Q&A: The Neal Morse Band bring ‘The Great Adventure’ to Whittier

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By JACKIE MOE

Prog rock icon Neal Morse and his quintet band of noble rockers has hit the road to bring their newest concept album “The Great Adventure” across the world.

The album, which released in January, is a two-disc follow-up to their 2016 hit album “The Similitude of a Dream.” The band will make a stop at the Whittier Center Theatre on Friday, March 8 to perform the album in its entirety.

The band’s current lineup features Neal Morse (Spock’s Beard, Flying Colors, and Transatlantic), Mike Portnoy (The Winery Dogs, Twisted Sister, ex-Dream Theater), guitarist Eric Gillette, bassist Randy George and keyboardist Bill Hubauer. “The Great Adventure” is the ninth studio album with Morse, Portnoy and George, and the third collaboration with the current lineup.

Lead vocalist, guitarist and keyboardist Neal Morse shared his thoughts on latest album, the status of prog rock, and future projects (including a new rock opera!):

How has “The Great Adventure” been embraced by the music community so far? 

It seems to be going great! The reviews are awesome and the concerts are going down extremely well. Not sure what more we can ask for as a band. We’re all very happy with how things are going.

As a group of solid solo musicians, how do you find your chemistry in the songwriting/recording process? And the live shows? 

The chemistry in this band is extraordinary! Really great. It’s a really interesting blend of personalities. Of course we don’t always agree which is part of what makes bands interesting. When we were making “The Great Adventure,” there was some disagreement about whether we should make a sequel and a double album and all of that, but we worked through it and the result is so much more than the parts. The sum of the whole is greater than anything we could ever have done on our own as solo artists. I think people really appreciate that and that’s why they love bands so much, because they like all the different elements coming together in interesting ways. And we definitely have that with The Neal Morse band.

The Neal Morse Band: Lead singer & guitarist Neal Morse, dummer Mike Portnoy, guitarist Eric Gillette, bassist Randy George and keyboardist Bill Hubauer.
Photo credit: Robert Smith

How has prog rock changed over the course of the past decade? 

I’m not really sure. I’m not really a trendsetter or follower. I kind of just do my musical thing and try not to pay attention to too much else. Having said that, it does seem like there’s a great momentum in the prog community at the moment and one place you can really experience that is a place like Cruise to the Edge. Amazing to see all these great bands, older and newer and hang out with everyone, but of course, it all comes down to the music. 

What are your biggest challenges in today’s music industry? 

The biggest challenge for me is to make the best music I can make. That’s always the biggest challenge for me; of course there are other things that happen in the business side of things, but that’s all quite boring. The real thing that I am up to and all of us musicians should be up to is always trying to make the music the very best it can be and to not settle for anything less. Sometimes that’s hard to know, but ultimately we take our best shot and trust God for the rest.

What do fans experience in your live shows? 

On this tour we are doing the entire new album “The Great Adventure” and a really cool encore with a lot of retrospective stuff. The presentation is really great with Rich Mouser who mixed the album doing the live sound and Gerald Sell running lights. We really have a great thing going also with the video wall produced by Christian Rios.

Do you have a “defining” moment or accomplishment in the band’s career that is particularly special to you? 

We have had many actually! One would be the moment when we listened down to the entire “Similitude of a Dream” album right after we had finished writing and arranging it, and Mike said, “Gentlemen, I think we just made the album of our careers.” Another amazing moment for us was performing “The Great Adventure” on Cruise to the Edge just a few weeks ago. It was pretty amazing.

How would you define your genre? 

I define progressive rock as music that progresses from one form to the other, or one style to the other and goes outside of traditional song form. Usually to help people understand, it’s better to just use a reference. If they’re over 40, then you can say Yes and ELP. If they’re under 40 then say Rush and they’ll usually get it.

Who are your music influences? 

A lot of classical music as my father was a choir director and classical music guy. So, Beethoven, Wagner, and so on, and then, the Beatles, ELP, YES, Genesis, King Crimson, and lots of other people.

Do you have any future projects you want readers to know to look forward to? 

Yes there’s a lot going on! A rock opera that I have written called, “Jesus Christ The Exorcist,” is coming out on Frontiers Records in June. It features a lot of great singers and players like Ted Leonard and Nick D’Virgilio. Also, there will be a new Flying Colors album coming out later this year. But one of the things that I’m most excited about is my new Waterfall app. It’s a subscription-based music streaming app with all of my catalog as well as things that were done in the past like Spock’s Beard and Transatlantic. You can find links to all my stuff at www.radiantrecords.com.

The Neal Morse Band

Where: The Whittier Center Theatre, 7630 Washington Ave, Whittier

When: 8 p.m. Friday, March 8

Info: www.nealmorse.com

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