Spock's Beard, October 2nd 1999
Astoria II, London, UK

By Charlie Farrell


Well, at long last the 'Beard' arrive in the UK to play 2 gigs - the first for the 'Classic Rock Society' in Rotherham, who had for a long time championed their cause in this sad country and the second here at the Astoria II. One suspects that a large number of the audience have been to both gigs, such is the devotion they evoke in their fans and they are a band, whose musical pedigree is excellent and whose reputation as a live band continues to grow.

The venue is reasonably full, but granted that it is a Saturday night in central London, one might have expected the venue to be sold out, which it clearly wasn't. Nevertheless there is a warm reception for the band as they make their way on stage. Day For Night, In the Mouth of Madness, Skin and Gibberish kick off the set, a number of them sounding much better live than on the (to me) disappointing last album. After this Neal Morse says "We have an old one for ya - one we've played at every single gig" and leads the band into Go the Way You Go.

After this it's the turn for the acoustic guitars and an accapella version of June featuring beautiful vocals from Neal and Nick. It was one of those special moments when you realise that you are listening to not only a great song, but truly great performers and tears well up in the eyes - definitely one of the magic moments of the evening.

When the cheers and clapping finally die down, Neal tells us "We're doing the long show for you tonight - and talking of long ..." before starting the magnificent Healing Colours of Sound. By this stage the band is really cooking and deserve a break, which they get as Neal tells us that "Ryo is ready to do his thing". Ryo has been bouncing around and throwing himself fully into the music from the outset, but those of us who are witnessing the group for the first time live are not prepared for the insanity that follows as he straps on his portable keyboard and fools around onstage before diving into the audience and continuing to play. Fortunately the stage is quite low, so he comes to no harm. Meanwhile Neal rushes back onstage with a video camera and tries to film the insanity - absolute mayhem!

As Ryo returns onstage to huge cheers, the band break into The Doorway - one of my favourite Beard tunes and the cue for more tears as they pull off another majestic version with Nick leaving his drums at one point to contribute some acoustic guitar. Time has really flown and they leave the stage to huge cheers.

Having waited for so long to see the Beard in the UK, the crowd is in no mood to allow them to finish early, so after Neal runs through the credits - thanking the sound and lighting guys, the roadcrew and their manager we get the lengthy The Light culminating in a drum solo featuring both Nick and Neal. Then after a further short absence from the stage they return with Nick on vocals and with Neal in the drum stool for a great version of Squonk.

This was a great show, and several friends immediately rated it up in their top 10s of all time. Music which sounded a little flat on disk, came alive that evening and I believe that no-one could resist being charmed by the personality and musical dexterity of this bunch of unlikely looking musicians. They have an on-stage magic that few can match and should under no circumstances be missed the next time that they grace a concert hall near you.

Setlist:

Day For Night
In the Mouth of Madness
Skin
Gibberish
Go the Way You Go
June
The Healing Colours of Sound
Ryo solo
The Doorway

The Light

Squonk
Waste Away

 

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1999 DPRP