Almost nine years after their last concert in 013, Transatlantic were back.
There is no misunderstanding in the word back here.
The venue was sold-out which meant it was completely packed.
All the time people were trying to get in, few people had to watch some part of the show from the hallway.
Already from the first entrance and the notes from their latest studio effort The Whirlwind it was obvious we were all in for a long, long night of progressive rock.
Ok, I admit I had some pre knowledge of what to expect of the show.
No big surprises but a long show, with an intermission almost in the middle.
Like a real break.
Before the intermission we were treated on a complete live version of The Whirlwind.
Neal Morse was on the left and Mike Portnoy was on the right of te stage.
The drumkit was turned so Mike was looking in the direction of Neal and they were constantly exchanging laughs and looks.
Well, not really constantly because Mike also gave some attention to his "girlfriends" at the front.
Pete Trewavas was moving and jumping a lot just like Daniel Gildenlöw who played a lot of instruments in the background.
Roine was up front and standing like a statue.
He also seemed to have some minor problems with the guitar sound, he was constantly busy adjusting and fixing settings.
At some point it was beginning to frustrate him I think as he played a bit of key.
Nevertheless the overall performance of The Whirlwind was magnificent.
The sheer joy and energy these guys play with, you can almost feel the energy and joy oozing of the stage.
Still it took a while before the audience was warmed up enough to also join the band.
Clapping hands and shouting. Singing along, although I did not hear that much singing.
At first I had taken a position near to the right side of the stage, not far away from Mike Portnoys drum kit, I felt I could not see enough there, and the music was a bit loud to my ears.
So I moved position, first I went to situate myself near the mixing unit, this was slightly better, at least the sound improved.
As I always like to feel a concert experience from various audience positions. And up I went to the Balcony.
Although I had a very good view from up there, I felt as if I was at a great festival sitting somewhere on the field, hearing music, but no real presence.
I do not like this.
Experiencing a band playing live for almost 80 minutes in one set, no stops, wow.
These guys really know how to play.
When listening to the album The Whirlwind, you can already notice the evolution Transatlantic has gone through, whilst SMPTe and Bridge Across Forever were more lose songs, you can hear on Whirlwind a band effort.
Same thing on stage, a real band performance.
After the intermission we were on the left side in front of the stage, where there were fewer people.
You could even move about on that side.
Mike changed his shirt from black to an orange one, the dominating color on the cover of The Whirlwind.
It is also the dominating color in the Netherlands because in a few weeks the world championship football is starting.
Needless to say the orange shirts sold very good in Tilburg, never did they sell so many shirts, the larger sizes were sold out.
All Of The Above as the first song after the break, was a fantastic effort with near the end a bit of solo drumming by mike I believe,
before going into a tiny non epic part of the show as Mike put it, a semi acoustic guitar duet by Neal (acoustic) and Roine (electric),
flowing into We All Need Some Light, although this was already obvious in the acoustic intermezzo.
The audience sang along with We All Need Some Light.
Behind me someone made a remark after the band had played We All Need Some Light.
He shouted and now time for some Duel with the Devil, he was answered with the first notes to that song.
The overall sound after the intermission was much better.
Roine also seemed to have solved, or at least someone did, the sound problems with his guitar.
All in all it sounded much better, resulting in a grandioso performance of Duel.
Duel with the Devil also was the last song of the concert.
As already common and very predictable, the band returned for an encore.
Mike looked really funny in his baggy overall which at the bottom was tucked in his socks, hilarious.
The first song to be played was Bridge Across Forever,
the performance saw Neal on keyboards and Roine on guitar playing the song with the two of them.
Right thereafter the rest of the band joined in to play Stranger In Your Soul.
Halfway through the song Neal joined Mike on the drums.
After a while Mike left the drums souly for Neal and grabbed the bass from Pete who in his turn took place behind the keyboards.
As the new born bass player Mike let us hear the first ever prog bass pedal solo, he made the sound guy turn it up to eleven (Spinal Tap) and really shook the ground of Tilburg.
He also started the tune of the classic Deep Purple song Smoke On The Water,
later on they all returned to their own instruments for the continuing of Stranger In Your Soul.
Ending what was just a bit more than three and half hours prog.
Many people in the audience left after the endnotes of Stranger In Your Soul, they missed out on what became a super first live performance of The Return of The Giant Hogweed.
Meantime Mike had already commented on the fact that in 2001 similar happened, the band performing a second or is it third encore.
And once again the band, without Daniel Gildenlöw, have played an additional encore.
The show finally ended with Neal shouting “we have found our people” and Mike going “that’s all folks”, Thank you.
This show has been a show of which we see way too few, a full house, sold out show, enthusiastic people, energetic band,
great music and above all how often can you attend a concert lasting nearly 4 hours, I do not experience that often.
I sincerely hope I do not need to wait another nine years for the next concert.
Jeremy's Review (London)
Expectations were running high among those in the queue outside the Empire for Transatlantic’s first U.K. show in almost nine years and with good reason.
