[23 September 2013]
Recorded during an exhaustive tour in the dimming days of 2012, this video chronicles the impressive partnership forged by four giants of contemporary progressive music. We don’t have space here for the full family try but suffice it to say that these cats have all worked together before, although, as far as we can tell, never all at once.
For those keeping track here’s a quick overview of the collective’s ties: Mike Portnoy (drums) and Derek Sherinian (keyboards) served in Dream Theater together; guitarist Tony MacAlpine and bassist Billy Sheehan toured together as members of Steve Vai’s band and the latter played on one of the former’s earliest albums. MacAlpine and Sherinian were/are both members of Planet X, Sheehan has guested on at least one of Sherinian’s solo albums and Portnoy and the bass legend are now part of the ultra cool rock trio The Winery Dogs.
The quartet doesn’t necessarily break new ground but this collaboration isn’t about the birth of some new sub-sub genre. Instead it’s a chance for these guys to blow our hair back with their chops and collective past experience. There are selections from Dream Theater (“A Change of Seasons I: The Crimson Sunrise”, “Lines In the Sand”, “Hell’s Kitchen”), MacAlpine’s solo work (“The Stranger”), Sheehan’s time with Talas (“Shy Boy”) and a few covers (Billy Cobham’s “Stratus”, “The Pump”, as recorded by Jeff Beck).
If there were any doubt that Sheehan and Portnoy would forge anything less than a perfect rhythm section such rumblings are dashed within the first seconds of “A Change of Seasons”; MacAlpine’s never sounded better than he does here, his playing impossibly fluid and infinitely more focused than most players have the right to be. Sherinian blazes his way across the keyboard time after time, tune after tune, proving why he’s still the Dream Theater keyboardist for many fans well over a decade after his departure from the fold.
This being a band of players who are considered the best on their respective instruments, each man is given his solo space and not one of those disappoints either, though Sheehan’s is arguably the best of them all as it serves to remind us how far into the future he’s brought the instrument in the last 30 or so years. Sherinian’s turn is probably the most imaginative and the group itself peaks on tunes such as “Stratus”, “Nightmare Cinema”, “Lines In the Sand” and Liquid Tension Experiment’s “Acid Rain”.
Add to this that thee stereo and surround sound audio were mixed by the legendary Simon Phillips (he’s worked extensively with Sherinian) and that the cameras manage to take us on a breathtaking ride through each number, and you’ve got yourself an unforgettable visual and aural experience. (If you can’t get enough of this there’s a companion two-disc CD set which compromises none of the excitement found here.)
The only bonus material on the DVD/Blu-ray is a short documentary featuring reflections from each of the guys. It’s not filled with revelations, but it’s a nice glimpse into their worlds at the end of an exhausting tour.
If this is the only statement from Portnoy Sheehan MacAlpine and Sherinian we can rest assured that they’ve give us their best. This is aq new classic in the prog/fusion canon.