Reviews in This Issue:
Neal Morse - Testimony Live
|Country of Origin:||USA|
|Record Label:||Inside Out|
|Catalogue #:||IOMDVD 008|
|Year of Release:||2004|
|Time:||DVD1: 136 min|
DVD2: 119 min
|Encoding & Sound:||Region Code Free|
Dolby Digital 2.0
Tracklist DVD 1: The Land Of Beginning Again (3:08), Overture No.1 (5:45), California Nights (5:51), Colder In The Sun (5:59), Sleeping Jesus (6:04), Interlude (1:56), The Prince Of The Power of The Air (3:52), The Promise (2:53), Wasted Life (7:40), Overture No.2 (2:47), Break Of Day (7:01), Power In The Air (4:48), Somber Days (4:46), Long Story (5:50), It's All I Can Do (5:51), Transformation (2:53), Ready To Try (3:57), Sing It High (6:53), Moving In My Heart (2:56), I Am Willing (6:24), In The Middle (2:19), The Storm Before The Calm (7:17), Oh, To Feel Him (10:13), God's Theme (3:58), Overture No.3 (1:32), Rejoice (3:31), Oh Lord My God (3:42), God's Theme 2 (2:37), The Land Of Beginning Again (1:02)
Tracklist DVD 2: We All Need Some Light (5:50), The Light (20:58), Stranger In Your Soul (26:01) Tour Documentary (1:06:50)
Okay, after writing my review for Testimony I received a fair amount of flak. Just what I expected to be honest. I'm just very much against any form of religious propaganda. I'm still 100% behind every word I've written in that review, but with all of that out of the way I will review this DVD as it is: a splendid capturing of the live performance of an album with a bit of a dodgy content.
Since last year I have gotten used to listening to Testimony and trying to ignore some of the more offensive content (offensive for me that is). One of the great things about this DVD is the fact that the visual aspect of the concert helps to distract from the lyrics. And what fine footage it is. We've seen other DVDs filmed at Tilburg's 013, but this is the best one I've seen so far. Almost all of the musicians are captured on film, the lighting is great (so no extremely dark images on this one) and there's a wide variation of camera angles, although occasionally the soloing person is not filmed.
Musically Neal has gathered a very competent band around him. Considering the small number of shows (they only played three shows prior to Tilburg) and the complexity of the material the band is incredibly tight. Watching the footage and listening to the music I can detect very little 'tinkering' like overdubs and such. What you hear is what's actually played and the very infrequent wrong note only adds to the atmosphere and live feel. As you can imagine this eight piece band creates a very close rendition of the album. A couple of differences are obvious though. The brass sections are not fully present. Nevertheless Mark Leniger does a nice job recreating some of it on saxophone. Some of the brass parts seem to be taped samples though, as do some of the string sections (though these might also be synths at work). But that's the only obvious 'cheating' I've been able to detect. The violin seems to play a more important role than on the album (more about that later).
As far as the band is concerned, special mention goes to Dream Theater's Mike Portnoy doing an amazing job on drums. Neal is doing a splendid job on keys and guitars as we used to see with Spock's Beard. Last but not least, Eric Brenton is absolutely outstanding on violin, guitar, flute, steel guitar and mandolin. All of this in one man ! One of the highlights of his performance is the extended country section in Sing it High. Other band members add extra dimensions to the music with cello, keys, bass, guitar, percussion and harmony vocals.
All in all an incredibly entertaining performance which only fails to grab my further attention during the redundant part 5. And if two hours and 15 minutes of Testimony wasn't enough, there's an hour of additional encores on the second DVD. We're treated to two Transatlantic songs (We All Need Some Light and Stranger in Your Soul) and the Spock's Beard classic The Light. All very fine renditions although I still consider Stranger... to be 10 minutes too long, especially in this live version which contains a long (but very entertaining !) intermezzo where Neal takes over from Mike on the drums.
An especially touching moment is Neal's story about his daughter's heart problem in the otherwise rather tedious Oh To Feel Him.
Neal tells the audience how the hole in his daughter's heart closed after a heavy praying session in church. At the 013 show this story has already become a bit 'fabricated', but the spontaneous eruption of the story during the London show as can be seen in the tour documentary, is really heart wrenching. Seeing Neal cry after telling this story almost moved me to tears as well. It's one of his main reasons for making Testimony, but he had decided not to include it in the concept album. Seeing this was probably the first time I actually understood and respected his reasoning behind making Testimony.
Talking about the tour documentary, it is indeed well worth watching. Once it gets past people waving at the handheld camera and the camera man making annoyingly daft remarks, it turns into a great look behind the scenes. Neal introduces every gig with some memories about every city and performance. What follows is a collection of footage of incidents that happened during the tour, ranging from hilarious tour bus breakdowns and fun about the size of the waste baskets and toilet rolls in European hotels, to more questionable pre-show praying sessions. We also get to see how much fun the band actually has during the tour, including many spontaneous performances of classic tunes in the tour bus and after the shows. Since it was done with hand-cams, the quality of the footage is not incredibly high and the sound of the sections filmed during performances downright dreadful. Still the material is very entertaining nevertheless. Even the normally obligatory and boring Photo Gallery is relatively interesting on this DVD since it plays as a slide show in time with the accompanying music.
The double DVD comes nicely packed with a booklet with credits, liner notes and pictures of the band members plus a slipcases (what is it with these things ?!). Combined with more than four hours of material I can only highly recommend this new Morse release. Go ahead and get yourself some live Testimony !
PS Those changes from black to white shirts, didn't an English band whose name starts with an I and ends with a Q already do that six years
I remember the 17th November 2003 so very well ... in the afternoon I had an interview with Neal Morse planned, at least I thought so, but in the end it turned out that Neal did not have enough time left for doing interviews, so I had driven 126 kilometres back and forth for nothing ... Well, at least I could look forward to the gig in the evening, but driving to Tilburg in the evening for the second time I had a car accident (nobody injured luckily) and I had to return home without seeing/hearing Neal; how much rotten luck can you have on one single day ???
Well, now I can see the concert I sadly missed on two DVDs and the more I look at it the more angry/disappointed I get that I missed that concert "in the flesh", so to speak. Neal and his band, consisting of the one and only Mike Portnoy (drums), Eric Brenton (guitar, violin, flute, mandolin and vocals), John Krosova (electric cello), Bert Baldwin (keyboards, vocals), Rick Altizer (guitar, keyboards, percussion), Randy George (bass guitar, keyboards) and Mark Leniger (percussion, saxophone) shine from the beginning till the end.
Although I have to say that the religious lyrics sometimes tend to get on my nerves, just like on the CD by the way, the first part of the show, until It's All I Can Do, is without any doubt musically speaking the most interesting part. The absolute highlights here are the instrumentals Overture No 1 and 2, California Nights, Somber Days and the ballad It's All I Can Do. The second part of the show, where the band is dressed in white, after they have seen the light, is too religious for me. However it is very funny to see how the band improvises on a song like Sing It High; it almost feels as if you are in a saloon in Texas somewhere ...
The second DVD is also very interesting with three songs on it, a tour documentary, made with their own camcorders and a photo gallery. We All Need Some Light is a song from the first Transatlantic album SMPTE, released in 2000. The long track The Light is a Spock's Beard song, which can be found on the very first Beard-album called The Light, a true Beard classic with Neal singing and playing top notch. Stranger In Your Soul, the epic of all epics, is from the second Transatlantic CD called Bridge Across Forever (2002) and is one of the best prog rock tracks I have ever heard. It features Neal on the drums and the complete band goes berserk during that marvellous track. A wonderful ending to a wonderful concert and I am still really angry that I missed it ... By the way, take a look at those titles on the second DVD, again a religious aspect, or is it just coincidence, I wonder ???
