Issue 2008-049: DVD Special
Reviews in this issue:
- David Gilmour - Live In Gdansk
- Neal Morse - Sola Scriptura And Beyond (Trio Review)
- Yes - The New Director's Cut
- Believe - Hope To See Another Day (Live)
- Gordon Giltrap & Raymond Burley - Double Vision | In Vision
- Dream Theater - Chaos In Motion
- Circa - Live
David Gilmour - Live In Gdansk
CD 1 [69:25]: Speak To Me (1:22), Breathe [In The Air] (2:48), Time (5:37), Breathe [In The Air - reprise] (1:31), Castellorizon (3:46), On An Island (7:26), The Blue (6:38), Red Sky at Night (3:02), This Heaven (4:32), Then I Close My Eyes (7:41), Smile (4:25), Take A Breath (6:47), A Pocketful Of Stones (5:40), Where We Start (8:01)
CD 2 [79:45]: Shine On You Crazy Diamond (12:06), Astronomy Domine (5:02), Fat Old Sun (6:39), High Hopes (9:57), Echoes (25:25), Wish You Were Here (5:15), A Great Day For Freedom (5:55), Comfortably Numb (9:22)
DVD 1 [152:00]: Castellorizon, On An Island, The Blue, Red Sky at Night, This Heaven, Then I Close My Eyes, Smile, Take A Breath, A Pocketful Of Stones, Where We Start, Astronomy Domine, High Hopes, Echoes, A Great Day For Freedom, Comfortably Numb ~ [115:00] Gdansk Diary – Documentary (37:00), Weblink
DVD 2 [137:00]: Shine On You Crazy Diamond, Wearing The Inside Out, Comfortably Numb [Live at the Mermaid Theatre], On An Island, High Hopes [Live From The AOL Sessions], The Blue, Take A Breath, Echoes (Acoustic) [Live from Abbey Road], Barn Jam 166, Barn Jam 192, Barn Jam 121 [Recorded live in the UK], On An Island [5.1 Surround Sound], Music Credits
CD 3 [77:08]: Shine On You Crazy Diamond (13:08), Dominoes (4:52), The Blue (6:20), Take A Breath (6:43), Wish You Were Here (5:17), Coming Back To Life (7:09), Find the Cost Of Freedom (1:27), This Heaven (4:27), Wearing The Inside Out (7:31), A Pocketful Of Stones (6:26), Where We Start (7:36), On The Turning Away (6:06)
Jim Corcoran's Review
When I was in the seventh grade, I read a music review of an album entitled Meddle by a band called Pink Floyd. The main point in the review that caught my fancy was that one of the songs on the album, Echoes, took up the entire second side. I was captivated and bought the record the first chance I had, on the return ride to our home in Connecticut from a family camping vacation in Misquamicut, Rhode Island. The side-long epic enthralled me from start to finish and was the initiation of a musical odyssey into Pink Floyd - the concept albums, the solo releases, and beyond.
Singing, playing, and songwriting on Echoes are not just hallmarks of the band as a whole, but just some of the cornerstones of the great musical career of Floyd’s late keyboard player Richard Wright. After Floyd departed from active duty with the Division Bell tour in 1994, Wright fulfilled his dream of playing live again with the briefly reunited Floyd at Live 8 in 2005, and the following year with Floyd guitarist David Gilmour on Gilmour’s On An Island tour, promoting Gilmour’s fine comeback release.
The only thing lamentable about Gilmour’s return to the music scene is that it didn’t happen sooner. And what a comeback it is - the exquisite On An Island release and a stellar tour featuring a crackerjack band and a few special guests including Robert Wyatt and David Bowie. The extras-loaded 2DVD set Remember That Night is a pristine document of Gilmour’s appearance at the Royal Albert Hall, and if that isn’t enough, now we have Live in Gdansk, recording Gilmour’s concert at the Gdansk, Poland shipyards on the 26th anniversary of the Polish Solidarity Labour movement.