From my seat in the balcony I had a great view directly in front of Mike Portnoy’s side of the rather full stage.
As the house lights went down The Whirlwind backdrop was picked out by a spotlight which homed in on London and then the band arrived, each to great applause.
All appeared relaxed and well into it, particularly Roine who often seems to be ill at ease.
Maybe this was for the benefit of the cameras recording the event for future release but unlikely as his playing was superb.
The Whirlwind in its entirety kicked things off and was awesome from start to finish.
Some standout moments among many included the Overture/Whirlwind, Rose Coloured Glasses which Neal sang unsurprisingly filled with emotion given the personal nature of the material,
Pieces of Heaven, Is It Really Happening? and the finale.
In On the Prowl at the “Rock the house!” part, the crowd were deemed not to have rocked the house sufficiently, Mike asking us to repeat it until he was satisfied!
During Dancing with Eternal Glory Neal struggled with his vocals and appeared to be on the verge of losing his voice but this was quickly rectified.
A brief improv was included towards the end of the piece and the relaxed nature of the gig, which had shone through from the start, was even more apparent.
Throughout the show all were smiling, chatting, joking and not taking the whole thing too seriously which is, firstly, refreshing and,
secondly, quite staggering given the complexity and scale of the pieces.
At one point there was a problem with Mike’s bass drum but this was sorted out quickly and without fuss.
All were engaged and there was genuine rapport with no furrowing of brows and moodiness,
more the feeling was one of celebration which built towards the end of the piece where the religious elements of Neal’s concept shone through, perhaps too much.
The feel was very odd; more a Gospel show than a rock gig.
Neal like an evangelist, eyes closed, face raised, hand held skywards – the crowd swaying along singing, hands and fingers raised.
Disconcerting but still very emotional and Neal, who had fallen to one knee behind his keyboard, was clearly affected by the reaction as they finished.
Rightly so as the place went bananas!
At this point Mike asked if it was OK if they had a break!
The massive standing ovation was well deserved as there were only a few minor mistakes and overall the playing was superb.
Throughout I did not know where to look as all were wonderful to watch.
Pete in particular played out of his skin.
We were adjacent to the guest area where family and friends were sitting, most notably to me Ian Moseley who was tapping and nodding along and obviously enjoying the show.
During the interval he was heard to say “that was amazing!”.
Maybe he and Pete will be motivated to try and add a little more prog to future Marillion releases (good luck with getting that past Mr.h.!).
However he may be panicking about having to play with a re-energized Pete who was astounding.
If only he was occasionally allowed to play like this within the Marillion set-up.
Mike was the master showman and warm-up man, clearly having a great time and thrashing his kit to pieces;
Neal was excellent, vibrant and cheeky interacting with both crowd and band, seeming to conduct Mike at times.
Both men drove the music along with their boundless energy.
Roine was having fun and playing very well.
Daniel has changed so much since the previous occasions I have seen him live with Transatlantic and The Flower Kings.
Then he seemed a little reserved; today he is a Rock God throwing himself around with masses of confidence and showmanship while adding the required extra keys, guitar, percussion or vocals.
He appeared more as a full band member than a back up player.
The sound was great from the start but probably improved for the second half which opened with All of the Above, the standout track from their debut album.
Amazingly this piece felt almost small and insignificant after the vastness of The Whirlwind but it was greeted like an old friend by a crowd who could not believe that they were allowed to have more
– other bands would have shut up shop and gone home after playing what we had just had.
There was a brief technical failure with the lights which plunged the stage into darkness for a short while, the band carrying on without missing a beat.
Some strange additions crept into the piece including a few bars from the intro of Santana’s Soul Sacrifice and, somewhat more bizarrely, the “I’m Lovin’ It!” jingle from the McDonald’s adverts!
Someone needs to explain this but it did make me laugh out loud.
Neal and Roine then treated us to a very enjoyable semi acoustic segment which led into We All Need Some Light with Roine on lead vocals and Neal on 12-string guitar
and the vocal section that Roine supplied on the record; a nice switch.
Duel with the Devil swept in on a wave of energy with Daniel head banging along.
The strange addition to this number was a few lines from Deep Purple’s Highway Star.
The tricky Motherless Children mid-section was fabulous and Mike got a small solo spot before the quiet section.
Daniel sung some lead and Roine added excellent guitar.
Another pared down interlude as Neal and Roine played Bridge Across Forever which was magic and you could have heard a pin drop in the hall.
The band returned to tie things up with Stranger in Your Soul - what a way to finish.
Surely Mike has now secured his place as the Ethel Merman of Prog with 3 costume changes during the show.
I expect that the discarded clothes were only fit for burning due to the effort he put in throughout.
In the vocal swapping section Daniel stalked the front of the stage while the others were tied to their mics for vocal duties.
Neal and Mike performed some double drumming before Neal completely took over the kit.
