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Neal Morse

Testimony DVD

Review by Josh Turner

If there is one music DVD to get this year, I have the one for you. There is no doubt in my mind that I would choose Neal Morse: Testimony Live as DVD of the year. Not only is it the best this year has to offer, I can't say I've ever seen a concert go so well.

Oh wait, there was The Flower King's Meet the Flower Kings no more than a year ago.

Well, aside from this blip on the radar, Testimony Live is an instant classic that will surely be revered for time to come. Don't let this work of art slip by you unnoticed. You'd be making a huge mistake.

Neal has contracted with some mercilessly good musicians, most notably Eric Brenton on guitar, violin, flute, mandolin and even vocals. His crew, which also includes Mike Portnoy (drums and vocals), Brenton, John Krovosa (electric cello), Bert Baldwin (keyboards and vocals), Rick Altizer (guitar, keyboards, percussion and vocals), Randy George (bass, keyboards and vocals), and Mark Leniger (percussion, saxophone and vocals), helps to bring this masterpiece to the stage. On the original album, Neal plays guitars, keyboards, and vocals. On the stage, he does all that and a big ole' bag of chips, but he obviously ain't an octopus. Where his hands can be stretched no further, the remaining cast helps out with singing, strings, and antics of their own. This by no means stops Neal from cycling between instruments or changing lyrics on-the-fly. There is one moment that sticks out where he is setting up his guitar while he plays the keyboards. After he makes this switch, he jokes about making the transition smoothly. No more than a second later, he is making adjustments to his keyboard while he plays the guitar. These moments and many others are both jaw-dropping and fun. He also shares heartfelt humor, emotion, and personal insight throughout the entire gig. Neal knows exactly how to put on a show.

The DVD captures the essence of a great live performance, and the execution of the material is most certainly on par with the studio output. In some ways, the material is much more mature and a tad bit zippier. Neal takes this music to new levels. I'd go so far as to say the material is superior to his masterpiece studio creation. The solo jams and improvisations alone are extraordinary.

This DVD contains the entire Testimony experience on a single disc. This alone is a feat that was not possible with the studio release. You can hear the entire story without shuffling discs or programming your player. If the DVD only consisted of a third of the material, I'd be telling you to run out and get this product pronto. It turns out this comes with another great disc of bonus material. "We All Need Some Light", "The Light", "Strangers in Your Soul", and an extensive documentary of the tour are all provided in this second helping. The crowd was hysterical for an encore and Neal's response more than satisfied these frenzied fans.

Neal has a crazy moment in the end with his keyboards that cause his microphone to drop, leaving Rick laughing hysterically. It's moments like these that make the DVD a real treat. There is also a lot of wit and humor in the documentary. You almost feel like you're riding along as a roadie on this enlightening tour. Rick profoundly states that this is an anointed work of art. Mike says that it's been a life-changing experience touring with what he considers the best band. Take their word for it. This is a tour filled with mystery, magic, and mystique.

With great material brought to the stage and all these added frills, it would be a shame for any progressive rock fan to take a pass on this one.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2004 Year Book Volume 1 at
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