The Similitude Of A Dream Live In Tilburg 2017 – The Neal Morse Band
Well I have been a fan of Neal Morse ever since I first got into the band Transatlantic back in the year 2000. Since then I very much started backtracking on the albums he done with Spock’s Beard and also have followed and collected quite a lot of his solo albums apart from his religious Worship albums that is. I also have most of his live concerts on DVD & Blu Ray he has done particularly with his solo career and like this one with where he has added a band to the end of his name, including the live Transatlantic concerts that were released on DVD.
To be honest because of the way I store my CD’s/DVD’s and Blu Rays on different shelves. I always find myself double (or even treble) checking what I do have or don’t have of Neal Morse whenever I go and buy something he’s put out. He is perhaps the most artist I have trouble with when ordering anything he puts out, and on many occasions I have nearly ordered something of his I already have. Neal Morse can be very busy at times and can quite often churn out a lot of material with all the projects he is involved in. The fact that I enjoy what he does so much is why I buy a lot of his material including his live concerts which can be highly entertaining to watch.
Though I have to confess that since seeing him live with Transatlantic back in 2010 at the Shepherd’s Bush Empire in London. I would not pay money to go and see him live again. What I find with an awful lot of these newer prog bands is that they tend to drown the audience out by playing way too loud. That was a bad experience I will never forget and since then I have seen other bands like Frost* do exactly the same thing at their live shows. I can honestly say you will not get to hear the real quality of any of those bands live on stage and are way better off by buying the DVD or Blu Ray when it comes out, than paying the price of the ticket to go and see them live.
The Similitude Of A Dream is the 2nd of two albums Neal Morse has written with his main band. It was very much a double album and the original studio version was released back in November 2016. It’s one of his better albums and certainly the best out of the two he has done with his band. Though as to if it can compete with both the albums ? and Sola Scriptura that he done much earlier under his own name. I personally do not think so. However I think this live performance of the album raises the level of the album up a notch more and even works better live than the studio version I feel. But before I go any further let’s take a look at the packaging and artwork.
The Packaging & Artwork…
The Blu Ray edition comes in the more thinner version of the plastic case in relation to the normal thicker ones you would get a film in, and they tend to use these thinner cases for music these days. I have to confess I have never a real fan of Blu Ray cases and much prefer the way some artists like Ayreon package their discs in which is more like a cardboard DigiPak the same size as we have here. It’s a lot better presentation and these type of plastic blue cases do look really cheap and flimsy. Even a DVD case is made much more stronger in reality.
However I quite like the hubs that hold the discs in this case and they are a lot easier to retrieve the discs without much effort at all. They are perhaps not the best being as they can quite easily come loose off the hub, especially when being transported, but least they are not like some hubs that hold them a lot tighter that you have the risk of splitting the actual disc if your not too careful retrieving the discs. This presentation is no doubt done on the cheap and you do not even get a booklet with it :))))).
As with most music concerts they covers tend to be a snapshot of the band from the concert. The photography was done by Christophe Pauly and the layout by The Man In The Mountain whoever he may be :))))). All the credits and linear are on the back cover.
The Release Editions…
The Similitude Of A Dream: Live In Tilburg 2017 was released in two editions. The DVD Edition comes with 2 CD’s & 2 DVD’s. The Blu Ray Edition comes with 2 Blu Ray discs only and both are the same price on Neal Morse’s own website to which they are charging $25.00 each. Some other outlets are charging more for the DVD edition than the Blu Ray and I have to say that the price point of these things in my own country I would say are well overpriced.
I opted for the Blu Ray Edition and managed to get it for £14.70 brand new from a third party seller on Amazon called Uniqueplace Dot UK. They themselves were charging more for the DVD edition that came with 2 CD’s & 2 DVD’s and that was priced at £19.82. But I was not interested in having the CD’s and preferred the Blu Ray for my needs. Although the third party may sound like they are based in the UK. They are not at all and you do have to wait a couple weeks for it to arrive.