Ed Sander: 9- out of 10
Martien Koolen: 9 out of 10
IQ - IQ20 : The 20th Anniversary Show
|Country of Origin:||UK|
|Record Label:||Giant Electric Pea|
|Year of Release:||2004|
|Time:||approx 230 min|
|Encoding & Sound||Region 0|
Tracklist DVD1: Intro/Awake and Nervous, The 100 Days/The Magic Roundabout, Erosion, State of Mine/Leap of Faith/Came Down, The Seventh House, The Narrow Margin (Middle Section), Human Nature, Capricorn, Just Changing Hands, Guiding Light, Headlong, The Last Human Gateway
Tracklist DVD2: Encores [Subterranea, Jet, Crazy Horses, The Wake], The Lens [Sleep Until You Wake, Choosing a Farmer (part 3), Of Tide and Change], The Intros and The Outros, Access All Areas (IQ20 Tour Diary), Cookie Cam, Stage Set Up (time lapse), Photo Gallery, Mamma Mia/Out of Nowhere
Crikey ! Nowadays any new IQ item seems to have a production time of about three years. So it's no big surprise that their new DVD, capturing the first concert in the 20th anniversary tour, is released in 2004 while it was filmed in December 2001. Nevertheless, it was well worth the wait because the two DVD set is absolutely packed with goodies and clocks in at approximately 230 minutes ! And there's hardly a dull moment in these 230.
The fun already starts with the packaging: a glossy digipack in a slipcase. The artwork is high class, as we've come to expect of the band and features pictures of the band and guests as well as an excellent two page timeline of 20 years of IQ history. In the middle of the digipack you'll find the two DVDs.
The first of the two DVDs features the full main set which was played on the evening in "The Mean Fiddler". And what a great set it was. My only complaint at the time was that, considering it was a 20th anniversary concert, the set list was a bit heavy on their latest material from The Seventh House. Also, some classics were absent and the Are You Sitting Comfortably? and Seven Stories into Eight albums were completely ignored. Also, it would have been fun if the songs had been presented in chronological order, to emphasize the 20 years of work the band tried to present.
Those of you who own a copy of the IQ20 - Archive Collection Vol 1 CD, will know what songs to expect. And regardless of the aforementioned shortcomings the set consist of a long string of highlights, including a rare performance of oldie Just Changing Hands, the splendid 1000 Days/Magic Roundabout medley, a bit of one of their biggest epics (The Narrow Margin) and a full-length version of the other big one (The Last Human Gateway). Oh ... and I forgot to mention the impromptu performance of the theme from Postman Pat !
The sound is absolutely brilliant and available in Stereo and 5.1 Surround. As far as the visual aspect of the concert film is concerned, don't expect the same level of professionalism as with Forever Live or the Subterranea film. The film was made with some steady placed camera's and a couple of handheld cams. Fortunately, at times we get a much better view of the individual band members than on the aforementioned concert films, and it's good fun to see Andy "Mr Ploppy" Labrow, shambling around in the crowd and on stage to capture some fine footage from unexpected angles.
Also, the available material and different camera angles are edited into a diverse film using overlay, close-up and split image effects from time to time. Especially the editing makes the film hard to tell from any production by a professional crew. There's even a camera placed somewhere near drummer Paul Cook's left foot (the 'Cookie Cam') capturing fine footage of his pounding and stomping (although perhaps a bit grainy at times).
One thing I found a bit disappointing was the way the projections were captured. There's two main reasons for this. First of all I realised how far the whole projection stuff has evolved in the last three shows. Compared to for instance the Dark Matter tour this almost seems like kid's play. Also, The Mean Fiddler is not the best venue to film a big multimedia production. There's not a lot of room between the stage and lighting. As a result the projection screen had to be placed behind the band, resulting in less visibility and images being projected on the band members.
Another thing which could have been done better is the choice of camera angles during certain parts of the songs. Especially when a keyboard or guitar solo takes place the angles used are often not showing Mike Holmes or Martin Orford.
Something that definitely needs to be mentioned is the fact that this concerned, with the exception of Peter Nicholls painting his face again for the occasion, this is much more a representative IQ that the Forever Live and Subterranea concert films. In those two movies the humour and fooling around on stage was completely absent. On this IQ20 DVD there's hardly a minute in which nothing funny happens. Whether it is a sexual pun by Mr. Nicholls, some adrenaline induced action by Mr. Jowitt or mischief by Mr. Holmes, there's lots of it on this CD. But rest assured, all of this is not at the expense the quality of the music. Also worth mentioning are the guest performances of Tony Wright on Sax (although he does seem to linger about doing nothing a bit too much during these long songs) and IQ's former bass player Tim Esau on Headlong (and The Wake on DVD 2).
The second DVD is almost more fun than the main set on DVD1. First of all, we are treated to the rest of the performances on the night at the Mean Fiddler: the encores and the 'support act' by The Lens. The encores include an extended version of Subterranea (the one with the reggae bit and Ole! ending), two excellent covers in good Christmas gig tradition (The Wings' Jet and The Osmonds' Crazy Horses) before absolute chaos descends on the stage during The Wake. With Tim Esau playing bass John Jowitt is left jumping around the stage, dancing around wearing (my) Christmas hat and even pulling lighting engineer Lol on stage for some 'dancing' and guest vocals .... err ... make that grunting.
I'm also very happy that they included the performance by The Lens on the DVD. As a support act we see four crosses between Mexican bandito's and sixties hippies play three marvellous renditions from the band's instrumental A Word in Your Eye album. Hilarious fun combined with great musicianship.
But there's much more on DVD 2. There's a total of six short movies that were used over the past years as intros and outros to the band's gigs. At times enormously funny (check out the band member names and merchandise) or stunningly impressive. Access All Areas is a half an hour tour diary of the European IQ20 Tour, capturing sound checks and backstage footage, among which some attempts to have the full band composing a new tune by blowing on partially empty beer bottles (actually the band's favourite musical instruments !). Funny subtitles spice up this interesting look behind the scenes. Unfortunately the only thing which seems to be missing are interviews with band and crew about the IQ20 tour, or the rich 20 years of history of the band.
Next up is another rendition of State of Mine/Leap of Faith/Came Down as played on DVD 1, but now seen through the Cookie Cam. Quite interesting to see Cookie's drum skills for about 10 minutes, especially for drum aficionados.
Stage Set Up is a 2 minute time lapse of the the stage preparations during the afternoon, set to a speeded-up version of Corners. Interesting but a bit embarrassing when compared to e.g. Peter Gabriel's time lapse films. I did however spot a certain IQ fan and DPRP reviewer in this footage.
The Photo Gallery is more interesting than the average gallery you get on DVDs like these since it features pictures from the band's full history and is accompanied by a trance remix of Capricorn by Mike Holmes.
And last but certainly not least, there's the immensely popular encore of Abba's Mamma Mia combined with Out of Nowhere which was filmed during last May's European Dark Matter tour. All in all a lot of splendid bonus material more than worth the price of this full DVD set alone.
As I said before this DVD was well worth the wait, regardless of some of my minor gripes. A must have for every IQ fan or anybody who would like to sample a representative IQ gig or get to know the personality of the band and it's members a bit better. Thumbs up to Dene Wilby and Mike Holmes for the hard work on this item !
