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Progressive Rock Concert Reviews

Rocket Scientists

Live at RoSFest, April, 2007

Review by Josh Turner

I was very surprised to see Rocket Scientists in this Saturday morning slot. Typically, this is earmarked for unknowns or up-and-comers. While the members of this band are renowned, they are not typically known in relation to this outfit. With that said, this is one of the most talented bands to play here. For those who slept in, they were absent for a show that was not to be missed.
Taking us back a couple decades, there was a Mellotron and Minimoog on stage. This wasn’t just for effect as they were frequently used. It was said that Rocket Scientists stopped touring in 2002. Five years later, there was not the slightest suggestion that they were on a sabbatical or hiatus.

Like those who preceded this band this year, the sound was mixed in a very odd way. Take prog rock standards out of the equation, there was still not enough keyboards to be heard. When you factor in the fact it was Erik Norlander behind the stand, it’s absurd. Additionally, the drums were too loud.

Early on, the Rocket Scientists were grounded. They started with “Earthbound,” which is also the title track from their first album. Despite the blend, this featured good bass, drums, vocals, and keyboards. Someone in audience said they couldn’t hear them. Norlander responded with, “the guy in the back has all the control.”

Next came a personal favorite of Norlander’s, “Better View.” To me, it hinted at Dream Theater’s, “Answer Lies Within.” The track was written by guitarist / vocalist Mark McCrite.

The next cut, "Mariner," appeared to be tried and true, but this tour was the first time it was performed with Mark McCrite singing, and it was the only time it was done this early with next to no sleep.

Afterwards, Norlander mentioned that it contained the coolest bass fill-in he ever heard. There was a reason he was sending kudos to the bassist. Norlander joked that he was five when he met the bassist, Don Schiff, and that Schiff actually played for Elvis. He went on to talk about Emmett Chapman who is the inventor of that instrument with the similar name, The Chapman Stick. As it goes, Schiff is one of the innovators on the Chapman Stick and now the NS/Stick. This night, he was playing the first one ever conceived on stage. Norlander exclaimed that, “It is the best sounding bass I’ve ever heard.” Don Schiff is much like Tony Levin if only much less known. Nonetheless, I’ve never heard the Chapman Stick, or in this case the NS/Stick, played this way. Everyone agreed this guy was pretty solid. Once he finished with his star-spangled performance, it was rounded out by another excellent solo by Norlander. Altogether, this song was a Styx-like ballad with some pyrotechnics incorporated into it.

Augmenting this pair, everyone sparkled. The guitarist shined like a polished diamond. In addition to his musicianship, he provided intriguing mannerisms and gestures. This was their first US performance on this tour, and while it was being set up, one question had to be asked. Was Erik Norlander’s talented wife going to be present? In the negotiations, Norlander asked one the coordinators, George Roldan, for an extra ten minutes to do her justice.

So, special guest Lana Lane sang “The Dream That Never Ends.” While she sang, she fiddled with a black and purple veil as if were an air guitar. She was a comedian too. She put her long blond hair on the guitarist’s bald head. I was already up front, but for the last song, I got to also sit center as Tom Smith, the other chief organizer, let me have his seat. The timing couldn’t have been better as the last piece, "Aqua Vitae," was amazing. It turned out to be one that was just rehearsed the day before (just for this show), and you would have never known.
This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2007 Volume 3 at lulu.com/strangesound.
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