CD Reviews

Spock's Beard - 'The X Tour - Live' Hot

Added by Central Electronic Brain     May 22, 2012    
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A truly splendid album.

It was a huge disappointment when the tour from which this recording was taken didn’t stop off in the UK so I’m delighted that this release has seen the light of day; not least because as it transpires it also marks Nick D’Virgilio’s swansong with the band. I’ve said it before but it bears repeating that when Neal Morse left I thought the band was over, but boy did they prove me wrong! After the tentative ‘Feel Euphoria’ album they have been every bit as good, if a little different, to Mark 1.

On the evidence of this recording the UK audiences missed a treat because the band were clearly in imperious form playing every track from the standard version of the ‘X’ album together with one from the previous CD then rounding matters out with some bona fide Neal Morse classics from early in their career.

I do have one minor criticism, the inclusion of ‘Drum Duel’ as I’m afraid I’ve not found any kind of ‘drummers only’ interlude during a gig of any interest since the late 70’s when Phil Collins and Chester Thompson produced the definitive article. If you acquire the special edition with the DVD from the show this section is slightly more interesting because you can see the expertise required and the pair of them coming down off their respective risers to play the floor, monitors…...

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That aside, this is a truly splendid album and DVD which showcases everything that’s good about this band, great songs with hooks and choruses, fantastic melodies and wonderful instrumental passages. They may play lengthy songs and throw in some particularly clever musicianship every now and then but they know how to remain relevant and can maintain interest throughout. The sheer ability of the band is evident on the DVD with people changing instruments several times within one song and all this with only four days of rehearsal. For me this is Prog at its very best.

The show opens with the sublime ‘Edge of the In-Between’ which ticks all the boxes with its wonderful refrains, arrangement, playing and vocal harmonies. Frankly, that sets the tone for the rest of the set with each track full of wonderful melodies as well as intricate playing and arrangements. ‘The Man Behind the Curtain’ is given an additional edge in the guitar department by one of its co-writers, Stan Ausmus, joining the band. Unlike his usual European set up Ryo Okumoto looks like a wonderful throwback to Rick Wakeman, surrounded by keyboards including two mini Moogs and a real Mellotron. His ‘Kamikaze’ and solo tracks utilise them all too great effect. The set concludes with three well chosen oldies, ‘Thoughts’, The Doorway and ‘June’ each of which again demonstrates the prowess of the band, albeit in different ways, the former with its demanding vocal arrangement, the second’s wonderful melodies and the latter with pathos.

This is, quite simply, a superb closure for SB Mark 2

Gary Marshall

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