There are few things as troubling to me as when music is ignored solely because of faith differences, especially music grounded in the rock sound. After all, rock music’s cornerstones are rhythm & blues and gospel music. Now, don’t expect me to give a pass to the whole of this subgroup; there are a lot of poorly written, uninspired pop and rock recordings out their with “god-talk” cynically plugged in to capitalize on a commercial sector looking for alternatives.
Neal Morse made a stunning career decision when he left both the band he started with his brother Alan, Spock’s Beard, and his side collective Transatlantic to go permanently solo... Not just solo, but out with a step of faith, his massive two-disc “Testimony”. The music was firmly rooted in his belief but also had fantastic musicianship and an authenticity of purpose and emotion. This was not a pre-fab cash in for a guaranteed market.
But as with any performance of any recording the true test is whether you can take it to the people. You can triple your voice in computer pretty easily now and sound like you know what you’re doing, but the stage is more unforgiving, even with tricks of the trade in play (as recently witnessed in the Ashlee Simpson SNL debacle). Could Morse and his musicians pull off a convincing public turn of “Testimony”? Well, yes. Yes, they could.
The key here is that everyone involved have been well trained in the arena of live performance, even if the names are unfamiliar (aside from Dream Theater drummer / Transatlantic cohort, Mike Portnoy). This two DVD set has the group running through the “Testimony” recording in its entirety, has a couple Transatlantic songs and a Beard favorite reserved for disc two and also has a tour documentary and photo gallery as well. It’s a fairly packed offering and, need I repeat myself, the performances are stunning, heartfelt, full-bodied with nothing held back.
And here is the kicker. Throughout the performance, the joy Morse feels as he runs through the story of his life and spiritual conversion is palpable, it spurs on the band like a conductor, and the result is a remarkable viewing. It would be easy to dismiss the total experience of the music based on where it was coming from in some religious sense, but it would also be unfair. Just as one can appreciate the sincerity and raw power of a gospel choir ripping it up onstage, or the honed chops of a prog rock band exhibiting mastery of their instruments, or just the presence of someone in love with the moment they are in and what they’re doing, I think one could appreciate “Testimony Live” for all those same reasons. This is worth a chance. Give it a try.
Release Date: July 27, 2004
Chapters: 33 - Time: 255:00 - 2DVD
Produced by: Neal Morse
The Land of the Beginning Again / Overture #1 / California Nights / Colder in the Sun / Sleeping Jesus / Interlude / The Prince of the Power of the Air / The Promise / Wasted Life / Overture #2 / Break of Day / Power in the Air / Somber Days / Long Story / It's All I Can Do / Transformation / Ready to Try / Sing It High / Moving In My Heart / I Am Willing / In the Middle / The Storm Before the Calm / Oh, To Feel Him / God's Theme / Overture #3 / Rejoice / Oh Lord My God / God's Theme 2 / The Land of the Beginning Again.
We All Need Some Light / The Light / Stranger in Your Soul / Tour Documentary.
Neal Morse - Vocals / Guitars / Keyboards
Randy George - Bass / Keyboards / Vocals
Eric Brenton - Guitar / Violin / Flute / Mandolin / Vocals
Mike Portnoy - Drums / Vocals
John Krovosa - Electric Cello
Bert Baldwin - Keyboards / Vocals
Rick Altizer - Guitars / Keyboards / Percussion / Vocals
Mark Leninger - Percussion / Saxophone / Vocals.