Live In Gdansk comes in several different configurations- 2CD, 2CD/DVD, 2CD/2DVD, and the mammoth 3CD/2DVD, the latter being reviewed here. For the Gdansk show, the band line-up is Gilmour on guitars, saxophone and vocals; Wright on keyboards and vocals, Phil Manzanera (on loan from Roxy Music) on guitars and vocals, long time Floyd support musician Jon Carin on keyboards, lap steel guitar, programming and vocals; another old-timer, support musician Guy Pratt on bass, guitar and vocals; newcomer Steve DiStanislao on drums and vocals (Gilmour recruited this guy from David Crosby’s band CPR); the great Dick Parry on saxophone and keyboards, and The Baltic Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra in Gdansk conducted by Zbigniew Priesner, who also handled orchestral arrangements for On An Island. Along with the orchestra is special guest Leszek Mozdzer on piano.
The crystal-clear quality audio of the Gdansk concert encompasses the first two discs. Every song Gilmour played that night is included with the exception of the Floyd tune Wot’s. . . Uh The Deal?
Gilmour opens the concert by taking us through a few selections from Dark Side Of The Moon, including a faithful playing of Breathe [n the Air]. Then he offers a complete performance of the On An Island album, with standouts including the harmonious The Blue and the excellent Where We Start. The orchestra is in fine form on Smile, which could have been an outtake from Atom Heart Mother, and on Red Sky At Night, which gives Gilmour a chance to display his skills on the saxophone. And the orchestra isn’t afraid to rock out on Take A Breath, although they are somewhat drowned out in the mix. Manzanera struts some acoustic guitar stuff on the bluesy shuffle of This Heaven. Performing the entire album is an interesting idea, but I would have preferred it if Gilmour just threw in a few highlighted tracks from it into the set list.
The concert gets better and better on the second audio CD. Fat Old Sun is pulled out of the vaults, admittedly without all the improv that made this an extended track in its heyday. A spirited reading of Astronomy Domine brings cheers from the 50,000 plus in attendance. A Great Day For Freedom strikes a symbolic chord as it resounds in the shipyards, and on this song Priesner and the orchestra respectfully avoid any creative liberties on the studio version’s orchestrations, arranged by the late Michael Kamen. Similar respect is paid to High Hopes, which, instead of using a lame sample, starts with DiStanislao striking a bell with a hammer, a physical act of labour signalling progress and change. And let’s not forget the obligatory Shine On You Crazy Diamond, with Parry’s saxophone solo and those four opening haunting, calling notes; Wish you Were Here, and Comfortably Numb, with Wright taking the vocal line originally sung by Roger Waters. Some may argue that these three songs have been over performed over the years by Floyd, Gilmour, and Waters, but I never get tired of hearing these great, great songs. Wright is in his glory during the spectacular performance of Echoes. I have taken a new liking to this song since I first heard it all those years ago. On the Gdansk version, Wright shares some harmony vocals, exchanges in some solo duelling with Gilmour (much like Ritchie Blackmore and Jon Lord in Deep Purple), and lays down some Farfisa-like keyboards near the songs end. An absolutely fantastic performance and worth the price of the whole set!
Now on to the real eye candy, the Gdansk concert DVD. I was dismayed to read a review on Amazon which stated that the entire concert is not filmed for the DVD, but what is included here is awesome. There is excellent sound, lighting and picture quality throughout, with lots of sweeping panorama-style camera movements that underscore the catharsis of the performance. There is generous footage of the shipyard as a canvas and the audience, as well as of the talented orchestra and its capable conductor Priesner. At times the picture is split into two or three separate shots without distracting from the performance. This is done effectively during A Pocketful Of Stones, which splits the picture between Gilmour singing on one side and Mozdzer reprising his studio version piano part on the other. Take A Breath features an excellent light show and lasers are flying everywhere against a psychedelic backdrop screen during Astronomy Domine.