Conclusion: 8.5 out of 10
Glass Hammer - Lex Live
|Country of Origin:||USA|
|Record Label:||Arion Records|
Just For Kicks
|Catalogue #:||SR 7112|
|Year of Release:||2004|
|Encoding & Sound:||NTSC Region 0|
Chronotheme (5:08), Tales Of The Great Wars (10:32), One King (6:03), Further Up, Further In (14:41), Cup Of Trembling (9:10), Chronos Deliverer (5:19), When We Were Young/Heaven (13:02)
Bonus Material: Behind the scenes documentary footage, NEARfest performance & Tales Of The Great War (55:00)
The Glass Hammer goodies are coming at me thick and fast, with this Lex Live DVD following hot on the heels of the excellent Live At NEARfest CD. The DVD features much of the same material (Most of Lex Rex and a few tunes from Chronomotree and Perelandra) and the same eight-piece group (Hammer mainstays Fred Schendel and Steve Babb are joined by Walter Moore, Eric Parker, Matt Mendians, Susie Bogdanowicz, Flo Paris and Bethany Warren) but was recorded at a performance at Chatanooga’s "Rhythm and Brews" and therefore omits the choir and the guest appearance of Rich Williams which graced the NEARfest show. The DVD is, if anything, even better than the CD. The performances are superb, the sound first rate, and the experience is considerably enhanced by the visual element, allowing us to see the obvious pleasure, bonhomie and camaraderie with which the participants are clearly filled throughout the show.
The camera work is of a high standard, with fluid changes of angle enabling us to see the main action. Mostly, they manage to be in the right place at the right time, with good clear shots of the entire band and the backing singers. It’s nice to see prominence given to the keyboards (long a favourite element of Prog music for me), with plenty of close up footage of Fred Schendel (who, by the way, is on excellent form here) at work.
The guitar and bass team of Moore and Babb, at front of stage, are clearly having a whale of a time and their enthusiasm is infectious. The backing singers add a nice touch of glamour to the proceedings, and they too seem to be having fun.
Prog rock is not the style of music most suited to live performance (it’s intricacies better suited to careful listening at home), and it certainly does not lend itself to highly visual presentation (without the aid of films, costumes and effects, that is) but Glass Hammer manage to hold my attention by the strength of the musicianship and good humoured enthusiasm alone. I particularly enjoyed seeing the singers perform the sections where their voices weave together (in the manner of Gentle Giant), this brought home the skilful arrangements in a way that the CD is incapable of conveying.
The generous bonus material includes behind the scenes documentary footage (mostly amusing, informative and interesting (I particularly enjoyed the part where Fred shows you which keyboards make which sounds) – but perhaps not likely to be watched more than once or twice), as well as amateur footage of the NEARfest performance, and an excellent music video of Tales Of The Great Wars. This utilises camera tricks to enable us to see multiple versions of Babb and Schendel playing along with each other in the studio. Of course, it’s a great track and this is a really high quality bonus item. Another interesting item is the “Private Performance” section, which shows an acoustic rehearsal performance, filmed in a hotel room prior to the Nearfest show.
I have bought quite a few Prog DVDs lately (Transatlantic, Flower Kings, Pallas to name a few) but I think that this is the one that’s going to make it back into my player more often than the others. It’s a highly enjoyable experience, enhanced by some well thought out extras, and is an essential purchase for GH fans, or indeed prog lovers in general.
Lex Rex was an absolute masterpiece of progressive rockers Glass Hammer, and this year they released an also second to none progressive CD called Shadowlands. Lex Live is the band's first DVD and it was recorded in the club "Rhythm and Brews" in Chattanooga in September 2003. The DVD features songs from their well known albums Perelandra, Chronometree and of course Lex Rex. There is a lot of energy in the performance on this DVD that just does not appear on the studio versions of the songs. Just check out the drums, which are amazing, and there are a lot more guitar solos on this DVD than on the regular album versions.
Of course the Yes-influences of the seventies - Mellotron, Hammond organ and Steve Howe's guitar style - and the King Crimson and even Kansas influences are again obvious in the music of Glass Hammer. But this only shows that these guys can really play their rather complex music like none else can. The absolute masterpieces on this album are: Tales of the Great Wars and the epic Further Up, Further In.
The bonus material consists of : Behind the scenes footage (rehearsal 2002, which is very boring by the way), 28 minutes of a rehearsal for the NEARfest Festival in the hotel bedroom (again rather boring), the DVD-release party (who is interested in that?), and a video of Tales Of the Great Wars. A song that is already on the DVD, but then played live of course and much better. So, the bonus material is rather weak, or should I say crap, while the concert is just fantastic, and that is what it is all about, or not?? So, Glass Hammer fans will certainly enjoy the concert, but I wonder if anyone will appreciate the bonus stuff, only for Glass Hammer addicts, I would say ...
Dave Sissons : 9 out of 10
Martien Koolen : 7.5 out of 10
Ozric Tentacles - Live At The Pongmasters Ball
|Country of Origin:||UK|
|Record Label:||Snapper Music/Recall|
|Year of Release:||2002|
|Encoding & Sound||Region 0, Stereo 2.|
& Dolby Surround 5.1
Tracklist: Oddentity (11:47), Erpland (5:31), Oakum (8:24), Myriapod (11:10), It's A Hup-Ho World (7:47), Pixel Dream (7:40), The Domes Of G'Bal (6:00), Pyramidion (12:15), Saucers (8:19), Dissolution (The Clouds Disperse) (12:30), Sploosh! (7:11), Ta Khut (2:35), Kick Muck (5:18), The Throbbe (10:54)
Bonus Material: Documentary & Interview (41 minutes)
Back in 2002 I reviewed the excellent live album Ozric Tentacles Live At the Pongmasters Ball. At the time though, I never noticed that there was also a version on DVD. When I came across it while browsing the Snapper Music website, the label was kind enough to provide me with a copy for this long overdue review.
I won't go into a musical description of the sound of the Ozrics or the material on this DVD, instead I'd like to refer to the Ozrics Special and the review of the double CD. Let me just say that since reviewing the double CD I have come to appreciate the ambient tracks Ta Khut and Oakum much more, and I now consider them to be among the highlights of this DVD. After hearing the latest Ozrics album, Spirals in Hyperspace, I have also started to regret that the arrangements on this live album/DVD aren't a bit less guitar-heavy than they are. Besides these minor issues I still stand well behind the rating of 9 out of 10 that I gave the CD back in 2002.
I have never had the pleasure to see the band live on stage before, something which I regret all the more after watching this DVD. Their show comes with a very effective light show and projections on three separate screens enclosing the stage. It's also great to see these five musicians performing their incredibly tight renditions of songs you would think 'un-performable'. Not to mention the highly effective and entertaining jamming.
Watching this DVD has also opened my eyes to whole new aspects of the band's music and performance. For instance, for the first time I actually see how important he role of the flute player is. He adds much more atmosphere that I ever imagined and he's much more present than I ever noticed. He might not always be in the mix when he's playing, and he might be dancing around imitating airplanes during large parts of the show, but he definitely is a major part of the band's music. Seeing how he actually performs the gurgling in Sploosh, which I always thought to be a sample, was a revelation as well.
