ALBUMS: Circuline Comes Alive

A superb glimpse at what makes the progressive/cinematic rock troupe so beloved

Circulive poster art (Photo: Circuline)

For the past several years, ProgStock has served as arguably the best progressive rock festival in America.

Run by Tom Palmieri and Ann Rinaldi (and upheld by many of ardent volunteers), the three-day gathering at the Union County Performing Arts Center in Rahway, NJ, allows hundreds of genre fans to not only watch their favorite artists play, but also mingle with them in-between sets. Easily one of the best bands the festival has ever highlighted is Circuline (whom Palmieri used to manage, coincidentally enough). Hailing from New York, the sextet—Andrew Colyer, Natalie Brown, Alek Darson, Joel Simches, William Spillane, and Darin Brannon—are widely celebrated for their spectacular ability to merge elements of classic 1970s icons like Genesis, ELP, Yes, and Camel into their modernized edge and efficacy. 

Artist: Circuline

Album: CircuLive::NewView

LabelInner Nova Music

★★★★1/2 (4.5/5 stars)

Their latest live offering, quixotically titledCircuLive::NewView, does a fantastic job of showcasing precisely that. A companion piece to 2018’s CircuLive::Majestik (which captured their show at RoSfest 2017), the roughly 75-minute concert covers much of the same material while adding a few surprises. In addition, the three-disc set (one CD, one DVD, and one Blu-ray) also features full audio commentary from the ensemble, as well as two picture galleries—one for posters and one for shots from the show—and some promotional/behind-the-scenes videos. All in all, it’s a must-own set for fans of the group, as well as a great glimpse into how other ProgStock performances could be honored and enhanced through commercial release.

The festival always exudes a wonderfully friendly and appreciative air, and CircuLive::NewView embodies that immediately. As usual, Palmieri affectionately introduces the band as titles screens and “Erosion” play over the venue speakers. Throughout the set, they show comparable humility and humor by joking around and talking to their fans. Thus, they establish a communal, two-way street sort of vibe between the musicians and audience from start to finish.

As for the setlist, it succeeds at acknowledging both 2015’s Return and 2016’s Counterpoint. For instance, their debut is represented via faithful renditions of “Soleil Noir,” “Return (Acoustic),” “Fallout Shelter,” and “One Wish”—among others—while their sophomore sequence appears via gems such as “Inception,” “Summit,” “Forbidden Planet,” and “Nautilus.” They’re all performed impeccably, of course, and cumulatively, their arsenal excels at exemplifying Circuline’s knack for strong songwriting, dense harmonies, and tastefully elaborate arrangements. That said, two of the best moments come during “Piano Challenge”—wherein Andrew Colyer and Darin Brannon trade-off virtuosic blows that include a nod to ELP’s seminal “Tarkus”—and their cover of “Pale Blue Dot” by Sound of Contact. The latter inclusion is notable not only for how well Circuline put their own spin on it while remaining faithful, but also for the modesty they display in paying tribute to a contemporary act.

Circuline CircuLive::NewView, Inner Nova Music 2020

Visually, there isn’t as much to discuss, but that’s not a knock against them. In fact, various camera angles provide a dynamic and engaging way to relive the experience, and the mixture of colorful lights and somewhat flamboyant attire (especially from Spillane, whose introductory red coat is quite eye-catching). Their logo is also displayed on a screen behind them, and while other ProgStock acts have added more spectacle to their show, Circuline do more than enough to satisfy on that front.

The aforementioned extras are substantive and considerate without being overbearing, with the posters embodying how much the band has accomplished in only a few years. The photos from the show are, well, self-explanatory (right?), while the behind-the-scenes videos will probably only appeal to certain viewers. You see, they’re gratifyingly lengthy (roughly twenty-five minutes each), but they’re essentially just bird’s eye view/single-shot rehearsal footage (so your mileage will vary). Luckily, the myriad promotional clips, music videos, and the like are more than worth the price of admission. Lastly, the commentary track offers the requisite mix of insights and endearing banter that further typifies how much they love playing with each other and doing what they do.

CircuLive::NewView is a superb document of Circuline’s appearance at ProgStock 2017. Not only is the music itself all-encompassing (in terms of their catalog) and faultlessly replicated, but the playfulness and humbleness they display throughout makes their show even more charming. Plus, the Blu-ray houses many worthwhile extras to both give fans what they want and give Circuline the honor they deserve. Perhaps just as importantly—if unintentionally and implicitly—it showcases the potential for future ProgStock home releases if and when those involved are so inclined. 

VIDEO: CircuLive::NewView trailer 

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Jordan Blum

Jordan Blum is an Associate Editor at PopMatters, holds an MFA in Creative Writing, and is the founder/Editor-in-Chief of The Bookends Review, an independent creative arts journal. He focuses mostly on progressive rock/metal and currently writes for—or has written for—many other publications, including Sonic Perspectives, Paste, Progression, Metal Injection, Rebel Noise, PROG, Sea of Tranquility, and Rock Society. Finally, he records his own crazy ideas under the pseudonym Neglected Spoon. When he's not focused on any of that, he teaches English courses at various colleges and spends too much time lamenting what Genesis became in the 1980s. Reach Jordan @JordanBlum87.

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