PSMS: Live In Tokyo (2013)[TrackList follows] Studio: Eagle Vision Ent. EVB334569 [9/3/13] Directors: Mike Portnoy, Billy Sheehan, Tony MacAlpine, and Derek Sherinian Video: 1.77:1 for 16×9, Color, 1080i HD Audio: English DTS HD Master Audio, Dolby Digital 5.1, PCM Stereo Extras: 12-page insert booklet, Featurette: Behind the Scenes Length: 106 minutes Rating: ****
The first time I heard the term “supergroup,” it applied to the membership of Jack Bruce, Eric Clapton, and Ginger Baker in the group Cream, because of their previous memberships in other groups (Manfred Mann, The Yardbirds, and Graham Bond Organization respectively). History shows their formation worked out fabulously; that of other supergroups not so much so. For example, Blind Faith, Trio of Doom, Audioslave, Bad Company, and a Perfect Circle turned out to be either too short-lived or just simply awful.
But sometimes the magic of collaboration takes. Supergroup members can sometimes produce astounding music devoid of pointless competition or squabbling. PSMS (Mike Portnoy, Billy Sheehan, Tony MacAlpine, and Derek Sherinian) all hail from multiple groups, such as Billy Idol, Dream Theatre, David Lee Roth, and Mr. Big. From Live in Tokyo’s wistful opening bars of to its thunderous finish ninety minutes later, PSMS hurls a performance of such high energy, humor, creativity, and pure excitement at their Japanese audience in Live in Tokyo that the result should reverberate for years. Each jazz/rock fusion piece works its magic its own unique way, and most are excellent examples of what wonders can happen when talented musicians really work together. The furious energy of Tony MacAlpine’s guitar work in Apocalypse 1470 B.C. reminds me of the young John McLaughlin in his first Mahavishnu Orchestra (itself a supergroup). Mike Portnoy’s wildman drumming is also reminiscent, not of Ginger Baker but of Keith Moon of The Who. The group even manages a great folk dance number when they perform The Farandole (a reference to an eighteenth-century French dance similar to the tarantella). The four players manage to pull off one of the best live concerts I’ve seen since Queen Live at Wembley ’86. Each is allocated a stunning solo number (probably to minimize the chance of grandstanding). The only element that mars the film is that jumpy ADHD filming style that’s become omnipresent since the early days of MTV. I’ve railed in vain against the cult of microsecond shots and stilted angles for years, and it’s only gotten worse.
But…if you can ignore its barrages of eye-whapping takes, if the music is most of what matters to you in this performance, sit back with fellow aficionados and partake of the Blu-ray video of Live in Tokyo with its room-tickling sound. If you can’t, get the CD and turn the sound way up, the way it was meant to be heard.
A Change Of Seasons: I. The Crimson Sunrise 2) Acid Rain 3) The Stranger 4) Stratus 5) Apocalypse 1470 B.C. 6) Tony MacAlpine Guitar Solo 7) Been Here Before 8) Birds Of Prey (Billy’s Boogie) / Billy Sheehan Bass Solo 9) The Farandole 10) The Pump 11) Mike Portnoy Drum Intro 12) Nightmare City 13) Hell’s Kitchen 14) Derek Sherinian Keyboard Solo 15) Lines In The Sand 16) Shy Boy.