Inside Out 10th Anniversary tour
Spock's Beard, Enchant, California Guitar Trio

October 7th 2003, Tivoli, Utrecht, The Netherlands
October 20th 2003, 013, Tilburg, The Netherlands
October 22nd 2003, The Mean Fiddler, London, UK

By Andy Read, Derk van Mourik, Ed Sander and Charlie Farrell


Tivoli, Utrecht, 7 October 2003

The Main Attraction
By Andy Read

To mark their tenth anniversary, the Inside Out label had put together this tempting triple bill for a 13-date tour across Europe. The Californian Guitar Trio gave an entertaining 25 minute set that provided a nice appetizer for Enchant. Judging by the number of people pressed at the front of the stage, I wasn't the only one for whom this Californian five-piece was the main attraction.

Their last two albums have been superb slices of modern progressive rock. On the strength of their current Tug Of War opus I was expecting them to give Spock's Beard a good run for their money and they didn't disappoint. They opened with The Thirst, closed with Oasis and in between, the highlights were a rocking Below Zero a catchy Monday and some great bass work on Sinking Sand.
Ted Leonard is the centrepiece - 'Cromatose' in particular was a superb showcase for his voice. But for me Doug Ott is the real tasty ingredient - I just love the sound that he generates from that guitar.

Given a generous hour-long set we had a broad selection spanning their seven album career - only Time Lost failed to get a mention. This being the first date of the tour and indeed the band's first gig for four years or so - there was bound to be a bit of ring rustiness. I'd have liked a little more movement on stage and a bit more interaction with the crowd but I'm sure that is something that developed as the tour progressed.

Anyway, if at the end of a set you're looking at your watch to see if the hour really has finished, then a band has done the business. Please don't leave it so long until you return chaps!

The Magic's Gone
By Derk van Mourik

The California Guitar Trio was exactly that: three guys from California on guitar. I'm generally not too fond of these kinds of line-ups, especially if the music is unfamiliar to me. It wasn't bad, though, and they played a bit of King Crimson and all of Yes' Heart of the Sunrise.

Next up was Enchant, who have supported Spock's Beard before, on the The Beard is Out There tour in 1998 to be exact. I also wrote a review of that concert and some of the things I said about Enchant in that review were: "(...) the performance was very good and Enchant played some really beautiful songs. (...) The singer made a very good impression on me, even though I don't like his voice on the studio albums that much”. Well, upon hearing Enchant again this evening, I found my opinion hadn't changed much!

And then...the moment I'd been waiting for for over two years: a reintroduction to the live Spock's Beard. Of course, since I'd last seen them in June 2001 on the V tour, much had happened. Two new albums, one of them a double album, and of course the departure of frontman Neal Morse. Going briefly into that, after hearing Feel Euphoria I felt that the loss of Neal Morse as a composer isn't as devastating as I first thought it would be. In a prudential light it can even be called good for the band, as a new direction was needed. However, during the course of this evening, I found that in the live band his absence was keenly felt.

The turnout in Tivoli tonight was pretty good: the balcony was closed off, but the main hall was pretty much filled. The band kicked off with stiff rockers Onomatopeia and Bottom Line, both from Feel Euphoria. This kind of set the tone for the evening: the Beard showing a harder edge than we're used from them. Such is the new material of course, but live drummer Jimmy Keegan is also much louder than Nick D'Virgilio. D'Virgilio himself had moved up to the front of the stage behind the mike, a position he held with much self assurance.

The third song played was Thoughts, which proved to be the only oldie in the main set. It had been altered to accommodate the new composition of the band: the intro was played on guitar, and Ryo Okumoto took up lead vocals, which was quite a revelation, as he wasn't too bad at it! Next came a second block of material from FE. In East of Eden, Nick took place behind the drums during the instrumental middle part, while Keegan attempted to play some additional keys, which he finally pulled of with a little help from Ryo. Feel Euphoria was again testament to the heavy Beard. The ballad My Shining Star gave the audience some much needed rest, because it had all been rather hectic so far! Then followed a short piano solo by Ryo. The guitar solo in Ghosts of Autumn was delivered by Alan Morse in his trademark theatrical style. His playing is not always all that tight but he's fun to watch. Ryo has been taking up the habit of telling jokes in between songs, which he did again here.

Then Nick announced the performance of a suite of songs from Snow, dubbed the Snow Medley. It consisted mainly from songs of the second disc of Snow, which is not my favourite. Overall, I found this medley rather disappointing. The performance was a bit messy, especially in the beginning, and after having been buffeted by an hour of FE songs, it was hard to keep my attention to the thing, especially because the Beard put their new hard-edge stamp on this Morse material. Frankly, I'd had about enough of this at this point. There was the expected drum duet, after which I had to leave to catch the train.

