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Morse; Neal: LIVE Momentum [DVD]

As I've openly admitted before in the confessional of Sea of Tranquility reviews, the charms of his royal progness Neal Morse, while not lost on me, certainly don't hit home in the Reid household with the same pin-point accuracy as they do with many prog-lovers. However after sampling the delights of Morse's new LIVE Momentum DVD, I can now see that one of the main reasons that I have been (and still remain) largely unmoved by the music of one of the most progorous movers and shakers, is that I've never seen the man, or his band live. In this environment it becomes blatantly apparent just how strongly the Morse believes in his music, with an infectious enthusiasm adding to the obvious on stage experience and charisma he has in spades.

As the DVD (and BluRay and triple CD) title suggests the basis of the show recorded in New York City in October of last year is the most recent Morse studio offering Momentum, with the likes of "Momentum", "Thoughts Part 5" and the lengthy "World Without End" finding a new vibrancy on stage. Morse is an enigmatic performer, veering between complete - almost lost in the moment - focus on the song at hand and an energetic carried away with the energy fervour. For these ears (and eyes in this case) it is exactly the lack of these qualities in Morse's prodigious studio output that leaves me cold, but there are no worries on that front here, with the sheer power of performance drawing you further and further in. It would be a huge exaggeration to suggest this is a one man show, even if Morse is proudly front and centre, with the other stunningly talented musicians almost banished to the far corners of the stage - rooted to their various keyboards and bass pedals - because the array of musicianship that comes to the fore is jaw droppingly stunning. Bassist Randy George holds everything together, hammering out the rhythm lines with an unerring precision, even when his fingers are all a blur. However it is the trio of Adson Sodre (guitar), Bill Hubauer (keys, sax, violin) and Eric Gillette (keys, guitars, percussion), along with a keyboard playing and guitar totting Morse that really breathes life into these songs, especially through the guitar interplay between Sodre and Morse where the sheer joy the pair share is clear to see. That said, if Morse is top billing, then his main supporting actor is the irrepressible master of the snare-pop, tom-cacophony, cymbal-explosion and chief hi-hat harasser, Mike Portnoy. Whether he is grabbing the mic between songs to crack jokes, engage the crowd and encourage his band mates, or shred his drumsticks behind the kit, the bizarrely bearded one is impossible to tear your eyes off, as you marvel at his mastery and controlled aggression. Add to all of that five piece vocal harmonies that run through the whole set (maybe a little too much in places for me) and there can be few finer bands ever amassed to enthral an audience. Spock's Beard classic "The Distance To The Sun" proves to be a real crowd favourite, however the real highlights arrive in the shape of the four part "Testimony Suite" and the simply stunning "The Conflict" from Sola Scriptura. Although finding a weak point in any of the thirteen mainly lengthy tracks proves impossible.

Not content with conducting from the back of the stage Portnoy is set free during the encores to sing a hard hitting version of The Osmonds hit "Crazy Horses", with Morse proving to be rather adept behind the kit as well! It is a nice diversion from music that can otherwise be a little on the serious side, but truth be told, the closing pair of "Sing It High" and "King Jesus" don't need the levity preceding them, to hit hard.

An hour long tour diary where all of the band come across as likable without being kooky and hard working without being too serious, adds another dimension to the DVD/BluRay. Not as throwaway as many "extras", this documentary contains a lot of fan filmed footage from other shows on the Momentum trek across the Americas and hand held footage from Morse and the band (including a wonderful impromptu version of Peter Gabriel's "In Your Eyes"), adding a real flavour of what it is like to be "with the guys". Due to the nature of the footage the quality does suffer a little during this section, however when it sits alongside the wonderful, professionally shot main feature, the contrast is actually rather welcome.

I'm not a Neal Morse fan and while I am still to be convinced by much of his work, both in and out of Spock's Beard (I do love Transatlantic and Flying Colors though), I have to say that LIVE Momentum is an excellent release that progressive music lovers will get a huge amount from. If you do count yourself as a Morse devotee, feel free to rightly add another star to my rating, giving the full five out of five, as you will simply adore this release in any of its formats.

Track Listing
1. Momentum
2. Weathering Sky
3. Author Of Confusion
4. The Distance To The Sun
5. Testimony Suite (Sleeping Jesus, Prince Of The Power Of The Air, The Promise, Wasted Life)
6. Thoughts Part 5
7. The Conflict (from Sola Scriptura)
8. Question Mark Suite (The Temple Of The Living God, Another World, Entrance, Inside His Presence)
9. Fly High
10. World Without End
11. Crazy Horses
12. Sing It High
13. King Jesus

Added: March 2nd 2013
Reviewer: Steven Reid
Related Link: Neal Morse Online
Hits: 2360
Language: english

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