TRANSATLANTIC – the prog-rock supergroup of Neal Morse, Mike Portnoy, Roine Stolt & Pete Trewavas – will release their live album “The Final Flight: Live At L’Olympia” this Friday, February 17th. It was recorded and filmed in France on the last stop of a tour to promote the band’s fifth and most audacious album to date, “The Absolute Universe”. This was the multinational group’s first outing in eight years.
Now you can see the band performing ‘We All Need Some Light’, originally featured on their much-loved album “SMTP:e”, below.
Pre-order “The Final Flight: Live At L’Olympia” HERE.
You’re probably wondering about the use of the word ‘Final’ in the album’s title. Let’s be completely clear: None of TRANSATLANTIC are even remotely considering the prospect of retirement, and the official stance is that the group’s future is being left ‘open-ended’, though each band member testifies to the unspoken air of conclusiveness that filled the air when they took to the stage at L’Olympia on July 28.
“Nobody knew whether this was something that we would ever do again, but it certainly felt like it could be the last time ever,” Portnoy comments, adding: “There is no problem between any of us, but with the usual gap between releases of between five and eight years, that would take us to 2030 and by then each of us would be in our sixties or seventies. I don’t know if we could do this again. With that in mind, we wanted the ending to be as over the top as possible.”
With the group’s performance at Morsefest scheduled to be heard over the coming months,“The Final Flight: Live At L’Olympia” is not the last release from TRANSATLANTIC, though it does seal the end of an era.
Released in February 2021 to unanimous praise, “The Absolute Universe” 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 an hour and a half. Though the foundations of both were shared, each format featured lyrics and music independent of the other.
However, when TRANSATLANTIC finally hit the road they opted to perform a third format of the album, a full-bells-and-whistles, 96-minute Blu-ray culmination of both takes known as ‘The Ultimate Edition’ that had been released in 5.1 surround sound. Following that segment of the show TRANSATLANTIC took a short intermission and returned to the stage for a roller-coaster trawl through the remainder of their lavish catalogue. From the first note of ‘Overture (The Absolute Universe)’ through to the medley based around the first two TRANSATLANTIC albums that closes the evening, the performance comprised 3 hours of music in total.
“Ever since the start of this band we have played for three hours, so that’s something we’re all used to,” states drummer Mike Portnoy, who grins whilst describing his own experience as “butt-numbing”. However, Roine Stolt is ready to admit that this time felt very slightly different.
“It was a great tour,” acknowledges the guitarist and multi-musician, “but when you include our spot at Morsefest [where besides performing “The Absolute Universe” the band also revisited their 2009 album “The Whirlwind” and revised a cover of Procol Harum’s ‘In Held (’Twas) In I’ that had featured on their debut from 2000, “SMPTe”]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?’ But of course, once we got out there onto the stage, those thoughts went straight out of the window.”
With a chuckle, vocalist and keyboard wizard Neal Morse reveals that as the tour found its feet TRANSATLANTIC threw an additional curve-ball. “We started playing songs slightly differently to the way you’ve heard them on ‘The Ultimate Edition’”, he grins. “So what you get with this live album is similar, but essentially it’s a fourth version [of the record]. When you play live, from night to night it helps to keep things fresh by jamming a bit and changing things up as you go. There are a few examples of that, for instance, the beginning of the last section that starts with ‘Belong’ is quite different than the record – partly because we couldn’t remember it! So we made up a new structure.”
“We’re always as well prepared as we can be but in a way TRANSATLANTIC is kind of a show band” points out bassist Pete Trewavas. “Playing alongside Mike who is a powerhouse on the drums, there is this raw power. If he wants to raise the energy that’s what we do. We’re all taking solos here and there, though we get the songs across we’re all showing off as much as we can”.
“I walked off the stage in Paris and knew it was the end of the tour, also quite possibly of the band,” Stolt volunteers. “Were we to do this again we’d be really old guys. For me, it felt like the end. There was magic in the air.”
“People felt like they were witnessing the end of something in Paris,” Portnoy adds. “It was TRANSATLANTIC’s equivalent of The Beatles up on the roof of their Apple HQ [in 1969]. Playing at the Olympia on a stage which had previous featured The Beatles, Hendrix and Led Zeppelin felt very significant. There was such a lot of love in the room.”
“The Olympia is steeped in history,” Trewavas agrees. “Playing there was a bit of a bucket list moment for me, especially as it felt like we had probably come to the end of the road [with TRANSATLANTIC]– it was a beautiful end to the tour.”
“The Paris gig was the end of a chapter, though whether it turns out the last chapter of the book is something that only time will tell,” Portnoy theorizes. “How do you follow an album that’s two different releases – one of which is a double album? Where on earth could you possibly go from there?”
“We all say never say never [about doing it again], but if it is the end of TRANSATLANTIC then with the live album we’ve set a very high watermark,” Morse believes. “At the Paris show each of us wept tears of joy.”
Filmed by Paul Green (who also shot their “Whirld Tour 2010: Live in London” release), and mixed by longtime collaborator Rich Mouser, this set will be available as a Special Edition 3CD+Blu-ray Digipak (incl. 5.1 surround sound) & as a Gatefold 180g 4LP release. Both feature artwork by Thomas Ewerhard & photos by Nidhal Marzouk.
“The Final Flight: Live At L’Olympia” Track-listing:
- The Absolute Universe Intro
- Reaching For The Sky
- Higher Than The Morning
- The Darkness In The Light
- Take Now My Soul
- Rainbow Sky
- Looking For The Light
- The World We Used To Know
- MP Intro
- The Sun Comes Up Today
- Love Made A Way (Prelude)
- Owl Howl
- Lonesome Rebel
- Can You Feel It
- Looking For The Light (Reprise)
- The Greatest Story Never Ends
- Love Made A Way
- The Whirlwind Suite
- NM & RS Intro
- We All Need Some Light
- The Final Medley