When Flying Colors premiered new album Second Nature, drummer Mike Portnoy told us, "The first album was very much a blind date. This time there was an existing chemistry. Direction was never discussed; we just did what we do." So, two albums down and nine dates into a ten-date tour, how are they doing? Here's what last night's show made us think.
Flying Colors, live in London
Venue: Islingtom Assembly Hall, London
Flying Colors land in London for only UK date in support of second album
What is it with the sheet hiding the drum kit?
Mike Portnoy's drums are hidden by a sheet until just before the band hit the stage. Why? It can't be to keep the dust off. We're genuinely curious. Perhaps what's underneath is meant to be a surprise, but we all know what drum kits looks like. What would be a surprise is if the sheet was removed to reveal Portnoy tending a couple of beehives, or driving a forklift.
Mike Portnoy must have been uncontrollable as a child
He's hyperactive. Aside from his obvious brilliance on the skins — and he is brilliant, leading from the back — it's the other things he does while drumming that complete the package. It's as if he's impatiently searching for things to do between fills. So he spins his sticks, or his cymbals, or he spits gum in a graceful arc into the wings, or he stands up and conducts the crowd, or he sings, or goes for a walk, or he points at the other musicians, or he plays with a cucumber. Yes, a cucumber. All without ever missing a beat. He is not like other drummers. He is not a man. He is Portnoy.
Casey McPherson is a very good singer
He's actually a little creaky at the beginning of the set, but warms up quickly. By The Fury Of My Love he's in full voice, with an unexpected Eddie Vedder richness. He shines most on Alpha Rev's Colder Months, the song that got him the gig. It starts with McPherson alone on the stage, the band slowly reassemble as the minutes pass, and it all ends with an exultant solo from Steve Morse.
They're difficult to pigeonhole
That might be stating the bleedin' obvious, but it's true. Shoulda Coulda Woulda has the kind of fat, crunching riff that might prompt a vast, rather dangerous circle pit to form were another band playing it for a different audience, but here it's just another string to a very impressive bow.
It's a whole heap of fun
From Portnoy's clattering drum finale on Shoulda… to Dave La Rue's bass runs on an absolutely thumping version of Mask Machine to the uplifting Peaceful Harbor (another Steve Morse tour-de-force) via the climactic, wig-out encore Infinite Fire, Flying Colors appear to be having a ball, revelling in the noise they're making, sparking off each other, and all without ever veering into perilous chin-stroking territory. It's joyous: a heavy metal/AOR/jazz-rock/progressive music hybrid with a brain and a happy, smiling face. Bring on next time.