New Transatlantic adventures of a know-no-boundaries ensemble of progressive stripe and impressive swipe.
For all his grandiose ideas, Neal Morse’s ensemble’s stage performances are full of glorious vivacity to which this recording – in its aural and visual aspects – is a top-notch testament. From a lush a cappella intro to the last note of “King Jesus” that seals the concert’s ultimate spirituality, there’s rarely a moment to breathe, Neal energetically jumping and flitting between guitar and keyboards; and while he may vanish from the sight during “Reunion,” it’s only to reappear amid the fans on the balcony, still playing and belting out a memorable chorus. As a sign of total abandon and dedication to his audience, Morse is bending the knee right before the first row for greater intimacy of the title track’s slow section, once the piece’s opening assault has died down, and they’re captivated when, left alone for “There Is Nothing That God Can’t Change” to sing about his daughter, Neal is overcome with emotion.
It’s equally impossible not to be moved by the triumphant funk of “The Call” or the mostly unplugged vibrancy of “Waterfall” that highlights guitarist Eric Gillette’s voice, both compositions exploring various facets of serenity, whereas the gloomy seriousness of “Leviathan” – a one-man spectacle in theatrical terms – is undermined from behind by Mike Portnoy’s hilarious struggle with a paper tissue. Such a humorous approach has an added value of stressing the players’ instrumental prowess, especially when, on the “Alive Again” epic, they swap instruments the way that nobody plays his main one, as Morse and Gillette land, in turns, on drums, and Randy George, who previously crossed over to synthesizers, takes a short break from his bursts of slapping before joining in the fun with a “Hey Bulldog” riff. Their moves greatly complement the joie de vivre of “Rejoice” and “The Grand Experiment” – one of the new tracks on display – or “In The Fire” where licks are traded, solos are passed around, and the group charge into the fusion terrain.
Intense in many a spot, the quintet demonstrate delicate restraint on “Harm’s Way” from the SPOCK’S BEARD repertoire, the only glance at tangents of Neal’s career, only to get tight again for “The Creation” and take their interplay and vocal harmonies to a higher level. Stepping down from the obvious religious angle of it, the band are bent on live creation here: hence the transcendence of their rock. A great document.