A non-stop joy-fest from the five musicians onstage - a treat for the eyes and ears with waves of intricately-layered music and vocals
Third Stage: Live in London
Music Theories Recordings / Mascot Label Group
40 page Earbook - 5 discs (2 CD album, 2 DVDs, Blu-ray) - includes performance from Morsefest 2019
(This review is based on the just-over two hour filmed concert)
“Welcome to the rarest of all sightings,” says super-drummer Mike Portnoy, enthusiastically greeting the sold-out crowd at London’s Shepherd’s Bush Empire Theatre, “A Flying Colors sighting...”
True words from the drumsmith - in fact, the show captured on film for this release was the last night of a relatively brief nine-stop tour. Those lucky enough to have obtained tickets were treated to a non-stop joy-fest from the five musicians onstage - a treat for the eyes and ears, as waves of intricately-layered music and vocals were augmented by high-definition video projected in back of the band. The total-immersion experience is covered here in all its glory, from all angles - the next-best thing to being there.
The video starts out with a dark stage. The end of The Beatles’ “Flying” plays out its last psychedelic strains, as Flying Colors starts the show with the driving riff of “Blue Ocean,” a dynamic opener with an impossibly active bass line from Dave LaRue propelling the band headlong into the next couple of hours of compelling pop/prog/psychedelia. Right from the start, it’s a visual feast for fan and musician alike, seeing what these five men do onstage and the joy that they infuse into the performance. LaRue is a constant revelation, Portnoy is, as expected, astounding for his technical ability on the drum kit (and also turns in a fine vocal performance on back-up and occasional lead vocal parts) and Neal Morse is, of course, a versatile vocalist and also turns in some spectacular keyboard work throughout. Sharing the front line-up with LaRue, Steve Morse and Casey McPherson provide some exceptionally emotional and fiery moments, Morse through his sometimes explosive and always deeply moving guitar work, and McPherson through his emotional vocal delivery and subtle but effective guitar playing. Clearly the ‘front-man’ of the group, Casey connects with the audience in a visceral and compelling way.
The video is shot, edited, and directed in a well-informed way, with attention properly payed to the player of the moment. We’re treated to close-ups of each Morse’s flying fingers, LaRue’s travels up and down the neck of that bass, McPherson’s facial intensity as he delivers a lyric, and Portnoy’s antics from front, above, and in back of the drums. The band as a whole is also featured in mid and long shots from the front, giving the viewer an idea of how the audience saw the show. The theater itself is featured both from the stage view and from high side-balcony angles - certainly not an impersonal venue, Shepherd’s Bush is intimate enough for an immersive performance like this but large enough for a big-show feeling. Of course, for the aspiring musicians out there, now you can see how they do what they do (not that any of us mere mortals will be able to do produce the same results)!
The stage show’s video aspect is both used in its original context but is also incorporated in post-production to help illustrate songs for the in-home experience. The band is at times effectively ‘sandwiched’ between the on-stage video and the post-production superimposed image. The technique is often effective but seems to increase in frequency as the filmed concert progresses. In fact, by the time we get to “Cosmic Symphony” and “The Storm” the video images occasionally are featured as the main visual image - but that never lasts too long. The incorporation of the video is particularly effective on “You Are Not Alone” (a powerful performance) and the sixties-tribute, “Love Letter.”
The excellent show consists of a hefty serving from the Third Degree album as well as favorites from the band’s self-titled debut and that album’s follow-up, Second Nature - hard to believe that so much good music has come out of just three times in-studio, but Flying Colors has managed to capture the imaginations of that particular crowd of pop/prog/psychedelia fanatics with a unique blend of genres that’s managed to reach beyond the ‘target’ audience to a wider group, encompassing younger music lovers experiencing a hybrid that never really existed before.
The complete track listing includes, “Blue Ocean,” “A Place In Your World,” “The Loss Inside,” “More,” “Kayla,” “Geronimo,” “You Are Not Alone,” “Forever In A Daze,” “Love Letter,” “Peaceful Harbor,” “Crawl,” “Infinite Fire,” “Cosmic Symphony,” “The Storm,” and “Mask Machine.”
By all means, if you hear about Flying Colors touring in your area make every effort to see them live and in-person. Until that time, Third Stage: Live in London will hold you over.
- Bert Saraco
You can see Bert’s concert photography – including Flying Colors in action – at www.facebool.com/express.image