The Neal Morse Band at Chicago House Of Blues - live review

The Neal Morse Band treat Chicago to The Similitude Of A Dream in its entirety

The crowd at a prog gig
(Image: © Katja Ogrin)

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The Neal Morse Band released The Similitude Of A Dream in 2016, and tonight they take to the stage in Chicago to perform the entire album.

The show begins with Morse on stage alone, singing Long Day, with a single flashlight eerily showing shades of his face. For second song Overture, the lights come on, and the tone of the show takes a majestic turn with dual synthesisers from Morse and Bill Hubauer, thumping drums courtesy of Mike Portnoy, and Eric Gillette’s hard-hitting guitar licks.

Morse’s theatrics are something to behold, as he directs the audience at every turn with strength and intensity. And with each lyrical and instrumental nuance that Morse displays, the audience get increasingly raucous. Morse switches between acoustic/electric guitar and keyboard throughout the night. At various points in the performance he wears different masks, creating a Peter Gabrielesque mystique to his stage presence. Lead vocal duties are split between Gillette and Morse, with Portnoy and Hubauer on lead vocals for one song apiece. The strong vocals in the band as a whole lead to great backing harmonies, which are very much on display during acoustic stomper Freedom Song.

The unsung hero of the night is bassist Randy George. The spotlight shines on him during I’m Running, and his playing reaches a virtuoso level. The same can be said for the legendary drum patterns delivered by Portnoy. He’s a machine, with an exciting sense of showmanship.

For any fan who loves the synthesiser and organ sounds of Styx and ELP, this is a show that will leave you satisfied. There’s an impeccable keyboard sound from beginning to end, running through nearly every song. Gillette’s guitar unleashes tones comparable to legends such as John Petrucci, Allan Holdsworth, and even David Gilmour, showing why he’s considered one of the top young guitarists on the planet.

As the show comes to its climax, The Battle is unfurled, with instrumental ecstasy and chaos intertwined. Time signatures change on numerous occasions during this three minute mind-melter. The performance balances darkness and light, both thematically and song-wise. The Neal Morse Band put on one of the best shows of 2017.