Reviews in this issue:
- The Flower Kings - Instant Delivery
- Dream Theater - Score (Duo Review)
- Porcupine Tree - Arriving Somewhere ...
- Fish - Return To Childhood Tour
- Gordon Giltrap And Friends – At The Symphony Hall Birmingham
The Flower Kings - Instant Delivery
Disc 1 [84:27] Intro (2:27), Paradox Hotel (5:55), Hit Me With A Hit (5:41), Last Minute On Earth (8:22), In The Eyes Of The World (7:25), Jealousy (3:42), What If God Is Alone (8:05), Pioneers Of Aviation (12:23), Love Supreme (11:00), The Truth Will Set You Free (19:22)
Disc 2 [80:04] Touch My Heaven (7:34), Mommy Leave The Light On (6:52), End On A High Note (9:51), Life Will Kill You (8:37), I Am The Sun (15:00), Blade Of Cain (5:29), A King's Prayer (15:15), Stardust We Are (11:23)
As I have already said a lot about the live concert here, this review will be focusing mostly on the DVD rather than the quality of the performance, as I already cover that and don't want to repeat myself - but please forgive if I do a little...
Despite being a tremendous Flower Kings fan their first DVD release Meet The Flower Kings was, for me, a huge disappointment. Although it was beautifully packaged I found the filming strange, the audience absent, the footage of dancers at best annoying and at worse disturbing, and let's not even start on the home-movie stuff... I don't think I'm alone with my opinions either and this new DVD was a real chance for Roine to either put things right. Having also been present at the concert itself I was of course also keen to see if they captured the spirit of the night in the filming.
I'm happy to report that this new release is as far from the previous as you can get - it's a real live performance and truly represents what I saw and heard that night. After a very short dressing-room clip the concert starts and the footage runs non-stop until the band finally depart after the unscheduled second encore, even the 5 minutes of crowd screaming prior to Startdust We Are has been retained in all it's glory only adding to the experience. There are two things that diminish the production: some computer graphics have been added in places and the use of zoom, pan, switching and odd camera angles is a bit too much at times. However, the graphics aren't so bad and they appear to diminish as the concert progresses - why bands do this on DVD's I'll never know, I'm sure people buy the DVD to see the musicians not some weird art. As for the camera work, perhaps I'm overstating it, but the view up Hasse Froberg's nose doesn't get any better even after the twentieth time...
These small criticisms are however completely outweighed by the positives. This is a fine DVD indeed, the problems that dogged Meet The Flower Kings are banished to history, the crowd are high in the mix, the soloists are on screen when playing and Tomas' playing is covered with particular attention having a female camera(wo)man attending to him all night long. There appears to be no extras on the DVD either, just the concert and that suits this reviewer just fine, although I daresay there'll be some that miss all the padding that goes onto bonus discs, personally I never watch them.
Seeing a concert on film that you attended does allow you to spot things you missed at the time. In this case it's the quality of the individual performances. Sure, Roine's playing is sublime, Jonas is a bass god, Tomas tickles the ivories like no other and Marcus shows his true form, but, it's the performance of Hasse that steals the show. He's an absolute monster on this DVD, not so much his rock-star antics, just his pure presence, professionalism, the power and clarity of his voice, I think it's his finest moment and he owns the stage with his performance, remarkable.
Picture quality is very good (although I do wonder why it's in 4:3 and not wide-screen), the colours though are vibrant and there are about seven cameras used for the shoot, so never a lack of interesting angles - sometimes a little too interesting of course, next release perhaps just the one camera just on a tripod by the mixing desk please? The audio is available in both stereo and 5.1 surround sound. As can be expected Roine Stolt did a very good job mixing the audio and both mixes are excellent. The 5.1 surround mix is lush and spacious, using the added speakers to full benefit without adding too many gimmicky 'surround tricks'. Unfortunately the second DVD suffers from the dreaded synchronisation problem many DVDs has. The 5.1 sound mix is slightly delayed, therefore the performance looks like very poor lip-psyching.
The first disc is not without errors either. Due to an error in mastering some DVD players cannot process the menu screen, and therefore it may be difficult to get the DVD to play. This can easily be solved by going directly to the first chapter of the disc via the remote though. It is not a very big issue, just a minor nuisance. Inside Out has already announced that this problem will be fixed for the second pressing of the DVD and it is likely that there will be a possibility to get faulty copies replaced.