The orchestra sits out on this one and also takes a well-deserved twenty-five minute break during Echoes. As on the audio version, this electrifying performance is simply stunning, and in addition to the aforementioned “duelling” section, showcases some shots of Pratt creating some eerie sonics with his bass. Closer Comfortably Numb is riveting, with the orchestra creating layers of passion, and that timeless, unforgettable solo from Gilmour at the end. Emotions are high at the concert’s conclusion, when Gilmour hugs Priesner and Parry wipes a tear from his eye before the performers take their final bow. The extra on the Gdansk concert DVD is a documentary entitled Gdansk Diary, and is well edited and produced. It features among other things commentary from the tour’s laser tech, stage designer and production manager; as well as footage of scenic Gdansk. An added extra on this DVD is a weblink that allows the user to download a Live In Gdansk track, with a new track being uploaded to this exclusive site the first of every month (no, I am not disclosing the URL here).
The fourth disc is a compilation DVD which features appearances at the Mermaid Theatre in London, as well as selections from The AOL Sessions in New York and Live From Abbey Road in London. Also included are three “barn jams” shot in a casual setting with Gilmour and some of his band-mates improvising. And for audiophiles, a 5.1 Surround Sound version in Dolby Digital of On An Island. Most memorable of the Mermaid performances is a slightly reworked Wearing The Inside Out, a The Division Bell piece which features Wright on lead vocals and of course keyboards. Dick Parry throws in some soulful saxophone. The song is an emotionally compelling fitting farewell to Wright, a man who was quiet in personality, but bold in performance. High Hopes is the standout track from The AOL Sessions, with Wright’s keyboards replicating the original orchestral arrangements from Kamen for the studio version, the overall darkness still retained. My favourite track from the Live From Abbey Road performances is an unusual, impromptu acoustic version of Echoes. Parry does not actually play on this but shows up at the end and hangs out with the band. The DVD overall has excellent sound and picture quality and excellent editing and camera work. The whole thing is very documentary-like. Most notable on this DVD are the barn jams, the final recordings of David Gilmour and Richard Wright. These selections have grown on me, and if Gilmour has more of these unique pieces in the vault, they would make a great “Barn Jams” compilation CD and/or DVD.
As an added bonus, this five-disc deluxe edition of Live In Gdansk includes a compilation CD of various live tunes from the On An Island tour. Many of the songs from the first two CDs in the set are replicated here, but you do get the Syd Barrett-penned Dominoes from a show in Paris and a worthy version of Coming Back To Life taken from a show in Florence. The CD starts out with what will no doubt for Gilmour be an enduring memory of this tour - a version of Shine On You Crazy Diamond featuring a special guest named Igor Sklyarov, a street performer plucked from the streets of Venice to play with his fingertips, of all things, the wet rims of distinctive wine glasses at the start of the song. Also included on the CD is a quaint version of the Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young song Find The Cost Of Freedom, courtesy of guest vocalists David Crosby and Graham Nash; taken from a show in Manchester. Elsewhere is the previously mentioned Wearing The Inside Out and a forgettable version of On The Turning Away.
The five discs come in cardboard sleeves lavishly housed in a large box. Also included are a poster and a detailed book with lots of photographs, track listings, credits and a history of the Solidarity movement. There’s also a package of bonus goodies including a guitar pick, photographs, promotional postcard, backstage tour laminate, sticker, and mock ticket. On the issue of Live In Gdansk versus Remember That Night - Gdansk has more to offer for audio and your Ipod, whereas Remember That Night is heavier on the DVD extras. Aside from a “Barn Jams” compilation, I cannot think for any room for improvement for future live releases from Gilmour. Gdansk is as good as it gets.
Ed Sander's Review
It's obvious from the review above and the rating Jim has given the 5 disc boxset that he's very enthusiastic about it. Being a long time Floyd fan and a lover of boxsets I couldn't resist the temptation when I saw the first adverts of this product, so I immediately pre-ordered it. Probably a good decision since it seems to have been out of stock for quite some time. I couldn't wait to get my grubby little hands on the thing and have to admit that I had hardly spent any time considering the different formats that were available of Live In Gdansk and immediately went for 'the big one'. More was better, so why go for the simpler versions? Well, it seems like sometimes less is more and I might have been better of with the 3 or 4 disc version in hindsight. Nevertheless, I think that it is a very good initiative to offer so many different versions of the product, without applying the 'tease the collector'- trick of having exclusive stuff on the cheaper versions, forcing the completists to buy everything.
