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progVisions is a progressive rock e-zine, published in English and made by an international group of members.

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progVisions

progVisions is a progressive rock e-zine, published in English and made by an international group of members. Our objective is to become a centre of information that contributes to the knowledge, growth and development of progressive rock.

concert review

Dream Theater + Spock's Beard - Barcelona - April - 2000

Saturday afternoon began well. We had reserved an interview of 30 minutes with Neal Morse of Spock's Beard at 4:30 P.M., so two of the "progVisions" colleagues, JP and Jordi Costa, went to the Zeleste Hall with our recording material, a camera, the pad of notes, a full journalist arsenal. 20 minutes after the scheduled time the manager of the Beard appeared and told us that Neal had just eaten, so we could enter. Morse is a very friendly and jovial person, he greeted us very sincerely with his American English and told us to make comfortable in the small dressing room of the band. We gave him a portfolio with information on the E-zine, which he greeted before opening the way to the interview. Since it will be published in the web, we will not detail it here, we will simply add that Neal is quick in words, clever and very friendly, extremely kind, and that he explained us that he had had problems with the Italian and German audience that had ended up even whistling them, and he advanced us three of the songs they would later play. He always looked at us smiling and he answered any question gladly, extending largely in his answers and giving all kind of details, either of the world of Beard, of the project Transatlantic or of the relationship with Dream Theater. At the end of the interview that lasted 20 minutes more than that foreseen, he consented in a friendly way to have several pictures and his treatment in all moment was extremely exquisite. An American gentleman.

One of the anecdotes of the night is that Alan Morse's substitute in the show, David LaVida, took a shower while we carried out the interview. He entered, said "sorry" and in a moment he stayed undressed and went to the shower. At the beginning it was a little strange but, well, nothing happens.

When leaving we met with a group of progressive friends. There were Julio Fernández, also of "progVisions", Toni Roig and Salva Renau of the "Lunar Waves" fanzine, Ramón Sellarés arrived later and we could also great Manolo Pizarro and his wife, Carles Falp and others. The atmosphere was multicolored, with two dominant tendencies: on one hand, the heavies and metal fans that attended the concert of one of the dominant groups from the genre, accompanied by a backing group they ignored, and on the other the prog-heads that attended the concert of two bands that they valued equally. The treatment of the audience was at all moments good and no violent or unpleasant scenes took place.

Ticket Barcelona

At 8 in the afternoon the doors opened up and the public entered orderly in the room without hurry. All the prog-partners agreed that the Zeleste hole, the club used for concerts, is completely unworthy of a city like Barcelona (it is necessary to say it once again). It was not still full which gave a certain comfort (and with that we mean that the temperature had not still reached the 39 degrees and that we could move lightly from right to left). Once placed, we prepared to enjoy a double concert, in which in this case, the quality, category and importance of the backing band, the Spock's Beard, almost overcame the interest for the stars, Dream Theater. Spock's Beard, with their contribution to the American prog-rock with albums as important as "Beware of darkness" or "The kindness of strangers" have become the leaders of the progressive movement in the US. 20 minutes later they appeared in the scenario. In the first line, from left to right, Ryo Okumoto at the keyboards, Neal Morse in the center at keyboards, guitars and the main vocals, the substitute -very clean- at his side and finally George Pappanostas (who substitutes Dave Meros in this tour) at bass. Behind, Nick D'Virgilio with the drums kit and percussion. They began with the dynamic "Day for night" in an extended version that introduced us quickly in the show, completely American, with the musicians dialoguing a lot with the public (Okumoto is a nutcase, encouraging and shouting to the spectators), and emphasizing in great measure the different instrumental interventions: keyboards, acoustic guitars, etc. Neal Morse is an exciting and very good front man, and he enjoys being in the scenario, connecting with the public and communicating with all his musicians, and he confirmed his condition as a leader of the band. And an animal in the stage, and his nerve and push connected with the audience in an immediate way. He played marvelously his keyboards, acoustic guitar and he moved and he sang with taste and willing to satisfy. I believe that they could not complain about the public's reaction, as they sang, danced and had a nice time with their music, which surprised us as the audience was for the most part of the Theater. The final fragment of the song, completely instrumental, had a multitude of rhythm changes and very spectacular sequences. Being a composition quite commercial it was perfect to heat up the concert, and to check the reaction of the public, which for the most part were fans of Dream Theater, but that reacted with great enthusiasm and absolute correction. Next "Gibberish" started and they began to surprise the public with multiple vocal lines. We heard comments of some heavy metal fans, surprised by the quality of the Beard, as, “usually if you say to a group who sings one lifts the hand, but with these all of them would lift it". Just this gives an idea of the musical show that they were offering to the public.

And after this, a long version of "The doorway" that left the public impressed, so much that the piece was even interrupted with applause's in the instrumental development. The truth is that they played it very well, with that verse to the Tull and the chorus a la Kansas, and the instrumental development was stupendous, excellent, combining acoustic guitars with piano and all the instrumental power. Worth highlighting were a surprising Ryo Okumoto, the keyboard player, who with a tremendous nerve rolled the keyboards, even lifting them of the floor in a resemblance to Keith Emerson, who destroyed his poor organ completely throwing it at an unsuspected distances. The great vocal power and the push of Morse together with the excellent Nick D'Virgilio and Dave Meros to the rhythm section made our skin shiver. The only somewhat disappointment was that the guitar player was not Alan Morse, and he didn't participate too much of the party.

