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Spock's Beard - Live at Sea CD (album) cover


Spock's Beard

Symphonic Prog

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Rock Progressivo Italiano Team
5 stars 2014 delivered a treat for Spock's Beard fans with the DVD release of `Live at Sea - Live at the Norwegian Pearl/Stardust Theater, Friday Feb 21, 2014'. This was part of the Progressive Nation at Sea cruise, and the footage taken from their second and final show of the cruise. This concert showcases the current line-up of the band that has the two founding members Dave Meros (bass), Alan Morse (guitars) and long-time keyboard player Ryo Okumoto joined by Enchant's Ted Leonard taking on the lead vocals, with fill-in live drummer Jimmy Keegan now a full-time integrated member of the proper band. Although what looks to be only a short concert with 6 pieces played, closer inspection will reveal an almost 70 minute performance, and it beautifully captures the talented musicianship, emphasis on melodic skills and sense of humour the band is famous for, and a late appearance in the final twenty minutes by founding member Neal Morse should be a huge thrill for fans of the band!

There's so much energy and personality to witness throughout the DVD. Both keyboard supremo Ryo Okomuto and guitar hero Alan Morse love to play up the `rock star' angle of the show, offering plenty of amusing show-off soloing moments, but it's all in tongue-in-cheek fun, and they bring so much charisma to the band. They're not just show-ponies either, as they've got incredible skills that shape so much of the classic Spock's Beard sound. Singer Ted Leonard is fitting in with that side too, offering jovial and good-humoured quips with the band and audience. He's always been a talented performer, but he's shown immense improvement as a vocalist since toning his overwrought Enchant style down a notch for the Spocks, and he's quickly become a great asset to them. The hugely likeable drummer Jim Keegan plays with such conviction, variety and power, and he let's rip with constant perfectly executed little fills throughout. But the biggest secret weapon of the entire show is bass player Dave Meros. The guy is perfectly happy to remain out of the spotlight on stage compared to Ryo and Alan, but damn does his grumbling chunky bass playing cut through every inch of the performance.

A mix of three classic Spock's pieces and three newer works are given a thrilling live workout here. With it's constant heavy grooving, `Something Very Strange' is the perfect choice to open the show. Within barely eight minutes, all of the members get perfectly delivered standout solo moments to shine, all bookended in a catchy tune overall. `Hiding Out' was such a striking opener to the latest studio album, and it packs even more punch here. Plenty of instrumental guitar muscle and an impossibly strong memorable chorus, and watch out for the back and forth guitar duelling between Ted and Alan, great fun! So cool to hear these new tracks, and not a set just full of `greatest hits'! Classic `Walking on The Wind' still has all those beautiful Gentle Giant-like spastic eruptions, and it's the perfect balance between accessible vocal catchiness with prog-rock instrumental runs. Ted also convincingly pulls off a tune that's so associated with Neal's voice. Despite this current line-up and their preference for a harder rocking prog, `Waiting For Me' really is a knockout piece in the classic Spock's Beard style (not surprising as it was co-written by Neal Morse). Dave's fingers are a blur of fluid motion back and forth, Jimmy drums with a controlled fury of someone twice his size, and Alan's searing guitar solo over Ryo's rising Mellotron rapture during the middle is prog heaven.

Founder Neal Morse is then welcomed on stage for the final two numbers. The melodic acoustic ballad `June' is an obvious choice, always a favourite piece for fans of the band, and it's sing-along quality and pleasing harmonies make it easy for the crowd to enjoy. Then after a tease of a piano melody from the `Snow 'album, Neal guides the band into a super-charged rendition of `The Light', the first classic lengthy epic from the debut album of the same name back in 1995. It's still a loopy, deranged and insane take on Gentle Giant and classic Genesis, and it proves the signature Spock's Beard sound was in place right from the very beginning of the band. Check out the improvised spot with Neal's sprightly acoustic guitar to Ryo's jazzy piano soloing.

Despite the Nick D'Virgilio'-led era of Spocks Beard offering four solid studio albums, there seemed to be the general opinion that the last album from 2013 `Brief Nocturne's...' with this line-up was something of a real return to form for the group, and along with the strength of the seeing the band gelling together so well throughout this show, everything is in place for this current version to deliver the goods even more in the future. Followers of the band will know to instantly look into this DVD (why no Bluray though, SB fellas?!), and it should please fans of both the classic earlier albums and the newer ones. Everyone will be happy - you're got some of the old era, some of the new era, but it's all classic Spock's Beard!

Four and a half stars, but five for Beard fans!

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Posted Saturday, December 27, 2014 | Review Permalink

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