District 97 live review - Reggie's Rock Club, Chicago

District 97 pay tribute to former collaborator John Wetton at local tribute show.

A crowd at a prog gig
(Image: © Katja Ogrin)

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It’s been a mere three days since the passing of John Wetton, and in the city of Chicago, a tribute concert takes place in his honour with District 97 playing a set featuring songs from Wetton’s extensive catalogue. The band toured and performed with Wetton in years past – so with such a strong connection, this makes for an emotional performance.

The band explode with Red, and we’re reminded of why Kurt Cobain said he was heavily influenced by Wetton-era King Crimson. Guitarist Jim Tashjian supplies all the balls and crunch that the song requires. Tashjian then does the melancholy vocals on Fallen Angel. Afterwards, vocalist Leslie Hunt addresses the crowd, stating how she misses Wetton, how funny he was, and that the last time they performed together on stage was at this very venue. Hunt and Tashjian both express the hope that they’re making him proud, with Tashjian calling him “Johnnay!”

The band are clearly ready for the task of making Wetton proud, as note-for-note renditions are executed, with some added violent keyboard solos throughout the set (courtesy of Andrew Lawrence). To bring authenticity to the sound a well-studied bassist was required, and Tim Seisser understands what the job demands. Intricate bass patterns and complex time signatures are what Wetton’s music entails, and Seisser seizes the chance to play these parts with authenticity. Jonathan Schang nails the Bill Bruford drum parts as well. One More Red Nightmare and Easy Money are both performed impressively, with Hunt giving the tunes some real vocal gusto, showcasing her diverse talents.

The band do one song from UK, In The Dead Of Night, as Lawrence plugs in all of Eddie Jobson’s signature fierce cosmic sounds and goes to town on the keys. But the longest song of the evening is the Crimson epic Starless. It’s about life in dark days, and the band take a serious tone. Tashjian belts out the lyrics with emotion, and the audience can feel the significance. The final part of the song features a ripping solo that is quite incredible.

The finale is, perhaps inevitably, Heat Of The Moment, which gets a rapturous reception. John Wetton might be gone, but what District 97 prove is that he is still here, because his music will live on.