With Nick D'Virgilio's recent departure and a new lineup now on the horizon, the past few months have been quite a turbulent time for Spock's Beard. Taking a look back on their final album with D'Virgilio in the fold, 2010's spectacular X, makes it clear that the band's longtime drummer and vocalist went out on a high note - and what better way to celebrate than with a massive, two hour long live album? The X Tour - Live captures the famed American proggers performing a one-off show in Downey, California as preparation for their then-upcoming European tour, and in addition to playing a few of their older classics, this live offering features almost all of the tracks from X. While I do question how necessary this massive live effort truly is, The X Tour - Live is still an interesting document for all longtime fans of the Beard.
Like most sprawling double live albums, The X Tour - Live is only recommendable to people who have already heard all of the original studio releases. Spock's Beard faithfully recreates all of these songs with spot-on precision without adding very many new ideas into the mix, but these live versions unfortunately suffer from inferior production qualities - while this does actually sound pretty good by most live album standards, it simply can't compete with the crystal clear aesthetics of the band's studio efforts. The general lack of new material - aside from the drum duet and Ryo Okumoto's killer keyboard solo - keeps this album from feeling like a part of the Beard's essential canon.
That's not to say that this isn't an excellent fan item, however. What it lacks in terms of essential material is easily made up for the amazing caliber of the performances and a strong setlist. Disc One is made up of the X album (except for "Their Names Escape Me"), and Disc Two is the more varied portion of the set. The drum duel between Nick D'Virgilio and Jimmy Keegan loses a bit of its fun without a visual aspect, but it's still an interesting listen for drum fanatics. "The Doorway" from the Beware of Darkness album is probably my favorite performance on the second CD, though "Thoughts" comes pretty darn close.
The X Tour - Live may not be an essential live document from these American proggers, but considering that it will probably be the last live release with D'Virgilio behind the microphone does add some additional interest for fans of the band. The setlist is strong, the performances are superb, and the production is pretty solid too; while I wouldn't say this is anywhere near as mandatory as the band's studio catalog, it is still a worthy live effort for followers of the Beard. I'd say 3.5 stars are well-deserved for this lengthy and professional live effort. Although it's a tad unnecessary considering the amount of live albums already available from Spock's Beard, hearing these tunes from X in a live setting should make for a great listen for anybody that enjoyed one of 2010's best albums.
1. Edge of the In-Between (10:51)
2. The Emperor's Clothes (06:16)
3. From The Darkness 17:06
4. The Quiet House 09:05
5. The Man Behind The Curtain 08:13
6. Kamikaze 06:49
7. Jaws of Heaven 17:13
1. Drum Duel 04:25
2. On a Perfect Day 07:39
3. Thoughts 07:32
4. Ryo's Solo 05:21
5. The Doorway 10:50
6. June 06:41
Total Time 1:57:58