FLYING COLORS – Live! The Majestic Ventura Theater

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Dave LaRue

In one of only five U.S. shows to be played this year, and its only West Coast live appearance of the abbreviated tour, played the Majestic Ventura Theater on Thursday, September 5th.  The assemblage of veteran musicians who hail from progressive, jazz fusion and pop backgrounds join together to create a melange of those different musical stylings that meld together in its own unique sound.  In advance of their third release, Third Degree, due out October 4th, the group is taking advantage of some days off in one of its member’s other projects to do a few select shows.

It’s an unusually warm September evening for the temperate beach town, as Southern California nears the end of a two-week plus heat wave of humid, high 90’s temperatures.  The inside of the Majestic Ventura is sultry and there are fans placed all over the room to maintain air flow.  takes the stage in a particularly unassuming manner.  There is no grand explosion of sound, rather a gentle easing into the opening number.  Blue Ocean kicks off with a meandering bass line provided by Dave LaRue (Dixie Dregs, Steve Morse Band).  Accompanying LaRue’s meandering is a double-time march beat cracked out by Mike Portnoy, the Samuel L. Jackson of rock n’ roll, who is in pretty much every band.  The opening number progresses through melodic choruses and a jazzy guitar solo from Steve Morse (Deep Purple, Dixie Dregs, Steve Morse Band).  It is Steve Morse’s days off on which the band capitalizes to play concerts as he played a Deep Purple show the evening before at The Wiltern Theater in Los Angeles.

Casey McPherson

The evening’s vocal performances are primarily presented by Casey McPherson (Alpha Rev).  The left-hander lends the pop element to the band.  A few lead vocals are provided by Neal Morse, no relation to Steve (Spock’s Beard, Transatlantic), who being normally a lead vocalist, gives that spot duty as well as full-time keyboards.  They roll through a ten song set composed mostly of material from their first two records.  The new record not yet being released, they only play three new ones, More and Crawl. The third is You Are Not Alone, which is a lovely slow ballad which builds into a mid-tempo soft rocker.  Accentuated by a signature Steve Morse solo, the tune continues to ascend right up until its end before it drops you.  The primary set wraps up with Infinite Fire.  This long, melodic epic is an example of the restraint the individual players show from start to finish.  There is very little over-emphasized playing, just tasteful coloring inside the lines.

Mike Portnoy

The intermission between the encore is very brief, and they return to the stage for a lengthy three song encore.  Cosmic Symphony kicks off the second act.  A mellow rambler with great harmonizing vocals, Cosmic Symphony rises and falls on a journey of self-awareness.  The set climaxes with a fitting, leave on a high note rocker, Mask Machine.  Mask Machine is the one song that contained some showing off, if you will.  Great guitar work, and more characteristically complex Portnoy drumming underscore this number that ends in a frenzy.  And just like that, the show that clocks in at just about two hours is complete.

CLICK HERE to view more pics from the show.

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