Spock's Beard, October 2nd 1999
Astoria II, London, UK
By Charlie Farrell
Well, at long last the 'Beard' arrive in the UK to play 2 gigs - the first for the 'Classic
Rock Society' in Rotherham, who had for a long time championed their cause in this sad country
and the second here at the Astoria II. One suspects that a large number of the audience have
been to both gigs, such is the devotion they evoke in their fans and they are a band, whose
musical pedigree is excellent and whose reputation as a live band continues to grow.
The venue is reasonably full, but granted that it is a Saturday night in central London, one
might have expected the venue to be sold out, which it clearly wasn't. Nevertheless there is
a warm reception for the band as they make their way on stage. Day For Night, In the Mouth
of Madness, Skin and Gibberish kick off the set, a number of them sounding much better
live than on the (to me) disappointing last album. After this Neal Morse says "We have
an old one for ya - one we've played at every single gig" and leads the band into Go
the Way You Go.
After this it's the turn for the acoustic guitars and an accapella version of June featuring
beautiful vocals from Neal and Nick. It was one of those special moments when you realise that
you are listening to not only a great song, but truly great performers and tears well up in the
eyes - definitely one of the magic moments of the evening.
When the cheers and clapping finally die down, Neal tells us "We're doing the long show
for you tonight - and talking of long ..." before starting the magnificent Healing Colours
of Sound. By this stage the band is really cooking and deserve a break, which they get as
Neal tells us that "Ryo is ready to do his thing". Ryo has been bouncing around and
throwing himself fully into the music from the outset, but those of us who are witnessing the
group for the first time live are not prepared for the insanity that follows as he straps on
his portable keyboard and fools around onstage before diving into the audience and continuing
to play. Fortunately the stage is quite low, so he comes to no harm. Meanwhile Neal rushes
back onstage with a video camera and tries to film the insanity - absolute mayhem!
As Ryo returns onstage to huge cheers, the band break into The Doorway - one of my favourite
Beard tunes and the cue for more tears as they pull off another majestic version with Nick
leaving his drums at one point to contribute some acoustic guitar. Time has really flown and
they leave the stage to huge cheers.
Having waited for so long to see the Beard in the UK, the crowd is in no mood to allow them
to finish early, so after Neal runs through the credits - thanking the sound and lighting guys,
the roadcrew and their manager we get the lengthy The Light culminating in a drum solo
featuring both Nick and Neal. Then after a further short absence from the stage they return
with Nick on vocals and with Neal in the drum stool for a great version of Squonk.
This was a great show, and several friends immediately rated it up in their top 10s of all
time. Music which sounded a little flat on disk, came alive that evening and I believe that
no-one could resist being charmed by the personality and musical dexterity of this bunch
of unlikely looking musicians. They have an on-stage magic that few can match and should
under no circumstances be missed the next time that they grace a concert hall near you.
Day For Night
In the Mouth of Madness
Go the Way You Go
The Healing Colours of Sound