A little background is in order:
Wikipedia: “Paul Green is an American record producer, film producer, director, screenwriter, singer-songwriter, music teacher, entrepreneur, and philanthropist who founded School of Rock (formerly known as The Paul Green School of Rock Music), a performance-based music program for kids.
First established in Philadelphia in 1998 by Green, schools have opened in 18 US states and internationally in Mexico. In 2005, the company was the subject of a documentary film titled Rock School.”
In early 2010, Green left the Paul Green School of Rock Music, which is now known as The School of Rock. (The Jack Black movie started production after this school was established. They claimed never to have heard of his school. Green considered a lawsuit but decided against it, reasoning that the School benefited from the film saying “I considered suing, but what are you going to do? It’s better, in a karmic sense, to just reap the rewards.”)
Green had been bought out and once his non-compete expired, opened Paul Green Rock Academy in Woodstock, NY. There are “occasional workshops featuring accomplished musicians, and the artists will include discussions about their past experiences, songwriting, live performance, and fame in general. To be admitted, students generally must be between the ages of 7 and 18. No musical training or experience is necessary to attend the school.”
Paul Green’s All-Stars are the best students from various nationwide schools. Apparently, they play all over and have turned with everybody from Slash to Les Paul to LeAnn Rimes to Ann Wilson.
As Jon Anderson told the story onstage, he was touring in Philly about 20 years ago and got a tape from Green of one of his ensembles doing ‘Heart of the Sunrise.” Somewhat gobsmacked, he got involved with the group and has been engaged on and off since then.
They are currently doing a brief (mostly) East Coast tour. This came on my radar and I said, Hell I gotta go see that. For me it was literally just to hear “Close to the Edge” live, the rest was just a bonus. Also, Anderson signed my guitar at my own geezer wannabe rock camp just pre-COVID. (Steve Morse signed it too and both signatures are now completely gone. Four-part series starts here.)
So how was it? Well, the level of musicianship was quite high as you’ll hear. Initially, I thought there were about 10 students. But when they came out at the end it was clear there were at least 20 who were being shunted on and off stage periodically.
What amazed me was not only how good they were but how versatile. There were typically about 4 people singing harmony with Anderson. That gal playing bass that you’ll see on “Heart of the Sunrise” had been a backup singer on the prior song. Check this out.
There were times that it felt very School of Rock. I guess to make the kids happy they did an Eminem tune (!) and even one by Lenny Kravitz. Those tunes just seemed weirdly out of place. But I will say it was nice to see this young (average age maybe 23 or so) bunch of kids get into classic prog-rock so much. (Wonder what they made of Anderson’s typically cryptic lyrics.)
Unfortunately, Green took it upon himself a couple of times to run out on stage and pull a kid out front to play a solo or move them around. I’d appreciate that if this was a high school production or even billed as one but I paid good bucks to see this. Sure, I expected a student band but don’t treat them like 5-year-olds. I had a video that he was on and I deleted it as it was just too cringeworthy.
Gripe – I got to the theater about a half-hour before starting time and decided to wander around the town a little bit. It turns out that the students had been playing an opening set THAT WENT UNADVERTISED. Anyway, I caught the end of this blues (?) number by the band. (Yes, the gals were all hot AND could play and sing.)
Lastly, “Close To The Edge (Side 1).” Listen, if you’re expecting Yes on this, go listen to the record. You’re certainly not gonna hear that level of precision or Rick Wakeman’s epic organ solo (played on the pipe organ at St Giles-without-Cripplegate church in Barbican, London. ) But unlike Paul McCartney who still sounds good but rough, Anderson has maintained his pipes and sounds great.
But for what it is, I think they did a pretty damn fine job with a tough piece of material. When we were doing tunes with Jon out in LA, pretty much every band did “Owner” because everything else was just too fucking complex to learn in two days.
They of course ended with “Roundabout,” which – for good or bad – included two saxes and a clarinet! Their moms would be proud. Here it is from a show last year.
Sun Is Calling…
Owner of a Lonely Heart
I’ve Seen All Good People
Kashmir (Zep cover)
Don’t Kill the Whale
Lose Yourself (Eminem cover)
State of Independence (Anderson and Vangelis cover)
Screw (Anderson song where he drops positivity and tells politicians to go screw themselves.)
Fly Away (Lenny Kravitz cover)
Long Distance Runaround
The Fish (Schindleria Praematurus)
Mood for a Day (two of the female students in unison)
America (Simon & Garfunkel cover)
Heart of the Sunrise
Close to the Edge
And You and I