3 Prog-Rock Songs That Were Rarely Performed Live (And Why)

One of the best things about progressive rock is how good it sounds live. From unusual guitar riffs to complex melodies to advanced composition techniques, it’s the kind of genre that is best enjoyed on good ol’ vinyl or live in-person. Surprisingly enough, though, some legends in prog-rock have avoided playing specific songs from their discography. These three prog-rock songs were never (or rarely) performed by the artists who recorded them for some pretty interesting reasons.

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1. “Echoes” by Pink Floyd

Pink Floyd used to play this song fairly often. However, Pink Floyd guitarist David Gilmour decided to put “Echoes” on the shelf indefinitely after the 2008 death of the band’s keyboardist, Richard Wright. It certainly makes sense why this made it to our list of prog-rock songs that were rarely performed live. It’s a sentimental thing, according to Gilmour, but the 25-minute track is also not an easy feat to pull off live.

“Yes, it would be lovely to play ‘Echoes’ here,” Gilmour told Rolling Stone ahead of a performance in Italy. “But I wouldn’t do that without Rick. There’s something that’s specifically so individual about the way that Rick and I play in that that you can’t get someone to learn it and do it just like that.”

2. “21st Century Schizoid Man” by King Crimson

King Crimson took a two-decade break from playing “21st Century Schizoid Man”, the iconic opening track from their debut 1969 album. The band’s sound changed significantly from the 1980s through the 1990s, and this particular track just didn’t align with their new sound. However, King Crimson guitarist Adrian Belew once said that fans would scream for them to play the song at many live performances. And in his words, if they didn’t play “21st Century Schizoid Man” live, “how can you call yourself King Crimson?” They started playing the song again around 1996.

3. “Mr. Roboto” by Styx

“Mr. Roboto” was basically vocalist Dennis DeYoung’s baby. He left Styx back in 1984, and the rest of the remaining band members didn’t like the idea of performing it without him to lead. According to guitarist James Young, they started playing it again about 30 years later because “it gets a huge response. I mean, we’ve had a few people giving us the finger in the first row but not many.”

Photo by Koh Hasebe

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