Kicking off 2023 comes a live album taken from the final night of Transatlantic’s The Absolute Universe tour in 2022. In total, counting 2 Cruise to the Edge shows and 2 Morsefest shows, the band played 16 concerts in their first tour since 2014.
For many fans, Transatlantic are a very special band and their appearances are greeted with enormous anticipation – and fans recognize how special these appearances are, given the challenges of fitting recording and touring between each of the band members other commitments. Throw lockdown / Covid into the mix, and the fact that the band eventually got to play these short runs of shows makes the fact that this performance happened and is now available for repeated viewing is just fantastic.
So what’s here? Needless to say it’s a massive set list with the band cramming as much music as possible into a long show. As you’d expect, we have The Absolute Universe presented in a live version that’s close to, but not exactly the same, as the Ultimate version, a large chunk of The Whirlwind, “We All Need Some Light” and a closing medley of highlights and stand out moments from the first 2 albums – it’s quite a banquet!
Coming from the final date on the tour, the band are fully match fit and playing with precision, but in a comfortable and relaxed way – at least that’s how it appears on the blu ray set! Bear in mind that each of the band members, including “Fifth Beatle”, Ted Leonard, is playing complex music, often on multiple instruments, and each of them is handling a substantial part of the vocals, including complex harmonies and multi-part vocal sections. The energy level is high throughout and you can see the delighted Parisian crowd giving back the love to the band!
Neal Morse, sporting a TA22 baseball jersey, is singing, playing, jumping and even crying, as the set plays out. Unlike NMB, his role in TA largely restricts him to contact with both of his keyboards – but he’s in no way chained down musically! Roine Stolt conjours some incredible sounds from his guitar – his improvisational style means, while he ensures the main riffs are all covered and complete, on the moments that he has freedom to extemporise, his solos soar to heights that often exceed the recorded versions. Pete Trewawas’s bass playing in TA goes to places you’ll rarely hear on a Marillion album, just due to this unique combination of musicians and writing – like Neal he’s an energetic band member who exudes joy in what he’s doing. Mike Portnoy holds his time-keeper, dynamics-driver and conductor role in his side facing drum kit, shifting from powering the band along, to directing the crowd to sway and wave! And finally Ted Leonard fills the spaces that it just isn’t possible for 4 men with 2 hands each to cover. The band are generous enough to give Ted some spotlight moments of his own, showing him to be very much an equal when it comes to the stage performance.
In such an enormous set, it’s hard to pick out highlights and my viewing / listening recommendation is to clear your diary for an evening, stock up on snacks and watch the blu ray with the audio blasting through your hifi! You’ll be lifted heavenward by the rocking “Reaching for the Sky”, singing along with the “oh oh oooh” backing vocals of “Rainbow Sky”, dazzled by the playing in “Owl Howl”, mellowed by Pete’s touching vocal on Solitude, battered by the percussion of “Looking for the Light (reprise)” and waving your hands to the closing “Love Made A Way”. It’s uplifting, exhilarating, exhausting … and it’s only the first half!!! As a confessed fan of the Breath of Life version of Absolute Universe (NB this view does not reflect those of all members of the Prog Report team!), I have to say that the live version of this piece really is the ultimate version for me.
When Part 2 kicks off, well what can I say about anything from The Whirlwind? This cross section of tracks varies from what was played on the Kaleidoscope tour, and it’s fantastic to hear so many of the album’s high points. Special shout outs to Roine’s incredible solo in the moving “Rose Colored Glasses”, and the insane interplay on “Is It Really Happening?” The magnificent L’Olympia is lit up for “We All Need Some Light”, a true anthem – a feature of every Transatlantic tour, it’s a song you simply can’t tire of.
As the band leave the stage, we know that there’s more to come because more never is enough – and we are right! The finale really is the icing on the cake for the show, the tour and for this release. Yes, I remember seeing this medley the night before in London how the disappointment that a song was cut short, was quickly replaced by the joy of hearing another old favourite – and let’s face it playing each of these songs in full would have taken more than another hour! But as fans of Spanish tapas will know, you don’t need a full plateful to savor some amazing sensations – and that’s what this is. Bookended by “Duel with the Devil” and “Stranger in your Soul” from Bridge Across Forever, we get a slice of “My New World” for the first time in 20 years, and the sing/ clap-along intro to “All Of The Above”, the debut album opener.
The abridged version of “Stranger”… – a massive fan favorite – is the perfect ending. You can see emotions running high both on stage and in the venue, and by the end, tears are flowing! I’m not going to speculate as to the album’s title, the various statements made, or views of the future. Instead I’ll focus on the task in hand: the bottom line is – if you’re a fan of Transatlantic, this release is an Absolute Essential! Or… if you’re a fan of the band members related bands or projects but have yet to get the Transatlantic “bug”, check this show out and I expect you’ll catch it!
Released on Feb 17th, 2023 on InsideOutMusic
Pre-order now here: https://Transatlantic.lnk.to/TheFinalFlight-LiveAtLOlympia
1. The Absolute Universe Intro
3. Reaching For The Sky
4. Higher Than The Morning
5. The Darkness In The Light
6. Take Now My Soul
8. Rainbow Sky
9. Looking For The Light
10. The World We Used To Know
11. MP Intro
12. The Sun Comes Up Today
13. Love Made A Way (Prelude)
14. Owl Howl
17. Lonesome Rebel
18. Can You Feel It
19. Looking For The Light (Reprise)
20. The Greatest Story Never Ends
21. Love Made A Way
22. The Whirlwind Suite
23. NM & RS Intro
24. We All Need Some Light
25. The Final Medley
Line-Up (on this recording):
Neal Morse – Keyboards, Acoustic Guitar & Vocals
Mike Portnoy – Drums & Vocals
Roine Stolt – Guitar & Vocals
Pete Trewavas – Bass & Vocals
Ted Leonard – Guitar, Keyboards, Percussion & Vocals