by Clay Marshall 8/10/2000
Having seen the band live more times than I can remember, I read Tim’s review of Planet X’s UNIVERSE with great interest last week. He gave it a “C”–and now it’s my job to make a case for a higher grade, right?
Wrong. The whole “everyone’s entitled to their own opinion” argument aside, I too would give UNIVERSE a “C,” but only when judged in comparison to the group’s live power. Never before have I come across any music that comes across so strongly, so overwhelmingly impressive in concert versus what’s on disc–and that’s not intended as a knock at the album, but as praise for their virtuosic performances.
And somehow, they keep getting better. In recent weeks, I had the opportunity to witness two more of the band’s commanding shows, first at the Baked Potato Hollywood and, more recently, July 31 at the famed Whisky A Go-Go. The Potato show afforded me another chance to experience the UNIVERSE album in its near, if not complete, entirety. Meanwhile, the Whisky gig appeared to be the band’s “touring set,” a briefer, more solo-intensive outing also featuring the standout “Atlantis” trilogy from keyboardist Derek Sherinian’s PLANET X “solo” album (from which the group got its name).
As for drummer Virgil Donati and guitarist Tony MacAlpine, I’ve run out of adjectives to describe how amazing they are. Hell, if you blink, you’re missing out. And not to sound too cheesy, but the group’s continued use of sci-fi and astronomical imagery seems fitting when discussing these two, for their talents are genuinely otherworldly. Sherinian and part-time bassist Tom Kennedy are also seasoned pros, gifted enough to make even the most trained musicians drop their jaws.
Although I really dig the UNIVERSE album (I’ll take them live any day, though), I realize its chops-heavy, instrumental “fusion with an edge” isn’t for everyone. However, I cannot emphasize this strongly enough: When Planet X tours this fall with Fates Warning–a bill also rumored to include Nevermore–do whatever you have to do to arrive early..