To sum-up, this is a great live document of The Flower Kings and is as close as you will get to the real, live experience without actually being there - drink some beer and rub cigarette ash into your hair and clothes to complete the illusion. For the record Roine's exchanges with the crowd are all in place without any edits or censoring so don't play the disc to your grandma...
Conclusion: 9 out of 10
DAVE BAIRD (With some help from Bart)
Dream Theater - Score
Disc 1 [164:26] The Root Of All Evil (9:32), I Walk Beside You (4:10), Another Won (5:40), Afterlife (7:28), Under A Glass Moon (7:27), Innocence Faded (6:16), Raise The Knife (11:51), The Spirit Carries On (9:37), Six Degrees Of Inner Turbulence (41:26), Vacant (3:03), The Answer Lies Within (5:36), Sacrificed Sons (10:36), Octavarium (27:29), Metropolis Pt 1 (11:16), End Credits (2:53)
Disc 2 [87:50] The Score So Far [20th Anniversary Documentary] (56:23), Octavarium Animation (3:06), Bonus Tracks [28.21]: Another Day (4:46), The Great Debate (13:38), Honor Thy Father (9:47)
Bart Jan van der Vorst's Review
The 2005/2006 Octavarium tour was to be the Dream Theater's 20th anniversary tour, culminating in the final night at the Radio City Music Hall in New York on April 1st of this year, which was the basis for this DVD. As is customary with any Dream Theater DVD nowadays it is released both as a double DVD and as a triple CD, both with the same tracklist. As the CD holds little value over the DVD, other than being playable in the car, this review will focus solely on the DVD.
To celebrate their 20th anniversary a song from each studio album is played (criminally ignoring 1995's A Change Of Seasons). The set includes some rarities from the history of the band, including previously unreleased demo Another Won, and Raise The Knife, an outtake from the Falling Into Infinity sessions which didn't make the final album at the time. The highlight of the DVD is of course the second set of the concert which was performed with a live orchestra, dubbed the Octavarium Orchestra. Together with the orchestra the full 42 minute epic Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence is played, as well as the 25-minute title track of their latest album Octavarium. In addition to Octavarium two more songs on the album featured an orchestra, so it is only obvious that these two The Answer Lies Within and Sacrificed Sons are performed as well. Fans of the band's ode to metal Train of Thought will be disappointed that the only song presented from that album is the three minute metal-less Vacant.
The footage is very well shot with numerous handheld cameras around the stage, as well as a crane on the side of the stage and a few cameras mounted on Mike Portnoy's drum kit and Jordan Rudess' keyboards. There isn't much lightshow that transcends to the small screen. Just like Live Scenes From New York, the lighting onstage is very bright as if the gig was played with the houselights still on. This is compensated by a wide array of interesting shots of musicians as well as instruments, all very well edited. Special mention must go to Mike Portnoy who is credited as the director of the DVD. While obviously he had other things on his mind during the show, he spent the months following the concert going through all the footage and overseeing the editing, which has resulted in one of the best looking concert DVDs I have ever seen.
The sound quality is also great. Especially the 5.1 surround mix offers a very spacious, wide sound, in which all layers and textures can be clearly heard.
Despite having toured for months on end already the band is on excellent form. James LaBrie's voice is in better shape than it has been for a long time. The band also seems to be having a tremendous amount of fun throughout the gig. There is particularly much interplay between John Myung and John Petrucci goofing around occasionally and doing quite a few cool poses at points where the riffs in the music requires them.
During the second half the orchestra sits on a raised platform behind the band. It is fun to see how Mike Portnoy had mirrors mounted on his drum kit in order to see the conductor of the orchestra behind him. Six Degrees Of Inner Turbulence is the obvious focal point of this section of the DVD. All 42 minutes of them played very well, albeit a tad on the fast side. Whether this was intentional or a result of the nerves/adrenaline that came with playing with the orchestra, I am not sure. I never really liked the overture on the studio album, with the synthesised string section. Having this overture played by a real orchestra now is particularly satisfying.
