“Live” (DVD) by Spock’s Beard

Artist: Spock’s Beard
Title: “Live”
Label: InsideOut Music
Release Date: 6/24/2008
Genre: Progressive Rock
Rating: 4.5/5

Spock’s Beard are clearly one of the most beloved of the modern Progressive Rock bands that is currently active in today’s music scene and since their formation in 1992 have raised the bar for the genre and managed to remain leaders in it despite losing their founding front man Neil Morse in 2002. As most fans know, the band moved up drummer Nick D’Virgilio to the role of singer, and with him at the helm has continued to deliver tasteful and often very accessible Progressive Rock without incident. With the concert DVD simply entitled “Live” we find the group on top of their game supporting their InsideOut Music release from 2007, the eponymous “Spock’s Beard”. If you had purchased the album, you will remember that it was a recording that seemed to focus on the more melodic aspect of the band as opposed to being over the top with Progressive flair and the bands trademark vocal harmonies made it quite the pleasurable listening experience. As a concert DVD this is a perfect display of the band as they are now in action and since I had seen the band performing on this same tour when it came through my own town, I have to say that it was a great visual reminder of the tight musical evening that I experienced with my friends. To be honest, I must admit that the bands music had escaped me for many years before I finally caught on to what they do and since the enlightenment per se came during a concert, it made the particular presentation on the DVD all the more enticing. As you watch the film, which comes across as a very professionally recorded event, we find that the band has successfully moved on in terms of the front man situation and pressing forward on behalf of their music for the benefit of their fans. To be honest, Nick D. is no longer really new as a front man for the band and he does showcase that he is getting better and better at the task and really has a terrific voice for the material that they are doing now as well as on the older tunes penned and sung by Morse.

Most of the material on the DVD is from the self-titled album “Spock’s Beard” but that’s ok because of the amount of really great stuff on it. It might not be as experimental as the band once did but it is now a highly melodic affair that is rich with musical colors and big vocals that can have even the shyest of armchair listeners singing along. Some of the new masterpieces include “On A Perfect Day” and “The Slow Crash Landing Man” which we find manages to sit comfortably alongside the bands classics of “In The Mouth Of Madness” and “Thoughts (Part 2)”. The set list composition was smart with this one and finds the Beard sliding back and forth with the material as opposed to dishing it all out in one long part of their set as we saw recently done by Rush when the band toured “Snakes and Arrows”. Granted that was a great presentation, but it was new track after new and that can distance some audiences. Great guitar work is found by Alan Morse who shines on every tune and even showcases one of his solo numbers with “Return To Whatever”, an outstanding instrumental from his “Four O’Clock and Hysteria” CD. Above all it should be noted that the set list is rather healthy and should keep any of their fans pleased more than disappointed. Keyboard wizardry is found all over the place care of the sensational Ryo Okumoto and just to prove that you might take the drummer off of the drums but you can’t take the drummer out of him, we get a really cool drum battle or duel depending on your view with Nick and Keegan. Being a percussion lover myself, this part always impresses me when it’s two quality players going head to head. Another great aspect of what this concert delivers is the multi-tasking that the members are doing because at various junctures of the set we find Nick with a guitar or playing some keyboard and bassist swapping his time to a small keyboard as well. Of course, Ryo doesn’t need the help, but this does allow him to remain in one place and deliver his mastery in relative comfort. It was great to see the band with nothing but smiles and being very “into it” as well during the set. They clearly love being there and doing what they are doing, and are to be commended on this.

The sound of the film is great and there are many dramatic angles and close-ups that make it a pleasure to watch in the comfort of your own home. Its such a good video of the band in action that it might actually prompt you to start searching your area concert listings for any appearances and I will say this even as a new fan that if you realize they are playing, that you best get your ticket early enough to not miss out. They include a booklet that offers up a ton of photos from the gig and some liner note thanks from the band. Special features include a photo gallery history of the band that plays their music in the background. They also released a companion CD to the DVD and while this features all of the songs from the video, I must suggest if you need to choose between one or the other that you at least keep this release on the top picks of the two. If you are a one of those who must have everything that gets released then do what you will. I just know that if I only purchased the CD and then saw how good the film was that I would be a little disappointed if I couldn’t manage the funds to snare it.

Track Listing:
1. Intro
2. On A Perfect Day
3. In The Mouth Of Madness
4. Crack The Big Sky
5. The Slow Crash Landing Man
6. Return To Whatever
7. Surfing Down The Avalanche
8. Thoughts (Part 2)
9. Drum Duel
10. Skeletons At The Feast
11. Walking On The Wind
12. Hereafter (Ryo Solo)
13. As Far As The Eye Can See Pt.1 (Dreaming In The Age Of Answers)
14. As Far As The Eye Can See Pt.2 (Here’s A Man)
15. As Far As The Eye Can See Pt.3 (They Know We Know)
16. As Far As The Eye Can See Pt.4 (Stream Of Unconsciousness)
17. Rearranged
18. Medley: The Water & Go The Way You Go

Official Website: http://www.spocksbeard.com

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