Spock's Beard, September 28th 1999
Day for night tour, 013, Tilburg, The Netherlands

By Ed Sander


The Healing Sound of The Beard

Last year's Spock's Beard in Utrecht had been chosen as the best gig of 1999 by the people who participated in the DPRPoll 1999. I fully agreed with that, and being a big Spock's Beard fan, I was really looking forward to seeing them again.

The show was planned to start at 20.00 hours, which I considered to be good news since I would be able to get back home in time to get some decent sleep before getting up for work the next morning. It was not to be. Rob Aubrey (IQ's sound engineer), who was part of the Beard crew for this tour, told me that they had a problem with some (DAT ?) tapes. They wanted to record the show but the tapes they had been supplied with turned out to be unformatted ones. Seemingly, formatting a tape takes as long as the full playing time of the things. They were formatting the damn things and would begin as soon as possible.

At first I thought, 'why all this trouble, why not just record another gig instead ?', until I walked into the concert hall. Cameras ! Gosh, they were going to film the show ! Seems like every time there's a great band in 013, they're filming it.

It was taking very long and although the audience stayed quite patient Neil Morse, Al Morse and Nick D'Virgilio came on stage to apologize for the delay and treat the audience to a short 15 minute acoustic set. Three nice songs followed, which build around the acoustic guitars of Neil and Al, the conga (alike instrument) of Nick and the wonderful close harmony vocals of all three of them. The first track was a very long Crosby, Stills & Nash song Suite: Judy Blue Eyes. (thank you Wim van Lonkhuizen)
The second song was the old classic Nowhere Man, followed by Distance to the Sun from the latest album. This short special set kind of made up for the long delay.

After the three had promised to be back on stage soon, they left. At 21.45 hours the band finally came on stage. Immediately it became clear what the biggest problem of the evening was going to be. Not the sound; as always Rob only needed a couple of minutes to get it crystal clear. Not the light show; IQ lighting engineer Lawrence 'Lol' Dyer was behind the buttons and did a fine job as always. Not the band; although a bit tense because of the thought that this was going to be filmed they were as good and enthusiastic as ever. Nope, the problem was on the other side of the stage: the hall lights. Because the show was being filmed, the hall lights had to stay on. This killed all the atmosphere in the audience, which hardly sang along and didn't really seem to unwind. The hall lights also destroyed part of the effectiveness of Lol's light show. The same thing had happened when IQ taped their Subterranea performance earlier this year.

But what about the gig ? Well, besides the lack of atmosphere it was marvellous. The band opened with Day for Night, which immediately proved the amazing stage presence of Neil Morse again, while In The Mouth of Madness had brother Al running around the stage like a maniac.
After the rocking Skin and perfect rendition of the vocal excentricity of Gibberish (or should I say Thoughts II ?) the band announced the return of an old favourite in the set: Go the Way You Go. Just before the guitar solo in this song Al ran off the stage, only to reappear on the balcony of the venue just in time to play the solo at that lonely altitude. Nice gimmick !

Once back on the stage, Al and Neil started a short acoustic guitar duet, which as expected was followed by the wonderful June.
Time for a DAT tape change, which took Rob a bit longer than expected, resulting in teasing remarks from the band on stage. To kill time they went into a silly folky tune about a Redneck called Bert. Haven't got a clue what it was though ....
Neil also played a short bit of Genesis' Horizons after claiming not to be able to play Supper's Ready in a decent way. Then he surprised the crowd with a funny Joe Cocker impersonation when he played a part of With a Little Help From My Friends.

The tape was changed and Neil announced a long one: The Healing Colours of Sound. After half a minute Neil's keyboards fell away from the mix and the frontman signed the band to stop. 'Rob, was it the face I made ?', was Neil's joking remark.
The second try went much better and the performance of the full-length epic turned out to be one of the highlights of the set (for me at least). During the My Shoes section, Nick even came from behind the drum kit to join Neil at the front in the close harmony bit.

Then Neil introduced Mr. Ryo Okomoto, so the Beard fans out there know what that means. It was that long keyboard solo again. Personally I could have done without it. It's great to see it once, but the second time it loses all it's spontaneity. You kinda hear yourself thinking 'he's gonna jump into the crowd now ....'. Besides that, I think the solo is not very interesting in a musical way either. It's just a bunch of choatic noises really. Please skip this one next time ....

The all-time favourite The Doorway closed the main set with a very long acoustic middle piece where even Nick picked up a guitar to join Al and Neil in the Asylum-jam.

The first set of encores started with another bit of With a Little Help From My Friends, in which Neil joked around with the audience because they were too early with one of the Aaaarrrrrgggh's. What followed was a very long version of The Light. In the first bit the sound of Neil's mike fell away and it had to be replaced by a roadie while the band kept on playing.
After the Senior Valasco-part the whole band (except Ryo) gathered around the drum kit to play bits and pieces of it, while Nick himself grabbed the conga again. After jamming along for a minute an amazing thing happened. Remember those drum duets Phil Collins and Chester Thompson used to do at Genesis gigs? Spock's Beard did the same thing with Nick and Neil ..... on one drum kit, sitting behind each other !!
Nick finished the drum solo on his own, after which the band returned to play the remainder of the song.

The Beard came back one more time to play Genesis' Squonk with Neil on drums and Nick on vocals - just like they did last year - and Waste Away. The show ended at 00.05 hours.

All in all, a great gig. Best bits: the enthusiasm on stage, the full-length Healing Colours, good sound. Worst bits: the long delay, total lack of enthusiasm in crowd during most of the gig owing to hall lights, the not very imaginitive setlist with not too many surprises (where was Crack ?).

Setlist:

Suite: Judy Blue Eyes
Nowhere Man
Distance to the Sun

Day for Night
In The Mouth of Madeness
Skin
Gibberish
Go the Way you Go
Acoustic Duet Al & Neil
June

Redneck Song
Horizons (snippet)
With a Little Help From My Friends

The Healing Colours of Sound
Ryo's solo
The Doorway

With a Little Help From My Friends
The Light

Squonk
Waste Away

 

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1999 DPRP