Last night, I had the great pleasure of seeing Flying Colors perform songs from their first and second albums live on the second show of their tour. Held at the Arcada Theater in St. Charles, IL (western suburb of Chicago), the show got off to a rather slow start. Two hours slow, to be exact. The concert was supposed to start at 8PM, with seating to begin at 7. That didn’t happen, due to the fact that the FAA is yet another incompetent government agency run by morons and buffoons. Weather might have also played a part in the fact that the band’s flight from California was late, but I blame the FAA. (The Air Traffic Control facility in Chicago was lit on fire by a “disgruntled” employee last week, and they are still recovering.) Mike Portnoy claimed the band hadn’t slept in a couple of days, but it sure didn’t show while they were playing. So, considering the circumstances, it was almost a miracle the show happened at all, so props to Flying Colors for making it happen.
The Flying Colors began playing at 10, but they had a touring band called Bend Sinister, of Vancouver, Canada, open for them at 9 PM. According to the theater people, Flying Colors didn’t inform the theater that Bend Sinister would also be playing. Shoutout to the band manager for a job well done (sarcasm). Bend Sinister’s music can be best described as classic hard rock. They had guitar, drums, bass, keyboards, and a singer with the vocal range of Steve Perry (I’m not kidding, the dude was amazing). They played loud, and were a fairly solid opening act. They finished their act with a cover of Supertramp’s “The Logical Song,” and they did a great job with that. I kind of felt bad for not buying one of their albums to support them, but I’m a poor college student. The bassist gave me a business card after the show though, so there’s that.
Flying Colors finally took the stage around 10, and, boy, was the crowd ready. I don’t remember the setlist, which doesn’t much matter because they ended up playing a song that wasn’t on it. All the songs were from their first two albums, except for one acoustic song done by Casey McPherson from his band, Alpha Rev. He phased that song right into the beginning of “Peaceful Harbor,” and it worked perfectly.
Right from the get go, Flying Colors was rockin’ the roof off the joint. I was so excited to finally get to see Mike Portnoy, my second favorite drummer behind Neal Peart (who else?). After listening to my review copy of Second Nature a few weeks ago, I knew I had to hear more from this band. I acquired their first album (thanks, Brad), and I listened to both of Flying Colors albums almost daily for the past two weeks, until I decided to buy a ticket on Wednesday. They did not disappoint in concert. Everything from Steve Morse’s unworldly guitar work, to Portnoy’s always amazing drum work, to Dave Larue’s steady and technical bass work, this band has it all. I don’t think it is too much to say that this is one of the best “supergroups” ever.
The frustrating part of the evening, both for me and obviously for the band, was the feedback problems they had with their audio system. I think all of the problems were coming from Casey’s amps, as he said a couple of times that he blew a few amps, and the audio guy was on stage half the show messing with Casey’s guitar and amps trying to fix the problem. He never did, unfortunately. But, it was only noticeable on the quiet songs. Despite the setback, the band still performed flawlessly, and they really deserve credit for fighting through yet another setback. The crowd was more than gracious, which I’m sure the band appreciated.
If you have listened to any of the Flying Colors catalogue, you know how amazing these guys are. In concert, they take it to the max. In fact, some of their songs sound even better live, especially “Infinite Fire,” which was the encore, and “Peaceful Harbor.” The beautiful thing about this band is they don’t play loud for the sake of playing loud. Even though I left with about 1/4 of the hearing capacity I arrived with, each instrument could be heard (or felt) clearly and distinctly. It wasn’t just loud noise, like some bands. As a lead singer, arguably the least famous member of the band, Casey McPhersen has an excellent stage presence and a fantastic voice with great pitch and range. He never missed a note. Neal Morse sounded good as well, and he was a whiz on the keyboards. Even Portnoy sang, which was cool to see the drummer do. He talked to the audience a lot as well, explaining their difficulties getting to Chicago. The Arcada Theater has become his “home away from home,” as this was the third show he has played there this year, all with different bands. Dave Larue is incredible on the bass, and he bears an uncanny resemblance to Geddy Lee. Steve Morse is a god on guitar, enough said.
Throughout the night, the band played a good mix of songs from both of their albums. It was probably about 50/50, but they may have played more from Second Nature. I think they opened with “Open Your Eyes,” but I can’t rightly remember. (I’m better at remembering albums, since I usually listen to albums in their entirety and never look at what song is playing. That’s why I love TaaB!) In no specific order, they also played, “Cosmic Symphony,” “Mask Machine,” “Bombs Away” (freakin’ amazing bass!), “The Fury of My Love,” “Peaceful Harbor,” Shoulda Coulda Woulda,” “Kayla,” “The Storm,” “Infinite Fire,” and several other songs I’m forgetting. It was all awesome, and there isn’t a Flying Colors song that I don’t like.
In the end, this was a fantastic concert. The band did a great job of overcoming adversity, especially when the venue was nowhere near sold out. They truly love their fans, because they showed nothing but appreciation to the crowd. In my mind, the only thing holding them back is the airlines, equipment failure, and whoever the hell set up the sound equipment.
Tonight was the last American show, held in Philadelphia. However, for European fans, there are seven more shows in the tour spread out around the continent. My recommendation: go! You won’t regret it. And go buy Second Nature. Great job Flying Colors!