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Progressive Rock Concert Reviews

Neal Morse

Live in Los Angeles, CA September, 2008

Review by Michael Bader

Having not followed Neal Morse’s post Spock’s Beard and TransAtlantic career, you could imagine my surprise when I learned that Neal Morse has redirected his amazing musical talents towards promoting God’s word, “Prog Style.”  I had no idea what to expect when I stepped into the Downey Community Theatre near Los Angeles this Saturday evening. In the end, what Neal Morse and his band delivered was an amazingly energetic, uplifting and spirited performance by some excellent progressive musicians. What I didn’t expect was a growing religious worship outreach inside a rock concert.  

As a tune-up for Neal Morse’s upcoming concert tour in support of his upcoming October release Lifeline, this show turned out to be overwhelmingly intense on several fronts. Morse’s website promotes Lifeline as a breathtaking leap into uncharted musical territory and a triumphant return to the eclectic sound of his early work with Spock's Beard and Transatlantic. Morse’s publicist promotes the new release as an album whose “musical styles ranging from Spock’s Beard to the intensity of Sola Scriptura. Most of the album's songs are relatively short five minutes pieces with a few exceptions.”

It is always a difficult job to sing lead, play an instrument, and establish a rapport with the audience while delivering a high energy performance with enthusiasm for three solid hours. Covering keyboards, lead vocals and guitar, Neal Morse was spectacular! Trying to articulate his musical prowess, I found that promoter, Jim “Papa J” Harrel describes Morse most succinctly, “I was instantly drawn in by his warmth, wit and charm. He exudes an almost childlike delight with the music he plays, and that can be quite infectious. You can’t help but be energized by his stage presence.”

The highlight of the evening was Morse performing a vocal duet at opposite ends of the stage with his son, Wil, during the song “Cradle to the Grave.” This was a beautifully performed piece exposing the sincerity of Neal Morse’s devotion to his life and the music he creates. This song was truly a touching moment between the audience, the artist and his son.

The band lineup was Bill Bachman on drums, Michael Jackson (not the super famous one – ed.) on keyboards/vocals, Marc Pogue on lead guitar and Jason Street on bass/vocals. Randy George sat in on bass during the encore numbers. My favorite number was what I believe to be a TransAtlantic piece entitled “The Door.” The piece’s complexity, the interwoven melodies blended with keyboard and guitar jams showcased the musical skills Pogue and Morse possess.

I learned many years ago to attend concerts with little expectations to avoid disappointments and enhance the chance for pleasant surprises. I may have broken that golden rule this evening as I would have loved to hear a song from the Cover to Cover CD. Chicago’s “Feeling Stronger Everyday” or Blind Faith’s “Find My Way Back Home” would have enhanced the set list just fine. In retrospect, tossing us a Spock’s Beard tune would have left this expecting fan just a bit happier.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2008  Volume 5 at lulu.com/strangesound.
 
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