Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Neal Morse Band – The Great AdvenTOUR – A masterclass of what prog rock is about

Neal Morse is one of the most respected names in prog rock, both as founding member of Spock’s Beard and as a musician. In fact, with the quality of his recorded work down the years, it’s no exaggeration to say he’s a prog legend. He’s formed the Neal Morse Band in 2002 after leaving Spock’s Beard, he also plays in prog supergroups Transatlantic and Flying Colours, as well as making guest appearances on many other albums.

Neal Morse Band
Neal Morse Band

In 2016 the Neal Morse Band released The Similitude of a Dream, a prog-rock retelling of the story of John Bunyan. This was followed by 2019’s The Great Adventurer, told from the perspective of the pilgrim’s son (Joseph); it was a little darker and heavier and taking the story further on. The band took this album out on the road under the heading The Great AdvenTOUR and this resulting ‘live’ album was recorded in Brno. It’s a double CD, with a running time of over two hours, and it shows Neal and his band at the very height of their creative powers, performing some intricate and very complex music almost effortlessly. From the first notes of opening track, ‘Overture,’ with Neal exhorting a capacity crowd saying “may the great adventure now begin,” to the conclusion of encore track ‘The great medley,’ (a twenty four minute trawl through several Neal Morse Band songs) taking in tracks like ‘To The River,’ ‘Love That Never Dies’ and ‘The Great Despair’.

This whole album is a masterclass of everything progressive rock is all about, with some lengthy pieces of music, awe inspiring levels of musicianship and songs dipping in and out of intricate key and time changes with ease. The songs come thick and fast, segueing into each other, with little in the way of stage announcements. Alongside stunning musicianship, on ‘Great Adventure’ and ‘Welcome To The World,’ there are some fine harmonies as every member of the band is a virtuoso on his instrument. If you’re not au fait with Eric Gillette on guitar, then be prepared to be amazed as he reels off some damn near impossible licks and runs on his guitar. A big shout-out has to go to Randy George (bass) and Mike Portnoy (drums) whose solid foundations as a rhythm section allow the other musicians to go off on their musical flights of fancy. This show is an almost perfect storm of really good songs, an enthusiastic crowd and outstanding musicians. This tour was one of the highlights of the prog calendar in 2019 and the evidence is clearly presented here.

Available as a 2BluRay+2CD sets, the first disc contains the show and the encore, while the second feature sexclusive bonus material, including two documentaries that track the US and European legs of the tour, as well as four official videos from the album release – Out Now!

Laurence Todd
Took early retirement after many years as a teacher in order to write books as well as about music. A long-time music obsessive, has wide and eclectic tastes but particularly likes prog rock and rock in general. Enjoys going to gigs and discovering new acts.

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