Concert Review Archive

 

Arena & PBII

Saturday, 18th November, 2011
De Boerderij, Zoetermeer, the Netherlands

Article By Edwin Roosjen and André de Boer
and Photos By Menno von Brucken Fock

Edwin Roosjen

PBII is a band from The Hague that started a long time ago as Plackband. I really liked their 2010 album Plastic Soup. Just like the headliner Arena PBII plays neo-progressive rock. I was standing on the balcony where it was pretty quiet but very rapidly the floor got pretty crowded.

PBII

On Plastic Soup the bass player Harry den Hartog really appealed to me and it was not good news to hear he left the band. He is replaced by Alex van Elswijk and I must say he does a tremendous job, a very good replacement. On the last two songs PBII was accompanied by their new vocalist Ruud Slakhorst. The last song Never Old is from their forthcoming album and just like their previous album Plastic Soup the band has a social statement. Some of the money from the sales will go to KIKA wich is an organisation that deals with children with cancer. The title Never Old needs no explaining.

PBII

PBII played a very good gig and got a good response from the crowd. Too bad John Jowitt and John Mitchell did not do a guest performance as they did on the PBII DVD PBII@Boerderij.org. I am glad so many people took the effort to come early and see the support band.


André de Boer

Although I’ve seen and enjoyed most of Arena’s band members in other settings like Pendragon, Kino, IQ and Paul Menel, tonight was my christening in meeting them together as Arena. What to expect?

PBII

But first there was Dutch band PBII to be admired. They used the occasion to release their DVD entitled PBII@Boerderij.org, of course taken at the same stage. I never even heard one song of these guys before the show started although they have been around for quite a few years now, formerly under the name of Plackband. So I had a fresh start and view.

PBII

Musically I was not surprised or impressed by what they had to offer. No unparalleled astonishment here. Neo prog with a taste of early Marillion to be short. The most remarkable fact was to see three singers in a row; keyboard player Michel van Wassem, guitarist Ronald Brautigam and new sunglassed singer Ruud Slakhorst. None of those three voices impressed me very much. But as a whole I enjoyed it, with Plastic Soup as one to remember.

PBII

Definitely a fine starter before we sat down for Arena’s main dish. Important note: PBII mentioned working on a new album 1000Wishes. Revenues of the album are to be donated to Kika, a Dutch cancer fund for children.

Setlist PBII
Cradle to Cradle (part 1)
Plastic Soup
Changing Habits
In the Arms of a Gemini
Loneliness
Living by the Dice
Book of Changes
Never Old
 

Edwin Roosjen

And then the stage was for Arena. I saw them once before but that was about ten years ago when they released Immortal?. Back then Rob Sowden was still singing for Arena and I was anxious to see the new vocalist Paul Manzi. Arena played a lot of songs from their new album The Seventh Degree Of Seperation. It was good the see the choice of other songs was not that predictable. Ghost In The Fire Wall was the song from Immortal? instead of The Butterfly Man. My highlight for the evening was The Eyes Of Lara Moon with Paul Manzi on acoustic guitar.

Arena

The style of music on the new album is a bit different than on their previous albums. Changing the singer always results in a different sound but also the song are more standard rock songs, no epic neo-progressive songs. The new songs appealed to me, catchy songs and a more modern sounding Arena. The new vocalist is a very good replacement, technically Paul Manzi is superb and he also presented himself as a good frontman. Though I wondered why he came on with a high hat and round glassess, I thought that was the gimmick of Sowden.

Arena

And Arena sure needs an entertaining frontman because the rest played with boring faces and without enthusiasm (John Jowitt tried a bit). I used to remember when Clive Nolan played for Pendragon he used to bounce his keyboards and smile and interact with the crowd, not much of that tonight. John Mitchell used to play his difficult guitar parts with a cold face and make it look easy. This evening he looked stone cold without a smile on his face. They all laughed a bit but only amongst themselves, not with the audience.

Arena

The "joke" about people not allowed to leave the venue without a copy of the new album is not really funny anymore. Also the remark of the person next to me who shouted he already had a "copy" is not funny anymore. It seemed to me that Arena were having another day at the office.

Arena

The promised "Party" started from Rapture but as you can see that is almost at the end of the show. As always the real party is the sing-a-long Crying For Help VII. Recorded on Pride as an a capella song but live with rocking guitars. Ten years ago there was a naked keyboard player with a scream mask but he did not join Arena this evening. Probably still searching for his one sock he was wearing before the roady threw it in the audience. Those were the rock and roll days for Arena!!!!! They ended with the beautiful Ascension from the Contagion album.

Arena

Arena to me is still a great band but I doubt if I will see them live again. I have good memories of the gig because I heard great music and had some nice chats, very entertaining evening but I doubt whether or not some Arena members were having a good time. I cannot really get mad at Arena because I am playing their new album again and again and again and again, it just will not leave my CD-player. That is not completely true, I take the CD with me when I drive my car towards another day at the office for me. Thankfully for my boss and colleagues I look more happy during my day at the office than mister Nolan, Mitchell or Pointer.


André de Boer

Arena The Boerderij venue was muggy and crowded, almost sold out I guess. Main act for the night was introduced by a belly. Closely followed by Clive Nolan and the other band members. Of course this gig was part of their Seventh Degree of Separation Tour, named after their new album. Which meant being exposed to a lot of new songs tonight. But Arena did not forget to treat the crowd with enough fantastic songs from their back catalogue too. They started off with The Great Escape which made a good impression of what the new album is like, and it sounded solid and identifiable. Singer Paul Manzi included.

The show continued with a few songs from The Visitor and Contagion. The last one enhanced by a long and strong piece of solo keyboard craftsmanship by Nolan. Everyone seemed to be very pleased with the way Arena was building up the tension and atmosphere towards a block of three new songs. Of which Burning Down instantly became my favourite track. I must say that I think those new songs are great in their own right but not very innovative. I mean like Pendragon recently showed with Passion; established but able to reinvent themselves. It was then when I thought about this Arena concert review and what I read the other day. But I really could not detect anyone being bored tonight.

There was much cheer when Mitchell did his solo on Serenity from the heart, when Clive spiced things up a little by telling about the way he met Mick in a bar many years ago and ended up writing Valley Of The Kings together (and it’s true, this song really sounds out of date!), when Mitchell summoning the audience to buy the new album at the booth “otherwise the doors are closed, you need the album to leave the building” or cheer when singer Paul Manzi played acoustic guitar on The Eyes Of Lara Moon. This band was having a good time and so did I and the rest of the audience. Very entertaining, never a dull or overdone moment. The strong performance was officially closed by The Visitor but the band was summoned to come back twice for an encore.

Arena

To bring the night to an end properly, I enjoyed a tiny chat with John Jowitt at the bar afterwards and I was able to leave the venue even without a copy of the new album…

Setlist Arena
The Great Escape
Crack In The Ice
Don't Forget To Breath
City Of Lanterns
Riding The Tide
What If?
One Last Au Revoir
Burning Down
Serenity
Valley Of The Kings
Crying For Help IV
The Eyes Of Lara Moon
Ghost In The Fire Wall
Rapture
The Ghost Walks
Bedlam Fayre
The Tinder Box
The Visitor

Crying For Help VII

Ascension
Slideshow

Links

Arena Official Website

DPRP's Review of "The Seventh Degree of Separation"

PBII Official Website
PBII Myspace

De Boerderij

 


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