The 41 minute documentary is, although not professionally filmed, a very interesting and fun look behind the scenes. We see how the band arrive, get to know a bit more about the personalities of the band and crew members, the technical problems with the equipment, the way they 'get in shape' before going on stage and more. One of the most remarkable parts of the documentary is the bit where they interview visitors of the gig, showing the wide variety of Ozrics fans and proving that their music goes beyond race or age. If you don't get offended about the occasional 'spiced out' band member (although all of the joints are carefully 'blurred' in the footage) there's a lot to enjoy here !
There's just a couple of complaints I have about this DVD. Most importantly, for part of the show, the soundtrack and visuals are out of sync. This especially becomes annoyingly clear when watching the footage of the drummer. I consider this to be an error that should and could have been avoided and really spoils some of my enjoyment of this DVD. Hence the difference between the rating of the CD and this DVD. Also, at times the switches between camera's are a bit too much and some of the camera angles downright weird or images a bit unsteady. Nevertheless, if you haven't got the CD yet I would advise you to go for this DVD. It contains all of the marvellous tracks from the double live CD but you get the additional pleasure of watching the band perform it live on stage.
Conclusion: 8 out of 10
Marillion - Live From Lorely
|Country of Origin:||UK|
|Catalogue #:||5 99726 9 5|
|Year of Release:||1988/2004|
|Encoding & Sound||Region 0|
4:3 aspect ratio
Dolby Digital Surround
Tracklist: Intro (La Gazza Ladra) (2.10), Slàinte Mhath (5.19), Assassing (6.32), Script For A Jester's Tear (9.10), Incubus (9.03), Sugar Mice (6.32), Hotel Hobbies (3.57), Warm Wet Circles (5.57), That Time Of The Night [The Short Straw] (4.22), Kayleigh (4.32), Lavender (2.25), Bitter Suite (7.43), Heart Of Lothian (5.18), The Last Straw (6.55), Incommunicado (5.50), Credits (1.13)
Bonus Material: Photo Gallery
Marillion - Brave
|Country of Origin:||UK|
|Catalogue #:||5 99780 9 3|
|Year of Release:||1995/2004|
|Encoding & Sound||Region 0|
4:3 aspect ratio
Dolby Digital Stereo
Tracklist: Bridge (2.55), Living With The Big Lie (6.42), Runaway (6.54), Goodbye To All That (6.54), Hard As Love (4.08), The Hollow Man (4.38), Alone Again In The Lap Of Luxury (8.12), Brave (8.34), The Great Escape (4.48), Falling From The Moon (2.43) Credits (The Great Escape - orchestral version) (1.30)
Bonus Material 'The Making Of Brave' (28.30): Introduction (0.55), A Brief History Of The Band (3.20), The Inspiration For Brave (2.15), The Recording Sessions (5.02), Why A Movie? (5.07), Recreating The Album (9.14), Credits (2.24)
In what is likely to be the final chapter of EMI's string of Marillion re-releases come the last two Marillion videos on DVD: the 1987 concert video Live From Lorely, and the band's stab at motion pictures, Brave (1994, released on VHS in 1995).
The first of the two DVDs, Live From Lorely shows the band headlining a festival in St Goarshausen, Germany.
It is good fun to see such a young version of this band, with a particularly lean Steve Rothery, and a particularly chubby Fish.
This period showed the band at the peak of their career, though it was also a very awkward period for the band. While the concert took place a full year before Fish' departure from the band, you can see (in hindsight, that is) how the cracks already began to show, for example by how little interaction there was on stage between Fish and the rest of the band.
It was also the tour where they had that terrible background vocalist, who seemed mainly there for the female lead in The Last Straw and occasionally helping Fish to reach some of the higher notes (this was also the tour where Fish first started having voice problems). For the rest of the video she is mainly showing us her eighties' dance moves.
As for the footage itself, well, it shows the band at that particular period in time, but that's about it. Great for nostalgia, but also horribly dated. This being a festival gig means that the gig starts when it is still daylight, and when it finally gets dark (around Script For A Jester's Tear) the lighting is really below-par: harsh spotlights drown out most colours on stage.
And that's really a shame, as the performance itself is not at all bad.
The set-list is a well-chosen greatest hits set, and the band plays a tight concert (no doubt a little tweaking has been done here and there, but that is only normal with big live-releases). The sound quality is reasonable. An attempt has been made to remix the stereo mix into a 5.1 surround sound, though this basically means there is a little sound added to the rear speakers, but the subwoofer channel remains largely unused. Then again, the remixer didn't have much to work with, as the original producer of the concert thought for some reason it'd be a good idea to mix the sound of the audience as high in the mix as possible. Especially in between songs it is impossible to hear Fish's introductions and during the songs as well there is the constant audience noise way too high in the mix. Oddly enough, when Fish lets the audience sing the second line of Script you don't hear a bloody thing.
So while it is not the best imaginable concert to release on DVD, it is a good document of its time. Fish changes into three or four different costumes (the feathered Torch 'gown' is just preposterous) and the audience seemed to have tried their best to out-dress Fish. It is amazing that I too once wore such clothes and it is just impossible to imagine that white tennis shoes were ever fashionable.
Brave is a completely different matter. Seven years later the band released their third studio album with 'new boy' Steve Hogarth. And while the band is still wearing white tennis shoes, that is pretty much where the comparison ends.
Following the good traditions of Tommy and The Wall, the band wanted to turn their concept album into a movie. They took the budget they received from EMI to make three promotional videos and turned that into one 58-minute movie.
Given the bleak subject matter of Brave it is not surprising the movie turned out to be very bleak as well. Not something most people would watch for fun. For a detailed review of the film I refer to the Counting Out Time article on Brave.
Again, this is footage that did not age terribly well. The film was made on a shoestring budget and it shows in the very poor special effects. Especially the bluescreen work could make the current movie-going public cringe.
Brave the movie really is something for the fans, and not even all fans will appreciate Richard Stanley's take on the album concept.
When comparing these DVDs to the previous two DVD re-releases, these come as one big disappointment. Were Recital Of The Script and From Stoke Row To Ipanema graced with a wealth of interesting and rare extras (especially the latter), the extras on these DVDs are no more than a photo gallery on Live From Lorely (taken from the 1987 tour-programme, so I admit it is a nice feat) and absolutely zip on the Brave DVD, Well,
Brave lists The Making Of Brave as bonus material, but this was also already bonus material on the original VHS release, so technically this isn't really much of a bonus.
And while both DVDs sport cleverly crafted animated menus, and the stereo sound-mix from Lorely has been up-mixed to something one could call surround sound, I can't help but conclude that EMI didn't feel like putting the same effort into these DVDs as they did with the previous two. Likely because the added effort (costs) would not generate the increase in sales needed to justify these. And at EMI they know all too well that there are plenty Marillion fans out there who will buy any release anyhow.
The official statement reads that there was no footage available to be included, but I simply don't buy that statement. I simply cannot believe that between 1983 (Recital...) and 1987, at the height of their career, not a single performance and not a single interview with the band was ever captured by camera. Not to mention the four songs played at this very concert, but excluded from the original VHS release: White Russian, Fugazi, Garden Party and Market Square Heroes. I just don't believe that.
With Brave, the explanation seems more plausible, as the band themselves have always explained how no good footage of the
Brave live shows existed, hence their decision to play the album once more for a DVD release in 2002. However, a new retrospective documentary or an audio commentary, would have been welcome additions to this DVD. The Brave Live DVD and Brave The Movie combined will give you the full Brave experience, but neither release is the perfect DVD document this masterpiece deserves.
