By the time they recorded ‘X’ the ‘Beard had long since neatly folded all the Genesis and Beatles influences into the wrinkles of their own appealing brand of melodic Progressive Rock, (fortunately they still pop out now again). Neal Morse (whose ’Skin’ is still the best song Lennon&McCartney never wrote) had gone. Nick D’Virgilio (NDV) had come from behind the drum kit to move upfront, and was about to exit stage left too.
This truly was the end of a major, potentially pivotal chapter in the story of Spock’s Beard.
Consequently, touring the release in Europe was, in itself, a momentous occasion. Not just because of its historical significance, but also because ’X’ was among the best albums the band had ever committed to disk. The Live version is a 2 CD affair, with the 2nd reserved for a clutch of the band’s signature songs, ‘The Doorway’, ‘On A Perfect Day’ and ‘June’ along with a couple of totally unnecessary and very theatrical solos. On the “main” disc, only ‘The Quiet House’ seems ill at ease with the live setting, losing its way a few times, apparently questioning where it fits in. NDV’s vocal mirrors this uncertainty, faltering occasionally. That aside, this is an immense live recording, with the band tight as the proverbial drum, collusive almost, powerfully conveying the majesty of their epic prog pieces – ’From The Darkness’, laced with razor sharp axe work, is amazingly compelling in this environment. Too often, Progrock albums have too much content and not enough subject, but Spock’s Beard‘s musicianship – which seems to act as a lightning rod for great melodies – ensures that we get songs that feed the soul as well as the head. Few rock fans could fail to be moved to a wry smile (at least) by ‘The Emperor’s Clothes’, or fail to be intrigued by Morse’s cut glass lyrics on the lyrically layered, ‘Man Behind The Curtain’.
It is among some of the better quality live recordings of the band, but isn’t perfect…if perfect is what you want. But as a memento of a key moment in the band’s evolution, it’s invaluable.