Spock's Beard have been one of the frontrunners of the modern progressive rock scene since the mid-1990's. The band has released a batch of popular and influential albums, continued on after Neal Morse left the band, and recently recorded a few albums with drummer Nick D'Virgilio taking over the vocal helm. Now on a short tour of the US to promote their latest studio recording Octane as well as their live album Gluttons for Punishment, the band made a stop at New York's BB King Blues Club on May 5th. Sea of Tranquility's own Ken Pierce took a break from his normal metal routine to bring you all the details of this memorable night of prog in NYC!
Read on for the full review!
Progressive Rock stalwarts Spock's Beard would return to New York City after a several year absence and as one would expect the group would perform at the reputable B.B. King Blues Club. It was a smart move on their part for while the venue has been the host to a myriad amount of Heavy Metal bands over the last few months, they have also made sure they were the place to where the Progressive Rock and Fusion legends can drop by to entertain their fan base. Their performance was billed as "An Evening With" and this would find Spock's Beard to be the only band on the bill. This gave fans an early show which was a welcome change for me. A Tool tribute band would come in at Midnight to perform for an entirely different crowd. If you have ever been to B.B. King Blues Club in the past, you will be amazed at how fast the staff manages to clear you out in order for the next performance to run smoothly. This would also be a sit down show and I noticed a larger amount of tables for the event and this meant no photo pit for me. The lack of a photo area would also have me finding this a little bit annoying for a Progressive Rock crowd is a lot different from a Metal crowd and I find them a little more uptight than you would expect to find in any concert setting. Granted you want to be able to enjoy the set as the band performs, but I am amazed at the absolute level of silence while the groups play. I saw this at Marillion the last time they played and I was shocked that I was actually told to "shush" a couple of times. The part that drives me crazy is the lack of compliance when you are trying to bring the music to the larger public, no one wants to move and you are constantly in the way. Despite this level of dramatic, I was ready to have a rocking time and no one would be able to stop me.
The Beard are truly an interesting band to see perform and one can quickly understand why they are so respected in the Progressive Rock world. Recently issuing a live recording called "Gluttons For Punishment", the band once fronted by Neal Morse now finds drummer Nick D'Virgilio handling the vocal chores. As they perform, you find them to be an amazing collection of technical players yet there is also a strong and accessible vibe that I feel more people would appreciate if they had the chance. Alan Morse handles the guitar and is quite impressive as he guides the ship he once piloted with his Brother. Dave Meros is on bass and Ryo Okumoto performs feats of magic on the keyboards. Nick D'Virgilio in my opinion is getting to live the musicians dream for to move up to the role of front man after being the drummer is not an easy task. It's a job he does incredibly well and to prove he has not lost any of his percussive edge he will sit and play the drums for a few numbers as well as solo during the show against the bands touring drummer Jimmy Keegan. It reminded me a lot of when Phil Collins would take a step away from his mic stand and return to the drums in Genesis to lay it down against Chester Thompson. Given how well it works, I am surprised we don't see more Progressive acts doing a dual drum setup. Ryo Okumoto simply amazed me during the show as well and he was working with a lot of different keyboards and even brought a Leslie cabinet with him which made the sound much fuller. This would be the first time I have seen one of these used in concert.
The audience sat in awe as the band performed a wide array of their best numbers and as a new attendee to the music of Spock's Beard I could not help but notice the spot on influences of Yes, Genesis and King Crimson. For me as someone out to find something new this was a little too close and while the ardent fan sat in perfect silence while they played I wanted to see it sway off course just a little. At one point Alan began to play a Yes track to a resounding amount of applause, but that was but a teaser. When the person next to me yelled for the whole song to be played, the entire section stopped to look over at him. Clearly I was in the Twilight Zone but really have this to say about the group. This is a fantastic bunch of musicians but for me they did not leave the box of their influence enough for me to find them. Maybe I am not Progressive enough but maybe also I am onto something. Unless they change direction and expand on these amazing sounds they risk only playing to the die hards and that's not a way to foster ones continued existence. Yes they can stay true to form, but when a newbie feels too much like an outsider when they attend there comes the chance that they will never return based on that impression. For me I might stick to records for I prefer my shows to be a little looser than I found here tonight. Relax people, its music and it's meant to make you live a little.
beware of darkness
The ballet of the impact (1st half)
surfing down avalanche
she is everything
good dont last
good dont last
the bottom line
acoustic carry on
there was a time
im the guy
east of eden/as long as we ride
at the end of the day - encore
Official Web site: www.spocksbeard.com