Surprisingly, a total of four years has passed since progressive rockers Transatlantic reformed and performed in the capital, most recently as part of the assumed-defunct High Voltage festival. Composed of Mike Portnoy (ex-Dream Theater), Neal Morse (ex-Spock's Beard), RoineStolt (Flower Kings) and Pete Trewavas (Marillion), now the super group have returned to a grander venue, once again without a support act to whittle down time they would rather use for themselves. The queue encircles the Forum as many punters line up eager to pack out the venue to catch this band of talented musicians.
An hour after the doors open and an orchestral take on 'Whirlwind' serves as an intro, Transatlantic burst on to the stage, launching into 'Into the Blue', the twenty-five minute opener of new album 'Kaleidoscope'. It is fair to assume that to commence a concert with such a lengthy song risks wearing down the audience's attention too soon but the fans devour every minute of the nostalgic '70s progressive rock. Given that the songs in their repertoire frequently cross the twenty minute mark, the three hour set that Transatlantic have allowed themselves is nothing short of necessary. Their take on prog rock is not particularly creative but serves more of a homage to classic influences such as Yes and Genesis while flowering in the psychedelic with the technical prowess of these accomplished musicians.The sound is entirely immaculate with each instrument and voice revelling in clarity without jeopardising the sound of the other contributors.
Initially, Pain of Salvation mainman Daniel Gildenlöw was scheduled to handle supplementary instrumentation on this tour as was the case with Transatlantic's previous tour but due to having to undergo back surgery, he is understandably absent. In his place is Spock's Beard guitarist and Enchant vocalist Ted Leonard who handles the intricate guitar work and samples effortlessly and even matches Gildenlöw's vocals on 'Into the Blue', adding the same tenderness as which the recorded vocals demand.
The setlist boasts all of 'Kaleidoscope', although scattered throughout the evening rather than from start to finish uninterrupted. Ballad 'Shine', who Morse prefaces by explaining how it was written for a friend battling with poor health, draws upon the band's more emotional face, steering the music away from the reverie-like and nostalgia-flecked storm of colour. The thirty-one minute long title track secures a formidable response from the fans as it navigates a plethora of complex musical arrangements. In addition to new material, an abridged version of the rightfully lauded 'Whirlwind' is served up, with a cleverly truncated 'Overture' leading into full versions of the parts 'Rose Colored Glasses', 'Evermore', 'Is It Really Happening' and the 'Whirlwind' reprise portion of 'Dancing With Eternal Glory'. 'My New World'from debut album 'SMPT:e' goes down a storm and ballad 'We All Need Some Light' delivers a soft side after a playful guitar duel between Morse and Stolt.
The showmanship of Transatlantic is something that plenty of live acts today could learn from. Portnoy's emphatic expressions and drum hits mark him incredibly watchable outside of a technical sense but watching him stand up and walk around his kit still striking the drums without missing a beat is impressive. Watching him toss a drum hat during the show also draws attention on to him. Sharing frontman duties with Morse gives a new angle to the standard rock show. Morse is uniquely entertaining too, leaning over his keyboard pulpit with a passion so infectious and genuine as if he is on a mission to transplant his feelings to everyone in the audience individually. Having every member at the front of the stage with Leonard at the back allows for the audience to careful watch each member where necessary, particularly when their time to take the musical limelight occurs.
Three hours vanishes far too rapidly as before long, Transatlantic vacate the stage after 'Black As the Sky'. The ardent crowd ensure they return for an encore with their frenzied cheers and sure enough, they do. Shorter takes of 'All of the Above' (parts 'Full Moon Rising' and 'October Winds' to be exact) and 'Stranger in Your Soul' ('Awakening the Stranger', 'Slide' and 'Stranger in Your Soul') create a deliciously juicy encore that rounds up a magnificent show. The audience are understood to share this sentiment judging by their visible appreciation. If only every concert could achieve the same levels of excellence in the live circuit as Transatlantic can.