Stokes show looked like a mere drizzle by comparison. Locust Walk became a morass of grey puddles. The tops of umbrellas dashed back and forth through the haze. With my wet sweatshirt hood over my head, I ran up the steps of St. Mary's, my girlfriend in tow. I didn't take two steps inside before I stopped dead in my tracks in amazement. The church sanctuary was nearly dark, brimming with hypnotizing swells of sound. Robert Rich stood at the front, running his sound-check with flute in hand, patches of blue and red splashed dimly over his face. The whole church, burnished wood and ancient stone, seemed to lean in around him, soaking in the primordial music. For just a quick sound-check, I couldn't believe the richness and complexity of what I was hearing. I walked forward slowly, afraid to make the slightest noise. Sneaking up behind Art Cohen at the mixing desk, he told it to me perfectly: "With Robert, it's all there - every sound is in its place."
And so, another night at the church. Last month, it was Saul Stokes leading the way with his wandering alien melodies. Now, in contrast, Robert Rich was here, bringing his distinctive sound, which was full and self-assured, bolstered by decades of traveling and playing all over the globe. It was a night of sumptuous excess all around, not just weather-wise. The merchandise table was heaped with dozens of CD's from Rich's solo career and his various collaborations with Alio Die, Steve Roach and others. The altar of the church brimmed with white Easter flowers. In contrast to the laptop jockeys of the modern age, Rich's gear filled an entire van. There was a multitude of homemade flutes, several keyboards, two homemade laser machines, a lap steel guitar with a bevy of foot pedals, and a self-constructed MOTM modular synthesizer. Everyone helped Terry Furber from Orbital Decay hoist his new projection screen, the biggest one the church had yet seen. The line of people down the hall at St. Mary's was long and twisting, comprising faces both new and old.
At seven o'-clock, the doors of the sanctuary opened and the building began its great inhalation of people. All throughout the hour, people streamed in until the church was packed. I tucked into my seat next to my girlfriend as the lights went down. With a few words from Chuck van Zyl to begin the evening, Robert took his place at the front of the church. After speaking briefly about the artist, Daniel Colvin, whose film would be showing for the first portion of the night, Robert ducked down amid his racks of equipment. There was a brief, delicious pause - and then a reverberant squall issued from the speakers, the beginning of the title track from "Electric Ladder". Electric was indeed the word; everyone's attention was rapt as the first set unfolded, complimented wonderfully by the digital metamorphoses of Colvin's film. Sepia-toned landscapes, strange melting statues, twisting abstract shapes, ancient maps and star charts swept across the screen as Robert hunched over his lap steel guitar, coaxing out beguiling melodies. The musical selections were many and varied, and there were several quick shifts in mood - but it was carried by Rich's strong musicianship and the knowledge that we all were being treated to a cross-section of his massive discography. He darted back and forth on stage, his gear creating a kind of three-walled den in which he bounced around in front of everyone. All throughout the set, elements dipped and faded in and out with restless consistency. The music was never static, but full and rich, almost palpable in the near-darkness of the church. His melodies and rhythms spoke of Eastern and Indian influences, and Robert's solo work on flute transported everyone to a place deep and remote, far from the hustle and bustle of the surrounding city.
Ending the first set nearly eighty minutes later, people milled around and gawked unabashedly at the gear on stage. The flutes were made from PVC pipe and bamboo, the steel guitar glimmered on a rusty old tripod, the numerous wires and dials of the modular synth invited the eye with their multitude of colors. For the eyes and ears, the night truly offered much to take in. The second set took people a little further back in time with sixty minutes of selections from older releases like "Stalker", "Gaudí", and "Rainforest". Tribal rhythms dropped into the mix more than once, topped off by slow, dreamy flute work from Robert. Rousing applause and a brief encore followed the final piece. The audience at this Gatherings concert was perhaps the most enthusiastic and welcoming I'd ever seen - people lined up to shake hands and take pictures with the man after it was all over. There were even smatterings of spontaneous clapping, for the beginnings of old favorite tunes in the mix. And at the end of the night, running back out into the rain and the cacophony, my ears still held onto the last bits of music, giving color to the nighttime with bold brushstrokes - every sound in its place, indeed.
Scott Kelly (DJ Kel)
Photos by Jeff Towne
|For more about Robert Rich, please access the:
The Gatherings Concert Series is presented by the all-volunteer staff of The Corporation for Innovative Music and Arts of Pennsylvania