To be honest I am very wary about using third party’s on Amazon but I have used this seller in the past and the product is the genuine item and brand new, and comes sealed. Some people on ebay are even charging over £19 for the Blu Ray second hand. So it was worth the extra wait to get it at the best price, and for £14.70 that’s a bit of a bargain. Though I certainly do not think it should cost more than £20 for the 2 Blu Ray edition in the first place and £25 at most outlets over here is way above the price it should of retailed at.
The Similitude Of A Dream Live (Blu Ray) In Review…
The Similitude Of A Dream (Live In Tilburg 2017) by The Neal Morse Band was released on the 15th June 2018 and contains the whole of the double album played live along with a couple of tracks from Neal’s earlier solo albums and a couple from their previous album done with his band. The Netherlands is quite a regular jaunt for Neal Morse to pop over from his home country in America, and he has played at the 013 in Tilburg a number of times including with the other project bands he has been involved in over the years.
The venue itself is quite popular with most prog rock bands due to its smaller capacity to which many prog bands could not fill much bigger venues and the only bigger events you may get to see them at is more of and outdoor venues in a festival sort of thing along with a bunch of other acts.
To be honest an outdoor festival may very well be the best place to see these kind of more newer prog rock bands, simply because in an open field you can pick your own spot to get the best sound, rather than them playing at ridiculous volume levels like they do in these smaller indoor venues. When I say newer prog rock bands I am referring to those who came out much later than the 70’s just like Neal Morse who first started out with Spock’s Beard back in the 90’s.
I have never seen any prog rock band who came out in the 70’s play at the ridiculous volume levels these idiots play at, not even in the smaller venues like they play at today either. I seen many back in the 70’s play at the Odeon New Street in my own town of Birmingham which is pretty much the same size venue I seen Transatlantic live at Shepherds Bush. They was loud, but never that loud that you could not make out what the bloody band was playing like they do at them, and the musicians sounding out of tune with one another because the sound was bouncing off all the walls in the place.
The whole concert is spread out over the 2 Blu Ray discs and this as to be the first concert ever I have brought of anything of Neal’s that does not come with any extras in the way of bonus footage. As a rule he videos everything and sticks hours of extra footage on them, you even get to see him and the band eat lunch :)))))) but this one does not even have any backstage footage and comes with Zilch. Maybe the Slough’s they had on the stage and in the audience ate the extra footage :)))))).
Blu Ray 1.
The main menu opens up with an animated picture of the book. The menu itself is simple and easy enough and only gives you 2 options which are “Play All” and “Song Selection”. The Blu Ray only comes with 1 soundtrack which is just your basic stereo LPCM 48/16 format and not a Blu Ray HD audio format at all.
By clicking on the “Song Selection” it gives you the choice to choose from any track from all the songs that are contained on the 1st disc. It also plays a slide show of a few pictures that ran on the screen at the back of the stage during the live concert.
The first disc comes with 13 tracks in total, the first of which is an introduction that is followed by the 12 tracks that were on the original 1st disc of the studio album, and it has an overall playing time of 54 minutes, 45 seconds.
Blu Ray 2.
As you can see from the picture above the 2nd disc opens up with a different animated menu screen which shows some different pictures that appeared throughout the show. Once again you get the same 2 options to choose from.
“Song Selection” menu shows you all the songs you have to choose from the 2nd disc and you get a slide show of some more different pictures that came from the backdrop they showed during the show. The menus are pretty good, however the fact that it comes with only 1 audio format and very little options has me thinking was it worth putting this concert on Blu Ray :)))))).
The second disc contains the 11 tracks that were originally on the 2nd studio album, plus 4 tracks they played in the way of an encore. This disc comes with an overall playing time of 93 minutes, 35 seconds.
The Picture & Sound Quality.
Well no doubt the sound quality which I have already mentioned is certainly not up to the standards or even fitting for a Blu Ray disc. So is the picture any better? To be perfectly honest no it’s not at all, and there is no real difference between buying the Blu Ray or the DVD. This has most likely been filmed on non HD cameras, put on a DVD and transferred to Blu Ray. If it was filmed with HD cameras they were not the best by a long shot, and this is not what I would call a pristine picture either that you would get with most Blu Rays that have been filmed with quality cameras.