Octavarium is the other track that works really well with the orchestra, not in the least place because the same orchestra already played on the album. The song is preceded by a little demonstration of Jordan Rudess' new keyboard, or rather fingerboard, the continuum. The entire intro of the song is in fact played by Jordan Rudess, including the (pedal steel) guitar intro of the song. For this section he is assisted by James LaBrie on keyboards. When I spoke to Rudess last year I asked him if this was his attempt to upstage John Petrucci, he jokingly replied "it takes a whole lot more than that to upstage John Petrucci"
The obligatory encore of Metropolis Pt 1 is also given a new twist with the added orchestrations. As an added bonus the orchestra enabled the band to play the intro to this song live, rather than using a tape as is normally done live.
The orchestrations used for the songs suit the symphonic nature of the songs very well. Obviously they are mostly taking over certain keyboard parts, but there is also added percussion as well as melodies that are not on the original studio versions. However, all is very delicately done, and the orchestrations are more an extension of the music, rather than an addition of extra music. This is definitely no Metallica S&M.
The second DVD contains an hour-long documentary which shows John Petrucci, John Myung and Mike Portnoy going back to Berkeley Music School where they first met, going back to the origins of Dream Theater. Though much of the documentary contains footage and information which was already presented on the When Dream And Day Reunite and Five Years In A Livetime DVDs, and the documentary is incredibly brief on the last three albums (no more than six minutes of the documentary are spent on the last five years of the band), it is a very nice and candid doc nonetheless. And as always with retrospective documentaries that span more than a decade, it is fun to see the band members hair change from time to time.
The rest of the DVD is filled with some footage from songs on other tours that had been previously unreleased. They are a nice bonus, but I doubt I will watch those tracks more than once or twice. It is nice for completists.
Dream Theater's DVD release schedule rivals that of bands like Marillion or Mostly Autumn. With four official releases and three fan club releases in just five years you might wonder whether the overkill has set in yet.
I can gladly tell you that it hasn't. Despite a little overlap in the tracks on offer (Metropolis pt 1, The Spirit Carries On, chunks of Six Degrees Of Inner Turbulence) the majority of the DVD offers music which is not released available on other Dream Theater live releases (including two unreleased tracks). Added to that is the superb editing and audio quality and you simply have a very recommended DVD.
John Stout's Review
DT's releases over the last few years have provoked fierce debate on the forum pages, but love 'em or loathe 'em, it would be churlish to deny that they are one of the foremost bands of the current prog/metal generation. They've endured in a fickle music business and as Mike Portnoy points out, in spite of trends, each new album seems to reach a wider audience than the one before.
With twenty years of graft, guts and glory behind them, I feel the band are at a peak, creatively and instrumentally, so it came as no surprise that they filmed the final show of their Octavarium tour, and doing it on their home turf in the amazing Radio City Hall was an inspired choice of venue. (We saw Yes play there and the acoustics were astounding, not to mention the art-deco surroundings.) What has come as a surprise however, is how quickly they've produced this DVD, given that the show took place only a few months earlier. (Kind of puts the oft-delayed release of Floyd's Pulse into perspective…..)
But in spite of the swift release, there's no discernible compromise in the quality of Score. The picture is pin-sharp 16:9 widescreen, and the audio comes in 2.0 and 5.1 mixes. With a show running just under three hours that's a lot of audio-visual data for one disc to cope with, but Score copes admirably. If you have a surround sound decoder, then the 5.1 mix is definitely the one to go for. Not only does it sound more immersive as if you are actually there, as well as some interesting directional sound effects during the Octavarium track, but the low end mix finally does justice to John Myung's bass playing. Sometimes on the albums I feel he gets a raw deal in the sound-mix, but here you can appreciate just how much he brings to the band's sound.
So what about the show itself? Initially, I thought the choice of set-list seemed a little unusual, with some obvious tracks missing, but then I clicked that the set is the main arranged in the chronological order that the material was recorded, and in fact, once I'd sat through the whole show, I realised that the set was very well paced between the more metal numbers and the more reflective numbers. So, for example following the full-on fretwork of Under A Glass Moon, we get the slower tempo of Innocence Faded (as opposed to one for the more intense numbers like Lie or Mirror from the Awake album).
Conversely, instead of going for one of the ballad-ish numbers from Falling Into Infinity, the band go for the (officially) unreleased Raise The Knife, which is altogether more aggressive, and a nice way to bring something different to the set-list. This was the first time I'd heard this song, and I really enjoyed it.
