Exclusive: Mike Portnoy talks new Yellow Matter Custard DVD
"The Yellow Matter Custard shows we did this year were an absolute blast," says drum legend Mike Portnoy. "They were just as enjoyable, if not more so, as the ones we did in 2003. Because we only did three shows in 2011, I'm really happy to be putting the New York performance out on DVD to share with the world. Not a lot of people were able to get into these gigs, so this will be a nice chance for everybody to experience what was a really fun night."
Filmed at BB Kings in Manhattan by Pristine Productions, Yellow Matter Custard: One More Night In New York City (there's an accompanying CD, available separately – see the tracklisting and ordering information for both at the end of this piece), features the full 40-song set of Fab Four classics this veritable Beatles tribute supergroup (Portnoy, guitarist Paul Gilbert, keyboardist-guitarist Neal Morse and bassist Kasim Sulton) played during their brief, three-city (LA, Chicago, New York) hit-and-run tour last February. Included on the DVD are bonus goodies, such as an on-camera interview with Portnoy and Gilbert, along with rehearsal footage.
MusicRadar was in attendance for the Big Apple gig – we even got a chance to watch the soundcheck and conduct a pre-performance interview with Portnoy and Gilbert – and we can quite objectively call it right now: This was one of the hottest concerts we've ever seen, and the DVD and CD render every smashing moment in toppermost of the poppermost fashion. (By the way, click here to see exclusive photos from the soundcheck and backstage.)
"The great thing about playing with Yellow Matter Custard and doing these shows is that it was all about having fun," says Portnoy. "It was kind of strange, though: With all the controversy that I encountered after my recent experiences with Dream Theater and Avenged Sevenfold, a lot of people were wondering what my next move would be. 'What's Mike Portnoy going to do now?' And then they see that I'm playing these shows and they were like, 'Wait a second…he's joining a cover band? Great career move, Mike!' [laughs]
"So I should stress that I needed to breathe a light sigh of relief and have a good time after everything that went down last year," he continues. "And playing with Paul, Kasim and Neal is nothing but fun, especially when we get to do some of the greatest music ever created. You can see it on our faces on the DVD – we're four Beatles fanatics sharing sheer magic together."
Of all the Beatles gems YMC tackled during their 2011 appearances, Portnoy says that Because proved to be the most challenging. "The vocal harmonies on that song are so intricate. There's no getting around those parts – you have to nail them." Yer Blues, he says, was "a total release in that it's a full-on jam. Paul got to really shred on that song, and Neal even went toe-to-toe with him on guitar."
But it was Things We Said Today that hit Portnoy on a deep emotional level. "That was my mom and dad's song to each other," he says. "They even saw The Beatles at Shea Stadium. My father was at the 2003 show we did, and he and I did an audio commentary on our first DVD [One Night In New York City]. The Beatles were a real bond that he and I had. Doing these shows without him being around now was very bittersweet for me. I did a little speech before we played Things We Said Today, and I remember kind of looking up to the heavens while performing the song and thinking that both my mom and dad were looking down on us having such a great time."
The Beatles influence in the Portnoy family continues to this day: Mike's son, Max, 12, and his daughter, Melody, 14, are "Beatles fanatics through-and-through. Max is a drummer, and he plays to all the Beatles songs, just like I did when I was his age. And Melody even helped choose the setlist that we played this time out. To be able to share The Beatles with my kids, as my parents did with me, is very special. Talk about a band that spans generations!"
In Portnoy's view, the New York show was "probably the best of the three gigs we did this year – we were more familiar with the set and we were feeling quite comfortable being on stage with one another." Even a temporary glitch, which occurred when Morse's keyboard stopped working, couldn't keep the band down: "While Neal was getting his keyboard fixed, we started calling out for requests," says Portnoy. "And Paul, Kasim and I spontaneously broke into Too Many People from McCartney's Ram album. To be able to launch into such an obscure track, at that moment, I said to myself, 'Any other band would have stopped in their tracks. I am definitely in the right group with the right people!'"
Mike Portnoy and Paul Gilbert backstage at BB Kings, in more of a 'White Album' than a With The Beatles moment. © Joe Bosso
With the 40-song repertoire the band performed this year, on top of the 30 they played in 2003, Portnoy says it's entirely possible Yellow Matter Custard could continue at some point. "We were all sitting around at the end of the last show going, 'Man, it's too bad this had to end.' It felt like we were just getting started. We have so much music we can play – and probably different sets, ways to change it all up. I definitely think everybody would be into doing more shows whenever our schedules permit."
So far, Yellow Matter Custard have only performed in the US, but were the band to reconvene, Portnoy says Europe, Asia and South America would most likely be on the agenda. "England is a must," he says. "I've gotten so many Tweets and Facebook messages going, 'How can you play a Beatles tribute and not do Liverpool?' And I'd love to play this music in Liverpool. Who wouldn't?"
TRACKLISTING FOR YELLOW MATTER CUSTARD: ONE MORE NIGHT IN NEW YORK CITY (DVD & CD)
Back In The USSR
I Got A Feeling
And Your Bird Can Sing
It Won't Be Long
You Really Got A Hold On Me
We Can Work It Out
I'm A Loser
I Don't Want To Spoil The Party
The Fool On The Hill
You've Got To Hide Your Love Away
Things We Said Today
If I Needed Someone
It's Only Love
Request Time/Too Many People
She's A Woman
Any Time At All
Don't Let Me Down
I'm So Tired
You Never Give Me Your Money
Mean Mr. Mustard
She Came In Through The Bathroom Window
Carry That Weight
Special thanks to Mike Portnoy and Pristine Productions.