You can very much get the same by playing a DVD in a Blu Ray player simply because it up-scales the picture and that is more or less the quality we have on this Blu Ray. The only real advantage of buying this concert on Blu Ray over the DVD is really down to the fact that you can get it cheaper and nothing really more I am afraid.
But that is not to say that what we have here is really bad at all, and the picture quality is without doubt still very good and so too is the sound even if it is in a much lower audio format and there is no 5.1 mix here. To be honest judging by the 5.1 mixes that have been done in the past for both Neal Morse’s and Transatlantic DVD’s. I honestly do not think you will missing a thing. Simply because the guys who have done the 5.1 mixes in the past have not got a clue how to mix a concert in 5.1 :))))). Thankfully they do a pretty decent job with the stereo mix.
Musicians & Credits…
Recorded live at the 013 Tilburg on the 2nd April 2017. Sound Engineer Rich Mouser. Stage Technician Christian Kuhn. Lighting Director Mateusz Dudar. Camera Operators John Vis. Meriam Verkleij. Geert Jan Schoonbeek. Olivier Dague. Christelle Herbette. Studio Mix by Eric Gillette. Video Content Christian Rios. Photography by Christophe Pauly. Layout The Man In The Mountain. Tour Manager Daniel Schindler.
Neal Morse: Vocals/Keys/Guitar.
Mike Portnoy: Drums/Vocals.
Bill Hubauer: Keyboards/Mandolin/Sax/Vocals.
Eric Gillette: Guitar/Vocals.
Randy George: Bass/Bass Pedals/Vocals.
The Concert In Review…
The Similitude Of A Dream live tour kicked off in North America in the first month of 2017 and Neal and the band played 17 concerts over there between January 14th – February 7th. They also played a total of 17 concerts on the European tour between March 22nd – April 9th along with 2 more shows. The first being Israel on the 12th of April and at the Rosfest in Pennsylvania USA on the 6th of May.
The concert we have here was filmed at the 013 Tilburg in the Netherlands during their European tour on the 2nd of April 2017. The 013 Tilburg is the largest and most popular music venue in the southern region of the Netherlands.
The venue is named after its postcode 013 and contains 2 concert halls inside the complex. The smallest of them holds a capacity of 700 people whilst the largest of the two holds up to 3,000 and the larger of the two is where the Neal Morse Band played. The venue originally opened up back in 1998 and in 2011 the director Guus van Hove of the 013 died of heat exposure along with his girlfriend in the Californian Joshua Tree National Park. He had gone there to try and find the tree that was on U2’s album cover of their 1987 album The Joshua Tree.
Although it’s a bit of a misconception to people thinking that the tree was actually in the Joshua Tree National Park and it is in fact 200 miles away from it. The tree also fell in the year 2000 and the only thing that remains on the spot is a plaque that someone planted in the ground bearing the words “Have you found what you’re looking for?” in reference to the song from the album “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For“. Though it is still a popular attraction for tourists.
The concert opens up like a film with it’s introduction with the orchestral music and the picturesque landscape showing the names of the band that are featuring in the show. They have certainly made a big thing out of the show and it adds a nice touch. Though by the rather nice scenery I wouldn’t of minded watching a film like this, especially with that poor chap whose locked up in the cage :)))))).
After the rather big orchestral intro Neal Morse pops on the screen in a hooded jacket with the hood over his head, looking like he’s just come back from a Klu Klux Clan party :))))). Only it’s all dark and in the darkness his robe does look black, although later on it does appear to be white unless he has 2 of them. He starts off singing the opening track of the album “Long Day” unaccompanied which sets the opening scene of the story to the album and the band explode into action with its musical overture which picks things up very well indeed.