Partnering an orchestra with the band for the second half of the show is becoming something of a cliché these days, but it works well here, given that the band's more complex and proggy material lends itself well to orchestral arrangements. Again, the sound mix brings out the best in all the instruments, both classical and rock, and material like the Six Degrees suite gets a fresh lease of life.
The orchestra's contribution to Sacrificed Sons and Octavarium is less conspicuous, and more part of the overall sound, but then again, there's so much going on in that song that it gets hard to pick out individual contributions.
However, the big revelation is just how good James LaBrie is on this night. Unlike the Budokan show, where he was clearly losing his voice towards the end, here he is in fine form from start to finish. I'm not sure whether it was down to the pacing of the songs, or front-loading the older material to the start of the set, allowing him to sing in a more comfortable range towards the end of the set, but you can clearly see him putting heart and soul into it, with very satisfying results.
Not that the rest of the band are slouching either, even if Portnoy gets a bit carried away bouncing his sticks into the air and almost misses a cue. Careful camerawork also makes sure you get close-ups of Petrucci's fretwork skills; sometimes I find the endless soloing tiring to listen to, but actually being able to see the finger-work close-up at least gives a better appreciation of how talented he is.
But at the end of the day it's a team effort and once again I'm reminded why I keep coming back to listen to this band. I don't listen to the CDs all that frequently, but whenever I watch their live DVDs I get a buzz that makes me want to check them out all over again, and Score is no exception.
The second disc has the bonus features, including a documentary which tells you everything you wanted to know about the band from its origins right up to the rehearsals for the Radio City show. The documentary opens with Portnoy, Petrucci and Myung returning to the Berkeley Music School where they first met, and revisiting their rehearsal rooms, which is a nice touch and sets things in context. A lot of thought has gone into this piece, and the story is told from the viewpoint of all of the band members - no sanitised VH1 voice-overs here! The comments from each band member come across as sincere, and for a bunch of muso-obssessives they come across as a genuine bunch of guys.
As the story is told chronologically, the documentary also benefits from contributions from previous members Charlie Dominici and Derek Sherinian. However, true to his reputation, original keyboardist Kevin Moore is conspicuous by his absence. Along the way, the story is illustrated with video clips and live footage, including fascinating home video footage of the Majesty line-up and then the Dominici-fronted days. In retrospect you can see why the band went through their line-up changes to get where they are now.
While some of the story will be familiar to most fans, it's so well put together that you could show it to someone who had never heard the band, and chances are that they would then be intrigued enough to watch the concert on disc 1.
That just leaves a handful of bonus tracks taken from other tours (Another Day, The Great Debate and Honor Thy Father). To be honest, while I was interested to see these leftovers, the quality of the sound and picture, and even the performances, are not up to the standard of the Radio City show, and I can't see me watching them again.
And finally there's the short animated sequence that was show on the screens behind the band during the Octavarium track. Mildly amusing, but again, probably not worth a repeated viewing.
Score is quite a package but the real meat lies in the Radio City show on disc 1, and should be the main reason for buying it. While die-hard fans will have it already, the less-committed like myself may hesitate, but in fact it's an excellent retrospective of the band's journey over the past 20 years, showing why they are considered both progressive and metal. As a result, you get a balanced set, committed performances, and a real sense of celebration and achievement. On the other hand if you're simply curious about the band, this is probably their best DVD yet, and its audio and visual quality sets high standards that other releases should aspire to. Recommended.
Porcupine Tree - Arriving Somewhere...
Disc 1: Revenant (3:05), Open Car (4:45), Blackest Eyes (4:38), Lazarus (4:09), Hatesong (9:09), Don't Hate Me (8:39), Mother And Child Divided (5:14), Buying New Soul (7:14), So-called Friend (4:49), Arriving Somewhere But Not Here (12:54), Heartattack In A Layby (4:08), The Start Of Something Beautiful (7:19), Halo (6:38), The Sound Of Muzak (5:22), Even Less (6:20), Trains (7:47), End Credits (2:06)
Disc 2: Photo Gallery (9:15), Lazarus promo video (3:57), Screen Films: [Halo (5:55), Mother and Child Divided (4:57), The Start Of Something Beautiful (7:09)], Live From Rockpalast: [Futile (6:05), Radioactive Toy (5:56)], Gavin Harrison - Cymbal Song (3:58)
In the last few years Porcupine Tree often joked they were the only band in the world that hadn't released a live DVD. Steve Wilson always said that if they'd release a DVD, it would have to be something special. So when they finally set out to record a DVD they opened up all registers in order to make it something special. The band played for two consecutive nights at Chicago's Park West, playing different set lists on both nights, so that from the two sets the ultimate tracklist could be created.
