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Transatlantic – Live In Europe DVD Review

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Transatlantic are easily one of the best of the current progressive-rock bands, since they are essentially a prog-rock supergroup. As a
band, they are often better than their individual parts, which consist of Spock’s Beard – Neal Morse, Dream Theater – Mike Portnoy, The Flower Kings – Royne Stolt, and Marillion – Pete Traveres. I’m sure I’ll get much disagreement from all of the progonauts out there, but Transatlantic are certainly putting out better music than the recent stuff being released by these bands. This is primarily Neal Morse’s band, since he writes and sings the majority of the songs, and the bands direction appears to be his. This was even complained about by guitarist Royne Stolt during the special features section of the DVD, where he mentions wanting to see the band take a more experimental path. Morse quit Spock’s Beard, in 2003, and rumor has it that he has quit Transatlantic as well. You see, some time last year, God himself whispered into Neal’s ear to quit Spock’s Beard and Transatlantic, and any other band that is making that heathen rock and roll music. He abruptly did just that, and then went on to release an ambitious solo album called Testimony, which will blend in just stupendously at your favorite neighborhood Christian music store. I am still formulating my opinion on this opus, but one thing I do know for sure is it is very loooooong, and their is quite a bit of filler. Anyways, enough about poor Neal.

This DVD shows a decent improvement over Transatlantic‘s first video, Live In America, which was only released on VHS. The production quality, performances, and song selection are all superior on this new video, but being that this is a DVD format, it should have been much better. My main complaint about this DVD is the poor video quality. The video is soft, grainy and often out of focus. The colors are washed out and give the look of a 1970’s-era concert video. The camera work is often shaky and looks very amateurish, as if they offered a couple of guys in the crowd free beer to shoot the show with some camcorders. Yes, it’s almost that bad I’m afraid. Their stage and light show is still pretty weak, only slightly better than their first tour and video. The audio quality faired only slightly better. The mix is quite muddy with poor instrument separation and clarity. The guitar was too low in the mix, for my liking, but then again, their studio work is not exactly guitar dominant either. The surrounds were used relatively well to provide for some decent concert ambience, but the overall mix lacked depth and power.

The most redeeming things about this video are the great songs and musicianship. The members of Transatlantic are all virtuosos on their
respective instruments and they create some highly complex and fascinating
music. They do tend to get carried away with the over-long epics at times. Their are only six songs played on this DVD, but four of them clock in at over TWENTY FIVE MINUTES! It is cool for a band to put out the long, complex, epic song every now and then, especially when you are a prog-rock band, but to do nothing but twenty-plus minute songs on every album is a bit much. Jethro Tull made the classic song Thick As A Brick an entire album, but they only did it ONCE. OK twice, counting A Passion Play. I guess I’d have to blame Yes as well. Damn It! As much as I complain, I still love their music. At least they break up those long, epic songs into distinct suites.

One of their best moves for this tour was to bring along Daniel Gildenlow, from the excellent Swedish band Pain Of Salvation to provide some
much needed guitar, keyboard, and vocal accompaniment. His presence makes the live songs sound fuller and closer to the album arrangements, and they sound noticeably better than on the previous Transatlantic video. He must be friends with fellow Swede, Royne Stolt since he also played with The Flower Kings on their latest DVD.

A highlight of the concert was the performance of "Suite Charlotte Pike", which they turned into a medley featuring practically all of side two of The BeatlesAbbey Road album. Surprisingly they pull this off well. Each Beatles song is interspersed throughout different sections of "Suite Charlotte Pike" and don’t sound out of place at all. "Duel With The Devil" and "Stranger In Your Soul", the two monster epics that bookend their new album, sound excellent live, and
really showcase the band’s technical skills and musical dexterity. Those are
some frigging long and demanding songs, and have got to be physically tiring to play one after the other. Speaking of long tunes, their encore consisted of…oh…just the THIRTY MINUTE masterpiece, from their first album, "All Of The Above". I’m sure they all needed showers after that one.

The bonus disk featured an interesting version of Pink Floyd‘s "Shine On You Crazy Diamond", which they had performed at a recent NAM show. Their unique arrangement of this song was probably a good indication of the direction that Royne Stolt would like to see the band take. Hopefully we will get that opportunity, but it doesn’t look that way. Thanks Neal!

Setlist
Duel With The Devil
My New World
We All Need Some Light
Suite Charlotte Pike Medley
Stranger In Your Soul
All Of The Above

Performance 8/10
Production 5/10

Read all of my DVD concert reviews at
Roy’s Reviews

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About Paul Roy

  • http://paskudnyak.blogspot.com The Proprietor

    Both Neal Morse and Phil Keaggy will do secular material nowadays. Their cover of George Harrison’s “What Is Life” on the limited edition version of Morse’s “One” is excellent, and Keaggy regularly covers both “Here Comes The Sun” and “Blackbird” in his shows. Transatlantic of course covered “Strawberry Fields Forever” and “I Want You (She’s So Heavy)” on Live in America, and Morse did a full live Beatles cover set with Portnoy called Yellow Matter Custard (see my review here). Keaggy has released three Glass Harp albums over the last couple of years (I highly recommend Strings Attached, as I think it’s a better live document of Glass Harp than the Carnegie Hall album), which are mostly secular (there are a few impromptu professions of faith on Strings Attached, but it really doesn’t detract from the concert).

    I think we probably will see Neal Morse emulate Phil Keaggy’s pattern, largely catering to his religious audience, but keeping his secular audience happy with the occasional track or album. I’d like to see him take the Yellow Matter Custard concept a bit further, covering some more of his great influences (and covering a few more well-chosen, eclectic Beatles covers).

  • http://home.comcast.net/~proy1/ Paul Roy

    Morse and Keaggy collaberations have got some unbelievable potential. I would love to see those guys perform live together. I haven’t picked up Morse’s “One” CD yet, so I can’t comment on that one.

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