Mike encouraged the crowd to raise their hands and, once they had obliged, he launched himself and surfed to the middle of the hall and back, returning unscathed to complete the track.
Tumultuous reception well deserved.
Overall, so much better than the, already great, 2001 show.
If only all gigs could be like this.
John's Review (Manchester)
From the moment the intro tape started the audience at Manchester Academy were transfixed by the five demi - god like figures that hit the stage.
From the outset Transatlantic threw down the gauntlet and set the standard of how modern prog should be played, passionately, emotionally and last but by no means least classy.
This was the last night of the world tour, which could not have been ended in a more fitting location.
The audience was baying for a classic night of music and Transatlantic did not fail to deliver.
The last time I saw Transatlantic was in 2001 at the Zodiac in Oxford,
and what a stunning show that was, the gentlemen plying their inimitable trades perfectly holding the crowd in their hands hanging onto every note that was played.
For a band to start their show off with playing the whole of their latest album is one thing, Stolt, Morse, Portnoy,
Trewavas and Gildenlöw brought this stunning piece to life offering substance and breathe, during which they all took their turns in leading when necessary.
This is a band that was very comfortable in each others company, with their big Cheshire cat grins soaking up every drop of energy that was given forth by the audience,
and ploughing it into their complex passages and presenting it back as a gift.
From the outset Portnoy, Morse, Trewavas and Gildenlöw never stopped, only Roine Stolt being the real none mover, which to be honest is the way he presents his stage craft anyway.
The crowd was carried along on the ride, never a dull moment singing and participating, air instruments abundant, all note perfect and majestic.
Roine fingered his way emotionally through the long pieces playing with ease and dexterity as did Neal, who had a look of disbelief on his face, being totally amazed at the crowds’ reaction.
Vocals were handled by all the members of the band which was nice to see, with Neal being the main protagonist in the event, feeling every word as it was presented.
Daniel and Pete were totally in their element working together offering very solid performance, jumping up and down whilst they played.
Mike handled all the talking between songs and as ever never ever stopped beating his kit.
No sooner had The Whirlwind started it was time for the obligatory fifteen minute break before events started again.
Mike stated that the band would be back and play a two and a half hour encore.
The crowd that was in attendance was here to be entertained giving rapturous applause to his comment.
The start of the first encore involved the band working through the inimitable All Of The Above, which felt like an old and very welcome friend having a very seasoned approach.
Again the band built and drove their musical interludes pitch perfect in full support of the audience, who at time supplied some outstanding vocals too.
Roine and Neal presented a very passionate and powerful version of We All Need Some Light.
Neal’s heart warming approach built fantastic verbal imagery with the crowd also helping out, arms aloft swaying from side to side.
Neal’s opening chords for Duel With The Devil paved the way for the rest of the band to build an almost perfect version of the track,
switching back and forth between Neal’s keyboard and Mike’s drums supported by some rather fantastic interaction from Roine, Pete and Daniel.
Neal’s opening lines, “Have you woke up screaming in the silence of the night?
You wish you could start dreaming in clouds of white But everything could change tonight When you duel with the devil living in your mind.”
Wow, very powerful stuff indeed.
It really allowed the band to rock out and display what they are best at.
The track is was very atmospheric twisting and turning building crescendo’s, then being less stated, with the highlight for me being Roine’s guitar work.
Bands spend their lives trying to write music like this, Transatlantic just seem to be able to write it off bat.
The song closed again to thunderous applause.
The second encore kicked off with the crowd not believing what they had witnessed so far and as ever Transatlantic did not disappoint.
Bridge Across Forever and Stranger In Your Soul saw the band going into their final presentation.
Mikes pounding beats laying foundation for the boys to create even more prog nirvana.
There was no let up by the band, and the crowd wasn’t going to let there be either.
As Mike Portnoy stated, “this was the last night of the world tour.”
The band knew they had to create something special for the people witnessing what was happening, as ever they delivered.
During this session, we witnessed Neal playing drums with Mike, Daniel playing drums very proficiently,
Pete turning his hands to keyboards and believe it or not Mike offering a bass pedal solo, before the band played Smoke On The Water featuring Mike on lead vocals and bass.
“Is that special enough for you,” shouted Mike.
The crowd where like melted putty in his hands.
Nobody wanted this spectacle to end.
What had been witness by all was something very special indeed.
At the end of the show, Mike got all the people involved in the shows production up onto the stage and introduced them.
This really was a band without any ego issues, and a touch that brought tears to Neal’s eyes, which was a very fitting end to the whole affair.
One of the funnier comments I heard as I left was that a Transatlantic encore is longer than most bands sets.
The Wind Blew Them All Away
On The Prowl
A Man Can Feel
Out Of The Night
Rose Colored Glasses
Set Us Free
Lay Down Your Life
Pieces Of Heaven
Is It Really Happening?
Dancing With Eternal Glory/Whirlwind
All Of The Above
We All Need Some Light
Duel With The Devil