So why waste any more money on stuff you may already own and which contain virtually no extra footage? Well, er, there is the minor fact of DVD having superior quality over VHS, and if you are like anything like me, you won't even own a VCR anymore, so, uhm, that's why!
Live From Lorely: 7.5 out of 10
Brave: 7 out of 10
Bart Jan van der Vorst
Dream Theater - Images and Words Live In Tokyo / 5 Years In A LIVEtime
|Country of Origin:||USA|
|Year of Release:||1992/1998/2004|
|Encoding & Sound||Region 1 or 2-6|
4:3 aspect ratio
PCM 2.0 stereo
Dolby Digital 5.1
DVD 1 : 'Images And Words Live In Tokyo' [91.50]
Intro (1.19), Under A Glass Moon (7.12), The Making Of Images And Words (2.58), Pull Me Under (5.30), Take The Time (5.53), Kimonos And Condoms (1.40), Wait For Sleep (2.46), Surrounded (6.02), Ytse Jam/Drum Solo (11.33), Another Day (4.25), To Live Forever (12.12), A Fortune In Lies (5.09), Abbey Road (1.09), Puppies On Acid/Take The Time (12.24), On The Road '93 (1.31), Pull Me Under (9.44)
DVD 2 : '5 Years In A LIVEtime' [119.15]
Intro (1.10), Burning My Soul (5.16), Cover My Eyes (4.32), The Making Of Awake (2.57), Lie (4.39), 6:00 (5.23), Voices (8.18), The Silent Man (3.42), Damage Inc. (4.23), Easter (4.45), Siberian Khatru/Starship Trooper (3.44), The Making Of Falling Into Infinity (2.01), Hollow Years (4.32), Puppies On Acid/Just Let Me Breathe (7.10), Perfect Strangers (1.14), Speak To Me (6.18), Lifting Shadows Off A Dream (7.00), Anna Lee (5.39), To Live Forever/Lines In The Sand (7.12), On The Road '98 (2.55), Metropolis pt. 1 (8.46), Peruvian Skies (8.54), Medley: Jam/Learning To Live/A Change Of Seasons pt VII (8.35)
Bonus Material: Audio commentary on both discs
Like the Marillion DVDs reviewed above these are VHS releases, re-released on DVD format. Like the Marillion DVDs no bonus footage is included. However, UNlike the Marillion DVDs, these are two releases packed into one DVD package, sold at the price of a single DVD, and also unlike Marillion, Dream Theater felt it would be nice to give at least something extra to the fans by recording audio commentaries. Same concept, different execution.
Both these videos are a collection of live performances, studio footage, interviews and promo videos,
Disc 1 following the band on the Images And Words tour, just after their breakthrough, and the second disc chronicling the five years that followed, including the albums Awake, A Change Of Seasons, Falling Into Infinity and Once In A LIVEtime.
Both discs suffer from the fact that it isn't a continuous piece of footage, and especially with
Images And Words Live In Tokyo it is a bit distracting to have the concert footage interrupted with interview bits and promo videos. Nonetheless it is great to see the young version of this band embracing the sudden success and letting it all happen to them. The interviews which intersperse the concert footage are all very light-hearted and fun to watch, and not at all what you'd expect from the band if you'd only knew them from the very serious looking promo videos of Pull Me Under and Take The Time.
Highlights of the Images And Words disc are the Mike Portnoy drumsolo (and his exclamation on the audio commentary: "I hate drumsolos!") and a great, extended rendition of To Live Forever.
Five Years In A LIVEtime is the better of the two, as it is more a documentary style movie, consisting of promo videos, interviews, studio footage and live footage from concerts in Japan, France, The Netherlands and a snippets of other concerts.
Especially the footage from the semi-unplugged fan club show in Rotterdam, The Netherlands is great, as it showed the band in a completely different setting, with candles and acoustic guitars, and they played lots of rarities as well as a couple of cover songs. This DVD set is worth buying alone for the rare performances of Anna Lee, Cover My Eyes and Speak To Me - the latter two being unreleased songs from the Falling Into Infinity sessions - They had enough material for a double album, but the record company decided against this. As Derek Sherinian left the band shortly after the tour, these songs were never officially released and only survive on a fanclub album and this DVD.
Another unreleased track is To Live Forever, another rarity from the Images And Words period which is in fact featured on both discs!!
Another treat for the fans is the footage from the 1995 Uncovered show, a special pub show where they played only covers of bands that influenced them. The show featured many special guests, some of which are included on the DVD here: Barney Greenway of Napalm Death, Steve Hogarth and Steve Rothery of Marillion and Steve Howe of Yes.
The highlights are too many to mention, and the only negative comment I can have is that not more footage from the different shows has been included as bonus material - especially the footage of the Rotterdam show looks gorgeous.
It is ironic how the gig they set out to record and release as a live album/live video, actually results in the worst footage of all. Though it was a memorable gig in Paris, France, when they played almost their entire catalogue in a four-hour show, neither the Once In A LIVEtime double album, nor the footage on this DVD is particularly good.
It does show the band on top of their improvisational form though. While they have returned to performing near-studio versions of their songs during concerts, hardly any song was played unchanged during the Falling Into Infinity Tour: their epic A Change Of Seasons was cut up and played in pieces throughout the set, many songs contained snippets of cover tunes and many other songs were played only half and tied together in a medley style. Of the songs included on the DVD Peruvian Skies is a standout performance, which includes snippets of Pink Floyd's Have A Cigar and Metallica's Enter Sandman
The two audio commentaries are fun and interesting, but also rather trivial, and often too much for the in-crowd. Many of the jokes have a "guess you had to be there" feel. But it is fun to hear the band members bicker about jet-lags, ridicule each other's clothing and discuss the importance of hair conditioner - especially the commentary on the second disc consists largely of joking and fooling around, though there are a few very honest and open confessions by Mike Portnoy about how he nearly left the band in 1998.
Also fun is hearing Jordan Rudess comment on the keyboard lines of Kevin Moore and Derek Sherinian and discuss the necessity of playing a certain solo with two hands, just for the sake of looking cool.
To sum it up: it is an excellent re-release which contains plenty of interesting footage for Dream Theater fans. With the improved 5.1 surround mix and the band commentaries on both discs this set contains enough to the old videos, but it remains a fan-only thing.
Conclusion: 8- out of 10
Bart Jan van der Vorst
Manfred Mann's Earth Band [MMEB] -
Angel Station In Moscow
Tracklist: Intro (I'll Give You), Shelter From The Storm, Nothing Ever Happens, Castles Burning (Don't Let It Bring You Down), Martha's Madman, Don't Kill It Carol, Angels At My Gate, Father Of Day, Father of Night, Demolition Man [a] She Was [b] Blinded By The Light, Redemption Song (No Kwazulu), Davy's On The Road Again, The Mighty Quinn
|Country of Origin:||UK|
|Catalogue #:||MANNDVD 001|
|Year of Release:||2004|
|Encoding||NTSC All regions|
Looking through the DPRP CD/DVD reviews archive, I was somewhat surprised to find no mention of MMEB. It seems quite amazing to think, given the longevity of this band, stretching some four decades, (and for Manfred Mann himself covering five), that we have never taken the opportunity to delve into their music. During this period they have recorded numerous albums and toured frequently in mainland Europe. So finally with this DVD, recorded during the band's first visit to the "Moscow Sports Palace (Luzniki)" on 18th December 2000, we redress this oversight.
