Nektar Credit: Courtesy of MoonJune Records

The history of improbably successful and long-lasting 70s prog band Nektar is a complicated one. The story starts in 1968, when four British lads—guitarist-singer Roye Albrighton, keyboardist-vocalist Allan Freeman, bassist-singer-Mellotron player Derek Moore, and drummer Ron Howden—met at the Star Club in Hamburg (where another group of British lads, the Beatles, famously cut their teeth). They’d been playing in different bands in Germany since 1965, and they bonded over their mutual love of the Fab Four and the new avant-garde directions rock music was taking. They formed Nektar in 1969, and by the following year they’d added fifth member Mick Brockett, who operated their heady light show and occasionally helped with lyrics and titles. Their first LP, 1971’s Journey to the Center of the Eye, remains a fine example of the psychedelic concept album: its single epic song, which fills both sides of the album, is about an astronaut given vast knowledge by aliens (naturally) and verges on what many would call “experimental Krautrock” these days. The 1972 release A Tab in the Ocean furthered Nektar’s cult appeal while streamlining their sound into more conventional psychedelic-progressive rock a la Pink Floyd and Yes. In the mid-70s, as Nektar became more melodic—even touching on funky rhythms—they found some commercial success while still exploring sci-fi themes. They broke into the top 20 on U.S. charts with 1973’s Remember the Future, and the following year Down to Earth landed in the Top 40. The entire band moved to the States in 1976, but before and after releasing their slick 1978 major-label debut, Magic Is the Child, they underwent a series of lineup changes, and in the early 80s they called it quits. Now fast-forward to the year 2000, when Nektar reemerged with a new album, The Prodigal Son. The next year, the classic lineup headlined the popular prog festival NEARfest. After a zillion more personnel changes and tours with various members, Albrighton died in 2016, but Moore and Howden (both based in New Jersey) and Brockett (in Pennsylvania) nonetheless vowed to celebrate the band’s 50th anniversary. Last year they holed up and tackled some old demos as well as some new tunes for a new LP called The Other Side, which suffers slightly from overly tasty playing and production but still hints at their monumental past glories. On their current tour, Nektar are rumored to be revisiting sounds from their earliest LPs. With former Fireballet guitarist Ryche Chlanda back in the band (he joined briefly in 1978, as a 21-year-old wunderkind) and Brockett resuming his old-school live-light-show duties, this show promises to be once-in-a-lifetime heady space-prog trip, so climb aboard while you can.   v