Radiant Records Announces Live Morsefest 2015 Set

Radiant Records has announced a live release of Morsefest 2015, featuring two concerts covering Sola Scriptura, ?, and selections from the catalogs of Transatlantic and Spock’s Beard. One of the concerts even finds Mike Portnoy and Nick D’Virgilio on the same stage together.

You can pre-order the set now over at Radiant’s website. My only beef with the variety of sets on offer (besides the high price) is the fact that they aren’t offering a 2 Blu-Ray/4CD set. All they have is the 2DVD/4CD set or the 2 Blu-Ray set. Why they aren’t offering a DVD/Blu-Ray/CD set (much like the excellent Transatlantic KaLiveoscope box set from a couple years ago) is anyone’s guess.

Check out the trailer:

Freedom is Coming: MorseFest 2015

A review of MorseFest, 2015 (Friday night only)

With apologies--photos taken from an older iPhone. Not great quality.
With apologies–photos taken from an older iPhone. Not great quality.

Last Friday, September 4, as soon as I’d finished teaching my freshmen courses on Western Civilization, my wife, Dedra, and I got into the car and drove 8 hours south to Cross Plains, Tennessee, site of MorseFest 2015.  We had originally hoped to attend the entire weekend, but family necessities prevented this.  We were only going to be able to attend Friday night.

We made it by 7 (aided by a time change, gaining an hour), and found ourselves at a rather nice, contemporary Protestant church, just south of the Kentucky border.  Even walking across the parking lot, my wife and I realized this would not be the normal prog crowd.  Indeed, a huge variety of peoples was walking into the church—including lots of elderly women, immaculately dressed.  We had seen the Neal Morse Band play live in Denver in February to the usual prog crowd of mostly middle aged men.

As we walked into the lobby in Tennesse, we found fellow progarchist, Tad Wert, waiting for us.  He’s always a delight, and we thoroughly enjoyed our short time with him.

Ticketed, we took our seats toward the back of the church.  The church itself, as mentioned above, was quite nice, and quite comfortable.  By the time we sat, it was already mostly full with only the random open chair.  The three of us caught up with one another, and I even had a moment to introduce myself to Morse’s manager, Chris Thompson, president of Radiant.  I’ve corresponded and talked with Chris for over three years now, but we’d never met in actual person.  Lots of folks wanted to meet him, so I just got a quick hello in.

Chris was, frankly, everything I’d expected.  As warm and kind as he is proficient.  THIS is the man you want by your side, through thick and thin.  I already loved the guy, but actually meeting him and getting a rather spontaneous bear hug was one of many highlights of the weekend.  I’m truly sorry I didn’t get to spend more time with him.  He, of course, had a job to do, and he did it brilliantly.  He’s actually fun to watch work, as they guy so expertly takes charge and as a meter for excellence that runs higher than one rarely sees.  Thompson is the embodiment of joyful, purposeful intensity.

At 7:30, guitarist Phil Keaggy opened, playing for roughly 45 minutes.  I knew of Keaggy by name only, but I found his playing quite good and captivating.  He played roughly six songs, including two covers.  One cover was of the Beatles and another of Bob Dylan.  Keaggy was also quite funny and self-depreciating.  Certainly, the audience appreciated his humor and talents.  His guitar work, it must be noted, is rich and full bodied.  My favorite of his pieces was one called “Salvation Army Band.”

MorseFest, New Life Fellowship Church, Cross Plains, Tennessee.
MorseFest, New Life Fellowship Church, Cross Plains, Tennessee.

After a fifteen minute break, the Neal Morse Band took the stage, opening with the first two tracks off of THE GRAND EXPERIMENT (Radiant, 2015), “The Call”  and “The Grand Experiment.”  I had no idea Morse would play these.  The bill had advertised the full “?” album (Radiant, 2005), and I’d assumed this would be it.  No, I was very wrong.  The band’s third track was “Go the Way You Go” by Spock’s Beard.  Eric Gillette, an extraordinary talent by any measure, even walked into the audience and played a blistering solo.

As this point, I should note the crowd again.  Here, we were.  In a contemporary and comfortable Protestant Church.  The crowd adored Neal Morse and every member on the stage.  This was family, not an audience.  Elderly women and men—impeccably dressed—sat throughout the crowd, some in wheel chairs.  Kids listened for a while and then slept on the floor.  About 1/3 of the crowd raised their hands throughout the concert in what I assume is typical Pentecostal fashion, while another 1/3 head banged.  It was incredible.  Absolutely incredible.  The energy in that room was astounding for the entirety of the concert.  Absolutely incredible and astounding! Head-banging Pentecostals.

