LIVE: Neal Morse Band @ Empire Live, 02/11/2022

ALBANY — A surprisingly warm evening for February, and another night of highly anticipated music. Empire Live welcomes The Neal Morse Band, touring alongside the launch of their newest album “Innocence & Danger” in August of 2021. The band, formed in 2012 and consisting of long-time collaborators Neal Morse, Mike Portnoy, and Randy George as well as Bill Hubauer and Eric Gillette hit the stage to present ” An evening of innocence and danger” in front of a crowd eager to hear some progressive rock.

Photo by Amy Klemme

Kicking off their set with the first track of their album, “Do It All Again” was the perfect opening as each member came in. The guitar introduction, leading into the heavy hits of Portnoy’s drums set off the tone of the evening, with the five extremely talented musicians building off each other’s strengths to present a live show that sounded just like the song’s album versions.

As they progressed through the setlist, from “Bird on a Wire” to “Your Place In the Sun”, each member of the band was able to show off each of their own individual skills as well as their unity, often splitting vocals on songs between multiple members and using their instruments to create harmony.

A highlight of the show for me personally was when they played “The Way It Had To Be”. The song, an interesting combination of various genres in one song, from progressive rock, to psychedelic, had a sound very reminiscent of Pink Floyd. A fact that didn’t seem to fall on deaf ears, as towards the end of the song, they finished the song with “Breathe” by Pink Floyd.

Photo by Amy Klemme

Finishing up the songs that were on the first disk of the album, the band switched to an acoustic performance for several songs with “Emergence” and “Not Afraid Pt 1” – the first of a 2 part song that one might consider an “Epic”. Neal, Mike, Bill, and Eric lined up on stools along the front of the stage as they began the first of 2 acoustic songs. The lights as they glimmered off the instruments, the bright sounds of the guitar, and the 4 part harmonies of the vocals were very different than anything that they had played up to that point but were absolutely fantastic.

Switching back from the acoustics, another nod towards the classics came in the form of “Bridge Over Troubled Water” which was a wonderful cover off their album but hearing it live however was a completely different experience. While speaking to a fellow concert-goer who wasn’t familiar with the band prior to the show, it was this particular song that really sold them on the band and vowed to listen to them more going forward. The band rounded out the rest of their regular set, with the 2nd part “Not Afraid” and “Beyond The Years” both of which combined totaled almost 40 minutes alone.

An encore of a selection of songs from their previous albums followed, with the band playing “City of Destruction”, “Welcome to the World”, and “The Great Adventure”. If you have a chance to check out the Neal Morse Band live, definitely do so as you will not be disappointed.

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