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Spock's Beard - Live CD (album) cover


Spock's Beard

Symphonic Prog

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Queen By-Tor
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Music to the ears, candy to the eyes

With Live, Spock's Beard have made the final step in separating themselves from being known simultaneously with Neal Morse. While the band have released a live album since his departure, the incredibly well received Gluttons For Punishment in 2005, this is the first visual documentation of the band since the 2002 release of Don't Try This At Home. What we have here is the band clearly stating that this is the band as the title of their latest record would also suggest this is Spock's Beard. While not a band you would expect to throw a show which features insanities such as stadium pyros, firebreathing, or anything of the like, they certainly put on a very good show, one that easily an hold attentions over the entire two hours of it's running length.

Now let's get one thing strait right off the bat: this dvd looks great! Due kudos have to be dished out right here and now to the camera crew for this one. I've seen my fair share of concert dvds in the past, and have even worked on similar gigs, but these guys knew what they were doing. Taking risks is no small part of the camera game, and many too many dvds that I've seen play it too safe in this department. Just watch this dvd in terms of visuals and you'll see that everything that you'd ever want to have coverage on is shot - and very well.

Of course, what we're interested in here is the band! And I must say, these guys are at the top of their game it seems. The dvd sounds incredible, the band sounds much like their studio selves but with an energetic feel. The playing is tight as well, taken into account some of the things the band forces upon themselves to do, such as the five voices choreographed in Thoughts (Part 2) - perfectly done. The band themselves are very fun to watch, because while they may not be wild personalities like some other performers may be, they do one of two things at any given time: be exceedingly interesting, or be very fun to watch technically. What's also fun is the fact that while the band is usually very technical it makes for a very abrupt and less for granted when one of the band members does decide to pull a stunt, like, say jumping into the crowd to surf, or throwing your lead singer off the stage to let him surf back on. Unofficial member, Jimmy Keegan is quite the site to watch for all these reasons, not to mention that he's a madman playing Nick's drumparts, making you really wonder why Nick decided to leave the kit behind, with his parts being very fun to watch. Of course, Nick steps back behind the drumkits every once in a while, especially on instrumentals and long instrumental parts of songs. Watching him coordinate with Keegan on those parts is also quite the site to see. Particularly impressive one the Drum Duel which escalates the obligatory and often mundane drum solo that every other artist seems to use being that they have the advantage of an extra kit. A very fun track to watch regardless.

If you're worried about the new frontman, stop worrying now. While many of us have not had the chance to see the band live with Nick at the helm until this dvd it's very clear that he's perfect for the job. Whether he be rocking out on the guitar, delicately plucking the keys behind Ryo or trying to peek under the keyboardist while he's climbing on his keyboards he's a very fun guy to watch. His voice also sounds enough like Neal Morse's that it's not a shock to hear someone else singing old favorites. He actually breathes very new life into some of the classic Beard stuff like Crack The Big Sky or The Water.

For tracklisting the band also seems to have made good choices. The dvd represents the band's entire career, with tracks only missing from Feel Euphoria and Snow. It features a lot of material from the new album, which is always welcome, as well as a track from Alan Morse's solo album in the form of Return To Whatever which is a very cool song and very cool to watch.

If you've ever liked Spock's Beard in any way shape or form, this dvd's for you. With no complaints at all about the dvd, this is a very strong package which no fan should miss. 4 out of 5! Highly recommended.

