Neal Morse Band – An Evening Of Innocence & Danger: Album Review

The Neal Morse Band go big as they perform the latest album plus a lorryload of Prog for an encore.

Release Date: 14th July 2023

LabelInside Out Music

Format: Digital / 3CD

The Innocence & Danger album on tour! A souvenir that takes up playing time across 3 discs and over two and a half hours of music. Never one to do anything by halves or give short shrift is Neal Morse, be it one of his spiritually inspired musings or a full-blown Prog epic; maybe even a combination of the two, he always gives value for money.

The latest release in what’s become a staggering and quite bewildering array of Morse-related releases (he does his own Morsefest now, so that’s another outlet) is a show from Hamburg with his band, now given the equal billing of the NMB tag as opposed to simply ‘Neal Morse’ (almost inevitably ‘featuring Mike Portnoy’)…Fair enough to be truthful, they’re a class band who interchange with ease across the vocal parts and harmonies while being masters of their instruments. Portnoy and Randy George (impossible to simply call them a rhythm section) have been at Morse’s right hand forever while Bill Hubauer and Eric Gillette are not far behind.

The intro music and segue into Do It All Again is all very rousing – likely the Morse salute with one hand straight in the air – and a quick “Hello Hamburg” before they rip into Bird On A Wire. A potent opening pairing before the set settles into a first half that mirrors the Innocence & Danger album. Having rocked the opening, the Morse vocal a little grittier around the edges, the shorter songs switch to taking a more laid back direction that hits on a Steely Dan/Beatles/AOR groove. The hanging keyboard chords over which the guitar bleeds provide a contemplative opening few moments of The Way It Had To Be that could be straight from the Spock’s Beard ‘V’ era. They even go acoustic with the lovely Waterfall where the harmonies and subtlety are worthy of CSN&Y or Simon & Garfunkel themselves. It appears as the end of the first half – more like first third, after giving S&G’s Bridge Over Troubled Water their own interpretation that includes some jazzy and overblown touches. The “sail on silverbird” part is suitably climactic and majestic.

The pre-encore second half pairs up the prog epics from Innocence & Danger. Not Afraid Pt 2 (we’ve sadly had Not Afraid Pt 1 – omitted from the first set, having made way for Waterfall as the acoustic slot) enters on a huge swath of Planet Of The Apes cinematic drama but acts simply as an aperitif for the half-hour of Beyond The Years. In a catalogue that contains its fair share of grandiose prog extravaganzas, this must be one that’s close to being the pick of the pops. All the tropes are well and truly covered – exciting melodies and outstanding guitar parts in the first six or seven minutes establish themes which return and all topped with a committed and passionate Morse vocal that his colleagues match. Thirty five minutes is sufficient time to wind their way through a series of passages that twist and turn even allowing for Randy and Mike to take time for a bass and drums funk off before a finale where kitchen sinks join in the totally overblown but glorious creation. “I will be here, your every tear, Will not be lost inside your fear,” will have had the Hamburg worshippers saluting the master in an uplifting crescendo.

Quite some finale that NMB then attempt to follow. Easy enough when you have a pair of huge albums in The Great Adventure and The Similitude Of A Dream from which to cobble together a medley that’s crammed into another half hour entitled ‘The Great Similitude medley’. As Morse sings the “It’s been a long day now but I feel I must go,” line accompanied by a string wash, the band launch into a lengthy half hour piece that delves into some of the impenetrability of two complex albums. Maybe the Mr Creosote effect of ‘one more wafer thin mint’, too much of a good thing leaving one wanting less, but as the man himself says, “The band was firing on all cylinders and the audience was so close to us and roaring from the very first note.”  Amen to that.

Listen to Another Story To Tell here:

The Neal Morse Band online: Facebook / Twitter / Instagram

Neal Morse online: Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram / Youtube

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