Throughout the show Morse uses masks, cloaks (hooded jackets) and a torch to try an portray and put across the story, and although it may appear a bit odd for him to do this, he’s not usually the Peter Gabriel kind of guy for using such things as a rule. To be honest with him having an hood on it reminds me of the cover of his Sola Scriptura album he done back in 2007. But the one thing I have always admired about Neal Morse is the fact he always puts his heart and soul into the performance and lets himself go.
He always gives it 100% and I could see that when I seen him live with Transatlantic back in 2010. Even though that show was hampered by ridiculous volume levels, there was no doubt both he and the band were giving it all in the performance, and I could see that just by looking at them. I see it in every live concert I have of his on DVD and Blu Ray as well and they are quite exciting to watch.
Since leaving Spock’s Beard back in 2002 Morse became a born again Christian and tends to focus even the prog rock side of his albums with his lyrics around Christianity and Religion. No doubt for some it may put them off, but I myself have never really paid to much attention to the lyrics in the biggest majority of concept and albums, and for me the music will always come first.
To be honest no matter how many times I have read the story behind The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway by Genesis I still cannot really tell you what it’s about, apart from it’s about some schizo off his head on acid :))))). Yet I still regard that concept album as the best there as ever been. The music and the way the lyrics are expressed is what rocks my boat and even amongst Morse’s lyrics you will quite often find something to grab you and latch onto. As like the song in this concept story the “City Of Destruction“. You can make your own world out of it, and get off on that.
The Similitude Of A Dream is based around The Pilgrim’s Progress which is basically a Christian allegory written by John Bunyan back in 1678. Bunyan was very much into religion and was imprisoned a few times basically because he would not stop preaching. He was first sentenced to 3 months in prison but as he refused to give up preaching it was extended to 12 years. They had certain stricter laws back England in those days unlike we have today, and Bunyan was basically preaching something more along the lines of Catholic religion which was still forbidden around that time down to King Henry VIII bringing in the Church of England in the previous century.
Even after he came out he went back in again for another short spell. He wrote The Pilgrim’s Progress whilst he was inside prison, and he wrote it in a metaphoric way around characters, places and events to deliver a broader message about the real world and events that were going on in it. To be honest even though John Bunyan may of been some religious nut, the story we have here that Morse portrays is perhaps less religious than most of his albums, and we have some quite interesting characters in this one.
It’s perhaps something more like an autobiography of Bunyan’s life being locked up for preaching sort of thing. Like I say I do not really pay too much attention to the lyrics, and I have never read The Pilgrim’s Progress either and merely just read up on a bit of history about it all. But no doubt the lyrics that Morse has written around the subject matter are very well put into context to be able to dramatise it all in perhaps more of an exciting way. I suppose they beef it up that much more and Morse always makes it that more convincing in how he delivers it all. Just as well they do not lock people up for preaching these days, otherwise you will not be seeing another Neal Morse concert for a long while :))))))).
The other thing I quite like about this particular concert is that Morse has utilised his band very well for even them to play a part in the vocal duties, and the guitarist Eric Gillette also has a really great voice to project and portray the lyrics just as well as Morse can do himself. The band do a grand job on all the harmonies and even both Bill Hubauer and Mike Portnoy take on some of the lead vocals on some of the songs too.
What I enjoy a lot about Morse’s music are the musical interludes between the songs and this is really where the prog rock side of things comes into play allowing the musicians more freedom with the interplay and interaction between each other. A lot of the actual songs you will find in a lot of his concept albums are written in the way of normal singer songwriter songs or rock songs, and that’s basically how everything is all pieced together. None of his albums are really one continuous song not even a massive long song such as The Whirlwind he done with Transatlantic.
The Similitude Of A Dream album is certainly no exception either and is written in the same way. But how it’s all pieced and woven together works very well, but in reality a lot of the actual songs are certainly verse and chorus structured just like any song in reality. It’s not exactly what Yes done with a song like “Close To The Edge” for example to which even though it was pieced together with many parts, it works perfectly like one song. But what you do get with an album such as this, is certainly plenty of variety.
