This was a no brainer. I just couldn’t miss Transatlantic this time around, so I found the most convenient day of their tour and traveled to Berlin just to see the show for the Kaleidoscope tour. One thing I can assure you, my expectations were already as high as it gets and if the show proved to be less than perfect I could easily be disappointed. But it was nothing less than perfect. Those 160 minutes, without intermission, that the band was on stage went by like a single moment for me. So I’ll try to approach the review of that night as moments. As little pieces of a greater experience that a Transatlantic show offers.
“So the dream of days has passed you by”
Transatlantic entered the stage with “Into The Blue”, the opening track of their new album “Kaleidoscope” and from the very first moment you could tell that this was going to be a great night. The sound was loud and clear - something that remained like this during the whole show – and the band members seemed to be in high spirits, especially Neal Morse who sang from his heart about “the dreamer and healer”. The audience welcomed Roine’s vocal part on “A New Beginning” with a big cheer, but the first real goosebumps came with the “Written In Your Heart” section. Ted Leonard sung the Daniel Gildenlow part and I was trying to understand what hit me. I thought I was hearing Daniel’s voice recorded, but no, it was Ted nailing it. Daniel offers his own dimension to the Transatlantic live shows and filling his shoes is not easy at all, but Ted made it seem easy. I always loved his voice, but after this show I’m a bigger fan of his talent.
“At the end of innocence nothing's the same”
Mike Portnoy was the spokesman of the band as usual and informed us that this would be a long night full of prog epics. Damn right it was! Back to the first album, 15 years ago, “My New World” was a highlight of its own. It was Roine’s delicate way of singing the verses, it was the beautiful chorus, but mostly it was that middle section that made me believe that I was witnessing the closest thing to a Pink Floyd show and then the multi singing part that was delivered in a jaw dropping way.
“Shine while the skies are turning gray”
After two prog epics it was time to chill things a little bit, with “Shine” from the new album. Neal Morse got his acoustic guitar and delivered a fine performance along with Roine Stolt, who seemed to have a little problem in the beginning of his guitar solo. It wouldn’t matter that much, but this is one of the best solos he’s ever played and this was the only “mistake” I mentioned during the show. As expected, this song offered the first sing along from the audience during the chorus.
“Do the storms still rage or maybe it's my eyes”
The time for some music out of “The Whirlwind” had arrived. In my humble opinion, this is not only the best progressive rock album of our recent times, but the best album I’ve heard in the last decade or something. They chose to present a medley out of it, beginning with “Overture/Whirlwind” as the cover of the album was on the background and the orange color was taking us back to the previous tour. This medley was the peak of the show for me and especially the “Rose Colored Glasses” section, with Morse giving a fantastic performance full of passion, while Ted Leonard sung the last chorus amazingly. “Evermore” was pretty impressive as well, but it was the “Is It Really Happening?” section that transcended us into another world. Mike Portnoy used his hand to tell the audience to stay quiet in the beginning, while all 5 members were singing the basic vocal melody in fantastic harmony and then came the crazy instrumental part where people were watching in awe the band performing perfectly the challenging parts, especially when Ted Leonard joined Neal Morse and played a shredding melody along with Neal’s keys. A small part of “Dancing With Eternal Glory” closed this medley and it was like a whirlwind had just passed us by (sic).
“And we will come as children, like music from the heavens”
When the “Whirlwind” set was over, Neal got on stage by himself, stood in the front and started singing “Beyond The Sun” a capella for the first verse and chorus. The blazing sun in the background and the power of his voice created the perfect scenery for him to pay a tribute to his late father and sing about the prospect of meeting him again in the next life. Earlier, the lyrics on “Rose Colored Glasses” were also inspired by his father passing, as the songs talks about how small we are in front of life and death, so this song about afterlife was kind of a continuation. For the rest of the song Neal also played the piano, while Ted played the cello parts on keys and Roine provided the guitar parts.
“High as the winds of yesterday”
Like in the album, the title track of “Kaleidoscope” started immediately after “Beyond The Sun” and filled the venue with changing colors and sounds. This song is the blueprint of the new album and was performed without a single flaw. When Neal sang “Ride The Lightning” for the first time, the cover of the classic Metallica album appeared on the background and the band played two bars of the main riff of the title track of the same titled album, just like they did with Deep Purple’s “Highway Star” on “Duel With The Devil” in the previous tour. Roine took the spotlight for his own “Black Gold” and when this section was finished Mike presented Pete Trewavas as he was about to sing his own “Walking The Road” part. On “Desolation Days” Ted got the acoustic guitar and provided vocals on Neal’s side, while the instrumental “Lemon Looking Glass” was highly enjoyable. This track is simply a Transatlantic masterpiece and a monster performed live.
“Maybe he'll come back and give us a show”
Neal got his acoustic guitar in his hands and right away he started playing the intro melody to the band’s most known song. “We All Need Some Light” is always a highlight in a Transatlantic/Neal Morse show, as the crowd sings the refrain, but there were two specific things that stood out in my opinion. The first one was Neal’s solo on acoustic guitar which was absolutely stunning and the second was Ted’s performance, as he got in the front of the stage to sing the second verse of the song.
“Are you one of the puppets?”
There was one song left out of “Kaleidoscope” and this was “Black As The Sky”. If there is something special about this song it’s that played live it seems to be even better than the studio, as the band really seems to enjoy it and the chorus is appropriate for sing along. Roine did a great job on vocals, but that crazy instrumental middle section was just the best part of it, with Mike and Neal playing with each other and having fun while they didn’t miss a single note.
“In a state of fallen grace, with a smile upon its face, it came!”
The members of the band left the stage only for a couple of minutes before they started playing “All Of The Above”. It’s no wonder why this tune is considered a prog classic, as Neal was asking people to sing even the basic melodies of “Full Moon Rising” section. The performance was so good, that I just wish they wouldn’t stop right after “October Winds” section, as the band jumped to the last three sections of “Stranger In Your Soul” from “Bridge Across Forever” to give a grandiose finale on this epic night.
I’ve seen Mike many times on stage, but I hadn’t seen him enjoying a show that much for more than ten years when he still was making big things with Dream Theater. Roine is among the best guitar players out there and he proves it on stage, while Pete is the backbone of this band, providing fantastic bass parts on every single song and great melodies. Ted was the big surprise, as he proved to be a perfect addition, providing a lot of details to the band’s overall sound and when the spotlight was on him he did more than great. Neal was really shining. His voice was powerful and his playing impressive, while he had a smile on his face all the time and too much energy. But, it is the sum that is greater than its parts and Transatlantic should be considered one of the few true leaders of the prog scene, the band that ties the past to the future for this genre.
If nothing else, Transatlantic should be touring more often, so that more people will have the chance to witness their glory on stage. Prog fans should at least see this band playing live once in their lifetime. Till the next time…
“Just respond to what you feel and be a part, till it's written in your heart…”
P.S. All the thoughts are with Daniel for a quick and full recovery. Wish you were here man.