dvd & video review
Following his therapy of showing how Christianity changed his life, Neal Morse releases a DVD that embodies his album “Testimony” (2003), first solo album after his departure from Spock´s Beard.
Some considered that album as a masterpiece, but others considered it as an irregular album with some brilliant moments and some minor moments. Of course it´s hard to keep the geniality when you´re 100% working for your band, solo projects and collaborations. But when I write a DVD review I pass over songs and I focus on visual, technical and skill aspects. “Testimony Live” is one of those DVDs with music I don´t like a lot but that is played with high skill and intense passion… everything inside an wonderful environment.
The Neal Morse Band is mainly centered on two artists: Mike Portnoy and Neal Morse. Neal is the definitive showman and he´s the picture of how you can have a good time doing difficult things. He´s the antithesis of cold and serious artists (Fripp). Neal plays guitars and keyboards, sings and amuses the crowd. On the other hand, Mike Portnoy is an amazing drummer, as well as a good advertising ploy. The rest of the musicians are Eric Brenton, a great multiinstrumentist who plays flute, steel guitar, violin and mandolin; Rick Altizer, who plays guitars, keyboards and percussion; keyboardist Bert Baldwin; cellist John Krovosa; and bassist-keyboardist Randy George. All of them are unknown for me, but they prove they have a first division level.
The image quality is perfect and there are several cameras, so we can watch every member of the band (of course focusing on Neal and Mike). The sound is also brilliant and you can clearly listen to all instruments. Neal is the show himself… so there´s no need to special effects. The band wears black clothes, but from “Transformation” on, the clothes become white. Since the album is a “religious testimony”, the change of clothes is a good metaphor.
In the first DVD the band plays “Testimony” entirely. I insist: it´s not my favorite album of Morse.. but here… well, it sounds different. Maybe it´s Neal´s fearlessness and the passion of the band playing the music (they´re having a good time), but the truth is that the songs do well. Of course vocal harmonies are guaranteed (“The Promise”) because all musicians have great voices that are at least as good as Spock´s Beard.
The encores are Transatlantic´s “We all need some light” (I think this is not the best version I´ve heard, in spite of Brenton´s violin and Krovosa´s cello), an amazing “The Light” (I don´t miss Beard), and “Stranger in your Soul” with great string arrangements by tandem Brenton / Krosova. The DVD is completed with a documentary with rehearsals and a photo gallery.
I think a testimony must be given before an audience of witness, so this “Testimony Live” is the perfect document if you want to know Neal´s testimony at its best. I consider it much better than the studio album and the band here is impressive. Finally I must remark Neal´s behavior: a guy who proves that friendliness and entertainment can belong in progressive rock and Christianity.