I think my opinion of this gig is summed up pretty well when I say that I wasn't even that sorry to have to leave early. I had a couple of problems with the concert: one was that the live Beard that I've come to know and love over nine previous concerts was virtually unrecognizable. I understand that when an important member leaves, this will affect the sound and show, but in my opinion nothing was done to ease the transition. The setlist was heavily emphasized towards the new album (of which they also played the epic, I'm told) with only one pre-Snow song in it. It was loud and aggressive, less playfull and less refined. The Neal Morse led live Beard was a magical force that drew you in, bewitched you with its joyfulness and astounding musicianship, and left you gasping. But with a setlist that virtually ignored everything but the last two years in the history of the band, and a problematic Snow medley which melted into a river of singular drabness as soon as it had started, Spock's Beard never came close to having the same effect. The magic is gone, and only time will tell if it will ever come back.


013, Tilburg, 20 October 2003
By Ed Sander

I was sceptical. Very sceptical. Having seen two or three previous Spock's Beard shows, all featuring their ex-frontman Neal Morse I had serious doubts if they would be able to display the same enthusiasm and energy. After all, not only did Neal Morse write most of the songs but his melodic piano play was an substantial part of the Beard live sound.

The band's recordlabel Inside Out had decided to take three bands on the road, The California Guitar Trio, Enchant and the beardy boys. Personally I didn't really care about the two other bands, which only meant that we had to wait much longer for the headlining act. When we entered the venue CGT had just finished their set and it would still be more than 1,5 hours before Spock's Beard would start their gig. I've seen worse 'support acts' than Enchant, and some of their stuff was quite enjoyable but it still was a long wait and it meant that The Beard's playing time was also relatively short (they still played about 2 hours though).

Having released two albums and more than 3 hours of new music since the last time they toured I was very anxious to hear some new material. Seemingly unlike some other people - who wanted to hear as many 'golden oldies' as possible - the setlist, which consisted mostly of Snow and Feel Euphoria stuff was fine with me. Feel Euphoria is a nice album and a refreshing new sound after the Morse approach, which was running stale and it was good to see them play most of these songs, especially Onomatopeia, The Bottom Line and East of Eden were great. I was glad though that they started with Sid and got that overlong unnecessary legacy monster out of the way. The song has some good moments but is too obvious an attempt to be the Old Beard. I have to admit that I was slightly disappointed by the choice of Snow material as well. As some of you might know I consider the first CD of the Snow double album the best thing the band has ever done, while I think the second disc is a rather unbalanced mish mash. And the second disc they played. Well most of it. Still, although I would have preferred to hear my favourite stuff I have to admit that some of the material of the second disc makes up for some explosive live performances. Besides the two instrumentals near the end of the album the Snow Medley also included a splendid drum duet between session drummer Jimmy and Nick D'Virgilio in true Collins-Thompson style.

Talking about the session drummer, what a guy ! Half the size but twice the energy of the rest of the band. Not only did he drum, play keyboards and sing, he was also running and jumping around the stage like a maniac during the sections where he didn't need to play. Great fun to watch and a marvellous drummer in his own right, which gave Nick the chance to come from behind his kit and act as the frontman. And a great job he did at it. Although a 2 hour gig might be a bit of an attack on his vocal chords he performed well above expectations.

The rest of the bands were there normal self; Dave's splendid thunderous bass-playing, Ryo's fine organ play (but less fluent lead keys) and Al Morse ..... Al ... Well, I haven't seen Al play a decent gig in Holland. While he puts in some marvellous guitar solo's on the albums most of the stuff I have seen him play live was well below par ..... if not complete rubbish. Instead of focussing on his play the man turns into a show beast. Fun to watch for a while but I first and foremost come to hear some quality playing. Seemingly he had consumed a few Cans of Bis too many, if you know what I mean, which would explain why he's always rubbish at Dutch gigs.

My conclusion at the end of the show was that The Beard still rocks ! There's the same kind of energy and enthusiams, and maybe even more now that some of the band members who stood in the shadow of Neal get their fare share of spotlight.
After the gig I asked some others who had seen other shows during the tour what they thought. I was surprised to hear that they had been very disappointed about the Tivoli gig. Seemingly the lack of older material, plus a less tight band during the earlier gigs had even made some of them decide to leave the show before it was over. I could hardly imagine this. Was I - for a change - less critical than others or had the band grown during their first tour with the new line-up. Hard to tell. Suffice it to say that I had a good time and I'm willing to give them the benefit of the doubt for the future.


