Transatlantic - The Final Flight-Live At L'Olympia

Kev Rowland

When Transatlantic first came together I don’t believe any proghead could believe it, as here we had four musicians taken from some of the most important prog bands around, coming together for the sheer joy of combining their talents. The first two albums came quickly (more than 20 years ago), but for multiple reasons the rest of the albums came more slowly and then after a seven-year gap they returned in 2021 with ‘The Absolute Universe’. This came in two alternate formats; an abridged 64-minute record known as ‘The Breath Of Life’, and a companion piece entitled ‘Forevermore’ that added a further four songs, clocking in at 90 minutes (I personally prefer the longer version). Though the foundations of both were shared, each format featured lyrics and music independent of the other, and then when they played it in concert, they changed it yet again so now we have a 96-minute arrangement known as ‘The Ultimate Edition’. Of course, they could not just be expected to play just the album, so this set includes a third CD of other material, so we have a total playing time of 170 minutes!

To enable them to fully realise their vision, Neal Morse (keyboards, acoustic guitar, vocals), Mike Portnoy (drums, vocals), Roine Stolt (guitar, vocals), and Pete Trewavas (bass, vocals) brought in Ted Leonard (guitar, keyboards, percussion, vocals), making that supergroup just a little more super. This means we have three people who are normally lead singers in their own right, a rhythm section where both players have sold multiple millions of albums, and a list of bands they have been involved with which all progheads know and love. But all of that would stand for nothing if the music they were writing and performing together did not stand up against the expectations, but Transatlantic have been incredibly consistent since the outset, putting their egos at the door and doing whatever it takes to come up with the best group outcome. I have long thought that Pete does this to take any from the boredom and banality of working in Marillion, as that band is nothing like it used to be, and here he can really demonstrate his skills in a style which totally suits him. Roine and Neal love bouncing off each other both vocally and musically, while Mike is always one of the happiest drummers one can find and his love of working with Neal is apparent give all their collaborations together over the years (and if you have yet to see the Yellow Matter Custard DVD then you need to seek it out). Ted Leonard has fitted in seamlessly, just as he has in Spock’s Beard, but the very first time I saw him perform was with the wonderful Enchant and is another I have always rated very highly indeed.

Although this concert may not actually be the end of the road for Transatlantic, they are all realists and given how long it takes for them to produce a new album it is quite possible they may be too old to play a three-hour concert in future. As Roine said, “I felt the challenge of learning, or re-learning, three-and-a-half hours of music before leaving Sweden. Now that I am getting slightly older, I was a little worried about playing for that long – it requires a lot of concentration: ‘Is this one in 7/8 or 9/8? Maybe we’ll play it in 13/8 and in a different key?” Of course, when they hit the stage there were no issues whatsoever and the reaction from the crowd is wonderful. There is a point when Neal says they were considering playing just two hours and letting the crowd sing the rest and the dismay was palpable, so he quickly gave in and said they would play for three after all. When you bring together Spock’s Beard, The Flower Kings, Dream Theater and Marillion in one place, the result is what you hear on this album, with four musicians performing wonderful flowing complex and intricate progressive rock which has its roots firmly in the Seventies (and even a few hints from the Sixties) but brought right up to date and polished until it gleams.

There is another live album due, showcasing the band at ‘Morsefest’, but this concert was after that one, so this may well be the last show from the band. If that is the case then they can rest easy, as more than 20 years into their career they produced yet another wonderful album and then took it on the road and absolutely nailed it.

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