Spock's Beard, 27 September 1999
Paradiso, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
By Jan-Jaap de Haan
I have seen Spock's Beard since the first time they played in Holland and I've always enjoyed every bit of it. And although I think Day For Night is not as great as their first three albums (but still very good), there wasn't a single reason why I should miss them playing in Paradiso, Amsterdam.
When we arrived at the theatre at 19.30h, we discovered that the gig was to start at 20.15h. instead of 21h., the reason: The Flower Kings were added as support act. Regrettably we still had to eat, so we went to an Italian restaurant to get a quick but decent meal. We would be late anyway. But there was a little surprise instead, since Titjani Babangida (right-wing player with Ajax) was sitting at the table next to us.
When we finally entered Paradiso at 20.30h. the hall was only half-filled and The Flower Kings had only played one song. I am not familiar with any of their material, but they play long and bombastic songs, with a lot of variation. I was told they have a new keyboard-player, who did his job pretty well. The guitarist (not Roine Stolt) and the bass-player really exaggerated and acted if they were world-famous, even if one of them was only playing the tambourine. I couldn't help laughing. Nevertheless, I think I can say I've hear many worse support acts and they're certainly an interesting band with a high production level (more than one album per year!). They have great singer (with the wrong trousers) and the right musical skills to make some more interesting records…
When Spock's Beard entered the stage, the floor was quite filled with people (about 400), but it wasn't as full as Tivoli last year. The started off with Day For Night, which I liked much better in this live version than the original. The arrangement was more interesting and the song had its own style now, whereas the studio-version sounds a lot like Mouth Of Madness.
This latter song was next in the set and I really learned to love the rawness of this track. Dave Meros' bass was very loud (but I don't mind a loud Rickenbacker!) and Alan Morse played his guitar very well, although he sometimes looks a bit absent…but he certainly isn't!
Skin was next, one of the most straightforward tracks recorded by Spock's Beard and also this one does it much better live than in your livingroom. The combination of raw guitars and ongoing keyboard is very nice.
Gibberish is certainly one of my favourites of Day For Night. All the different key-sounds and vocal-parts combine in a great way with the heavy drumming by Nick d'Virgilio. I was surprised to hear this complex song performed live so well! Nick d'Virgilio appeares to be of high value, because of his great and high voice. Alan Morse manages to create very weird sounds during this track.
The next track was introduced as a song that they couldn't leave out of the set, and I fully agree with that. Go The Way You Go, really is a beautiful song with its romantic first part (a bit Genesis-like), which changes into a faster, happier bit (with the audience clapping!), which is followed by a very bombastic part. The chorus was, of course, sang along by the audience. You could notice the band felt a bit more familiar with this older track, since all members started to make fun and run around (even Alan). And of course "the people were right"!
When Nick left his drumkit everyone knew it was time for June and although it didn't have the same impact on me as it had the first time I saw this song performed live, this still is a true gem. Spock's Beard have a great singer in Nick d'Virgilio and the multi-vocal style in this song suits the band very well.
Neal Morse now introduced the epic of their latest album, The Healing Colours Of Sound, and it seemed as if he threatened to lose his voice, but fortunately that wasn't the case. I still don't know if this piece is brilliant or if it's not that special. It certainly features great bits and especially this first part is great, but as a whole I don;t think this composition is as strong as it could have been….
Nevertheless it was great to hear it live, it featured all the fun bits and even the horns were present.
Time for the red portable… this means Ryo's time: also known as the Big Dick Solo. Ryo presents the audience with a lot of noise and he even tries to 'shoot' the people on the front-row with his keyboard. Then, Nick and Dave return to the stage and a jam starts, featuring many fast themes and rhythms, including some Yes-bits…. Towards the end he jumped on the back of someone in the audience and finally he ran into the audience and played the roof off, lying on his knees.
The closer of the set was The Doorway. Since this is a favourite of many Beard-fans it was very well received. The best part was the acoustic guitar-part in the middle. Over the last years this bit was already extended into a real guitar duet, featuring both Alan and Neal, but this time also Nick joined them on guitar. What happened in the next four (five?) minutes was indescribable. This guitar-trio was really one of the highlights of the evening. A great think to close the set with.
When the band returned to the stage, the first encore was The Light. After two hours you could see the guys were getting tired and Neal had increasingly more difficulties singing, but he managed to do so. And how. All members were jumping and shouting along with the audience. In the middle of the song, Nick left his kit with an African, wooden drum between his legs and Neal took place behind the kit. They played a great drums duet, not unlike Genesis used to do in the old-days. When Nick took over the drums again, he and Neal played together on one drumkit for a minute: great!
There was another connection with Genesis this night, because the second encore featured the drummer on vocals (how apt!) to sing Squonk. I think I went mad. Simply great! I wish these classics were played more often. Spock's Beard really gave this one a special treatment, without losing the essence of the track.
After two-and-a-half hours Waste Away closed the set and the boys gave their last energy in this one. They almost literally blew us out of the Paradiso-theatre. With Ryo's setlist and the new live-album in my pocket I returned home, fully satisfied. Many people were whistling or singing the main theme of Waste Away when we walked back to the car, which was very nice.
Setlist Flower Kings:
More to This World
Church of Your Heart
World of Adventures
Jam inc. Big Puzzle
The Flower King
Stardust We Are (pt 3)
Setlist Spock's Beard:
Day For Night
Mouth Of Madness
Go The Way You Go
Healing Colours Of Sound
Big Dick Solo