Spock's Beard, May 11th 1999
The Whisky, Los Angeles, USA
By Neil Hunter
Another warm sunny night in LA set the scene for Spocks Beard's first show in their home since the gig last october at the
country club ( which has now closed and is being converted into a church-at least thats what I was told??!) the site was the
landmark 'Whiskey-a go-go' on Sunset strip in West Hollywood,its an old club but with a modern sound system that
sounds clear-but maybe not as clear as the 'Roxy',the club's sister a few hudred yards down the street, where
'spocks' played last year.
My buddy Alex and I entered the club shortly after the start of Mike Kenneally's set with his band 'Beer for Dolphins', a
very interesting band , that to me, sounded very like Zappa-this is no real surprise since Kenneally played with Zappa on
one of his last tours. The band does have a very improvisational/comic/virtuoso feel-the drummer was especially good. All
in all a good opening act.
Then after about an hour wait and the club pretty much full, Spocks Beard took to the stage to the sound of some classical
music. As it finished the band greeted the audience and the opening strains of Day for night came from the organ (flanked
by two mellotrons..). The start of this song seemed even more powerful than the album, it proved a very strong opener,
sounding much better than the CD version.
After a short gap came In the mouth of madness (this was, curiuosly, one of only two songs played from the ..Strangers
CD. This would be my only minor complaint about the gig, since I feel that the final two songs on ..Strangers are amongst
the bands best material...c'est la vie!) This song was played solidly with its inherant aggression intact.
Skin followed and proved to be very sing-along! A very interesting guitar sound during this song I never really noticed on
the CD -I like it!
Then Neal announced the next song as "the hardest song on the new album to play..wish us luck!"and the band launched
into the Gentle giant-ish Gibberish. An incredibly hard vocal arrangement was carried off flawlessly to the crowds loud
appreciation. The drumming at the end of the song also sent us all crazy-I just stood there with my mouth open-stunned at
how well they played the song, I'm a musician too -so I know how hard playing that sort of arrangement must be..
Neal then dedicated the next song to their friend Kevin Gilbert and remembered the last time when they played the
'Whiskey', he said they played this song that night as well in 1993..then they launched into Go the way you go. I love this
song -it seems we all do! Played perfectly, definitley one of the bands strongest songs. Though there was one comical part
of the song ( it didn't spoil the song in any way..) was during the piano solo section of the song, Neal put his wireless
microphone on the ground-and played the keyboard. Then as the final vocal section started he began to sing to an empty
mic-stand forgetting where the mic was! all laughed -a very funny 'human' moment.
Things quieted down then for Distance to the sun very delicately played with Nick standing up front singing (as he does in
June) before the drums enter. With almost no gap they went into Crack the big sky. This song's almost 'jazz' leanings
went over well with the crowd. The bass playing of Dave Meros especially stood out in this number. That sharp
Rickenbacker sound is always a pleasure to hear but seems almost better when contrasted with the mellower bubbly jazz
sound in sections of this song- I think Crack.. worked alot better than the album version on the whole. By the way, the sax
solo in the song was played very well by Ryo.
Then it was time ( as the Morse brothers left the stage ) for the "Ryo show"!!. Ryo's keybord solos have become a staple
part of the Spocks Beard 'experience', as he runs around the stage ( and occasionally the venue!!) with his strapped-on
keboard playing incredible synth runs against the backing of bass and drums. This particular outing was, perhaps a little
'tamer' than usual since there did seem to be some problems with his keyboard. He exclaimed at one point, early on ,"my
battery is dead"!! But the song went on well-and that's what I think of it as now, since the more Ryo, Dave and Nick have
played this piece, the more it sounds cohesive and song-like, rather than just a solo jam. Still a lot of fun to watch though!
The Doorway followed, another one of the bands strongest songs played wonderfully, the acoustic section in the middle
was especially well played by Al and Neal.
The perennial favourite The Light was then played as always great to hear, but I must say that over the years with
obviously playing the song many, many times the band now plays it all the more tight and fast than ever, with awsome
power, the product of being very familiar with the material-very energetic! Before the closing sections of the song Nick
goes into the now familiar drum solo-maybe he should have replaced Phil collins!!
Things then quieted down again for June. This song has improbably become one of the bands more popular
numbers-maybe its simply that its a great, well-written 'song'. Either way everyone sang along until it unusually went into
'Waste away', just before the drums entered. Waste away was played very close to the version on From the vault with the
last verse missing and the crazy Fire finale. The band then left the stage.
A few minutes later, they returned for encores. I think they had planned to just play Walking on the wind but somehow
the crowd talked Neal into going behind the drums and playing Squonk. It was definitley an unrehearsed version of the
Genesis song they played last tour - missing one verse and the end section. With Nick out front doing the lead vocals and
Neal playing the drums (well I might add!) ...is there no limit to their talents?!!
Then the final song of the night came in the shape of Walking on the wind, another great song played solidly -a good end
to an enjoyable show (aren't Spocks Beard shows always that way!!). Now I can't wait for them to come home again!
Day for night
In the mouth of madness
Go the way you go
Distance to the sun
Crack the big sky
Ryo keboard solo
June / Waste away / Fire
Walking on the wind