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Spock's Beard - The X Tour-Live CD (album) cover


Spock's Beard

Symphonic Prog

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Crossover & JR/F/Canterbury Teams
3 stars I have mixed feelings about this album. It underscores something that bother me about live albums these days. First, I understand that it's difficult for modern prog bands to make a living from their work, which is probably why so many prog musicians are now in a number of bands (Roine Stolt might be the king of this). And I don't begrudge them trying to make more money, but this tendency to release a live album after every tour (or two live albums, as Transatlantic did recently) bugs me a bit.

This one is a mixed bag. The first CD covers all but one song from Spock's Beard's recent "X" album. The performance is very good. Ryo Okumoto is on fire for his Kamikaze, and Jaws Of Heaven is splendid. Unfortunately, the sound engineer must have been asleep for the sound check, as the first track Edge Of The In-Between is a muddy mess, that only gradually gets better.

And Nick D'Virgilio, on his fourth tour as front man still sounds awkward with his banter between songs. After the aforementioned Kamikaze, he blurts out "Ryo! He wrote that!" And that's one of the best of his remarks.

The second disk covers some of the band's history. At only 40 minutes, it's just a bit of their history. There's the drum duet (yawn), Ryo's keyboard solo (very disjointed, but okay), and a spectacular version of Thoughts. The closer, June, I have a problem with. It may be cool that the audience sings along. But a live album, or concert, should end with a bang. This song brings the disk to a close with a whimper.

Report this review (#635247)
Posted Friday, February 17, 2012 | Review Permalink
3 stars With Nick D'Virgilio's recent departure and a new lineup now on the horizon, the past few months have been quite a turbulent time for Spock's Beard. Taking a look back on their final album with D'Virgilio in the fold, 2010's spectacular X, makes it clear that the band's longtime drummer and vocalist went out on a high note - and what better way to celebrate than with a massive, two hour long live album? The X Tour - Live captures the famed American proggers performing a one-off show in Downey, California as preparation for their then-upcoming European tour, and in addition to playing a few of their older classics, this live offering features almost all of the tracks from X. While I do question how necessary this massive live effort truly is, The X Tour - Live is still an interesting document for all longtime fans of the Beard.

Like most sprawling double live albums, The X Tour - Live is only recommendable to people who have already heard all of the original studio releases. Spock's Beard faithfully recreates all of these songs with spot-on precision without adding very many new ideas into the mix, but these live versions unfortunately suffer from inferior production qualities - while this does actually sound pretty good by most live album standards, it simply can't compete with the crystal clear aesthetics of the band's studio efforts. The general lack of new material - aside from the drum duet and Ryo Okumoto's killer keyboard solo - keeps this album from feeling like a part of the Beard's essential canon.

That's not to say that this isn't an excellent fan item, however. What it lacks in terms of essential material is easily made up for the amazing caliber of the performances and a strong setlist. Disc One is made up of the X album (except for "Their Names Escape Me"), and Disc Two is the more varied portion of the set. The drum duel between Nick D'Virgilio and Jimmy Keegan loses a bit of its fun without a visual aspect, but it's still an interesting listen for drum fanatics. "The Doorway" from the Beware of Darkness album is probably my favorite performance on the second CD, though "Thoughts" comes pretty darn close.

The X Tour - Live may not be an essential live document from these American proggers, but considering that it will probably be the last live release with D'Virgilio behind the microphone does add some additional interest for fans of the band. The setlist is strong, the performances are superb, and the production is pretty solid too; while I wouldn't say this is anywhere near as mandatory as the band's studio catalog, it is still a worthy live effort for followers of the Beard. I'd say 3.5 stars are well-deserved for this lengthy and professional live effort. Although it's a tad unnecessary considering the amount of live albums already available from Spock's Beard, hearing these tunes from X in a live setting should make for a great listen for anybody that enjoyed one of 2010's best albums.

Report this review (#637186)
Posted Tuesday, February 21, 2012 | Review Permalink
Heavy, RPI, Symph, JR/F Canterbury Teams
4 stars The departure of Neil Morse from the band was a big blow for me. It took me few years to enjoy the new band with Nick D'Virgilio. And with the latest cd X, i had the impression that the band was back on his best moments when Neil was there. I don't know why the "V" cd and the " X" cd are the best for the band, but they should call their next one "XI" to make sure that it's good again!

I was glad that they made a live cd of that tour, and that they played the whole new cd in the first set. No song is weak and i must say that it's as good as any cd of the Neal Morse area. The 17 minutes epic "Jaws of Heaven" is maybe the best song they ever made. "Edge of the in-Between" take you back the the old days with almost some of the same arrangements at some place. "The Emperor Clothes" has a nice acoustic intro with 2 guitars , some straight forward rock and a nice jazzy passage. The first epic "From the Darkness", is where each musicians are letting themselves loose with some heavy passage in the first 5 minutes. Ryo Okumoto on piano is breaking the tempo to a slower pace before getting back to another uptempo passage. "The Quiet House" and "The Man behind the Curtain" are close to what the band did after the departure of Neil. "Kamikaze" is composed by Ryo Okumoto and it's a very nice instrumental song with him up front with some heavy keyboards parts. At the end it sound like Keith Emerson.

