Concert Review: A Front Row Seat For Legendary Fusion Band Brand X's Reunion Tour

ARLINGTON, MASSACHUSETTS - On a crisp, Tuesday night in October on the outskirts of Boston, the Regent Theatre was alive with anticipation, as enthusiastic fans gathered to witness a 2016 reunion show featuring the legendary, jazz-infused rock of Brand X, one of the “fusion” genre's most innovative and influential bands going back to the mid-1970s. Brand X released six albums between 1976 and 1982 and the second version, (1992 - 1997) produced two more releases, before the band eventually dissolved in 1999.

Review and photos by Joe Milliken

However, back in June and after years of speculation and hope from the fusion/progressive music community, the duo-original members, guitarist John Goodsall and bassist Percy Jones, gathered in New York City along with long-time drummer Kenwood Dennard and played together once again as Brand X. A fall tour was booked and launched in late October, starting with shows in Milwaukeee, Cleveland, Illinois and Pennsylvania, before their Boston-area stop at the intimate and wonderful Regent Theatre. (AKA the “Fillmore West of Cambridge”)

My friend Steve and I were lucky to be sitting in the front row, a mere few seats from center-stage when the band emerged from the glow and from there, it is almost hard to describe what ensued, simply (actually, not very simply at all) because from the beginning to shows' end, there was so many grooves and jams and solos and virtuous performing that at times, I didn't even know which artist to watch!

Featuring the aforementioned Goodsall, Jones and Dennard, along with keyboard player Chris Clark (John Entwistle Band) and percussionist Scott Weinberger, (Adrian Belew/The Security Project) the reformed Brand X performed two sets, each about an hour or so long and featuring songs from the band's first three albums; 1975's Unorthodox Behavior, 1977's Moroccan Roll and 1978's Masques, widely considered their finest works and also featuring Genesis drummer Phil Collins.

A set-opening spacey jam allowed the players to tune-in and limber-up a bit before launching the audience into their classic “Nightmare Patrol” from the Livestock album, with its cascading guitars, dueling drum/percussion flourishes from Dennard and Weinberger and a screaming Goodsall guitar solo that right off the bat, had Steve and I immediately taking notice! “Euthanasia Waltz” from Unorthodox Behavior was a tad more controlled, featuring the first of a few, extended bass solos from one of the best in Percy Jones, his sound so deep, full of punctuation and flexibility that frankly, my mouth dropped. Mr. Jones would have this effect on yours truly more than once throughout the evening.

Next up was “Born Ugly,” also from Unorthodox Behavior and presenting a lighter, funkier feel, as well as another great guitar solo from Goodsall and this time, he was the one who made my mouth literally drop open with his purposeful, shredding style. Things calmed down (just a hair) for “Isis Mourning,” as a galloping bass line gathered momentum and then bled into a blistering, set-ending version of their classic “Nuclear Burn,” again from Unorthodox Behavior and complete with a cool, spacey jam at the bridge and yet another impressive solo from Goodsall.

As the band started their 20 minute intermission, (and I fetched a beer and a concert poster for my bar at home) it was now becoming clear that although I am fairly familiar with the greatness of Brand X, I did not realize the overall power and precision this band truly possess. Of course, seeing it performed live and up-close, certainly enhances the musical senses.

The second set opened with another bass solo from Jones that was in a word, incredible. His range, feel and dexterity on his beautiful six-string fretless was nothing short of remarkable and just about the most impressive bass solo I've ever witnessed and I've seen a couple greats ones; Chris Squire, Tony Levin, John Entwistle, Billy Sheehan, Geddy Lee, Les Claypool and Flea to name a few. I certainly knew coming in that Percy was a virtuoso bassist, but you really feel the depth of his playing when you see it performed right in front of you!

“Microcosm” from Moroccan Roll, featured a cool, Middle-Eastern vibe with keyboard flourishes from Chris Clark, an innovative guitar solo and some impressive, precision-interplay between all involved. Next up was the song I was most waiting and hoping for in “Hate Zone” from Moroccan Roll, as it is arguably my favorite Brand X number with its kinda-funky-kinda-jazzy groove, complete with its flowing guitar strums as keyboard and drum fills sit on top and settle into the open spaces effortlessly.

“Sun in the Night” also had a Middle-Eastern vibe and displaying such tight musicianship that it makes one wonder just how much tighter a unit could actually be, (I swear) before the final song of the set, “Malaga Virgen,” just ran the gamut; choppy, bad-ass guitar riffs, stop-and-go drum fills, tasteful percussive accents and outstanding bass and keyboard solo runs before it all briefly slows down to an atmospheric hum... before building the momentum back up to a crashing crescendo, sounds falling all around us as the audience cheered their approval. Truly impressive, indeed.

After a bow, the band left the stage as the appreciative crowd continued to cheer for an encore and of course, the band returned to perform another fan favorite in “And So To F,” as Goodsall announced the song by saying something along the lines of “Here's one from the 70's that Phil (Collins) and I wrote together.” The finale was full of soaring guitar riffs, more incredible drum, percussion and keyboard work from Dennard, Weinberger and Clark and at shows' end, the performance left me amazed and contemplating (and I believe Steve, too) just how a band could possibly sound this "together" after nearly twenty years between tours! I can only hope the momentum continues and I can see this remarkable ensemble again!

Editor's note: Because Brand X hired a photographer for the tour, obtaining a photo pass for the show was not possible, therefore, the images you see were taken with my (outdated) cell phone. However, please watch for an SRO feature article with Brand X coming soon, complete with tour photos from photographer Avraham Bank.