Primary Purpose 2015
Globally unplugged, prog veteran distills his back catalogue to essentials to find the pieces’ core emotionality.
Acoustic shows have been part of John Wetton‘s concert presentation for two decades now, and the intimacy of such performances translates well even outside of an actual auditorium. Here’s a nice proof: two radio shows – one recorded in Stockholm in 1998, with the masters thought lost in a fire but preserved in a copy, and the other laid down in Washington in 2002 – that are a showcase for the artist’s raw, if dipped in mellifluous melody, feelings. Sticking to a time-tested material, with inroads into the recent past and the near future – the exquisite “Mondrago” from the then-unreleased "Rock Of Faith" segues into the very elegiac “Book Of Saturdays” in America, the farthest glance back here – Wetton doesn’t so much bare the bones of songs as finds the hardest-hitting way to deliver them.
That’s why the tracks which couldn’t have possibly worked in a solo setting, like “Easy Money” stripped of metal foil, turn out fantastic, while, without usual bombast, “Heat Of The Moment” reveals its inherent sadness. At the same time, set to a guitar strum or piano accompaniment, with an occasional backing tape, including Robert Fripp’s line on “Arkangel,” the pieces get adorned vocally, so “Battle Lines” is melismatically enriched, whereas the longing of “30 Years” comes underscored with a vibrant six-string lace. Strangely, the solo in “Starless” sounds a bit pointless, yet the epic’s romantic vigor is retained, as is the twang of “The Night Watch” that was performed in Sweden. Both sets overlap for the most parts, but the later one has a surprise in the folk classic “The Water Is Wide” given a typical Wetton velvet but not before “Sole Survivor” energetically, riff to the fore, bursts on air.
Storytelling kept to a minimum, these performances are riveting on their own thanks to John’s intensity – talk of his battle lines here – and warmth. That’s a snapshot of an artist coming genuinely alive.