Spock's Beard

Gluttons for Punishment

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There are two points that go against Gluttons for Punishment. Number one: Spock's Beard already have several live albums out. Number two: who needs almost all of Octane in live form only two years after its release? Then again, there are also two arguments in favor of this double set: the group's indefatigable energy on stage and the fact that this is the first live document featuring Nick D'Virgilio as the group's frontman. Whether or not this album is essential to you depends solely on how you tally up these pros and cons. Granted, Octane is superior in all respects to Feel Euphoria, the group's first effort following the departure of original lead singer Neal Morse. Nevertheless, Gluttons for Punishment features too much of that album's material (the entire "A Flash Before My Eyes" suite, "NWC," "As Long as We Ride"), which is too new to have matured into something significantly different from the studio versions. D'Virgilio is understandably more comfortable singing "his" songs than Morse's old staples. Still, fans will probably be disappointed by the lack of oldies in the set list. For instance, the albums Beware of Darkness, Day for Night, and Snow are completely ignored, while The Kindness of Strangers is only represented by the weaker "Harm's Way." "At the End of the Day" (from V) clears out any doubt about D'Virgilio's ability to match his old buddy's voice (less grace, more rock & rollness) -- it is given a thunderous reading, one of the set's undisputed climaxes. The 20-minute epic "The Light," the group's first classic, is where things could have gone wrong. Except they don't. D'Virgilio delivers a commanding performance, strongly backed by the rest of the band. If you had passed on Octane or haven't paid attention to Spock's Beard since Neal Morse left the band, this is a good place to climb back on board. But if Octane left you lukewarm, think it over twice before acquiring this live set.

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