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coverpic flag US - Tennessee - Full Moon 97 - 08/30/04

Neal Morse
Testimony Live DVD
InsideOut Music

After leaving Spock's Beard in the autumn of 2002, Neal Morse wrote and recorded Testimony, a 2CD concept album dealing with his own personal journey towards changing his life for the better, and in the process finding God. In the autumn of 2003, Morse went on a short tour, performing the entire album with a seven-man band, and now a double DVD of one of those shows has been released. The venue is 013 in Tilburg, Holland, were Spock's Beard - Don't Try This At Home and Transatlantic Live in Europe also were filmed. In other words a venue where Neal Morse should feel right at home.

The Testimony album is performed in its entirety on the first disc, with some slightly extended solos here and there, and a spoken word part, where Morse tells about the birth of his daughter. The band is solid, and does the material justice. Given the length and complexity of the music, the note stands and "cheat sheets" seen spread around on stage are easily forgiven. Taking into account that many of the eight musicians on stage play several different instruments, there still seems to be some room on stage to move around - and even dance - and all band members can be seen clearly.

Neal Morse plays keyboards, acoustic and electric guitar and sings, while his seven support players join in on keyboards, guitars, electric cello and violin and various other instruments. Eric Brenton impresses both on violin and guitar, and also plays the beautiful steel guitar part on the chorus of "Sleeping Jesus". Guitarist/keyboardist/backing vocalist Rick Altizer doesn't have any solos or other "stand-out" parts, but his always-smiling presence is a joy to behold, his passion for the music clearly comes through. The most well known musician in the group, along with Morse, is probably drummer Mike Portnoy, whose work with Dream Theater should be familiar to most prog fans. On this show he downplays his "rock animal" persona, and is content to be "just the drummer", which suits the show well. Die-hard Dream Theater fans might also recognise keyboardist/backing vocalist Bert Baldwin, who has been a roadie for Dream Theater's keyboardist for several years now. Nice to see him on stage instead of out in the wings for a change, and he certainly proves himself as a competent musician here.

As usual from Neal Morse, the music is spread over several different genres, from his Beatles-inspired pop melodies, passionate ballads, grandiose, symphonic progginess and pseudo-latin rhythms. There's even a country tune here, the fun and catchy "Sing it High", with Baldwin and Altizer having a go at square dancing.

The second disc has the encores: the classic Spock's Beard song "The Light", and two Transatlantic numbers, "We All Need Some Light" and "Stranger in Your Soul". There is also an hour-long documentary with behind-the-scenes clips from the tour, and a short photo gallery. The documentary is compiled from the band members' private video footage, and some of the stuff here is quite personal. So personal, in fact, that I almost felt like I was intruding a couple of times.

Non-Christians might be put off by the spiritual theme of "Testimony" at first, but if you're a fan of modern progressive rock music, you simply must give this one a chance. It's not "preachy", and as Neal says during the concert, "I don't want to make anyone uncomfortable." And if you're a Christian and a rocker, you can do no wrong in getting this gem of a concert DVD.

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