Sunday, 11 November 2012

PSMS (Portnoy, Sheehan, Macalpine, Sherinian) Live In Singapore

The four American rockers performed, courtesy of Inokii, at TAB Orchard Hotel last night in front of a crowd of about 200 people.

Satthia and I started queuing outside TAB at around 5.30 pm (doors were at 7 pm, according to the tickets); we were something like third in line. By around 6.30, the line had lengthened to over a hundred long. What, then, did the organisers do? Let us in early? No, they saw it as a chance to flog off merch. However, in a rather comic sequence of events, the guy and girl trying to sell posters couldn't even get a single customer amongst the hundred-odd-strong crowd.

What did the organisers do next then? Well, as has always been standard procedure, they conducted bag checks on everyone in the queue (funnily enough, they would do a second round of bag checks as we streamed into the venue). Way to hold us up outside, fools!

Anyway, after all that shambles, we got into TAB and took some time to check out the available merchandise. There was, disappointingly, very little purely PSMS-related material; rather, each individual performer's solo material was on sale. Satthia and I decided to pass on the merch and instead grab drinks and head over to the standing area. We managed to get spots right at the foot of the part of the stage where Derek Sherinian's keyboard rig stood.

The crowd (which by then - around 7.10pm - had ballooned to a couple of hundred people) initially stood and waited in anticipation, but soon got bored after having to wait through around half an hour of random music filtering out of the speaker systems, with not a single performer in sight.

Suddenly, at 7.45pm, the music stopped and was replaced by one of those tension-building, bass-heavy tracks. Smoke started rising from the back of the stage. The crowd went wild; their heroes were arriving. One by one, Tony Macalpine, Billy Sheehan, Derek Sherinian and finally Mike Portnoy took to the stage and immediately broke into song.

At this point, I have to confess; I had done very little research on PSMS before attending their gig - I was there precisely because I have long been a fan of each individual musician's work, rather than their collective production. Still, I was hugely impressed by what I was seeing and hearing; the four guys were obviously taking it easy and having fun, yet still playing out of their minds and driving the crowd wild with their complex lines and mindblowing solos.

The character dynamics of the four musicians were plain to see; Sheehan and Portnoy, the most outspoken members of the group, were taking turns to mock-'stage hog', what with Portnoy's liberal use of stick tricks and contorted facial expressions and Sheehan, all six-foot-something of him, taking up dozens of different rock-star poses with his bass and always shifting to the front of the stage to engage the crowd. Sherinian, the group's serious one, always had this intense glare on his face as he pulled out riff after riff, counterpoint after counterpoint and solo after solo on his rig. Macalpine was just chilling in the centre of the stage, dishing out blistering solos while wearing the expression of a contented retiree relaxing on a beach, lemonade in one hand and novel in the other.

It was obvious that the four guys genuinely enjoyed playing with each other (as well as with the audience) and weren't just there to show off or rake in quick cash.

Tunes like Planet X's 'Apocalypse 1470 BC', Dream Theater's 'A Change of Seasons' and 'Lines in the Sand' and Tony Macalpine's 'Edge of Insanity' were gleefully lapped up by the audience, most of whom were, refreshingly to see, pretty familiar with the work of at least one out of the four musicians.

Of course, one does not go to a gig like this without mentioning the solo segments of each artist. Billy Sheehan's bass solo - performed with all the other members offstage taking a break - was, for me, the best among the four. On top of his usual frenetic shredding, Sheehan added in sprinkles from tunes like the ever-beloved 'To Be With You' and displayed his trademark showmanship and style.

Overall, the gig was a joy to behold, both musically and in terms of performances. There were a few minor letdowns along the way: firstly, standing so close to Sherinian's rig meant that at times we couldn't quite hear Sheehan's bass and especially Macalpine's guitar; secondly, the sound tech kept screwing with Sherinian's levels (to the point where midway through the gig, his default expression was a death-stare towards the general direction of the sound board); thirdly, the number of monkeys waving their iPods, iPads and whatever with no consideration for the viewing pleasure of others was way too high and finally, the bouncers and security crew kept being wet blankets and discouraging us from staying close to the stage (the whole crowd just ignored them after a while).

However, that's not to say that any of the abovementioned incidents was able to take away from what was a truly marvelous and worthwhile performance. If, as expected, PSMS release a DVD of their set, I will hunt it down.

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