Next "June", in which the vocal games flooded the space again. D'Virgilio left the drums and placed himself besides Morse intoning the melodies, who worked with the acoustic guitar very well. In the central-final part the rest of components united in the border of the scenario, drawing a perfect acoustic set. In the middle of the song something surprising happened, as an individual that carried a mask of Gene Simmonds of Kiss covering his face made a couple of games with the drummer of the Beard, placed in the kit and began to play, just in the final part where the drum enters. At the end of the topic, he took off the mask and he was, nothing else and anything less that Mike Portnoy, to who the public greeted warmly.

He left and Morse announced the principle of the wonderful "The light" that they played entirely and that achieved the public to welcome the musical variations of the topic pleasurably: schizophrenia, classic progressive rock, pop and, mainly, that great theme that is “Mr. Valasco…" that even moved some skeletons. The light is one of the songs that are a reference of the progressive American of the 90s, since it has motivated and at the same time enriched the progressive of that country. Its long duration makes it include an entire series of shades where the vocal choirs, the epic moments in the keyboards, the work of deafening drums, the in and outs, the ups and downs of an already classic composition. The public's reaction was exemplary for the performance of the North Americans rewarding them with a great ovation that they thanked. Among us our looks were enough, words were not necessary with such a perfect art expression. The satisfaction of checking that the money and the used time has been well rewarded. A great final applause on the part of the public and the Beard left as heroes. Once completed the performance we looked to each other as saying: "do we leave or do we stay a while more?".

We had to wait 45 minutes to see the Theater, with the lit lights, while the whole stage was mounted: screens, the bestial kit of Portnoy (covered with a cloth), and all the remaining instruments. There was background instrumental music that was well-known to us, and that we could even continue, as if we had listened to it 100 times. Suddenly, Jordi Costa exclaimed: "It is "Cirkus brimstone" by The Flower Kings. True, in the waiting time between bands of a heavy concert they were offering progressive rock of the Swedes. Something is happening…

Dream Theater is a band that has experienced an unstoppable ascension from its already distant first work, and have become the leaders of the progressive style within the metal genre, with a great army of fans in the entire world, and a proof of it was the full room. After two years Dream Theater returned to Barcelona to present us "Metropolis 2: Scenes From a Memory", an infinitely better and more progressive work that the previous "Falling Into Infinity". This was one of the reasons that, besides the presence of the Beard, made this a much more interesting concert than that of 1998

The show was prepared and produced with a great care to detail that reflected in a very complete scenario, with fixed and moving lights, videotape screens, mini cameras located in each one of the instruments, capturing the movements of the musicians… and the drum kit of Mr. Portnoy that, as we have commented, was similar to a spaceship of the NASA.

The lights went out and two screens located to the right and the left in the later wall of the scenario began to transmit a video of the initial fragment from the "Scenes from a memory". As expected they entered in full with their last work and in a spectacular way they played song after song, until finishing with all of them. The addition of diverse solos of keyboards and guitar, gave air to the musicians in their performance and made their followers happy. A long and complex instrumental structure with a tremendous vitality. There were two instrumental developments in the form of solos by John Petrucci and Jordan Rudess that everybody liked especially for their originality, mainly that of the keyboard player, a musician of great precision and with enough capacity to surprise in some moments, above the guitarist and Mike Portnoy, the monopolists of the sound of Dream Theater, fighting with them in pieces as spectacular as "Fatal tragedy" where the blasts of keyboards left us breathless. Dream Theater is on stage a pure machine of generating sound, with potent and tinged vitality. Portnoy is the devastating base and soul of the group. Without a doubt he improves and progresses with time and he is one of the best current drummers. The only thing we lacked from was a solo, although Mike's performance was a constant show by the successor of the great Neal Peart. Petrucci follows him closely and he is another great virtuoso that gives the group tremendous dynamism. Rudess is a magnificent keyboard player even with just a keyboard in the scenario (where are those mountains of keyboards?), who gave plenty of sonorities and shades to the music. He is well adapted to the sound of the group and subtracts some of its more metallic sound. James Labrie's voice on the contrary is the most heavy instrument of the group. He is a great singer but he seems to sing without conviction and somewhat forced. John Myung is the darkest character. Hidden behind his long hair he plays his bass as a crazy man, which has more strings -six- than a tennis racket but that passes completely unrecognized. We can not hear him at all, there were even moments in which it seemed that he had disconnected the instrument. This also happened in the 1998 concert. Once finished with "Metropolis" and seeing the ecstasy of the concurrence the North Americans played a medley, where they picked up pieces of their previous works; the introduction of "Awake", "Pull me under" or "Take your time" concluded their performance after 2 long hours.

We had very little strength left in our bodies at the end of a progressive marathon that had begun towards four in the afternoon. The last impressions were given later, while taking some beers in a nearby bar and finished of explaining our opinions of the concert, and of progressive in general.

Jordi Costa and Julio Fernández - April 2000

 

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