In their fifteen year part time career, the four guys who make up Transatlantic can’t be accused of wasting any time they have, seizing the chances they get to make music together. Another of Mike Portnoy’s projects which has gained a life of its own from their not exactly ground breaking debut of 1999, they have continued to flourish in each other’s company and become the darlings of those who love their prog rock traditional and with no holds barred. So stand up Neal Morse, Roine Stolt, Pete Trewavas and of course, Mr P and take a bow for prolonging the Transatlantic experience. Their most recent effort Kaleidescope has resulted in the CD/DVD tour memento which is KaLIVEscope. All very ingenious and begging the thought if the title was ever meant to give way to the live package with a subtle rearrangement of lettering? Not that it matters, suffice to say that the live package is just as expansive as fans could possibly hope for. Alongside the full Tilburg show which makes up the audio aspect on 3 full CDs, here we get the complete Cologne show on DVD (with an bonus disc of all the usual for those who just can’t get enough plus a blu ray version for those with the appropriate players and big HD screens). So how does the film of the show stand up? With almost three hours of viewing to fit in, there’s no need for the type of lightning speed editing that you’d see in an Iron Maiden concert film which gives plenty of time for full stage shots to take in the whole experience as well as shots from deep in the crowd – call it the ‘if you were there’ look. The stage set up is interesting with the drums at the side so Mike Portnoy can keep eye contact the rest of the band and also be a bit closer to the audience. Plus having a drum riser and keyboard riser at opposite sides of the stage keeps the regular interaction between him and Neal Morse at a maximum. Mind, they have always set up that way, perhaps originally as rehearsal time was at a premium and with the complexity of the music that they needed to be in visual contact – but it works.
In fact it’s the American side of Transatlantic who dominate visually. Both Portnoy and Morse are compelling performers and although Stolt and Trewavas’ contribution is hardly negligible, their place more centre stage yet on stage level almost loses them a little. Decked out in a green tour shirt Portnoy is the visual magnet and his drum roadie must be the hardest working in showbiz – swinging the mic at the right time, picking up his drum stool as he’s constantly up and down and knocking it over. He’s constantly holding up cymbals to strike and conducting the band and audience with his drumsticks as well as acting as mains spokesman for the band and general MC for the night. The film also acts as a testimony to the contribution of new touring member Ted Leonard on guitar, keys and vocals. Replacing regular touring member Daneil Gildenlow at quite short notice, his performance is heroic in picking up the lengthy and complex parts plus he gets a bit of a showcase in a section of the half hour opening Into The Blue and is allowed a verse in the Transatlantic theme song We All Need Some Light. The time afforded to the individuals on screen allows the viewer to appreciate the intensity and emotion of Morse’s vocals and see how moved he is at times by the music and conviction in what he’s singing - the spiritual message often seeming to carry him to a higher plane. Fortunately he holds it together in the section of the Whirlwind medley when he sings the deeply personal lyric of saying goodbye, spreading the ashes, going back home and meeting on the other side, his arms held aloft in some sort of invocation. Moving stuff. Similarly, the cameras mounted on Portnoy’s drums and Morse’s keyboard set up, plus some low angle shots give an alternative close up and wide view. Actually seeing the show, as opposed to hearing it, allows you to appreciate the quintet’s sheer exuberance and genuine pleasure the four/five guys get from working together. By the standards set on previous releases, the production and audio values of their new set seem to have been upped and of course it’s a full on souvenir of a terrific group of performers at their progtastic best.