Back in February, Neal Morse announced a reunion with Nick D’Virgilio and the current line-up of Spock’s Beard for a full performance of their legendary, hitherto unperformed album Snow at Morsefest, his annual festival in Tennessee.
“Originally we were thinking about doing a Neal Morse Band and Spock’s Beard tour,” Morse tells Prog on the morning of the show, “but that tour didn’t materialise. And we were kicking around ideas for this year’s Morsefest. I’ve been feeling for a couple of years that playing Snow would be a good thing to do. Nick’s been wanting to do it for a long time, but it never really fit into our schedules until now.”
By the time Morse gets through the opening solo acoustic piece, Made Alive, a wave of emotion has ensconced the crowd – there’s not a dry eye in sight. Both the band and the audience are revelling in the unprecedented, momentous nature of the occasion. In addition to D’Virgilio’s fluid, dynamic drumming, we’re treated to some of the finest vocal work he’s ever done.
With the weight of the prog world on their shoulders, the band start to show some cracks 20 minutes into the show. The middle section of the gossamer ballad Love Beyond Words boasts one of Morse’s most beautiful piano parts. Unfortunately, a lapse in concentration from guitarist Alan Morse leads to him playing the intro riff from The 39th Street Blues (I’m Sick) just as his brother is beginning that section. “Not now!” remarks Neal audibly, clearly flustered. But that’s enough to break the spell, at least temporarily. Love Beyond Words is blemished, and suddenly there’s a noticeable lack of confidence from guitarist Morse.
Current frontman Ted Leonard’s stellar version of Devil’s Got My Throat does well to steady the ship, but the band don’t look completely comfortable for the rest of the performance. Even so, it’s impossible not to be moved by the phenomenal beauty of the music being played. With the audience egging the band on, the second half is considerably more assured, although the moving climax of the reprise of Wind At My Back is tainted by the band not remembering the lyrics!
For the encore, Spock’s Beard launch into a breathtaking performance of Falling For Forever, a new song penned by Morse that’s so natural and beautiful it feels like it was discovered, not merely written. By this point, the authority and poise are back, and between the riveting drum duel, Alan Morse’s rediscovered fire, and the lavish, unexpected a cappella reprise of the chorus, it’s once again apparent why Spock’s Beard are on the gold standard of prog.