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The Neal Morse Band
Arcada Theatre
St. Charles, IL
February 26, 2019



Any fan of The Neal Morse Band or progressive rock will tell you that there are very few musicians in the world that can keep up with the kind of talent that’s exhibited on a Neal Morse Band record. So, when The Neal Morse Band rolled into the Arcada Theatre in St. Charles, Illinois I was anxious to see if the sonic juggernaut would measure up to their studio expertise. 

   

Led by singer, guitarist, keyboard wiz, and all around prog genius Neal Morse, this band proved that they truly are part of that upper echelon of musicianship. Playing their stellar new album, The Great Adventure, in its entirety is something of a feat in and of itself. 
The double length CD is chock full of complex structure and excruciatingly complex and technical music runs. The steel skeleton that all of this musicianship is draped upon is powered by Mike Portnoy, one of the most talented drummers to ever grace a throne. Incredibly sharp, tight timing and chops laid out the foundation for the musical construction of the evening. Many will argue that a drummer is only as good as his bass player, and Portnoy has one of the best in Randy George. Portnoy and George have been bandmates for many years, and their instinctive groove was evident throughout this amazing set.

Perhaps the most enjoyable aspect of this show for me was finally getting to witness Eric Gillette play guitar. To simply say that he “plays guitar” might imply that he’s somewhat ordinary. The word extraordinary was created to house this guy’s talent. I don’t know if it was because Portnoy was lurking in the background or if it was because he plays a John Petrucci signature model Music Man guitar, but I was often reminded of Petrucci’s playing style while watching Gillette command his instrument. His cool, calm, and collected demeanor and his overall positioning during the show was also reminiscent of Petrucci. With that said, anyone that knows anything about guitar players will tell you that there is only one John Petrucci, as there is only one Eric Gillette. The guy is just a colossal player, and he could not have been any more impressive on this evening.

Some of the things that I didn’t quite realize about The Neal Morse Band until this performance was the importance of keyboardist Bill Hubauer and the vocal duties of the band. Neal Morse is the primary vocal and keyboard focus, but he is also a theatrical performer that likes to act out and stay mobile and animated. This interactive stage presence, along with the times he dons a guitar, leaves keyboard duties upon Hubauer, who handles the job like the perfect co-pilot. But, Hubauer isn’t limited to his keyboard. In fact, it just might take a backseat to his vocal talent. He could make a career with his vocal tone alone. I was surprised on just how much lead he sang, and I found myself goose-bumped and wanting to hear more. Hubauer wasn’t the only piece of the vocal puzzle, though. Gillette and Portnoy also took the reigns at various points throughout the show, making for a show with great vocal movement and power.

   

What can one possibly say about Neal Morse, the man himself. The major thing that I took away from Morse’s performance on this night was the fact that he felt every note. There was pain, fear, triumph, elation, and a whole host of other emotions showing on his face, depending on the song. There was more than one time I got a shiver down my spine, and I attribute much of that to Morse’s ability to convey the spirit of the music. The few costume changes and outfits that I saw enhanced the theatrical experience in amazing ways, but it was the emotion in the eyes and voice that really triggered the shivers.



SETLIST


The Great Adventure, Act I
Overture
The Dream Isn't Over
Welcome to the World
A Momentary Change
Dark Melody
I Got to Run
To the River
The Great Adventure
Venture in Black
Hey Ho Let's Go
Beyond the Borders


The Great Adventure, Act II

Overture 2
Long Ago
The Dream Continues
Fighting With Destiny
Vanity Fair
Welcome to the World 2
The Element of Fear
Child of Wonder
The Great Despair
Freedom Calling
A Love That Never Dies


ENCORE:

The Great Medley
The Land of Beginning Again
Reunion
The Temple of the Living God
12
The Conflict
Leviathan
It's for You
Momentum
The Call
Broken Sky / Long Day (Reprise)


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