The second set contains songs from their past releases, a drum solo and a keyboard solo. This live release contains a Limited Edition of that same concert on DVD. The sound is very good and as the performance. I think it's always more interesting to see the band played, even if there a minimum of visuals here.

This live release is essential mainly for the first set who contains the whole "X" cd. I just hope that i don't have to wait for the "XV" cd to see another great release from the band...

Report this review (#642222)
Posted Monday, February 27, 2012 | Review Permalink
Conor Fynes
4 stars 'The X Tour Live' - Spock's Beard (7/10)

I was never too big on these guys, but there are two things about SPOCK'S BEARD that I know about them going into this live album. First; that their ambitious symphonic take on prog was hampered somewhat when their frontman Neal Morse decided to leave the band in favour of religious pursuits. Second; that even though Morse was not at the helm for their latest studio album 'X', it still kicked ass, moreso than anything else I had heard from the band to date. Still, I would not go as far to consider myself a fan of the band, but the prospect of a two-disc live album showcasing 'X' was certainly more promising than the heaps of prog 'live' albums that have been pouring out over the past year. Anyone familiar with live albums in general should agree that the studio album is better nine times out of ten, and this is certainly true in the case of this. However, fans of SPOCK'S BEARD and of the 'X' album will find this a very pleasing extension of the experience.

As I have said in past reviews, writing reviews for live albums is difficult; am I judging it based on the quality of the music itself, or the exclusively 'live' aspects of it? My appreciation of the original 'X' certainly helps me warm up to this performance, however. This is a nearly two hour monster recording, split into two halves. The first half comprises almost everything from 'X', essentially recreating the album in a live setting. Although it's tempting to start waving angry fingers that they're not going for the full album, it's easy to guess why someone would not want to attempt 'Their Names Escape Me' live (Answer: try memorizing the lyrics!). Although this should not be a surprise to any existing fan of the band, a few of modern progressive rock's greatest musicians are here. Bassist Dave Meros and key-man Ryo Okumoto are both standouts where I'm coming from, each enjoying a greater presence live than they do in the studio. Although the music on this performance is mostly based in pre-existing song structures with little deviation from the set course, there is a chemistry between these musicians, and everyone gets their turn to shine in the mix.

The second disc is the seemingly-necessary collection of 'older' tracks. As someone not terribly familiar with SPOCK'S BEARD's entire discography, I cannot tell how much liberty has been taken with updating these tracks to the live setting, although the more live- exclusive pieces (such as the drum duel) are something of a disappointment, exhibiting talent without ever getting the feeling of intensity across that I would look for in a drum showcase. The greatest strength about 'The X Tour Live' is also at times it's biggest weakness; the mixing and production. The music itself aside, 'X Live' sometimes feels wonderfully organic, overcoming much of the 'noise' that comes with live performances. On the other end of the spectrum, some parts of the show feel poorly mixed and unclear. In particular, Okumoto's keyboard seems to get thrust into the background whenever the mixing engineer got lazy. A little inconsistent perhaps, but 'The X Tour Live' is a fair success for SPOCK'S BEARD, and does a good justice to the studio material.

Report this review (#733005)
Posted Thursday, April 19, 2012 | Review Permalink
3 stars Spock's Beard shows on these two discs that they are still a force to be reckoned with both live and in the studio, the songs off "X" work very well live.

This gig would be the last time the Nick D'Virgilio - fronted the group. The official reason given was that he was to devote his time and energies to his work with Cirque du Soleil. That's the bad news. The good news is we have this set, documenting an exciting concert run-through of the band at the peak of their powers, playing their best material.

Writing reviews for live albums is difficult; am I judging it based on the quality of the music itself, or the exclusively live aspects of it? My appreciation of the original "X" certainly helps me warm up to this performance. This is a nearly two hour recording, split into two halves. The first half of this two-album set is the entire "X" album, although played in a slightly different order. "Kamikaze" has been shifted from second to second last in the running order. The second disc is a collection of older tracks going back much further into Spock's Beard's history with "The Doorway"and "Thoughts" appearing from the band's 1996 second album "Beware Of Darkness", as well as "June" from third album "The Kindness Of Strangers". "On A Perfect Day" from the more recent eponymous 9th album, with keyboard and drum solos completing this second set.

The greatest strength about "The X Tour Live" is also at times it's biggest weakness; the mixing and production. The music itself aside, "X Live" sometimes feels wonderfully organic, overcoming much of the noise that comes with live performances. On the other end of the spectrum, some parts of the show feel poorly mixed and unclear. A little inconsistent perhaps, but "'The X Tour Live" is a fair success for SPOCK'S BEARD, and does a good justice to the studio material.

Report this review (#2171169)
Posted Thursday, April 4, 2019 | Review Permalink

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