A packed audience was in attendance at The Gov, eager to check out one of our generations best progressive rock drummers.  The lights dimmed and the scene was set to the eerie strains of the theme from Psycho, echoing throughout the main room as Portnoy and his band entered the stage.

As they kicked into gear, it was all eyes on Portnoy.  Watching the former Dream Theater percussionist live is something of a fantasy for any drummer, the effortlessness of his playing is both frustrating (as any attempts to get to that level seem futile), but also inspiring (as you have to keep pushing yourself to try), there’s not a wasted movement in the rhythm of his playing.

As great as Portnoy was throughout the evening, his band mustn’t be overlooked either.  Portnoy has cherry picked to bring together a collection of some of the finest prog metal musos around for the Shattered Fortress live project.  First up there are members of London prog metal band Haken, including Singer Ross Jennings, guitarists Richard Henshell & Charlie Griffiths, Bass player Connor Green and Keyboardist Diego Tejeida.  Rounding out the group are multi-instrumentalist Eric Gillette, best known as lead singer and vocalist for the Neal Morse band and of course Portnoy on drums and percussion.

The group creates an imposing prog metal presence, more than capable of performing Portnoy’s 12 Step Suite in its entirety.  For the uninitiated, the suite is a concept of Portnoy’s, collecting tracks harking back to 2002’s The Glass Prison, a song from Dream Theater’s Six Degrees Of Inner Turbulence, This Dying Soul from Train Of Thought, The Root Of All Evil from Octavarium, Repentance from Systematic Chaos, and culminating in The Shattered Fortress from 2009’s Black Cloud and Silver Linings.

For Portnoy, this was a coming together of plans many years in the making, for those of us lucky enough to catch it, we were privileged to witness a prog metal experience with everything you could hope for. There were duelling lead guitars, insane keyboard solos and of course Portnoys’s drumming, taking equal turns to sit and stand as he pummelled his kit.  We were also lucky to enjoy three different and unique vocalists throughout the show.  Haken’s Ross Jennings, sporting a Salvador Dali shirt, brilliantly performed the lions share of the vocals, along with sometimes singer Portnoy himself.  Eric Gillette was the surprise of the show, belting out some killer vox between blistering guitar solos.

There were some lighter moments also, as we sang along to wish Charlie a Happy Birthday and after waiting for the entire evening, the encore provided what most of us were there for… with Portnoy performing a killer drum solo and a bone crunching instrumental to close the evening.

Review by Peter Lanyon