Also, not a fan of the standard gig-with-cameras set-up most bands use, Steve Wilson ordered the band's house-videographer Lasse Hoile to edit the footage in his trademark style. So what you get is well-shot concert footage, completely sliced up and re-edited Lasse Hoile style. If you've seen Porcupine Tree live and seen the backdrop projections, you should have an idea what to expect. Hoile's trademark style is very much centered on the opening titles to the thriller Se7en, with fast editing and lots of distortion. So all shots have been altered with extra grain, saturation, black and white, sepia, and many more effects, all mixed up in the editing. It is all done very consequently though, like when a shot is in black and white, and another shot from that same position comes back later in the song, that shot too is in black and white. Must have been an immense job to edit.
Although such an approach poses a risk that the footage will become unwatchable, I have to say that it is very effectively done. The gimmicky editing style may cause the footage to lose that live in concert feel, it also makes that the gig is very interesting to watch and never bores. Coupled with very ingenious shots that would make Hamish Hamilton proud the footage looks very professional as if a very elaborate TV show rather than a live gig. Furthermore, Hoile has been exceptionally careful with the way he applied the textures and distortions - it is never too much or overdone. A song like Lazarus does hardly have any of the twitchy distortion, it just alters between colour and black and white. While faster songs like Open Car, Mother and Child Divided and Halo have the whole kit and caboodle and give a full demonstration of the capabilities of his video software.
Soundwise this DVD is nothing short of stunning. Steven Wilson already proved himself a producer worthy of tackling 5.1 surround formats with the DVD-A releases of In Absentia, Deadwing and Stupid Dream, so it should come as no surprise that the DTS soundtrack of Arriving Somewhere... is absolutely gorgeous. Hands down the best live DVD sound I have ever heard, it surpasses in quality even that of Peter Gabriel and Pink Floyd. The sound is just so lush, so rich and so well-balanced. All instruments can be heard very clearly, up to the detail where you can clearly define which guitarpart is played by Wilson and which is played by touring band member John Wesley. The bass is very high up in the mix, without ever becoming predominant. (although I had to turn down the volume of the subwoofer a bit in order to stay friends with my neighbours).
The set is a good mix of new songs from the latest album Deadwing, mixed with a couple of old favourites (though nothing older than Even Less and Don't Hate Me from Stupid Dream). The set also includes no less than three B-sides, including the rarely performed Buying New Soul, which has only been released on the compilation album Recordings.
A crowd favourite and definitely the highlight of the DVD is Hatesong. This is a such a powerful track, which is given an extended ending, where Wilson's guitar and Gavin Harrison's drumming seem to be completely losing it, but are guided safely to the end of the song by Colin Edwin's recognisable bassline. Another song that really benefits from the live treatment is Halo, which may be nothing more than 'a dumb rock song' in Steven Wilson's own words, but it definitely a live highlight and a worthy set-closer.
During the final encore Trains Wilson's guitar breaks a string. He deals with it with great hilarity, joking "we'll cut that bit out later..." which, of course, they didn't. This only goes to show the type of band Porcupine Tree are. After all, they could have cut it out, like he suggested. They could even have started the song over again, or, more obvious, used the version of the second night! But by leaving it in the band adds that little personality and wilfulness to this release, characterising the type of band this is.