Our common denominator: we all consider Neal Morse one of the most gifted and charismatic artists on this earth.  His talent and his life are, to put it simply, nothing short of infectious. 

The next three tracks were “MacArthur Park,” “Whole Nother Trip,” and “New Jerusalem.”  The first and third are from the b-side disk of THE GRAND EXPERIMENT, and the middle track was from Morse’s second solo album, way back in the late 1990s.

For me, the highlight of the entire concert was “New Jerusalem.”  This is not only my favorite song on THE GRAND EXPERIMENT, it might very well be the finest thing Neal has ever written.  I was sorely disappointed the band didn’t play it in Denver, though I’d expected as much.  When it began in Cross Plains, I looked to my wife—in utter disbelief—and muttered, “no way.”  In fact, it probably took me a full minute to accept the band was playing it.

After these six tracks, the band played the entirety of the 2005 “?” album.

A few thoughts, in no particular order.

  • First, as many times as I’ve seen Morse and Portnoy play live, I’ve never seen them play this well.  There was nothing but love between the two men, and they so ably led the rest of the band as well as the audience.
  • Second, this setting was so intimate, that it was as though Morse had invited five hundred of his closest friends to his living room.
  • Third, and equally astounding to the music, was the film and light show.  Granted, good Protestant churches know how to do media well.  This church was no exception.  But, what made it so memorably good was the quality of the film made just for this concert (a one-off, it should be remembered).  The visuals were top-notch, Hollywood A-list quality.  The overall theme of the accompanying film was neo-psychedelia but carrying with it an intense Christian aura.  Imagine Franco Zeffirelli directing Charleton Heston but with Matrix-like special effects and you can somewhat imagine how good the accompanying film and light show were.  Kudos to whoever produced this.  Chris, was it you?
  • Fourth, staging.  One of the most interesting things Morse did was add new people to the concert as the music continued.  At first, it was just the five members of the Neal Morse Band.  Then, slowly, extra guitarists, string players, horn players, a flautist, percussionists, and a choir joined.  All of this built up in the first set to the climax with the playing of New Jerusalem.  By the end of that song, I couldn’t even count how many people were playing on stage.  Overwhelming and wonderfully so.
  • Fifth, I loved every moment of “?”  I’ve owned and listened to the album since the day it came out.  I’m not sure I’d understood it or its immense beauty, however, until seeing it played live.  I felt as though I was living for 58 minutes in the heart of a profound mystery with all existential questions being properly answered by love.  As with the album, Pastor Steve Farmer (this was in his church) came out and gave a brief homily.  It was appropriate and quite moving.

So, in sum: possibly the best prog experience of forty years of prog experiences.  I’m so sorry I wasn’t able to attend the rest of the weekend.  I won’t make this mistake again.  If I could, I’d already order my tickets for the next decade of MorseFests.

Today is the Last Day to Purchase the MorseFest 2015 Gold Package

Have you purchased your [Morse]fest VIP Gold Package?
Better act fast!
TODAY is the last day to purchase your VIP!  
 
 
VIP Gold Package includes:
  • Friday & Saturday concert ticket
  • Preferred Seating
  • Meet & Greet Session
  • On-stage pre-show photo op with the band
  • Pre-show surprise game with the band
  • Pre-show dinner
  • And even MORE!
            

 Purchase Here!

At [Morse]fest 2015, long time collaborators Mike Portnoy and Randy George, as well as Neal Morse Band anchors, Bill Hubauer and Eric Gillette, will join Neal as this group of master musicians perform Neal’s world renowned albums,
? (Question Mark) and

   

Sola Scriptura
This weekend will be filled with Special Guests including
Phil Keaggy, Exclusive VIP Packages, a FREE Inner Circleonly performance, Pre-show dinners, and much more!

Blessings,

Team Radiant

Radiant Records

Pre-Order Neal Morse: Morsefest 2014

[Ed. note–For those of you who have purchased anything from Radiant, you know that the packaging is always beautiful and well worth owning.  I have no doubt this set (in which ever version) will be the same.

And, this year, two progarchists–Tad Wert and I–will be posting and tweeting live from MorseFest, September 4-6.  Should be very exciting.–Brad]

MorseFest 2014
MorseFest 2014

Over 5 hours of great performances including the entire Testimony and One albums plus special encores of the Spock’s Beard classic, “The Light” featuring Alan Morse, and the Transatlantic epic “Stranger In Your Soul.” Also included is a behind-the-scenes documentary with footage of Neal’s exclusive acoustic concert, rehearsal footage, “Name That Prog Tune” game with Mike and more!

Complete with 4 piece horn section, 6 member female background vocal section, violin and cello, full orchestra percussion with timpani and chimes, dancers, special guests and special staging, this is the most elaborate live release of Neal Morse’s career!