I have to admit that I have not followed MMEB's career as closely as perhaps I should, but of those albums I have listened to have always been enjoyable, and whilst researching background info for this review, I found I had rather more of their albums than I thought lurking in my record collection. Time for a revisiting methinks.
The DVD opens up with the band performing Intro (I'll Give You) and from the bands point this track allows them to settle into the performance, make any minor adjustments to the on-stage sound / monitoring and generally become comfortable on stage. From my point it quickly reminded how much I really love Manfred Mann's keyboard playing. When talking of the great keyboard players in prog Manfred for me has always been somewhat neglected. Perhaps because he does not offer the great wall of sounds that we may expect of these men, or is it he is missing a long flowing cape or is it the lack of knives and stage histrionics, whatever the reasons these opening bars quickly bring a welcome smile to my face. What I most love about his playing is the manipulation of sound, the changing timbres as he tweaks and adjusts the parameters of the keyboards. Those slight changes making the simplest of melodies fascinating. The other great part of his playing is the notes he plays and bending of those notes - as we can see and hear, some of those note bends defy belief - but they always work, wonderfully. Checkout the opening bars of Nothing Ever Happens.
But what of the rest of the band on Angel Station In Moscow; well nice to see Manfred's old stable mate Mick Rogers once again. Mick, a founder member played guitar and vocals on the bands first six studio albums, later guesting on subsequent releases before rejoining the band in the mid 80s. For me his guitar playing is an integral part of the band's sound and is nicely captured here, although vocally his position is now filled by Noel McCalla (some may remember the name from Mike Rutherford's Smallcreep's Day). McCalla's performance is superb throughout, his strong rich voice lifts the music and his version of Bob Marley's Redemption Song is one of the highlights of this DVD. Mick Rogers does still undertake some of the vocal duties, which is nice to hear, and his voice blends really well with McCalla's in the harmony sections. Last but not least is the rhythm section of Steve Kinch (bass) and Richard Marcangelo (drums), who are tight, fluid and totally sympathetic to the music. I particularly enjoyed the drive and impetus they inputted throughout the performance, which takes on a magic status during Demolition Man.
The band appear very relaxed and at ease on stage as they pay tribute to the MMEB catalogue. Obvious track's such as Bruce Springsteen's Blinded By The Light mingle in with a fair smattering of Bob Dylan songs - Shelter From The Storm, Father Of Day, Father of Night and the wonderful The Mighty Quinn, the organ intro still lifts the spirits every time I hear that intro. Davy's On The Road still works well as a crowd pleaser and Sting's Demolition Man serves as another highlight - Manfred's piano work coming to the forefront during the opening section.
As for details of the DVD itself, well there are no extras to be found on this DVD, so what you get is the Concert as it happened and with what would appear to be little editing. Personally I don't mind this as I often find the "bonus" material of little interest, or a watch once experience, or at its very worst "filler" material. This is not always the case and I would certainly have been interested in some archive footage - ah! but I digress. Both the filmed footage and are audio quality are good - again nothing is offered in the way of special features and the audio would appear to be only available in stereo. Again this was not a problem for me. One thing did that did impress me was the filming (and editing), which is done with an understanding of live performance - in general having a good balance between full band and close-up camera selection (although not always featuring the right band member :0).
This DVD served as a timely reminder of how enjoyable Manfred Mann's Earth Band really are. Firstly we have a strong selection of very catchy songs finely balanced with just the right amount of instrumental passages. The highs and lows which have always been a characteristic of MMEB's music have also been captured nicely by this footage. The DVD also shows that the band still retain a stage presence that negates the need for lavish sets or gimmicks - the music and musicianship speaks volumes.
Great to see Manfred Mann still playing and the magic of his playing has not diminished one iota with the passage of time. The overall performance is good and nicely captures the growing excitement of the concert. MMEB remain as busy as ever, still touring and with a new album, 2006, due soon (in 2004?), we can only wish the band continued success for the future. We hope to be able to bring you a review of 2006 shortly.
Conclusion: 8 out of 10
Threshold - Critical Energy
|Country of Origin:||UK|
|Record Label:||Inside Out|
|Catalogue #:||IOMDVD 007|
|Year of Release:||2004|
|Encoding & Sound||2.0 Stereo|
Main Concert Phenomenon; Oceanbound; Choices; Angels; Falling Away; Virtual Isolation; Innocent; Long way home; Fragmentation; Clear; Life Flow; Narcissus; Sunseeker; The Latent Gene; Light And Space; Sunrise on Mars; Paradox; Sanity’s End
Extras: Commentary (with Karl Groom and Richard West); Progpower USA 2002 Footage [Light And Space; The Latent Gene; The Ravages Of Time]; Critical Moments (Behind The Scenes Documentary); Photo Gallery
After six albums of superb progressive metal, the UK’s premium exponents of the genre, Threshold, have finally got around to entering the burgeoning DVD market with this concert DVD, which effectively serves as both a summation of the band’s career to date, and a ‘closing chapter’ on much of the older material.
I won’t go into great detail on the musical side, as it’s already been covered by Andy in his review of the CD version. Suffice to say, the band are all on form, nailing these often complex songs pretty much 100%. There’s been a bit of fixing, noticeably on Mac’s vocals (easier to tell when viewing the concert than simply listening to it), but the material does still have something of that ‘live’ feel to them – although not as much as some live albums I’ve heard.
Song-wise, it’s a pretty good representation of the band’s back catalogue, with all albums represented – although understandably the most heavily covered are (the then-most-recent albums) Critical Mass and Hypothetical. Personally speaking, I don’t understand why the band didn’t include the outstanding The Ravages Of Time – surely one of their stand-out compositions. On the plus side, this was present and correct on the two dates I saw them play on the "Subsurface" tour recently. It would also be nice to have heard some of the classic yet unheralded epics from some of the earlier albums – i.e. the likes of A Tension Of Souls, Voyager II and Eat The Unicorn – in place of weaker recent material such as Choices, or overplayed older songs like Paradox and Sanity’s End. It would also be good to hear the original electric version of Life Flow (from Extinct Instinct), rather than the (admittedly well done) acoustic version
we get here. Still, these are all personal gripes, and for a band with such a large and formidable back catalogue this is a pretty good selection which should please the majority of fans.
So what of the visuals? Well, I’ve seen Threshold several times, and I have to say that each time has come across as considerably more entertaining than the concert we are presented with here. Whilst musically the band are all fine performers, they can’t be said to be on a visual level to be the most exciting of outfits. Steve Anderson, the (then temporary) bassist, only having just recently joined the band, is content here just to stay at the back and concentrate on his playing – which, admittedly, is flawless (in contrast with recent shows, where he put in a much more animated performance). Coupled with the permanently static figure of guitarist Nick Midson, it’s left to lead guitarist Karl Groom and vocalist Mac to carry the show, performance-wise. The latter, usually a very animated performer, particularly in terms of audience interaction, is here somewhat restrained – no doubt so he can hit all the notes perfectly (it’s generally the case that he misses his cue a few times!). Yes, he tries to get the crowd going at times, but constantly stating that he wants to see every hand in the air hardly constitutes an entertaining dialogue with the audience; coupled with some rather bad tempered comments (even telling audience members to shut up at times), means this is hardly a vintage Mac performance. In the end, its drummer Johanne James who comes over best – one of the finest drummers in the genre, and an athletic one to boot, watching him in his more animated moments is genuinely entertaining.
