Transatlantic / Neal Morse / The Flower Kings Hot

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Transatlantic / Neal Morse / The Flower Kings - Electric Ballroom, London (UK) - 7th March 2013

What a night! For any fan of the Classic Progressive Rock genre this was a marriage made in heaven and one that should have guaranteed an evening of musical bliss; which from my perspective it did.

The Flower Kings (TFK) and Morse on the same bill was pretty special but put Mike Portnoy into the mix (drumming for Morse) and you had three quarters of Transatlantic as well and a genuine excuse to play their tracks too. Judging by the number of Dream Theater T-shirts on display, I suspect Mr Portnoy's presence boosted the attendance.

TFK opened proceedings and it was good to see them performing in front of a decent sized crowd in the capital for a change; hopefully they won over some new friends and their future shows will be better attended. Judging by the cheers they received that will be the case. The band made the most of their stage time by playing four epic tracks ('Numbers', 'The Truth Will Set You Free', 'Rising The Imperial' and 'Last Minute On Earth/Medley') which served to demonstrate every facet of their style. I've seen them many times but I've never heard them this heavy or attacking the songs in such a manner, at times the bass pedals of Jonas Reingold threatened to bring the house down. Roine Stolt's guitar playing was at its fluid best and the only minor criticism I'd level at them would be that a couple of Tomas Bodin's keyboard solos got a bit out of hand, in an over the top and not very tuneful way. It felt as if he'd got carried away.

Fireworks - The Ultimate Magazine For Melodic Rock Music

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A quick turnaround and Morse's new band hit the stage and as I have also mentioned in the review of the CD/DVD elsewhere in this issue they now have a definite Metal edge, thanks to the guitar playing of young bucks Eric Gillette and Adson Sodré, who are from the John Petrucci (Dream Theater) school of guitar playing. A technical hitch with Morse's keyboard/laptop on opening song, 'Momentum', was covered professionally and the band sounded both incredibly tight and hugely energised. Portnoy was sensational as always, as demonstrated during the finale of second track 'Author of Confusion', which took on a Dream Theater quality in the hands of this band. Gillette is an amazing musician playing both guitar and keyboards with incredible dexterity and that was evident during 'The Question Mark Suite' where his guitar soloing was terrific and the keyboard interplay with Morse, sensational. He's also one of several vocalists who contributed to the splendid harmonies throughout the set. I even witnessed something I've not seen at a Morse gig before and that's the audience pogoing – yes, the band engendered that sort of reaction. When Gillette and Sodré joined forces on guitar it was extremely impressive and brought a new dimension to Morse's material. The 'Momentum' album's lengthy centre-piece, 'World Without End' closed out the set in very impressive fashion with every member of the band contributing massively to this epic track that moves through a number of phases and styles. If anyone had any doubt about Morse's ability to create melodies and refrains then this set would surely have dispelled any such thoughts forever as it was chock full of them.

After another swift changeover, the Transatlantic combo returned to the stage with various members of the other two bands. It then became a rotation system as personnel come and go during a half-hour medley of Transatlantic material which was awesome. Just when you thought the evening could get no better onto the stage came special guest Steve Hackett to share solos with Stolt on the 'Stranger in Your Soul' section. The show concluded with the entire entourage on stage and taking a well-deserved bow.

Note: I've not picked out too many highlights because the entire evening was a highlight. This tour was billed as 'Prog Royalty' and if that's the case they certainly came, saw and conquered.

Gary Marshall

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