Neal Morse band – Institute, Birmingham- 6th April 2017

Last year the Neal Morse band released the album “The similitude of a dream” which was based loosely on the Canterbury tales.  Now on their current tour, they’re playing the album in full.  As it’s a double album, there is no support act and the band are playing two sets with an interval.

Neal Morse has a keyboard set up front centre stage which he plays throughout the show, and when he’s not playing that, he’s playing acoustic guitar or electric guitar – all while singing.  Backing him up he has a keyboard player, guitarist and bassist, plus a man on drums who must spend his entire life on tour with all the bands and projects he’s been involved in – Mike Portnoy.

I have to confess that till tonight I hadn’t actually listed to Neal Morse band, but as a fan of Flying Colors, any band featuring two members of that band had to be well worth checking out. It didn’t take long once the gig started for me to realise that coming down to the show was an excellent decision – this was clearly going to be s superb gig.

Prog is a very diverse genre that often strays into weird or self indulgent places – I’ve heard bands where I can only assume the band were influenced by some strange pills when they wrote it.  Apart from these areas, Prog also includes some truly fantastic music – Flying colors being s good example, where it doesn’t just appeal to prog fans, but to a much wider audience, and that’s where the Neal Morse band sits – in that sweet spot of Prog that’s got enough Prog to keep any Prog fan happy, and enough rock to keep most rock and metal fans happy too.

While Neal Morse does lead vocals most of the time, other members of the band share lead vocal duties for some songs, and all do backing vocals.  The vocals are fantastic, and the standard of musicianship is superb.  Throw in beautifully written songs and a great performance and it’s hard to think how the gig could have been any better.  Projections are used to add a visual element and during the intro it’s a great way of. building things up, but once the show began I barely noticed them to be honest.

The show kicked off with Neal Morse alone on a dark stage with just a torch illuminating his face as he sang – a nice theatrical touch before the show really got going.
There’s a nice mix of softer and heavier song, but since I was too caught up in the music to make any notes till afterwards then I can’t give any  detail on the individual songs. There was a nice semi-acoustic part where Mike Portnoy ventured out from behind his drum kit and came to the front of the stage to play a single pedal operated drums or the son.
It wasn’t till partway through the second set that they finally paused lo enough between songs to actually talk to the audience.

This really was a great night – the band was superb and the music even better.  After playing the entire double album, an encore of a few other songs ended the night off nicely. The first thing I did after getting home a couple of hours later was to order a copy of the album – that’s how much they impressed me tonight.

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About Ant May

I spend half my life at gigs or festivals and the other half writing the reviews and editing photos, and somehow find time for a full time job too. Who needs sleep - I've got coffee.