Review by Yiannis (John) Stefanis
Photos by Yiannis (John) Stefanis
Wednesday the 12th of March was in my calendar for quite some time; this was the day when Progressive super group Transatlantic were to be in London for a highly anticipated “An Evening With” show – one I simply could not contemplate missing.
The performance was to support the band’s latest masterpiece “Kaleidoscope” – an album which has already received much praise from fans and media around the globe and which, so far, happens to be one of my absolute favourite albums of the year.
With no support acts to warm up the Forum and no interview to occupy my pre-show time, I headed to the north London venue feeling both relaxed and excited simply at the idea of enjoying a top quality show.
Doors opened at 19:00 sharp and the band’s varied and well-mannered fans made their way to the venue, making an obligatory stop at the merchandise stand to purchase the customary t-shirt and one of the numerous CD/DVD releases, relevant to Transatlantic and its members’ numerous side projects.
Having almost drooled over the new Edison’s Children CD, I decided to avoid the temptation, only for now, and headed towards the photo pit area. The stage was set in the normal Transatlantic format: Portnoy’s drums on a riser to the left of the stage, Morse’s keys on a similarly high riser on the right, while the centre was dominated by an largish video screen and numerous pedals belonging to Pete Trewawas, Roine Stolt and Ted Leonard (Spock’s Beard/Enchant), substituting for Daniel Gildenlow due to his protracted illness.
It was seconds after eight that the lights of the venue were dimmed and the video began projecting images fitting to the keyboard-led intro – an intro that was completely lost in the crowd’s screams the moment its four heroes stormed the stage for a killer rendition of “Into The Blue”.
Intricate Prog parts were performed with unnerving ease, Trewawas’ bass was both soulful and fairly high in the mix, while Mike Portnoy gave his drum kit a proper pounding. One often hears people describe Transatlantic as a project, rather than a band, but the chemistry that these guys share on stage certainly questions such statements.
These guys love being together on stage and rather than performing sterile technically-driven compositions, they put their soul into their performances while visibly having fun. “My New World” found Portnoy playing complex drum arrangements while standing (!) and pulling faces at front-line fans, while the rest of the band executed intricate vocal arrangements with amazing precision.
The emotionally charged ballad “Shine” was fittingly dedicated by Neal Morse to his currently suffering colleague Daniel Gildenlow, while a steering twenty or so minute Whirlwind medley was received with a massive roar of approval by a highly energetic and engaged crowd.
A much needed break was provided by Morse who, standing centre stage, was almost singing an a cappella version of “Beyond The Sun”, while the band found itself at its progressive best when performing the fairly elongated same-titled “Kaleidoscope”. Following an interesting acoustic/electric guitar duet, courtesy of Messrs Morse & Stolt, the band jump to an emotionally charged rendition of “We All Need Some Light”, one that found Portnoy waving his lighter high in the air and me feeling goosebumps all over my body.
The band’s main set finished in dynamic/groove fashion with a killer rendition of “Black As The Sky”, following which they left the stage, only to return moments later in order to perform a funk-infused version of “All Of The Above” and a soul-stirring “Stranger In Your Soul”.
Attending a Transatlantic concert is more than a show: it is a pure artistic experience. Standing next to Mike Portnoy while playing his drums is the equivalent of being up close to Michelangelo while at work painting the Sistine Chapel; it is experiencing high art in its making.
I would strongly recommend that you catch up with the band at one of its remaining shows but chances are that, by the time you read this review, their short European tour will be sadly done and dusted. This, my friends, was what I can only describe as an outstanding gig; one that you were hopefully there to enjoy as much as I did!
Into The Blue/ My New World/ Shine/ Whirlwind Medley (Overture/ Rose Colored Glasses/ Evermore/ Is It Really Happening?/ Dancing With Eternal Glory) Beyond The Sun/ Kaleidoscope/ Guitar Duet (Roine Stolt/Neal Morse)/ We All Need Some Light/ Black As The Sky/ Encore: All Of The Above/ Stranger In Your Soul
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