Neal even flew out Rich Mouser who mixed the original studio albums to do the front of house mix! Neal says “We really went all out this time. I wanted it to be the quintessential presentation and performance of this music.” And so it was…and is!

Says Mike Portnoy – “I’ve got to say… as a fan of this wonderful music, how incredible this is! I am so happy to see this come to fruition. This music really deserves this… everything from the incredible presentation, and all these amazing musicians…it’s great to hear this music come to life on stage like this. To be doing it in his hometown with all his friends and family present and to be doing it here in this building that has such incredible importance to him and his story, it’s elevated the music to a whole new level. This is just been an amazing experience!”

Offical release date: August 21st, 2015


Pre-orders begin July 21st at 8:00 AM (CST)

Be one of the first 200 to pre-order and receive a free graphic autographed by the entire band!

PLUS, if you pre-order on the 21st, you will be entered to win a [Morse]fest 2015 VIP Gold Package (a $350 value!)*!

*(Order must be placed on the 21st to be eligible to win. Package is for the Friday Meet & Greet and does not include travel or accommodations. See all that the VIP Gold Package includes HERE)

Double Blu-Ray

BLU-RAY Disc 1  

Morsefest 2014 Night 1

Testimony Live plus Encores

– Part One –
01. The Land of Beginning Again
02. Overture No. 1
03. California Nights
04. Colder in the Sun
05. Sleeping Jesus
06. Interlude
07. The Prince of the Power of the Air
08. The Promise
09. Wasted Life

– Part Two –
10. Overture No. 2
11. Break of Day
12. Power in the Air
13. Somber Days
14. Long Story
15. It’s All I Can Do

– Part Three –
16. Transformation
17. Ready to Try
18. Sing it high

– Part Four –
19. Moving in my Heart
20. I Am Willing
21. In the Middle
22. The Storm Before the Calm
23. Oh, to Feel Him
24. God‘s Theme

– Part Five –
25. Overture No. 3
26. Rejoice
27. Oh Lord My God
28. God’s Theme 2
29. The Land of Beginning Again

– Encores –
30. Jayda
31. Time Has Come
32. Jesus’ Blood

BLU-RAY Disc 2

Morsefest 2014 Night 2

One Live plus Encores

01. The Creation
02. The Man’s Gone
03. Nothing To Believe
04. Author Of Confusion
05. The Separated Man
06. Cradle to the Grave
07. Help Me/Spirit and the Flesh
08. King Jesus
09. Father Of Forgiveness
10. Reunion

– Encores –
11. It’s For You
12. Wind At My Back
13. The Light
14. Stranger In Your Soul

Special Documentary – “The Morsefest Experience” created by Randy George

Pricing not yet available

Special Edition 2DVD / 4CD Set

A 6 FOLD DIGIPACK WITH EXPANDED ARTWORK AND 16 PAGE FULL COLOUR BOOKLET

DVD Disc 1

Morsefest 2014 Night 1

Testimony Live plus Encores

DVD Disc 2

Morsefest 2014 Night 2

One Live plus Encores

Special Documentary – “The Morsefest Experience” created by Randy George

Audio Disc 1

Morsefest 2014 Night 1

Testimony Live plus Encores

– Part One –
01. The Land of Beginning Again
02. Overture No. 1
03. California Nights
04. Colder in the Sun
05. Sleeping Jesus
06. Interlude
07. The Prince of the Power of the Air
08. The Promise
09. Wasted Life

– Part Two –
10. Overture No. 2
11. Break of Day
12. Power in the Air
13. Somber Days
14. Long Story
15. It’s All I Can Do

Audio Disc 2

– Part Three –
01. Transformation
02. Ready to Try
03. Sing it high

– Part Four –
04. Moving in my Heart
05. I Am Willing
06. In the Middle
07. The Storm Before the Calm
08. Oh, to Feel Him
09. God‘s Theme

– Part Five –
10. Overture No. 3
11. Rejoice
12. Oh Lord My God
13. God’s Theme 2
14. The Land of Beginning Again

– Encores –
15. Jayda
16. Time Has Come
17. Jesus’ Blood

Audio Disc 3

Morsefest 2014 Night 2

One Live plus Encores

01. The Creation
02. The Man’s Gone
03. Nothing To Believe
04. Author Of Confusion
05. The Separated Man
06. Cradle to the Grave
07. Help Me / Spirit and the Flesh
08. King Jesus

Audio Disc 4

01. Father Of Forgiveness
02. Reunion

– Encores –
03. It’s For You
04. Wind At My Back
05. The Light
06. Stranger In Your Soul

Pricing not yet available