Time marches on (to odd-metered beats), confirmed by landmark artist anniversaries observed during this year’s fifth annual Cruise to the Edge international progressive festival. Surviving members of Yes, Genesis and Jethro Tull all celebrated 50-year milestones with career-spanning, age-defying performances aboard Royal Caribbean’s luxuriant Brilliance of the Seas ocean liner, sailing from Tampa, Fla. February 3–8. Not far behind on the vintage prog timeline were Gong and Focus, marking nearly as many years along with legendary drummer Carl Palmer, whose ELP Legacy band showcased early Emerson, Lake & Palmer tracks harking back to the trio’s eponymous 1970 debut. Cruise to the Edge 2018 also saw 40-year marks for Saga, which delivered its farewell (from touring) performance onboard and Marillion, whose main-stage shows were as captivating as anything the band has delivered since forming in the late 1970s. Other veteran musos enjoyed recognition for decades of fine artistry during the five-day event. Singer/multi-instrumentalist Neal Morse (performing solo) and drummer Mike Portnoy (with new band Sons Of Apollo)—who rose to prominence in the 1990s with Spock’s Beard and Dream Theater, respectively—brought crowd-pleasing sets blending familiar and newly issued material … Chapman Stick specialist/bassist Tony Levin, longtime standout with Peter Gabriel and King Crimson, played two exquisite avant-garde shows leading latest vehicle Stick Men (founded in 2007), featuring ex-Crim violinist David Cross as special guest … The Adrian Belew Power Trio, which is approaching its 10th birthday, served an edgy mix of fan favorites from the singer/guitarist’s own time with Crimson in the 1980s and ‘90s, plus original solo band material … Glass Hammer founders
Fred Schendel and Steve Babb celebrated 25 years of melodic-symphonic prog reinvention with two shows covering the band’s best efforts since 1993 debut Journey of the Dunadan …And Japanese trio Baraka, now in its 21st year, made its cruise debut with two sets of flowing fusion incorporating instrumental covers of well-known pop classics … Despite many retrospective nods to the birth, development and maturation of classic progressive rock, this was no nostalgia cruise. Noteworthy efforts came from much newer acts that didn’t exist when first-, second- and third-wave prog forebears were making musical waves. Haken displayed the compositional depth and instrumental skill earning the young heavy symphonic outfit its reputation as cutting-edge contemporary force. The eclectic London sextet (working on a new record due in October) played two albums in their entirety--The Mountain and Visions—exhibiting distinctive Gentle Giant-meets-Opeth dynamics … … Eric Gillette, erstwhile composer/guitarist with the Neal Morse Band, made his solo group debut of prog-metal inflected material from new release The Great Unknown … New singer Dennis Atlas premiered with Argentine ensemble Bad Dreams, bringing a fresh Phil Collins-like romanticism to the former Genesis cover band … Singer/guitarist/composer Ted Leonard’s spellbinding vocal work fronting Enchant lived up to the heavy prog group’s moniker … … Intriguing genre-crossing performances included the delightful newly minted flamenco-metal trio Heavy Mellow; fusion-fueled New Jersey outfit Thank You Scientist (whose members sit during band mates’ solos); plus British symphonic hard-rock outfit IO Earth, which played new studio album Solitude in its entirety.