The first round was essentially an experiment – music exec Bill Evans’ plot to merge a team of rock and prog virtuosos, with digestible pop songs.
Follow-up album Second Nature cemented Flying Colors as an actual band, and this DVD/CD showcases that band with innovative engineering, 5.1 surround and generally first-class sound included. To a point, Flying Colors is an advert for Casey McPherson – vocalist, rhythm guitarist and FC’s least famous member. This has never stopped Portnoy doing a bit of leading from the drumkit, which he does here, grinning through a wreath of blue beard. His fellow Transatlantic guy Neal Morse heads things up too from behind his bank of keys. It’s not a battle of egos, though. The smiles between guitarist Steve Morse, McPherson and co hint at actual friendship; they’re prog rock’s Team Nice. And Portnoy’s endorsement of McPherson seems utterly genuine, leading into beautiful, Jeff Buckley-esque acoustic Colder Months. The singer’s not exactly a riot as a frontman (“I think you’re proving yourself to be rowdy tonight,” he tells the crowd, politely), but his honeyed pipes fuse the band together; exquisite in the Beatles-y Fury Of My Love. The latter half is a looser, rockier affair, with proggy synth blasts amid melodic rock’n’roll. Dave LaRue delivers outstanding, fiddly slap bass work on Forever In A Daze. Guitar god Steve Morse is as good as you’d expect Deep Purple’s axeman to be (ie really good, from proggy jiggery-pokery in One Love Forever to harder rock grooves in Shoulda Woulda Coulda). And whatever your view of the bewilderingly prolific Portnoy, he’s phenomenal to behold. By Mask Machine the band are letting rip with glee, and Neal in particular seems to be having some sort of euphoric, religious experience by closer Infinite Fire. You’d think that this much virtuosity on one stage would be insufferable; here, it’s oddly lovely. Given all their separate projects it’s hard to picture what future there is for Flying Colors, but hopefully there’s more of this to come.