The other thing you get with this live concert is some pretty amazing musicianship, and let’s face it just how many artists out there can play a quite complex album like this live in its entirety, and that’s something Neal Morse does with the biggest majority of his albums. To be honest I do not even think Yes have played Tales From The Topographic Oceans in its entirety live on stage. Though no doubt they could play the whole album “Close To The Edge” live blind folded. But of course for any band to be able to pull it all off takes plenty of practice and rehearsing and they have to put in the hours just like Neal Morse and his band have here.
The whole concert is near enough 2 and half hours long and it’s perhaps just as well its been put on 2 discs in 2 parts. I am not saying I cannot sit here for 2 and half hours in one sitting, though it’s perhaps something not many of us could do all the time. So watching it in 2 parts is perhaps more convenient to fit in the time. For this review I am not really going to be taking you through all the tracks, and merely pinpoint very few highlights at all of the tracks and discuss more about the overall production and how it’s been filmed.
I would expect most people who brought this live concert would already have the studio album like myself anyway. But what I will say is that they have certainly done the album justice by this live performance, even if I do not think it’s the best live concert I have by Neal Morse and what I mean mainly by that, is how the concert as been filmed. For example you have 5 cameras filming the show and although I cannot fault the editing, because that is very good. Especially with how they pointed to the individual members of the band when they have their individual moments throughout the concert. But quite often the cameras are focused way too far away from the stage.
Effectively with how it’s been shot you could say it was like being at the concert, where you are struggling yourself to see them on stage if you are not close enough to the stage. But with any concert you buy on DVD or Blu Ray this is something you should not have this problem at all with. And it should be shot in a way where you can see everything more closely just like the difference you would get with watching a live game of football at the ground and watching it on TV. You will always see it a lot more clearer on the TV even if it cannot quite capture the live atmosphere of actually being there.
And before you start thinking perhaps they filmed it this way to try and make it look and sound more like the real live experience. I am sorry to say both the sound and picture quality is quite a margin away from being able to do that, and this is not even good enough to put it on a Blu Ray in the first place. They may just as well of put it out on DVD and CD only. I am not saying that the concert is extremely bad, but regarding the sound and picture quality of his other concerts I have on DVD. They are better.
To be honest I have always preferred to watch a live concert rather than just have it on audio and listen to it, and with today’s technology of Blu Ray and 5.1 they have come on in leaps and bounds and you can get more near the real concert experience, which is something that was never possible years ago. But with this concert you may as well just have it on a CD or a vinyl record, and this is not like most quality Blu Ray concerts that you can put in your player and listen to through your system without having to twiddle around with various settings to get it to sound anywhere near good.
My personal favourite parts are like I mentioned earlier are very much the instrumental tracks such as “Overture“. “The Slough” and so on and musical intervals they play between the songs, but the more stand out songs are perhaps those that do reoccur throughout the concert such as “City Of Destruction” and “Broken Sky” for example. Both “The Man In The Iron Cage” and “The Mask” are also great songs and the latter of those two where Morse actually puts on a mask (Though he does put on the mask much earlier on in the show too) is perhaps another bad example of how far the cameras are too away. Simply because you can hardly make out what the hell he is wearing :)))))).
The 4 tracks you get in the way of an encore are perhaps quite an unusual choice. Although both “The Call” and “Agenda” may not be as much being as they was both from the previous album Morse did with his band The Grand Experiment. You also get “Author of Confusion” from the One album he done back in 2004 and the self titled track from his 2012 album “Momentum“. But nothing from his days with Spock’s Beard and Transatlantic to which you would of got on his other concerts. I perhaps missed something from those two bands he was with as well, and some of those songs were classics in relation to the ones he chose here. But I suppose it’s something different and the band do a GREAT! job of them too.
To sum up the Blu Ray edition of The Similitude Of A Dream: Live In Tilburg 2017 by The Neal Morse Band. The first thing I can honestly say regarding both the Blu Ray and DVD editions, is that in this case you may be better off buying the DVD that comes with 2 CD’s. Because in all honesty the Blu Ray does not give you a better picture and sound quality and it’s a bit of a farce putting it on Blu Ray in the first place.