What the band has in quality it lacks in quantity. As the main show is only an hour and 45 minutes long (including 5 minutes of opening- and closing credits) this is short even for a Porcupine Tree song. When comparing the set lists of the two filmed shows with the final tracklist, you note that there were six songs played which have not been included on the DVD. That is over 30 minutes of material which has already been filmed, but has not even been included as bonus tracks. A real waste in my opinion. Furthermore, what eventually does appear on the bonus DVD is also very meagre. The plan was to include a documentary shot and edited by Lasse Hoile, but Hoile couldn't finish editing the hours and hours of footage in time for a September release, so his documentary has been postponed for a future release. So in the end we are only left with two songs from the band's recent TV performance at Rockpalast, the promo video for the single Lazarus, three screen films that were used during the gigs and a solo composition by drummer Gavin Harrison. Hardly worth adding an extra DVD to the package for, in my opinion.
Having said that, the Cymbal Song is absolutely brilliant. Played, as the song suggests, entirely on cymbals with his bare hands. As the composition was created using endless Mike Oldfield style overdubs, it should not come as a surprise that the video is also very Mike Oldfield-ish, with several Gavin Harrison's playing the cymbals in split screen. Again, the editing by Lasse Hoile is absolutely stunning. And no distortion in this video either!
As with most Snapper releases the packaging is very nice as well. The DVDs are housed in a luxury digipack in a slipcase, with beautiful full-size photographs.
Despite the meagre extras and the not entirely fulfilled promise this is still a must-have. The superb DTS audio track alone warrants this an obligatory purchase for all Porcupine Tree fans.
Conclusion: 8.5 out of 10
Fish - Return To Childhood Tour
Tracklist: Big Wedge (6:14), Moving Targets (7:12), Brother 52 (7:15), Goldfish And Clowns (8:28), Raingods Dancing (4:24), Wake-up Call [Make it Happen] (3:00), Innocent Party (5:09), Long Cold Day (6:19), Credo (8:38), Pseudo Silk Kimono (3:19), Kayleigh (4:19), Lavender (2:52), Bitter Suite (8:29), Heart Of Lothian (5:56), Waterhole [Expresso Bongo] (2:28), Lords Of The Backstage (1:55), Blind Curve (7:50), Childhood's End? (9:28), White Feather (5:34), Incommunicado (5:38), Market Square Heroes (7:46), Fugazi (11:25)
Bonus Material: Interview (57.32)
Fish loves Holland. He once again acknowledges this to the audience on this DVD ("in Scotland I'm huge, and everyone looks up to me. In Holland I can look people straight in the eye") so it shouldn't be any surprise that his latest DVD was recorded in this country as well. After all the earlier released Return To Childhood CD was also recorded in The Netherlands (at a gig two nights earlier) as were Fool's Company, and Sushi.
For the filming of his Return to Childhood DVD Fish chose what is probably the most beautiful and atmospheric venue in the country: The Paradiso in Amsterdam. This converted church is the ideal setting for his 20th Anniversary celebration of his best-selling album.
Initially I didn't really have high hopes for the DVD. After all, the CD version proved to be mainly a nice tour souvenir, but hardly any match for earlier live albums like Sushi or Sashimi.
The magic of a Fish concert is, especially these days, the enormous charisma the guy has. As opposed to the CD, that charisma translates particularly well onto the screen on this DVD.
The footage is very well captured and edited, doing fully justice to Fish' antics. Especially Heart Of Lothian is just terrific. The emotion, the heart, the soul that Fish pours into his performance makes you forget all about the fact that his voice is a far cry from what it was 20 years ago, or the fact that the music sounds a bit odd when played in a lower key than the original recordings. Fish' expressions are particularly well captured by the many cameras around the stage.
The footage itself is somewhat dark. There is an occasional spotlight aimed at Fish, but the rest of the band are largely obscured in the shadows. Especially when watching the DVD on a computer monitor it is hard to make out what is happening in the background.
It's as if they rented all this lighting equipment for the DVD shoot, but someone forgot to switch the lights on half the time. There's also a projection screen behind the band, but the footage that is shown on this screen is hardly ever captured by any of the cameras. We'll just have to guess they were interesting screen films.
Nonetheless this is probably the best looking Fish DVD to date. I cannot commend on his previous outing, Scattering Crows, but it is miles better than the sterile look of Fool's Company, or the VHS-shot Sunsets On Poland.
Performance-wise it's much of the same fare as the CD version of Return To Childhood. The band is not bad, but there aren't any stand-out moments either. More than ever is Fish' band actually a backing band, without much input. Fish is having a great time though, which is evident in the jokes in between the songs and the un-rehearsed encore of Fugazi. Fish is visibly moved by the reception he gets, and has a hard time leaving the stage after Fugazi, so he actually throws in an a-cappella version of a traditional Scottish song, Tartan Army Boys.
