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Live in America

Review by Steve Alspach

It takes cajones to record an album consisting of your fifth or sixth performance ever as a band. But if you're as talented as the guys in Transatlantic, nerves are perhaps the only problem. You certainly don't have to worry about musicianship. And on this 2-CD live set, Neal Morse, Mike Portnoy, Roine Stolt, and Pete Trewavas show a high level of chemistry for a band that had just released their first CD only months prior.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2003 Year Book Volume 1 at

Track by Track Review
All of the Above
The band starts off with the 31-minute opus from the SMPTe album. It's really something to hear the band play this lengthy piece quite flawlessly. One little quibble - the lengthy ending on the studio is abbreviated somewhat.
Mystery Train / Magical Mystery Tour / Strawberry Fields Forever
You can tell that the band is having some fun here, from Neal Morse catching himself in mid-line and his mastering of the piano line in the MMT bridge ("I've been working on that one all week!" he says) to the playful banter between Morse and Portnoy (you have blisters *where*?) at the end of the piece. The band stretches out a bit on Strawberry Fields and goes into a lengthy jam. The snippet from Magical Mystery Tour (only the end chorus and the coda) serves as an excellent bridge from Mystery Train to Strawberry Fields.
We All Need Some Light
Another song from the SMPTe album, but this one stays true to the studio version and is played straight forward.
Watcher of the Skies / Firth of Fifth
Transatlantic pays homage to one of their influences with this medley. The band plays the intro to Watcher up to the point of the vocals, but then shift gears into Firth of Fifth. Stolt's solo is close to Hackett's original, but he puts his own stamp on it to good effect.
My New World
The fourth of the five songs from the studio album, this again is played close to the vest as regards the studio version. And at seventeen minutes, it shows how accomplished the band is to tackle complicated arrangements.
Medley (There Is More to This World / Go the Way You Go / The Great Escape / Finally Free / I Want You (She's So Heavy)
The roots of each band member are paid homage in this medley, and a tip of the hat to the band to acknowledge each other's band of origin. "There Is More to This World" starts it off, and thanks to Portnoy's driving drums, the piece gets off to a fast start. The segue from that to "Go the Way You Go," off the first Spock's Beard album, is done quite well. There is a subtle, also understated, shift to "The Great Escape" off of Marillion's landmark "Brave" album. Placing Dream Theater's "Finally Free" at the end is a good choice given the heavier feel of the song in comparison to the others. Stolt takes a solo at the end of the piece, and Portnoy plays all over the piece, providing some amazing fills. And the band finishes off with the dirge-like riff off of The Beatles' "I Want You." And this medley could have the longest songwriting credit around: Stolt-Morse-Hogarth-Rothery-Kelly-Trewavas-Mosley-Portnoy-Petrucci-LaBrie-Myung-Rudess-Lennon-McCartney. Have fun divvying up the royalties on that one, guys.

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