Transatlantic – The Final Flight, Live At L’Olympia: Album Review

A comprehensive and fitting souvenir of what may well be, as the title suggests, the final flight for Transatlantic.

Release date: 17th February 2023

Label:  Inside Out Music

Format: 3cd+Bluray / 4LP

Just over a year ago we were celebrating the release of TAv – the fifth album from Transatlantic – The Absolute Universe. By their own standards, it was a monster. Two versions, with an extended one as an alternative to the ‘abridged’ version, but as what was perhaps their most accessible album, a kitchen sink version with vinyl (clear pressing…yum), CDs, posters, booklets and another alternative in the form of a 5.1 Bluray was the only option.

The question on the lips of fans was to which version they would play if they toured. Here’s the answer. It comes in the form of a recording from the final show of the tour – and if we’re led to believe it – their final show ever, at L’Olympia in Paris. Well, not quite as they’re set to play at the 2023 Morsefest later in the year and will no doubt mark that with a live release. But meanwhile…

…there was never any doubt that the Morse/Stolt/Portnoy/Trewavas collective would go out with anything other than a massive bang. We/I’ve seen them play enough going back to their first ever live dates – the old Astoria on Charing Cross Road in 2001 when Steve Hackett was in the crowd. He walked past us, in dark glasses obviously, twice…must have been to the loo… They even came to Manchester on the Whirld Tour for The Whirlwind, although it was back down to The London Forum for the Kaleidoscope tour. Train strikes meant frustratingly missing their last London show but naturally, they’ve provided me with something to as a memento.

A full performance of The Absolute Universe is the main course and the live version (necessitating Roine Stolt to adopt a music stand such must have been the magnitude of the task of delivering three hours of music) provides a mini mash-up of what they created in the studio. Great to report that on both the audio and visual treats that the bass contribution and presence of Pete Trewavas is well up in the mix again. Easy to miss out on the low end in such a kaleidoscope of musical talent, but as Mike Portnoy has suggested more than once, Pete is a musical genius.

There’s an added poignancy as we hit the final straight – from Can You Feel It? through The Greatest Story Never Ends (although it’s about to…) and the Love Made A Way finale. There’s one climax after another whether it’s in the vocal parts, one of Roine’s solos or the grandiose crescendos you only find in Prog Rock. The highlight of the album is also the highlight of the live performance. A hint of emotion as we reach the end of the Absolute Universe? Highly likely.

And what do they do as an encore? Another hour that kicks off with their slimmed-down The Whirlwind medley that incorporates the opening fanfare, a big chunk of Rose Coloured Glasses, Is It Really Happening? and a reprise of the main theme. The real star though is The Final Medley which reaches back to the first two albums and pulls together a bank of Transatlantic greatest bits, greatest hits and greatest riffs. An instrumental tour de force, spot the links between Duel With The Devil, All Of The Above, My New World, Stranger In Your Soul and maybe more! It also sees the French audience singing along to instrumental parts (a la the Brazilians singing Rush’s instrumental YYZ on the In Rio film) in Full Moon Rising. Great fun and probably a great buzz for the players onstage to feel that level of engagement.

There’s the added extra of the filmed version of the show; the action shot from several vantage points. Even on the pre-release version on the laptop, it looks nicely done with the different views and the sharpness. We get to see the view of the four in their usual line across the front of the stage – Morse in his bespoke Transatlantic ’22 baseball shirt, Portnoy in cut down tour shirt conducting proceedings and the ultra-cool Roine Stolt (whose autograph is as arty as his dress sense)and Pete Trewavas stage centre, while live member Ted Leonard fills out the sound from the back. The quintet have a habit of making long pieces of complex music look effortless. Regular plumes of smoke are jettisoned from various points on the stage floor (collective gasps ensue!) and the phone lights are aloft, lighting up the room for what, if pushed, could be the TA signature piece, We All Need Some Light. By now the seated Paris audience is eventually is on its collective feet

With a few weeks of hindsight and comments coming from the Transatlantic camp, and mike Portnoy in particular not veiling his comments in any sort of disguise, there’s a clear sense of finality. Morse, as usual, is highly emotional although the reason is now clearer and as a final flight, the Paris show is a worthy circle closer. Transatlantic might have finished its final flight but what a legacy they’ve left behind.

Here’s the Rose Coloured Glasses segment from The Whirlwind, live in Paris:

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