For the extras Fish does what he does second best (after performing gigs): talking. In an hour long interview with John Hotten (Classic Rock Magazine) Fish elaborates on the origins of Misplaced Childhood and how the album came about. Most people will know by now that Fish is a very easy talker. He could have gone on for at least another hour, had there been enough disc space.
So in conclusion it is a nice release, definitely worth buying if you're a Fish fan. It shows what a great performer Fish is and his performance comes across really well.
It's a pity that there is no surround sound on this DVD, but then again, the one Fish DVD that had surround sound sounded awful, so it might be better this way.
The DVD comes in a slipcase and has a little booklet based on the original Misplaced Childhood tour book.
Conclusion: 7 out of 10
Gordon Giltrap And Friends – At The Symphony Hall Birmingham
DVD Side: Appalachian Dreaming, A Dublin Day, Work (from The Brotherhood), The Eye Of The Wind 2nd Movement: Andante Cantabile, Here Comes The Sun, God Save The Queen, Mrs Singer's Waltz, Maddie Goes West, A Christmas Carol, Drifter, Someday, On Camber Sands, Fast Approaching, Heartsong, Lucifer's Cage
CD Side: Maddie Goes West, A Christmas Carol, The Eye Of The Wind
A seasoned musician, Gordon Giltrap has been around longer than he probably cares to remember, certainly since the late 60’s. Although he has occasionally ventured into electric guitar territory, it is his acoustic work for which he is best known. For that reason he is often pigeonholed under folk, which falls well short of encompassing his style. He can certainly be compared favourably with players like Bert Jansch and John Renbourn. He is also, amongst his many other talents a virtuoso prog guitarist who’s playing is up there with the Howe’s and Hackett’s of this world. On this release he focuses his attention on what he does best, which is steel stringed acoustic guitar playing. Gordon did actually sing on his earlier albums but must have decided it was not for him. I wish some other players I could name would follow his example!
On this thoughtfully packaged double-sided DVD and CD release he is joined by The Sheffield Philharmonic Orchestra and, as the title suggests, several guest solo musicians and singers. The DVD was recorded live on 30th March 2005 at The Symphony Hall Birmingham, which provides a visually impressive setting for the concert. Giltrap has described the show as the most important of his career and it’s easy to see why. It demonstrates the diversity of his output, including orchestral works, songs and duets with violin, classical guitar and piano. His playing is excellent throughout, matching the singularly top-notch performances of his guests. They are all classically trained musicians and include amongst their ranks a certain well-known blonde keyboard player. The picture, and the sound quality especially, do full justice to the performances. The tracks are interspersed with interviews with Giltrap and friends conducted by the charming Samantha Boyero. Gordon’s rapport with his audience and guests throughout is spontaneous and high on humour, lending a warm and friendly atmosphere to the proceedings.
Seated throughout, Giltrap gets the show off to a good start with two memorable solo pieces, Appalachian Dreaming and A Dublin Day. Surrounded by an array of acoustic guitars he chooses a smallish model for the opener. This produces a sharp ringing tone, which benefits from the venues excellent acoustics. For the second tune he reaches for a large bodied guitar, which gives a fatter sound, but is no less musical. Both pieces are strong on melody and his nimble fret technique is a joy to watch. As Gordon says himself on the DVD, he certainly knows how to write a good tune.
For the following piece Work, taken from Giltrap’s The Brotherhood suite, he is joined by The Sheffield Philharmonic’s string section. The combination of fluent acoustic guitar and violins put me in mind of Mason Williams’ Classical Gas. Following this piece the rest of the orchestra take to the stage, a cue for Giltrap’s departure. They play Andante Cantabile, the second movement from The Eye Of The Wind rhapsody. This is a beautiful piece, skilfully performed, as you would expect from a professional orchestra. The classical style is very reminiscent of Vaughan Williams and his Sea Symphony.
