After filling the good part of their debut album, SMPT:e, with the 30-minute, three-part suite, “All Of The Above,” Transatlantic defiantly out-progged themselves by featuring TWO half-hour epics on their follow-up album, Bridge Across Forever. Well, that was just child’s play, my friends, because on their latest album, The Whirlwind, they just said “f**k it” and proceeded to throw down a single song that fills up nearly every second you could possibly cram onto a single CD. This 12-part, title track, monstrosity, goes on for a whopping 77 minutes and pretty much eats “Close To The Edge” for breakfast.
After a nearly seven year absence from the scene, progressive-rock super-group, Transatlantic, reunited in April of 2009 to begin work on their third studio album, fittingly titled, The Whirlwind. Thankfully, the boys, Neal Morse (ex-Spock’s Beard), Roine Stolt (The Flower Kings), Pete Trawevas (Marillion), and Mike Portnoy (ex-Dream Theater), found time in their already hectic schedules to take on a short North American and European tour this spring, dubbed the Whirld Tour, and the results can be found on this incredible new concert DVD.
Whirld Tour 2010 was filmed on May 21, 2010, at Shepherd’s Bush Empire, in London, and it captures Transatlantic’s mind-blowing three hour set featuring The Whirlwind in its entirety, the three renowned epics from their first two albums, “All Of The Above,” “Duel With The Devil,” and “Stranger In Your Soul,” and a couple of the best rock ballads ever wrizxtten, with “We All Need Some Light,” and “Bridge Across Forever.” Daniel Gildenlow, from the Swedish prog-metal band, Pain Of Salvation, accompanied the band on tour again, and his superb vocal and multi-instrumental accompaniment was an essential part of Transatlantic’s massive live sound.
The concert kicks off with the entire “The Whirlwind” suite played from start to finish – and it is magnificent. Morse and Stolt are the two main songwriters in the band, and the song moves through a lot of different textures that naturally sound similar to late-period Spock’s Beard, Neal Morse solo stuff, and The Flower Kings. But you are also in for a few very cool surprises, most notably the dark and hypnotic “Is It Really Happening?,” which slowly builds to one of the most powerful crescendos I’ve ever heard.
Many people are turned off by Neal Morse’s not-so-subtle Christian lyrics, and they are abundant on The Whirlwind. But even as an atheist, I didn’t find them distracting enough to not be able to enjoy the incredible music and vocals that fill this song. What was distracting though was every time Mike Portnoy opened his mouth to sing. Jeezus! It’s bad enough I’ve got to listen to him ruin several otherwise decent Dream Theater songs with his lame death-metal growl attempts, but now he thinks he can actually sing? With three excellent lead vocalists and very good harmony vocalist in Pete Trawevas in the band, it’s okay if you just stick to the drumming Mike.
After a short break, the band returns to the stage to perform the more reasonably lengthed, “All Of The Above,” at a mere 30-minutes, before Morse graciously hands over the lead vocals to his gorgeous ballad, “We All Need Some Light,” to Royne Stolt. This change of pace was first suggested by Mike Portnoy during the band rehearsals, and I thank him for giving us this wonderful alternate version now captured on CD and DVD. The 27-minute “Duel With the Devil” closes out the first set in spectacular fashion, leaving the appreciative London crowd on their feet begging for more. Greedy bastards, that was already a 2 and 1/2 hour set.
A few 5-hour energy drinks later, and the band returns for their encore set that begins with the stunningly ethereal Neal Morse ballad, “Bridge Across Forever,” which could have easily been a top-ten single when it was released, if radio stations would actually play decent music. They close out the show with their final epic of the night, “Stranger In Your Soul,” and after three exhausting hours – listening to good prog can require lots of concentration – you are still left wanting more. That’s a good sign.
Transatlantic have finally put out a concert DVD with production quality that is worthy of the music. The widescreen picture looks superb and the camera work was excellent. The DVD includes both Dolby Stereo and Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround audio tracks and they rock the house. The rear surrounds are used sparingly, but the excellent 5.1 audio mix presents all of the instruments clearly and accurately.
Extra features include a two hour behind-the-scenes tour documentary, a band interview, and the band’s killer performance at this year’s High Voltage Festival of the old-school Genesis track, “The Return Of The Giant Hogweed,” which featured Steve Hacket on guitar.
If you are a fan of the band Transatlantic, you could not ask for a better concert DVD than this. After being apart for the good part of this last decade, these guys put on one of the tightest, most energized, and entertaining progressive rock concerts I have seen in a while – with some crowd surfing from Mike Portnoy to boot. If you are not yet a fan – become one soon.
01. The Whirlwind
02. All of the Above
03. We All Need Some Light
04. Duel With the Devil
05. Bridge Across Forever
06. Stranger in Your Soul
Performance – 10/10
Production – 9/10