Transatlantic: Whirld Tour 2010 Deluxe Edition
When Transatlantic wowed a Montreal, Canada audience back in April 2010, as part of its Whirld Tour in support of the 77-minute progressive rock epic, The Whirlwind (Radiant/Metal Blade, 2009), a few things stood out. First, for a group who, in the course of over three hours, played only six songsfour in excess of 30 minutesTransatlantic's ability to not just navigate, but remember a seemingly endless slew of complex arrangementsfilled with irregular meters, mind-numbing stops and starts, and sound worlds ranging from the near-ambient to the ear-shattering and anthemically transcendentseemed almost impossible to recreate, night after night. And yet, based on web reports and Whirld Tour 2010: Deluxe Edition, clearly they did.
Second, while Transatlantic's primary singing voice is that of keyboardist/guitarist Neal Morseco-founder of Spock's Beard, but leaving both that group, and Transatlantic, at least for nine years, when he became a "born again" and decided to pursue a kind of progressive Christian music on albums like the recent So Many Roads (Radiant, 2009)it became clear just how democratic the band really is, and that now ex-Dream Theater drummer Mike Portnoy is as much, if not more, a spokesperson for the group.
Third, at least based on the Montreal performance, if there is any single star in the groupdespite everyone, including Pain of Salvation singer Daniel Gildenlöw (recruited as a member of the touring band playing guitars, keyboards and percussion), playing at an incredibly high level of energy and commitmentSwedish guitarist Roine Stolt stood out, with solo-after-solo of tasty tones and remarkable invention that transcended his own fine projects, including his flagship The Flower Kings and, most recently, Agents of Mercy, which released Dramarama (Reingold Records) in the fall of 2010.
And now, with the 2010 tour but a memory, comes Whirld Tour 2010, a document of the group's Shepherd's Bush, London show, released in three versions: a double-DVD, triple-CD (of the same show, but remixed) and the Deluxe Edition, with all five discs. Watching the show, and reliving the Montreal show through it, a couple more impressions dominate. First, this is a band that, despite playing for over three hours, is having fun, each and every night; in fact, everyone appears to be having the times of their lives, and why not? As great as their individual projects arePete Trewevas, a thrilling bassist/vocalist, gets the opportunity here to play in ways that his work with Marillion only intimatesTransatlantic surpasses all of them. If there's ever been a case of the whole being larger than the sum of its parts, Transatlantic is it. Second, while there are plenty of bands that exude energy, there's an unmistakable sense of optimism that's felt throughout the show. There's plenty of talk about the spiritual nature of the lyrical content, and looking into the backgrounds of most of Transatlantic's playersnot just Morseit's clearly a driving force.
But what makes Transatlantic work where other groups might fail is that, as much as the lyrical content is about transcendent glory and deeply religious sentiments, the group never proselytizes; it's personal, autobiographical and somehow more reporting than preaching. This is still rock and roll, after all, albeit of the most challenging nature, and when Portnoy crowd surfs in the middle of the group's "Stranger in Your Soul"which, combined with the shorter ballad, the title track to the group's Bridge Across Forever (Radiant, 2001), forms an encore that runs nearly 40 minutesit's not something you'd expect to see from groups singing about surrendering to God.
Transatlantic's Roine Stolt
As long and complex as the episodic epics are, and as many traps as the group sets itself to fall into self-indulgence (there's no shortage of instrumental pyrotechnics and bombast: this is prog rock, after all) Transatlantic completely avoids the bloated sense of self-importance which has scuttled legacy groups like Yes and Emerson, Lake and Palmer. Instead, when it breaks into snippets of Santana's "Soul Sacrifice," Deep Purple's "Highway Star"even a little Star Wars and the McDonalds' "I'm Lovin' It" themeit's all playful and fresh, even though it's something the group does each and every night. Everyone switches instruments near the end of "Stranger in Your Soul" and, instead of being impressive in just how good, for example, Neal Morse is on drums, it's more just good fun. Smiles, nods and eye contact are definitive throughout the show, and when it's all over, it's an emotionally uplifting experience...something few concert DVDs manage to impart.