Following a short intermission, Giltrap returns to the stage alone and using the smallest of acoustic guitars he performs a breathtaking version of Here Comes The Sun as a tribute to George Harrison. Through the wonders of modern amplification the same guitar goes all ‘electric’ and Gordon gives his impression of Brian May performing God Save The Queen. Unsurprisingly, this goes down a storm with the audience. From the ridiculous to the sublime, violinist Andrew Bernardi joins him for the elegant Mrs Singer's Waltz, written by Giltrap and based on his bridge section from Here Comes The Sun.
For the next two instrumentals classical guitarist Raymond Burley, Gordon’s partner from the duo Double Vision, takes to the stage. A technical problem involving miking Burley’s guitar delays the start prompting Giltrap to entertain the audience with a brief rendition of Stairway To Heaven. Burley replies with Rodrigo’s Guitar Concerto and Nellie The Elephant before things finally get underway. The harmonic combination of steel and nylon strings in Maddie Goes West and A Christmas Carol is mesmerising, with Burley’s fine detail and Giltrap’s broader brush strokes painting sumptuous musical soundscapes.
A change of style follows with two songs from The Magic Cottage, a musical co-written by Giltrap. Vocalist Gilly Darbey performs the Drifter accompanied by Gordon’s solo guitar and pre-recorded strings. She has a distinctive voice, somewhere between Bjork and Sinead O’Connor. Singer Andy Reiss joins Gilly for the love song Someday accompanied by pianist Rod Edwards, producer and member of Giltrap’s band in the 70’s. Reiss has a more traditional show style voice, but he and Darbey gel in this fine duet. Gordon’s short guitar break has a distinctly classical feel. Alone on the stage once more he performs On Camber Sands, an evocation of lost childhood. This is one of Gordon’s best-loved and most melodic pieces and he gives a stunningly beautiful performance.
The final guest, the aforementioned blonde keyboardist joins Gordon to a warm response from the audience. The rapport and friendship between Giltrap and Rick Wakeman is clearly evident. On the lyrical Fast Approaching, Rick’s fingers dance over the piano keys matching the guitarist note for note. Giltrap announces Heartsong as the more famous of his two best-known tunes, pronouncing himself a “two hit wonder”. Dating from the 70’s, this lively piece has lost none of its magic over the years. Due to the lack of rehearsal Rick occasionally loses his way on the faster sections, but it’s still an exhilarating performance. Witnessing these two musical giants playing side by side is a marvellous spectacle.
Due to the constraints of time, Giltrap returns to the stage for just one last tune, the ever popular Lucifer's Cage. Influenced by The Who, he attacks the strings in true Pete Townsend showman like fashion, indulging in some impossibly fast finger work to end. Clearly overcome, the usually talkative Giltrap leaves the stage almost speechless to rapturous applause.
In my enthusiasm for the DVD I had almost forgotten that this double-sided disc includes a CD side. The two opening guitar duets Maddie Goes West and A Christmas Carol are both taken from 2004’s Double Vision album, and are near replicas of the live versions found on the DVD. The Eye Of The Wind rhapsody follows, this time in it’s full forty-minute glory. In three movements, the performance by The Sheffield Philharmonic Orchestra was recorded at the University of Huddersfield on the 30th and 31st July 2004. Giltrap originally composed the music in the late 70’s to commemorate the 400th anniversary of Sir Francis Drake’s circumnavigation of the world. It’s a remarkable achievement for which he and his musical arrangers should be justly proud. Heard in its entirety emphasises the Vaughan Williams connection and I would also add the grand scope of Mussorgsky as a further reference. This is a symphonic work in the best tradition of 20th century classical music with majestic sweeping strings, lyrical woodwinds, strident brass and pounding percussion. Thankfully, Giltrap’s ear for a good melody keeps it from being a dry listening experience. All three movements are memorable with strong themes throughout.
If endless vocals and electrical instrumentation aren’t a prerequisite for your enjoyment of music then this comes highly recommended. For me personally it came as a welcome breath of fresh air. If like me, superbly crafted and skilfully executed acoustic and orchestral music is high on your agenda then it’s an absolute must. Fans of Rick Wakeman would be well advised to check this out with their hero in fine form both on and off stage. If you are unconvinced, click on the following link to the Voiceprint website to see and hear Gordon and Rick performing Fast Approaching. If you need a further incentive, this dual disc retails for less than the price of a standard CD, which makes it an absolute bargain.
Conclusion: 8.5+ out of 10