Report this review (#174757)
Posted Sunday, June 22, 2008 | Review Permalink
5 stars WOW! the band sound tighter than ever before and the musicianship seen on this dvd is ace. I personally think the choice of songs here is good as they play only the best off thier latest studio album and a few classics mingled in there (the water, go the way you go, Walking on the the wind, crack the big sky). I was able to see this show live last year not being a big fan of them at that point but after the show i went spock mad. Return to whatever was a new song for me here and is bl**dy amazing, ryo's keyboard effects and crazy sounds just add that spice to it. Also his organ playing is full on rock and roll. Though ther highlight has to be crack the big sky, sounds amazing. 9/10
Report this review (#176151)
Posted Saturday, July 5, 2008 | Review Permalink
4 stars Wow, this album rocked my socks (or should I say rocked my Spock?) Corny jokes aside, this really is a great album. The visuals on the first SB DVD since Neal Morse left the band are sleek and look very professional. The music is obviously the highlight, and I especially love how the Beard showcases music from throughout its over-ten year history. Whereas 2005's Gluttons for Punishment showcases mostly the album Octane, Spock's Beard Live has songs from most of their albums. Of course, a lot of the music comes from their latest self-titled album, but that is to be expected, and there isn't an overload of that album. Nick D'Virgilio has also gotten better at tackling the songs penned during the Neal Morse era and his take on these songs should be pleasing to fans of either era. This DVD definitely reaffirms my belief that Nick D'Virgilio was the perfect replacement for Neal Morse and his vocal talent is astonishing on this DVD. Watching Walking on the Wind just sent tingles to my body as it was amazed by Nick's singing. All of the members of the band are able to shine in their own way on the DVD, with most showcasing their instrumental talents in some fashion. I wouldn't exactly classify this DVD as a masterpiece, but I think it is a definite must-see for anyone who is exploring this great band. I don't think you'll be disappointed.
Report this review (#176370)
Posted Tuesday, July 8, 2008 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars OK, show of hands: how many people thought the Beard were finished when Neal Morse left? 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, get the point. I was just really getting into them when Neal left, so it was only a year after that I truly understood just how hard it would be for them to carry on without him. In that time we've seen 3 studio albums (which have gotten stronger and stronger) and now a second live album with an accompanying DVD. Not really sure what I was to expect as I eased back into my favorite chair, put on my headphones and pushed 'play', but what I got was a performance by a band who have not only endured, but who have thrived. It's safe to say that Spock's Beard has found their swagger in the post-Neal Morse era.

Music from the Morse era is well represented on the DVD. Spock's has such a deep respect for their past that they don't tamper with songs from Beware Of Darkness (Walking On The Wind), Kindness Of Strangers (In The Mouth Of Madness), Day For Night (Crack The Sky), and V (Thoughts, Part II). In fact they were perfectly preserved with today's Beard. Even their debut album, The Light, is represented with an encore of The Water/Go The Way You Go. Everything just played perfectly.

It was the new material that gripped me. I would've preferred another entry from Octane than Surfing Down The Avalanche; however, the material from their most recent self-titled album stole the show. On A Perfect Day showcases Nick on guitar, which I'm still getting used to seeing. As we all know, Nick is a top notch drummer, but he bounces from guitar, to drums, and even keyboards throughout the set. His drum duel with Jimmy Keegan was spellbinding--both are extremely talented.

The grammy nominated Skeletons At The Feast was absolutely brutal. Nick took over on drums to give Jimmy Keegan a rest...well, that is until he decided to go crowd surfing. Nevertheless, it's always great to see Nick behind the kit. The set rounds out with the epic As Far As The Mind Can See, which really is the highlight of not only the studio album, but this DVD. The crowd especially gets into it during the They know we know section. A blistering version of Rearranged closes out the first set.

This DVD took me by surprise. I'm a HUGE Neal Morse fan, and I had picked up his Sola Scriptura DVD the week prior (ironically filmed the night after this show at the same venue), but I have to say I might prefer this. Too early to tell, but this DVD is THAT good. Only negative com of those detracts from this performance. Can't say enough about it. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!!!

Report this review (#177389)
Posted Sunday, July 20, 2008 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Spock's Beard have been producing top quality Symphonic Prog for years now and have 9 studio albums giving them a pretty extensive back catalogue to choose from for this show recorded in Holland in 2007. They draw material from the vast majority of their albums and in particular their latest eponymous release, which they obviously have great faith in as there are no less than 6 tracks taken from it here including the epic As Far As The Mind Can See. Their faith is well founded as it's their best post Neal Morse release so far though we only get one track from Octane and nothing from Feel Euphoria.

They've done a great job and not skimped on the number of camera's used giving views from just about every conceivable angle and the sound is spot on. It turns out to be a great show with a powerful and dynamic performance. As this DVD is also released on cd they've wisely steered clear of repetition of their 2005 live album, Gluttons For Punishment, Surfing Down the Avalanche being the only track to appear on both.

It's pleasing to see the newer material holds it's own against classic Morse era tracks like Crack The Big Sky and In The Mouth Of Madness and Nick D'Virgillio does a fine job filling the former frontman's shoes in the vocal department. Just to show what a talented guy he is he also plays occasional guitar and keyboards and naturally takes his rightful place behind the drumkit in some of the instrumental sections alongside touring band drummer Jimmy Keegan who proves to be an excellent choice. The drum duel between these 2 guys is fantastic though I know many people don't have a lot of time for drum solos.

Alan Morse gets the opportunity to showcase Return To Whatever from last years solo album Four O'Clock and Hysteria, an album so far unfamiliar to me but on the strength of this excellent instrumental it's obviously worth checking out.

