Concert Review Archive

 

Jeff Wayne’s Musical Version Of
The War Of The Worlds

Tuesday, 30th June 2009
Heineken Music Hall , Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Article and photos By Menno von Brucken Fock
 

Jeff Wayne’s Musical Version Of The War Of The Worlds in the Heineken Music Hall in Amsterdam was sold out for the first of three concerts in the Netherlands. After a successful rerelease of the original double LP as a remastered (some editions even extended) double CD, the world was ready to witness a full scale live version featuring huge screens, animations, a "real" Martian Machine, a full orchestra as well as a full band and an impressive light show.

war Of The Worlds Although I’ve never found the music on the original record too exiting, the stage show was far beyond my expectations. H.G. Wells would have been proud if he could have seen this show! The stage setting was really awesome and most impressive were the gigantic screens behind band and orchestra over almost the full width of the venue! The quality of the images was equally fantastic and the images were a mix of animations and close ups of the vocalists. Jeff Wayne appeared to be in excellent shape and was directing foremost the orchestra. As usual the sound in this Hall was terrific, unbeatable. All vocalists were dressed as if it were theatre, and the dresses were matching with the time Well’s wrote his novel. Since Richard Burton, performing as The Narrator, had passed away a long time ago and Wayne really wanted to stick to his voice, the techs created a huge 3D animation of his head in the left hand corner of the stage, talking to the audience as if he was still alive. So animation and the use of the original tapes proved to be a both practical and original solution. What struck me the most was the unsurpassed coherence between live music and animated images together with lights and effects. I’ve never seen anything like this before and I was stunned. After the instrumental overture we can see on the screens how the Martians plan to invade the earth and how the cylinders are launched from Mars with destination Earth. We see the landing and the first Martian setting foot on earth.

To whom are interested: here’s the summary of the story (source: Wikipedia).

The narrator is at an observatory in Ottershaw when explosions are witnessed on Mars, causing interest among the scientific community. Later a "meteor" lands on Horsell Common, south of London, close to the narrator's home. He is among the first to discover that the object is a space-going artificial cylinder. When the cylinder opens, the Martians—bulky, octopus-like creatures the size of a bear— briefly emerge, show difficulty in coping with the Earth's atmosphere, and rapidly retreat into the cylinder. A human deputation moves towards the cylinder, but the Martians incinerate them with a heat-ray weapon, before beginning the construction of alien machinery.

After the attack, the narrator takes his wife to Leatherhead to stay with relatives until the threat is eliminated. Upon returning home, he discovers the Martians have assembled towering three-legged "fighting-machines" armed with a heat-ray and a chemical weapon: "the black smoke". These Tripods easily defeat army units positioned around the crater and proceed to attack surrounding communities. Fleeing the scene, the narrator meets a retreating artilleryman, who tells him that another cylinder has landed between Woking and Leatherhead, cutting the narrator off from his wife. The two men try to escape together, but are separated at the Shepperton to Weybridge Ferry during a Martian attack on Shepperton.

More cylinders land across southern England, and a panicked flight out of London begins, including the narrator's brother. The torpedo ram HMS Thunder Child destroys two tripods before being sunk by the Martians, though this allows the ship carrying the Narrator's brother, and his two female companions to escape. Shortly after, all organized resistance has ceased, and the Tripods roam the shattered landscape unhindered. Red weed, a fast growing Martian form of vegetation spreads over the landscape, aggressively overcoming the Earth's ecology, in much the same way the Martians have overcome human civilization. The narrator takes refuge in a ruined building shortly before a Martian cylinder lands nearby, trapping him with an insane curate, who has been traumatized by the invasion and believes the Martians to be satanic creatures heralding the advent of Armageddon. For several days, the narrator desperately tries to calm the clergyman, and avoid attracting attention, while witnessing the Martians feeding on humans by direct blood transfusion. Eventually the curate's evangelical outbursts lead the Martians to their hiding place, and while the Narrator escapes detection, the clergyman is dragged away. The Martians eventually depart, and the Narrator heads towards Central London. En route he once again encounters the artilleryman who has plans to rebuild civilization underground, but their quixotic nature is shown by the slow progress of an unimpressive trench the artilleryman has been digging. The Narrator heads into a deserted London, finally decides to give up his life by rushing towards the Martians, only to discover they, along with the Red Weed, have succumbed to terrestrial pathogenic bacteria, to which they have no immunity. At the conclusion, the Narrator is unexpectedly reunited with his wife, and they, along with the rest of humanity, are faced with a new and expanded universe as a result of the invasion.

war Of The Worlds A clean vocal performance by veteran Justin Hayward although his voice was just a little less powerful than in the early days. James as the artilleryman, obviously is an experienced. The other big name for us prog-fans was Chris Thompson. He had only a few lines to sing and it took him quite a few notes to prove he could still deliver. The lovely Jennifer Ellison proved to be a worthy replacement for Julie Covington and also stand in Damien Edwards did a fine job as Nathaniel. Nice guitar solo’s by Chris Spedding while both the band as well the orchestra did a really superb job on that evening. Through widely used animations anyone could pick up on the story as described above. The impressive huge Martian tripod could be lit and it could fire its ‘heat beam’ and through fireworks the hits of the canons were simulated nicely. Another nice piece of décor was the bridge on which James sang near the end of the show. Unfortunately all photographers were asked to leave before the end of the show so I can’t describe the grand finale but I’m pretty sure it was equally stunning as the rest of the evening.

Wayne has proven that even an old record (1978) can still stand the test of time and especially with the rather successful movie (with Tom Cruise) in the back of his head, this whole stage show and this way of performing is the ultimate experience one could possibly offer. I can honestly recommend this show to anyone, even if you’re not particularly fond of the music! A seated concert, unequaled sound, stunning visual effects and light show and great vocalists and performers on stage. There will be another chance to go out and see Wayne’s War Of The Worlds live in November 2010!

Slideshow

Setlist
The Prequel
The Eve of The War
Horsell Common and The Heat Ray
The Artilleryman and The Fighting Machine
Forever Autumn
Thunder Child
The Red Weed (Part 1)
The Spirit of Man
The Red Weed (Part 2)
The Artilleryman Returns
Brave New World
Dead London (Part 1)
Dead London (Part 2)
Epilogue (Part 1)
Epilogue (Part 2) NASA
Links

The War Of The Worlds Official Website

DPRP's Review of "Jeff Wayne's Musical Version Of War Of The Worlds - Live on Stage !"

Heineken Music Hall

 


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