Seeing live on the same stage on the same night Steve Morse, Mike Portnoy, Neal Morse, Casey McPherson, David LaRue and John Wesley is probably any (progressive) rock lover’s wildest dream. A dream that, for the lucky ones who got their tickets, actually turned into reality on October 13 at the Islington Assembly Hall in London.
The evening didn’t really kicked off in the best of ways, as we were kept waiting under a pouring rain and granted access over 30 minutes later than expected.
Thankfully, Music has the power to wipe out any bad mood – including the Assembly Hall waiting staff’s rudeness – and it took few minutes before the opening act, Porcupine Tree‘s former live guitar player, John Wesley walked on stage. Joined by one extra guitar player, bass and drums, Wesley performed most of the songs taken from his new album Disconnect, proving his enormous talent as guitar player.
Flying Colors walked on stage 30 minutes following the opening act. When the lights went off, the whole venue was flooded by the choirs from Mask Machine‘s refrain until, like the calm before the storm, few seconds of silence preceded Neal Morse’s keyboards opening Open Up Your Eyes. Those who have never listened to a live rendition of a pure progressive song will never be able to fully understand the magnificence of hearing electric guitars, basses, keyboards and drums making love to each other.
Flying Colors’s music is definitely more than good on CD, but when they play on stage the doors of heaven open wide to the audience’s ears. The technically perfect musical skills of each member of this band is just one of the many aspects that make FC one of the best live acts I’ve ever witnessed. It goes without saying that they all have an incredibly professional background they don’t even need official introductions, but still they managed to exceed my expectations, and those of the people in the audience based on their reactions. Opening with a 12-minute prog rock track was a great choice and a statement of what was about to happen for the 90 minutes ahead.
Mike Portnoy’s ability as a showman – and of course needless to say as a drummer with the capital D – really struck me as I’ve never seen a drum player being so involved in those aspects of a show that don’t imply limiting yourself to play your own instrument – which for drummers is quite common. Constantly urging the audience with his irresistible energy and wit (and a cucumber as third drum stick… yes, a cucumber!), Portnoy brilliantly performed backing vocals for most of the show in addition to, of course, delivering his trademark drum solos.
What struck me even more, though, was how the band performed and engaged as a whole, each member being the leader among leaders. We know how rock bands normally have one leader, who most of the times is the singer, but with Flying Colors it was quite a unique sharing of roles. So Neal Morse was not just a great keyboard player (and a surprisingly good vocalist), but an active member of the whole show, as well as the rest of the band.
The show had many highlights, mostly every time the other Morse, Steve, took on for guitar solos, often receiving “shameless” love declarations from the men in the audience – declarations that were silently shared by all of us. While we wouldn’t probably need any further evidence of McPherson’s outstanding vocals, the proof for a singer as for any musician, is always in their live performances: not only he proved he masters vocal techniques as any professional singer should, McPherson has a natural gift, his voice is in perfect tune with the whole surroundings, not just the music, and his ability to permeate the songs with feelings takes him on a completely different – higher – level from the average rock singers.
The show ended exactly how it started, with the prog suite everyone was waiting for: Infinite Fire presented the audience with possibly the best 12 minutes you could wish for during a rock – or any – concert.
Flying Colors show was a melting pot of great musicianship, musical brotherhood, devastating energy and beautiful immortal music.
Flying Colors live photo gallery (photos by Oscar Tornincasa for Rebel Rebel):
Complete Set List:
Open Up Your Eyes
Shoulda Coulda Woulda
The Fury of My Love
A Place in Your World
Forever in a Daze
One Love Forever
Colder Months (Alpha Rev cover)