The camera work and lighting are generally of a high quality, although they do serve to show another couple of failings with this concert. Firstly, the tiny stage (the venue is de Boerderij, in the Netherlands) just doesn’t seem big enough for the filming of a live DVD. I know that Threshold still aren’t as popular as, by rights, they should be, but surely on the continent they must play bigger venues more suited to live filming? This venue hardly seems bigger than the cramped stages the band have to play in their home country where (as we’re constantly being reminded) they’re popularity is far lower than on mainland Europe. Secondly, the audience seems somewhat restrained. Yes, they applaud each song, and some of the fans seem genuinely enthusiastic throughout, but the (sparse) camera shots of the audience predominantly show a sea of rather blank, even bored looking faces. With both band and audience seemingly restrained, then, it’s fair to say that this will not be rivalling Rush in Rio in the ‘best concert DVD ever’ stakes.
As usual with these packages, Critical Energy comes with plenty of extras. The Progpower USA footage is a nice inclusion; it clearly wasn’t intended for a proper release, as both sound and visuals are of a pretty poor quality, but it does serve as a memento of the band’s first (and so far only) foray onto North American soil. It also has one of the last live performances from long-time bassist Jon Jeary, and includes
The Ravages Of Time, which (partly) makes up for its omission from the main concert.
Elsewhere, we get a ‘behind the scenes’ documentary, Critical Moments, which sheds little light on what makes Threshold tick, instead majoring on band members moaning about how boring it can be on the road. Far more entertaining is a commentary track from keyboardist Richard West and Karl Groom. This manages to be both informative and fun, with both band members’ proving to be very humorous (in a typically deadpan, British way) with lots of amusing anecdotes and comments about what’s going on on stage, as well as some insights into how some of the tracks came about, which fans will find quite eye-opening. Particularly amusing is the story behind the leather ‘skirt’ which Mac wears for the concert; apparently he made it himself, and on the previous night, after sitting to deliver an impassioned lyric, couldn’t get back up again – very Spinal Tap! And there’s plenty more amusing tales where that came from.
So, overall, I would say that, if you’re already a Threshold fan, this is well worth getting – its’ generally entertaining, and the extras and ‘alternate’ versions will mean that you should find this well worth owning. On the other hand, this is hardly the most exciting concert I’ve seen the band play, and a new fan may well want to try one of the studio albums first (I’d suggest Hypothetical as a good place to start) – not least because they’re easier to digest, whereas a 2 hour set of complex prog metal may be a bit much for a Threshold newcomer to take. My verdict therefore: good, but I would perhaps have hoped for better.
Conclusion: 7 out of 10
Tom De Val
Green Carnation - Alive And Well ... Who Am I?
|Country of Origin:||Norway|
|Record Label: ||Metal Mind Productions|
|Catalogue #: ||MMP DVD 0023 |
|Year of Release: ||2004|
|Time: ||Approx 155 |
|Encoding & Sound||Region 2 PAL,|
Dolby Digital 2.0, 5.1 & DTS
CONCERT: Into Deep, Crushed To Dust, Writings on the Wall, Light of Day, Day of Darkness, The Boy in the Attic, Myron & Cole,
Rain, As Life Flows By
BONUS VIDEOS: Recording of drums "Into Deep", Crushed to Dust (bootleg), Boy in the Attic (bootleg), Writings on the Wall (bootleg)
BONUS AUDIO: Into Deep, Crushed to Dust, The Boy in the Attic, Myron & Cole, Stay on These Roads, Wicked Game, Pre production (demo track of forthcoming album)
And then some more Extra's
A year after Progpower 2003, I am looking at the first Green Carnation DVD. It brings back memories of that concert. I have made it no secret that since then Green Carnation is one of my favorite bands. So, to find out they had a DVD available for some months already without me noticing was bit of shock.
This is a comprehensive DVD, it contains extra video and audio tracks, animated menus, there are interviews (with actually meaningfull questions), band member biographies and the booklet is 16 pages thick and contains the lyrics to the tracks of the recorded concert. One of the extra audio tracks is a pre production track of the forthcoming album. It is the thing I played first, once the DVD was in my player.
The main reason for this DVD, the concert, is quite OK. The sound and image quality of this DVD are descent but no more than that. Video of the concert is good enough but the videos of the interviews and bootlegs are of low quality, but then again those are only the extras. The sound of the concert is probably just as good as it was in the venue it was recorded, so it does give a real live impression. Unfortunately this means the sound is much to hollow. The concert itself is good but does not sparkle of the screen (or through the speakers) as I had expected it to. Highlights of the concert are: Light of Day, Day Of Darkness (Part 1), The Boy In The Attic, Myron and Cole. Especially The Boy In The Attic is very good. It has a heavier sound than the studio version and the vocals are excellent. The stage performance of Green Carnation is lacking some energy, they are a band performing their songs without really connecting to the audience.
The audio tracks are of excellent quality and really surprising. I would have never thought this music could sound this good acoustically. I do think the band members are good musician but I did not expect all these tracks to be suitable for an acoustic recording. The last audio track, the pre-production track, holds lots of promise for the future so let's just hope this promise gets fulfilled.
The extra bootleg video's are of too low a quality to be interesting, but the drum recording sessions give a very nice look into the kitchen of music recording. Dividing studio sound and album sound for the left and right audio channel is also a nice touch.
The interviews are very informative and the questions are not only nice and sweet (e.g. why did the Botteri brothers quit?). It looks like it is Tchort who is appointing one of the band members to answer the question.
All in all this looks like a DVD in which a lot of hours have been put in. The extra's are just overwhelming and the main performance is also quite OK, although the video recordings could have been better throughout the whole DVD. All in all though it did not lead my attention away from the screen. In other words: Green Carnation have done well on this DVD, it has a good value for money.
Conclusion: 8 out of 10
La Maschera Di Cera / Nil -
Gouveia Artrock 2003
|Country of Origin:||Portugal|
|Record Label:||Gouveia Artrock|
|Catalogue #:||IGAC 6865-2004|
|Year of Release:||2004|
La Maschera Di Cera
|Encoding & Sound||Region 0, 4:3, Stereo|
Nil: Soundcheck (2.43), Quarante Jours Sur Le Sinaï, acte 1 (12.31), 198 (9.19), Dérives (4.21), Abandon (8.40), Band credits (1.14)
La Maschera Di Cera: Soundcheck (2.39), Ai Confini Del Mondo (13.12), Il Viaggio Nell'Oceano Capovolto, Part 1 (10.23), Dal Caos (7.07), Band Credits (1.09)
Bonus Material: Memories of Gouveia 2003 (4.38), Portuguese and English subtitles
When it comes to naming countries that are prolific in progressive rock, Portugal isn't the first one that will spring to mind. Apart from Forgotten Suns there aren't many Portuguese prog bands known to the outside world. Furthermore, there aren't that many prog bands that include Portugal in their touring schedule either. So it is a bit surprising that this country boasts a genuine progressive rock cultural organisation, the Portugal Progressivo Associação Cultural, who have successfully organised an artrock festival in the small town of Gouveia, in the North-East of Portugal (conveniently located near the Spanish border) - TWICE! Part of the first edition of the Gouvea Art Rock Festival is now available on DVD and offers the unfortunate ones who missed it a chance to catch up. It is also a great way to get acquainted with these relatively unknown bands.
First on the bill is the French quintet Nil, whose album Quarante Jours Sur Le Sinaï received a 'DPRP recommended' review. Their dark, atmospheric and largely instrumental pieces have a hypnotising effect, and this is well emphasised by delicate lighting of the stage - nothing overdone, and without any flashy effects, with colour schemes very effective for the music.