Fortunately the strong set makes it enjoyable viewing from start to finish throughout the 2 hour set which closes with a medley of old favourites The Water and Go The Way You Go.

Having enjoyed their previous DVD release, Don't Try This At Home, which as it happens was also recorded in Holland I'm pleased to say that this is just as enjoyable and therefore good news proving once and for all that Spock's Beard are more than capable of continuing and reaching the same heights they did with former mainman Neal Morse.

There's not much in the way of extras on the DVD, just a history of Spock's Beard photo gallery but with such a great show I'm not complaining.

Report this review (#182329)
Posted Saturday, September 13, 2008 | Review Permalink
4 stars I went in to this DVD with some trepidation (I haven't been much of a fan of their post-Neal music) and I was pleasantly surprised. The production values on this live performance were easily on par (and sometimes better!) than Spock's studio albums. Nick's singing has matured beautifully. He did an excellent job covering the classic tracks - he finally sounds like he owns the music this time around. That ever-shrinking hole in their sound from Neal's departure is gone at last. The musicianship from the rest of the band was excellent. Keegan did an admirable job filling Nick's shoes on the drums. I'm still waiting for them to turn out *new* music that is on par with V/Snow/Strangers/Darkness/Light though. Here's to hoping their next album finally eclipses their back catalog.
Report this review (#202150)
Posted Monday, February 9, 2009 | Review Permalink
4 stars Spock's Beard is like middle-distance runner Gabe Jennings; strung out somewhere between enlightenment and accomplishment. Always on the verge of greatness, they sometimes take a detour but always find a means to forge ahead. They've produced many winning albums. Whether good or bad, they've each had their moments.

Considering another analogy, their career has been like a theatrical act starting with the prelude and going through much drama. For longtime fans, they've experienced too many climatic peaks to count on one hand. With so much buildup, we still wait for them to deflate. Something tells me that they have several laps to go before their lungs collapse or their musical musculature breaks down.

With so little left to resolve and inconsequential kinks in need of massage, they just continue to put out great works and run successful circuits of breathtaking tours. Now they release their best DVD to date and prove that they're keeping pace with pack leaders.

As if they're Prefontaine, they're off and running a mere fraction of a second after the starter pistol fires. Then like Bannister, they log a strong finish. With products such as these, they have no reason to quit at the finish line. Run Spock's Beard Run!

Now that this pep talk is out of the way, let's review what occurs on this recording to determine what's enviable and what - if anything - needs improvement.

The artwork on the cover and the computer graphics overlaying their play pulsates in an intuitively vibrant way. From the opening plop, it's totally effervescent.

The menu is simple and creative as it has their images imprinted on their symbol. Outside these iconic borders is psychedelic angel hair pasta superimposed on saucy inundated fans.

More important than superficialities, the song selection is right on the money. They choose some very good pieces that rarely get combined within the bento box. Every water stop and hydration break is a pleasant surprise since they jog through many eras.

They open with their best song on the disc: That would be "On a Perfect Day". The outcome of the initial kick couldn't have been more ideal. Still, they don't shoot their entire wad in one stroke of the conductor's wand. "In the Mouth of Madness", "Crack the Big Sky", and "Walking on the Wind" are quality pieces cooked to almost the same perfection as their idyllic introduction. Whatever it is they are noodling, they're al dente and will satisfy any progressive fan in need of a carbo-load.

We get solos, gags, dancing and dueling. The instrumental, "Return to Whatever", is also plenty fun and headman, Nick D'Virgilio, is awesome in how he changes between guitars, drums, vocals, and hairstyles.

Fooling aside, the whole group is pretty amazing. It's well documented there is nothing left to say, but I provide the pronouncement for soon-to-be buffs.

Later highlights include the multi-track epic, "As Far as the Mind Can See", and a conclusive medley featuring distillate from "The Water" dissolved in a tall glass of "Go the Way You Go". This particular encore is quite refreshing after the very lengthy set.

Apart from the main feature, there is a pictorial set to music. If anything, this is a nice gesture but it's practically cool whip intended for completists; mostly since the concert is worthy of being the sole trophy on display. Best to spend your time hanging out with the live-action entourage instead of reminiscing over dusty memorabilia.

As far as my mind can see through many hours of audiovisual scrutiny, the DVD and sister CD are identical in content. Yet, the DVD is far superior due to the plastic surgery done to the material in terms of stage presence and cosmetic tweaks. This says a lot when their colorful sound is already healthy and beautiful without the light show.


Report this review (#203488)
Posted Wednesday, February 18, 2009 | Review Permalink

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