Years ago when I first heard of Spock's Beard, I learned about the brothers Neal and Alan Morse and I wondered if guitarist Steve Morse (Deep Purple, Dixie Dregs) could be related in any way. Later I found out that this was not the case and I began to hope that someday these superb musicians would be doing something together. It appears at least some of my wishes come true once in a while, because all of a sudden there was a band called Flying Colors with a line-up I never would have believed to be possible: Steve Morse, Neal Morse (ex-Spock's Beard), Mike Portnoy (ex-Dream Theater), Dave LaRue (ex-Dixie Dregs, Steve Morse Band) and a to me totally unknown a young vocalist called Casey McPherson. A single album to their credit with music ranging from rock to pop and hardly a connection with progressive rock, yet very melodic and powerful, the band embarked on a European tour and fortunately also 013 in the south of the Netherlands was one of the venues chosen by the band. Possibly the highly successful shows with Transatlantic - also with Portnoy and Neal Morse - played a role in making this choice.
Anyway, on that fairly pleasant autumn night special guest Beardfish were the first band to enter the stage. As always, the support-act has less space and for some silly reason the lights are down most of the time or the lighting simply sucks. Beardfish, founded in 2001, are Rikard Sjöblom (vocals, keyboards, guitar), David Zackrisson (guitar, backing vocals), Magnus Östgren (drums) and Robert Hansen (bass). The band originates from Sweden and were allowed to play a set of 45 minutes. They performed a few songs from older albums like Mammoth, Destined Solitaire and Sleeping In Traffic, part one), but the band also introduced their brand new album The Void with the last song of their performance. Influences of iconic bands Genesis, King Crimson, Yes and Gentle Giant from their respective seventies line ups are obviously the guiding light for Rikard and his bandmates. Melodic, yet not too easy to listen to and certainly the organ sound of Rikard's Nord is a trademark for the band. Vocally a bit of trouble with the higher notes, but still a memorable performance by the quartet of whom especially bassist Hansen tried to offer a lively performance. Guitarist Zackrisson tends to look down most of the time and Rikard, because he's singing and playing at the same time, is hidden behind some microphones quite a bit. From a photographer's point of view not an ideal band to take pictures of! However, their music is technically far above average and the band have earned their place between the loads of bands offering some kind of progressive music to the world. Their vintage sound most certainly appeals to a lot of fans judged by the response of the audience in Tilburg. It will be very interesting to see the band at their peak doing their own headline tour featuring their latest album! Too bad they weren't allowed - at least that's what I presume - to play a bit longer or to start off earlier, the audience would have loved it.
After a break of more than 45 minutes, the light went down and the audience welcomed the band to the stage. The opening track they performed was quite obviously the first track of their eponymous debut album. Immediately the audience responded with great enthusiasm when Dave LaRue began to play that catchy riff on his bass. Of course the main spokesman proved to be Mike Portnoy, tattooed all over and with a shiny purple coulored beard. Both Neal and Mike were not as prominent in their performances as with Transatlantic for a change, which I think was great. The rocker Shoulda Coulda Woulda was an excellent choice to keep things going and from the start it was clear that this would be an amazing night. What a nice soulful voice this Casey McPherson has and how well does he fit in this all-star band! A nice introduction by Portnoy led to the first song featuring Casey: a very tasteful version of a song he used to perform with his band Endochine. I guess many of the people attending this show went home thinking: "Well, I got to check out that band." Another track of 'the album' was followed by an oldie from the Dixie Dregs called Odyssey. A very cool rendition of that song, obviously without the violin but pretty close to the Dream Theater cover version, recorded for the bonus-cd accompanying the album Black Clouds & Silver Linings. After one more track from the first album Casey got his solo spot: an emotional and impressive 'acoustic' version of the song Hallelujah, originally composed by Leonard Cohen and performed by many artists. Then three more songs from the album and the last one Fool In My Heart featured Portnoy on vocals. Since he was already into singing the show continued with the Dream Theater song Repentance that Mike Portnoy sang first as a demo for James LaBrie. Just the keyboardplayer and background vocalist must have been a bit awkward for Neal Morse, but after just over an hour he got his solo spot performing Spock's Beard's June featuring his buddies Mike and Casey singing the close harmony vocals. Meanwhile everyone on and off stage seemed to enjoy for the full hundred percent and with two more songs from the album the band bid the crowd farewell for the first time.
Although everyone knew that a DVD was being recorded, in my opinion the response wouldn't have been any different. An impressive bass solo by Dave LaRue, impeccable performances by Neal, Mike and Steve and as the most wonderful surprise this incredibly talented vocalist Casey McPherson. For the encore the band played a superb version of the longest track on the album, namely Infinite Fire and the screaming and clapping from the audience in the as good as completely sold out venue kept going and provoked another come back by this super group. As Mike stated he had warned the others this could happen in Tilburg and the band rehearsed one song while sound checking. They didn't perform it earlier on in the tour: a second encore for the special audience in 013 as a reward for their enthusiasm and loyal support: the Deep Purple cover Space Truckin' sung by Neal Morse in a way that would have made Ian Gillan jealous! A great night, a memorable concert and an amazing, awesome band!
Setlist Beardfish: And The Stone Said "If I Could Speak", The Hunter, Destined Solitaire, Awaken the Sleeping, Voluntary Slavery.
Setlist Flying Colors: Blue Ocean, Shoulda Coulda Woulda, Love Is What I'm Waiting For, Can't Find a Way (Endochine cover), The Storm, Odyssey (Dixie Dregs cover), Forever In A Daze, Hallelujah (Leonard Cohen cover with Casey McPherson alone on stage), Better Than Walking Away, Kayla, Fool In My Heart (Mike Portnoy on vocals), Repentance (Dream Theater cover, Mike Portnoy on vocals), June (Spock’s Beard cover), All Falls Down, Everything Changes.
Encore 1: Infinite Fire
Encore 2: Space Truckin' (Deep Purple cover)