The Mean Fiddler, London, 22 October 2003
By Charlie Farrell

Well I have to admit that had I not bought a ticket a long time in advance I might have given this concert a miss as there was a very attractive soccer game on TV the same evening, but despite my reservations about post-Neal Morse Spocks Beard, I decided to go along.

Kicking off the evening at 7:30, was the California Guitar Trio - a trio of acoustic guitarists from ... Utah, Belgium and Japan. They only played for 25 mins or so, during which they did an entertaining version of Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody which the crowd seemed to enjoy, and some other covers of classic tunes.

I was very much looking forward to seeing Enchant, having last seen them in support of Dream Theater in Tillburg in 1987. They were on stage very soon after the California Guitar Trio and I'm glad to say that they went down very well indeed. In fact lead singer Ted Leonard seemed to think that us Brits were the warmest, most welcoming crowd of the tour, not a description which applies often to an audience which I know is often considered 'difficult to please', particularly when they are unfamiliar with the band on stage.

They performed very well indeed, with singer Ted Leonard and particularly guitarist Doug Ott impressing me greatly. Their 45 minutes set appear to pass very quickly indeed and I was especially pleased that they returned to play an encore of Oasis from their debut disk. I can't say that they filled me with the desire to rush out and buy all their albums, but as a support act they were pretty cool.

The 9:25PM start time for Spocks Beard, meant that we would only be seeing a relatively short set from them. The new tunes from Feel Euphoria and even a lot of the material on Snow hadn't moved me, so I didn't have high expectations to start with. The set began badly with the over-long and musically uninteresting A Guy named Sid which seemed very disjointed. The sound during this tune wasn't great either, but things were rectified by the time that Ryo's keyboards introduced Thoughts. Beware of Darkness is probably my favourite Spocks Beard album, so I particularly loved even this shortened version.

Nick D'Virgilio (the band's drummer) was fully into his new role as the band's front-man and energetically threw himself around the stage, while guitarist Alan Morse and keyboard player Ryo Okumoto goofed around as usual. I had expected the band's 'fun-factor' to diminish with Neal Morse no longer part of the band, but in actual fact I hardly noticed his absence and all the musicians were their usual selves, bassist Dave Meros staying wisely in the background while the general craziness went on around him. Nick D'Virgilio then picked up the acoustic guitar for Shining Star, one of the band's acosutically driven ballads which can either be moving or exceedingly trite. Tonight it worked really well.

After a further tune from Feel Euphoria and then went into a lengthy medley of material from Snow which included Overture, Freak Boy and Devils Got my Throat amongst others (but unfortunately not the albums standout tune Open Wide The Flood Gates). In amongst the jamming there was a drum duel between Nick D'Virgilio (who took up the sticks again at various points during the set) and the excellent tour drummer/backup singer Jimmy Keegan, who also found time to go crowd surfing himself. Ryo's crazy keyboard solo saw him rocking his synths back and forth to such an extent that 3 roadies were required to ensure that the keyboard stack did not topple over and his energetic playing also saw his poor ancient mini-moog take quite a battering. I pity his poor keyboard tech.

When the band returned for the encore, Ryo made a speech about Neal Morse leaving the band and how they had decided to carry on without him, but I was upstairs in the venue and couldn't hear clearly what he said. He also expressed his thanks to their record label, Inside Out, and all the guys involved in the tour - both the musicians and the support staff. They then launched into The Doorway, another tune from Beware of Darkness, which turned into another extensive jam in the way only the Beard can do, before all of Enchant and the Californian Guitar Trio joined them onstage for Go The Way You Go. It was a curtailed version, but they still exceeded the venue's usually strict curfew time.

It was the last gig of the tour and from the beaming faces of all on stage it was clear that it has been an enjoyable tour for all the bands concerned (and a big success for their label Inside Out, who were celebrating 10 years of existence). It was fantastic to see the musicians and tour staff enjoying themselves as much as the crowd. A great end to the tour.

Setlists:

Enchant:

The Thirst
Sinking Sand
Below Zero
Follow The Sun
Under The Sun
Tug of War

Oasis

Spock's Beard:

Utrecht:

Onomatopeia
Bottom Line
Thoughts
East Of Eden, West Of Memphis
Shining Star
Ghosts Of Autumn
Snow Medley
A Guy Named Sid

The Doorway

Tilburg:

A Guy Named Sid
Thoughts
Shining Star
East of Eden, West Of Memphis
Bottom Line
Onomatopeia
Snow Medley

The Doorway
Go The Way You Go

London:

A Guy Named Sid
Thoughts
Shining Star
Bottom Line
Snow-Medley

The Doorway
Go The Way You Go

 

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