I doubt very much that the concert was filmed in High Definition, and if it was the cameras they used were pretty basic and not really good enough to do a decent enough job of it in the first place. You get no HD sound quality formats either and regarding the sound quality it’s much more better suited to headphones. Overall this is not a concert that measures up to the higher standards Blu Ray can give to you, and is more fitting to the DVD market.
The DVD is also the better package, and in reality although they are priced up at the same price on Neal’s website, I can perhaps see why other outlets are charging more for the DVD edition. Though I must say for all those idiots in my own country who think that 25 American dollars is 25 British pound, and are charging that ridiculous price. That I am sorry to say is way over it’s price point.
25 US dollars is just over £19 here in England and in reality even considering I got the Blu Ray for £14.70 it’s not really a bargain at that price. I personally think the Blu Ray should cost between £12 – £14 even though it comes with 2 discs, simply because this is not up to genuine Blu Ray standards, and the DVD with 2 CD’s should be priced between £18 – £20. And those are more of a GENUINE HONEST PRICE for the both products.
I am going to conclude my review about the concert rather than the formats its been released on, and even though it may appear in my review that concert was not filmed very well and is perhaps not up to the standards of Morse’s previous concerts he has released. Not by any means should those factors put you off. Simply because this is still very much a concert that can be enjoyed, and I also think that this live version of The Similitude Of A Dream is certainly more exciting than the studio version of the double album, and Neal and his band do a remarkable job of presenting it all to you.
During the time I spent over the last few days of writing this review. I have noticed that Neal Morse just announced that the Morsefest concert from 2017 is being released on the 2nd of November and it is available to pre-order from the 18th September. This is a concert that once again features Neal and the band playing The Similitude Of A Dream again plus Testimony 2 and a few other epics they have never played before.
For this release it also includes a 5.1 Soundtrack and in DTS as well. Though I have to confess regarding any release Morse puts out I would not be expecting too much from the 5.1 multi surround mix and no doubt that will not be as good as the stereo mix either. Simply because he uses engineers who do not have a clue how to do a 5.1 mix :)))))). Just like this release it’s also being released on both DVD and Blu Ray exactly the same way this release was.
But it also comes with a 2,000 copies limited exclusive edition to which you get a 50 page Artbook. 2 Blu Rays. 2 DVD’s and 4 CD’s. No doubt at a very expensive price as well :)))). There is no doubt it may look nice but I think having the concert once is enough for me, and I do not need it on Blu Ray and DVD. If this is filmed by the same camera crew I shall not bother with the Blu Ray this time around and pre-order the DVD.
But does one really need all these concerts? Well my answer to that is certainly not at all. But what I will say is that no concert is alike and hopefully this just might be better than this one I have just purchased. I would even say that if your thinking of getting this concert I have just reviewed. It may be worth hanging on a bit and get the Morsefest one instead. But overall I do enjoy a good live concert and no doubt Neal Morse does put his whole soul and spirit into his performances and I enjoy the experience even more so than the studio versions, even if they may not be as well recorded.
For I Have Seen The Broken Sky Turn Blue…
The 2 Blu Ray listing is as follows:
Disc 1 (Total Time 54:45)
02. Long Day.
04. The Dream.
05. City Of Destruction
06. We Have Got To Go.
07. Makes No Sense.
08. Draw The Line.
09. The Slough.
10. Back To The City.
11. The Ways Of A Fool.
12. So Far Gone.
13. Breath Of Angels.
Disc 2 (Total Time 1:33:35)
01. Slave To Your Mind.
02. Shortcut To Salvation.
03. The Man In The Iron Cage.
04. The Road Called Home.
06. Freedom Song.
07. I’m Running.
08. The Mask.
10. The Battle.
11. Broken Sky / Long Day (Reprise).
13. Author of Confusion.
15. The Call.