Focal point is singer Roselyne Berthet whose beautiful vocals occasionally send shivers down your spine (not to mention the fact that she's the best-looking bandmember as well!). A nice lighthearted note amidst the somewhat serious music is Berthet's attempt to introduce the songs in Portuguese (carefully reading them out from a piece of paper), and it is nice of the director of this DVD to have this included, as it is a good way to break the tension after the long, stunning set-opener Quarante Jours Sur Le Sinaï, acte 1. The four tracks chosen from their set offer a good overview of the different styles Nil have under their belt, closing with the excellent Abandon, which sees the band abandon (pun intended) their jazzy melody lines and enter a much more hard-edged style of rock.
The second band featured on this DVD is Italian La Maschera Di Cera, a side-project by Finisterre's Fabio Zuffanti. Now, while I know loads of Italian prog bands by name, to my shame I must admit that I've hardly heard any of them! The biggest problem with Italian prog is that while there are so many great bands out there, most of their music is pretty difficult to come by.
Fortunately I have now been able to acquaint myself with one little tip of the ice-berg.
When the show starts and vocalist Allessandro Corvaglia introduces the first song, his painted face suggests the band might play music in the vein of Genesis or eighties' neo-prog. However, the music lies in a completely different territory. Like Nil, the music is more like RIO or Fusion, and the extensive use of flute results in obvious comparison to bands like Focus to a lesser extent Jethro Tull.
The band's music fails to capture me as much as Nil's, and that is mainly because of Corvaglia's vocals, which have that typical hoarse Italian crooner sound. Musically it is all top-notch, and in my opinion it would have been better had the music stayed instrumental.
As a little bonus there are some interview snippets of both bands included, as well as footage from the sound check. Also included is a four-minute retrospective of the festival.
Taking the limited resources for making this DVD into account, one can only compliment the Gouveia Artrock association on this excellent release. The footage is excellent, the sound quality fine, and even though the concerts were captured by only a few camera's, the editing is very well done and the footage never bores.
For the bands this is also a terrific opportunity to have their music released on DVD, as I don't think either of these bands would have the resources to finance a DVD release on their own. So we're literally talking about a win-win situation here.
Conclusion: 8 out of 10
Bart Jan van der Vorst
Queensr˙che - The Art of Live
|Country of Origin:||USA|
|Year of Release:||2004|
|Encoding & Sound||Dolby, NTSC|
Tracklist: Tribe (5:56), Sign of the Times (3:38), Open (4:37), Losing Myself (4:08), Desert Dance (4:22), The Great Divide (4:39), Rhythm of Hope (3:37), My Global Mind (4:17), Roads to Madness (5:14), Della Brown (6:25), Breaking the Silence (4:33), The Needle Lies (3:14), Best I Can (6:18), Comfortably Numb (Featuring Dream Theater) (6:59), Won't Get Fooled Again (Featuring Dream Theater) (9:48).
Bonus Material: Photo Gallery, Interview & Behind The Scenes Footage
Unlike some of the previously released Queensr˙che videos which were professionally filmed, this new DVD is basically a collection of edited recordings on hand-cams by the band's crew. Now, this would be an interesting idea for a song or two on a concert DVD, but a whole concert ? And to make things worse somebody decided that it would be a cool idea to overlay the WHOLE concert film with a dodgy effect that makes it look like a very old grainy brown film. Maybe this was done to disguise the hand-cam quality of the footage. Whatever the reason was, it gets pretty annoying after a couple of seconds, as do all of the slow-motion and blurring effects. Another let-down is the fact that the drums you hear do not match with the footage of Rockenfield attacking his kit. At times he's clearly doing different fills and rolls that the stuff you're watching.
Now, I did mention 'whole concert' did I ? Well, that's not quite correct. It's actually a selection of just an hour of material from the set list of the Tribe tour plus two cover version encores with Dream Theater. Not that I would have preferred to watch more brownish footage but a full length concert movie would have been nice. Especially since this tour also featured renditions of tracks like Right Side Of My Mind, Take Hold Of The Flame, Silent Lucidity, Empire, The Lady Wore Black and much more material from Operation Mindcrime. It's also a shame that Anybody Listening, which was included on the CD version of Art of Live, is not on this DVD.
As far as the performances are concerned, it's not bad, although I have heard more inspired performances by this band. The rhythm section of Rockenfield and Jackson remains immaculate, but as on Live Evolution the guitar sound still suffers from the absence of Chris DeGarmo. What's more, the wide-legged stereotype stage presence of session guitarist Mike Stone just doesn't blend in well with the mature nature of the band. Also, while he's been one of my favourite vocalists for a long time, and his studio recordings are still marvellous, Geoff Tate's vocal performance really fails to impress me in some of the songs. In one or two songs he just seems to be very much out of key with the guitars. As such the chorus of e.g. Tribe is utterly spoiled, as are parts of Best I Can. Tate's doing much better in the less heavy tracks, where he proves that he's still able to deliver fine vocal performances as long as he doesn't have to strain his vocal chords too much.
The selection of the material on the DVD focuses strongly on the material from the latest album Tribe, a CD which as far as I'm concerned is a huge step back in the right direction after the very disappointing Hear in the Now Frontier and Q2k. As such, I really don't mind the presence of six new songs out of 15 tracks. The performances do however sometimes show that the band is still not all that familiar with this new stuff.
The rest of the set list consists of one of the few interesting tracks from Frontier (Sign of the Times), two splendid tracks from Empire (Della Brown and Best I Can), two slightly disappointing selections from Operation Mindcrime (Breaking the Silence and The Needle Lies). Both the early years and my favourite Queensr˙che album Promised Land are represented with just one song (Roads to Madness and My Global Mind respectively).
One of the highlights in the setlist is a (semi-)acoustic intermezzo for the songs Rhythm of Hope, My Global Mind, Roads to Madness and Della Brown.
As mentioned, there's two encores with some of the Dream Theater lads with whom the band toured. The first one is a version of Pink Floyd's classic Comfortably Numb, with Tate doing the Waters part and LaBrie the Gilmour part. The drums on this song are far too present, but the triple guitar solo make up for a lot in this otherwise interesting but not remarkably special cover version. Come to think of it, Dream Theater's guitarist completely outshines the two Queensr˙che guitarists on this track. Next is The Who's Won't Get Fooled Again. Not one of my favourites.
The bonus material on the disc is rather disappointing as well. It consists of a rather unorganised chat with Tate combined with meaningless camcorder shots. There's also cam-shots of three acoustic performances for radio shows. Unfortunately the sound quality is just the cam tape's sound and all three radio shows consist of the same uninspired performance of Losing Myself. There's a couple of interesting anecdotes but overall the 23 minutes of are not really worth remembering...
Oh, and I haven't mentioned the obligatory photo gallery yet ? As on most photo galleries, there's a whole bunch of pictures you can flip through (32 in this case). As with all photo galleries it's a bit of a 'nice to watch once or twice' affair, but in this case it even serves to make the concert film itself even more disappointing. The reason is that all of the pictures are in full colour, not the nasty brown of the film, showing how cool the footage could have been.
All in all the musical performance on The Art of Live is okay, but the visual aspect really disappointing. Therefore, if you're a Queensr˙che fan you might be better of going for the CD version instead. One final thing I need to mention is that considering the quality of the contents and length of the DVD, the average price I've seen the DVD advertised for (27 euros) seems rather steep to me.
Conclusion: 6.5 out of 10