music morsels August 2006 

DVD REVIEW - Erik Norlander and Friends - Live in St. Peterburg

by Mark E. Waterbury

Think Tank Media - TTMV-1004

Erik Norlander

Erik Norlander is highly regarded throughout the progressive rock world, and in music in general, for being one of the most talented keyboardists around. Erik is far from one-dimensional, as his talents also reach into songwriting, producing, keyboard equipment development, and performing live. The latter is exemplified by his latest DVD “Live In St. Petersburg,” released on Think Tank Records. Recorded on Erik’s European tour in 2004, the trek through the country formally known as the U.S.S.R. was very well-received by old and new fans, creating a perfect venue for Erik and his friends to display their live talents on stage. And his friends? Not your garden variety batch of pickup musicians here. The vocals are handled by the incredible tandem of Erik’s wife, collaborator and prog diva Lana Lane, and the powerhouse former vocalist of Michael Schenker, Blue Murder, Baton Rouge among many others, Kelly Keeling. Kelly also handled bass duties, anchoring the solid rhythm section with ex-Vengeance drummer Ernst Van Ee. Rounding out the band and intensifying the sound is highly revered guitarist Peer Verschuren, another long-time Norlander collaborator. 

The concert opens to a swirl of color patterns, fading in and out with visions of Erik and his keyboard interlude to the show. The band then joins him in an explosion of white light for the classic “Neurosaur.” Erik flaunts his classical piano training in “Dreamcurrents,” more proof that his name can be mentioned in the same breath with Wakeman, Emerson, and Rudess. In the eerily intense “Mariner,” Kelly Keeling gets a chance to show off his incredible vocal range, and you also witness some blistering solo work from guitarist Peer Verschuren. The wondrous version of the Procol Harem classic “A Salty Dog” receives a faithful yet subtly stylized treatment. Lana Lane jumps into the fray, displaying her operatic, emotive vocal work on “Alexandria”. The band turns up the intensity a notch with the brooding thunder of “Oblivion Days,” featuring harmony duets from Lana and Kelly. The video production also holds your attention, interjecting imagery of war and natural disasters, mirroring the theme of the song. Although there is a lot of attention paid to Erik’s keyboard prowess throughout the video, he does allow his bandmates their time in the spotlight. Peer delivers a smoking albeit brief guitar solo, leading into the band’s full-out rocker “Beware The Vampires,” with more stunning vocals by Kelly and Lana. Ernst Van Ee tags an explosive drum solo onto the end of “Secrets of Astrology.” By the time the concert is concluded with the fiery “Fallen” and the intense encore featuring “One of the Machines”, the video audience has been drawn into the concert’s front row, and may find itself shaking off the awe of the incredible musicianship they just witnessed to stand with the crowd for the ovation.

The concert filming and editing captures the ambient energy of the concert, interspersing the live footage with images of scenery, artwork and colorful mosaics in tasteful spots. The concert footage is very clear despite difficult lighting conditions, with a good mix of close ups, full band shots, fading and pans. Also included is a documentary “The Road To Russia,” featuring interesting and insightful interviews with band members and extra footage of their European tour. Some real treats include an excellent live performance of “Court Of the Crimson King” from the Cal Prog Festival, and an entertaining video montage set to a haunting version of the theme of “From Russia With Love” voiced by Lana. When you weave the whole package together, you have a great overview of one of progressive rock’s more entertaining and talented performers who deserves wider spread recognition, and may receive it as more people witness this DVD. Some very good testimonies to the talent of his friends as well. Also contains a bonus audio CD.


Division of Serge Entertainment Group