Ten Years Later - Still Fluid and Flammable!
A SoundPress.net Archive Article by Rich and Laura Lynch
Liquid Tension Experiment has regrouped after a ten-year hiatus to test the hypothesis of their prog rock dominance. A limited number of concerts for 2008 were announced - including a headlining slot at NEARFest - and two sold out shows at the legendary B.B. Kings in New York City on June 23, 2008. The club was packed with mostly male metal aficionados of mixed age and anticipation was high. When both shows were complete LTE had established that their combined musical elements are a progressive rock formula that is still fluid and flammable!
The fearsome foursome take a bow after a hot set!
In 1997, Dream Theater's drummer Mike Portnoy invited keyboardist Jordan Rudess and bassist Tony Levin to join him in an improvisational progressive rock project that begot Liquid Tension Experiment. Mike originally hoped to work with Dimebag Darrell or another notable guitarist to keep the band separate from Dream Theater but due to scheduling conflicts Portnoy contacted bandmate John Petrucci to aptly handle the ax.
Liquid Tension Experiment 1 was a creative success and in 1998 the four reconvened to craft Liquid Tension Experiment 2. Both instrumental records were expansive - exploring many musical realms and moods. The collaboration and apparent musical chemistry led to Rudess becoming a full-time member of Dream Theater. In the fall of 2007, under the name Liquid Trio Experiment the album Spontaneous Combustion was released with additional innovative jam sessions featuring Tony, Mike and Jordan.
John Petrucci on guitar!
Wagner's "Ride of the Valkeries" announced the arrival of LTE on the warm Manhattan Monday. Mike commanded the stage - conducting from his massive kit - which featured a new and shiny LTE bass drum head. The band started strong with a vibrant version of "Acid Rain" with all its incredible interactions and changes. The song rushed at you with its pulsing percussion, blistering bass lines, rippling rifts and complex keys resulting in a maelstrom of sound and musical structures.
The room was shaking with the power of Portnoy's potent percussion. Tony was crafting cool bass grooves on the Chapman Stick, which he played a lot in the course of the band's two hour (early) set. Just watching Levin on the Chapman was astounding. He utilized all kinds of techniques for texture and tones. At times it looked like he was just tapping the twelve strings of the stick - yet bold bass lines rumbled forth. He would then slide his hands over the strings for additional sounds.
Mike Portnoy on drums!
"Thank you, New York," Mike stated - greeting the crowd. "Better late, than never," he added telling the audience that the group would be revisiting some old music and new stuff. The band then headed full speed into "Kindred Sprits" from the first album. Fans clapped along as Jordan's cascading keys floated to the top over rushing rhythms and gushing guitars. The instrumental vortex eventually circled back to more colorful keys from Rudess who was playing a Roland Fantom-G8.
"Another Dimension" was dynamic with its spooky start and bewitching bass lines transitioning into a heavier, powerful rock progression before moving into some world tones and then back to the brawny, bolder beats and John's sizzling shredding.
"After all that ruckus," Mike implied before he and Tony left the stage so that John and Jordan could play the pretty "State of Grace". Petrucci slowly and skillfully worked the strings with some use of the wa-wa bar as Rudess's piano parts were passionate and poignant. Camera angles on the stage side screens showed overheads of Jordan's keys giving fans a better perspective. The varied screen shots of all the players throughout the night was a plus allowing the audience a more technical view of the unfolding experiment.
Tony Levin on bass (and the Chapman stick)!
Tony Levin keeps a road diary on his website and he reported that the quartet met a few days before Nearfest to rehearse and re-connect to the old material and to work up something new for the tour. The result was a prog-metal arrangement of "Rhapsody in Blue" - a challenging piece with its many modulations and moods. Their version of the George Gershwin classic was just one of many epic instrumentals that LTE performed during their limited engagement.
Other highlights of the explosive experiment's show was "Universal Mind" with its magical and meandering funky bass lines and sizzling solos with a whimsical diversion that added to the complex journey. The elaborate exploration of "Biaxident" was dense and dramatic after Jordan's majestic melodies started off the piece.
Jordan Rudess on keyboards!
"Believe it or not we have another song," Mike said at the end of the band's incendiary set. "It's a big one, I hope you ate your Wheaties."
"Thanks for coming out," Portnoy continued, "It's been fun, a long time coming and I'm glad it came."
LTE then played the epic "When The Water Breaks" which was just as beautiful live as it is on the CD - flowing seamlessly from one complex continuance to the next. John's solos were gorgeous flowing into Jordan's cascading keys, melding with fluent rhymes. Midway through - a baby's cry heralded an accelerated and animated instrumental passage that left the crowd in a frenzy. Fans were screaming "LTE" and "one more song" encouraging the band to comply with an encore to the experiment.
The guys started off with the creative and colorful "Osmosis" - which evokes the sounds of a rain forest - with its echo-ey drums and deep bass lines. LTE then segued into "Paradigm Shift" featuring fast, furious fret work and Tony using his famous finger sticks on the bass. Mike propelled the song to perfection and Jordan was amazing as always - thus, closing the set on a high note with Portnoy once again thanking the raucous and appreciative New York audience.
The sizzling show at B.B. Kings was recorded with three stationary cameras and a roving videocam. Published reports indicate that there will be a DVD eventually for all the folks who did not have an opportunity to see this colossal concert and perhaps it will inspire the quartet to consider another fluid and flammable experiment somewhere down the line.
LTE played two shows in New York on June 23, 2008!
Related Links: For more information on Liquid Tension Experiment and the other organizations mentioned please visit the following links -- JohnPetrucci.com | JordanRudess.com | MikePortnoy.com | TonyLevin.com | BBKingBlues.com
(Originally Published on June 25, 2008)
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