The Neal Morse Band
Saturday, 21st January 2017
The Center Theater, Whittier, CA, the US
There is a fact that many modern Prog artists don't get enough credit for.
The original prog musicians from the 70's wrote and recorded their most highly regarded material
when they were young and in a reasonably short window of time.
Later albums did not received the acclaim of their earlier works with fans or critics.
It is hard to identify a classic prog band that this doesn't apply to.
The reasons are multi facited but could have a lot to do with them needing to conform
to the demands of major record labels. Whatever the reason,
several modern prog artists seem to be more successfully prolific throughut their careers.
Neal Morse is a textbook example of this.
It has been over 20 years since Neal and Spock's Beard made their mark on the prog scene with The Light album.
Since that time, Neal has continued to release compelling music at a regular pace.
Though some argue that his output can be repeatative, a close look indicates significant
variety and absolute quality. It is still quite amazing though, that at 56 years of age,
he has recieved some of the best reviews of his career for The Similitude of a Dream.
It is the second release from The Neal Morse Band, a collaboration that has really clicked.
The Road Called Home tour supporting the album arrived to a sold out show at
the Center Theater in Whittier California. This setting has seen many a great
CalProg shows courtesy of Papa J Harrel.
It was well publicized that the bulk of this concert would be a full performance of the new concept album.
There is always a risk with doing this. Certain moments might not carry well into
live performance and there is also the chance that some audience members won't know the material.
Neither of these risks proved to be issues as The Similitude of a Dream was met with one
of the most enthusiastic responses that I have ever seen from a Neal Morse crowd.
Audience participation is oftena a tough sell at a prog concert,
but consistent clapping along and head bobbing could be seen througnout the show.
This reaction was well earned, as the band prfornmed this complexx work with complete gusto.
In fact, I have never seen Neal quite so actively jumping around the stage.
The Neal Morse band itself couldn't be better. Mike Portnoy's and Randy
George's talents were established long ago, but Eric Gillette and Bill Hubauer are
two of the brightest prog rock discoveries in recent years.
From the beginning, it was apparant that this would be a different Neal Morse show.
Donning costumes as well as utilizing flashlight effects, Neal did his best Peter Gabriel impression.
This added another element of intrique to the overall performance.
Though the entire epic worked well in a live setting, there were some highlights.
The Similitude of a Dream is one of the harder rocking Morse albums and songs
like City of Destruction, Draw the Line, So Far Gone, Slave to your Mind,
The Man in the Iron Cage and The Battle displayed an energy that was palpable.
The quiter moments were equally effective though. From the captivating Makes No Sense,
the Beatlesque Ways of a Fool the catchy Shortcut to Salvation
to the harmonies of Freedom Song, there wasn't a fault note to be found.
The closing sections of Neal's epics usally play well in a live setting and
Broken Sky/Long Day was no exception. Emotional and stirring, this close to the main set was stunning.
The response from the audience was deservidly enthuiastic.
The encores consisted of more recent material,
but any lack of nostalgia was made up for by sheer energy. During Momentum,
Neal ran though the audience high fiving and hugging fans.
Probably the biggest surprise of the setlist, Agenda,
from the previous Neal Morse Band album was fantastic and the evening ended with
a rousing performance of The Call. A perfect close to a memorable evening of music.
This was perhaps the best Neal Morse show I have ever seen.
It is well known that the band is very proud of The Similitude of a Dream and that
confidence in the material showed in their performance. Powerful,
energetic and moving in equal measures, this was a concert to remember.
City Of Destruction
We Have Got To Go
Makes No Sense
Draw The Line
Back To The City
The Ways Of A Fool
So Far Gone
Breath Of Angels
Slave To Your Mind
Shortcut To Salvation
The Man In The Iron Cage
The Road Called Home
Broken Sky /Long Day (Reprise
Neal Morse Band Official Website
The Center Theater