So here I am with the 5 disc set. And although enjoyable - though not nearly as ecstatic as Jim - Live In Gdansk mainly leaves me with a lot of questions 'why?'. There is so much I simply don't understand about this thing and seemingly so many missed opportunities... Let's look at some of these enigma's:
- Why another DVD while we already had Remember That Night? The setlist of both is nearly the same, so why another live DVD? There seem to be a few good reasons like the atmosphere of the dockyards, the addition of the orchestra and the usage of six huge projection screens above the stage, each following one of the six members of the main band. The reason for this new DVD appearing two years after the concerned concert might well have something to do with the fact that it's not all that different and therefore the record company wanted to wait until the fans were hungry for more again. Anyway, visually Remember That Night is certainly superior to this concert, so if you are mainly interested in having a CD with the live set, you might be best of with the 2 disc edition.
- Why wasn't Wot's... The Deal included on the CD and DVD? It was played but can only be heard during the DVD credits. Sure, it didn't fit on the second disk, but why not put it on the first disc or at least the bonus disc of the 5 disc edition? And why no footage on the DVD? This lovely little gem was one of the biggest surprises during the tour. I'm glad that it is at least available among the extra's of Remember That Night.
- Why weren't Speak To Me, Breathe, Time, Shine On, Fat Old Sun and Wish You Were Here off the Gdansk concert included on the DVD or bonus DVD? This is perhaps one of my biggest disappointments; the DVD in the 3, 4 or 5 disc edition shows you an incomplete concert! And it's not like it couldn't fit on the DVD! I've read that there were a few mistakes by Rick Wright during Time/Breathe (reprise) but certainly, if they can fix it on the audio CD that should have been able to find a creative solution for the DVD as well. I've also read somewhere that the first couple of tracks were not filmed. If so, this poses an even bigger 'Why?!'.
- Why is the is half of the Gdansk diary made up of footage of tracks that are also in the main concert film? Why wasn't this space used for some of aforementioned missing songs?
- Why do we get duplication of the On An Island tracks on the bonus CD? What's the added value? Seriously, if you are thinking about getting the 5 disc edition make sure you are a real lover of the On An Island album because you'll get an overdosis of it. I personally found Gilmour's latest studio outing nice but not exactly what I had hoped for. A nice bit of (background) music while enjoying a good glass of wine by the fireplace or relaxing in a room full of candles. The 5 disc set brings you the album 3 times in full (live CD, live DVD and 5.1. mix of the studio version), three more songs on the bonus DVD and five more songs on the bonus CD. That's almost 4 times the full album! Isn't that a bit overdone? Wasn't there anything more interesting around?
- Why aren't the following tour rarities on the bonus CD: The Great Gig
In The Sky (with Sam Brown or Mica Paris), several songs performed with Crosby & Nash at various shows, Arnold Layne, the Royal Albert Hall performances with Robert Wyatt and David Bowie, Wish You Were Here with Nick Mason or Syd's Dark Globe. These were all tracks played live during the tour and are a lot more interesting than more live recordings of the On
An Island tracks.
- Why all the junk? I was absolutely amazed by the amount of rubbish that came with the boxset. Surely Gilmour and his record company must know that they are not dealing with teenagers anymore? The fans are mostly middle-aged men who don't put fold-out posters in their bedrooms anymore. And even if they would, a picture that is actually in focus would have been nice. And what should I do with postcard-like pictures of Gilmour and his wife sharing a romantic moment or them having dinner with Lech Walesa? Why not simply include the 7 pictures in the booklet? What should I do with them? Or with the spoof ticket replica for that matter? Or the 'backstage pass'? Or the sticker and postcard? Who needs all this stuff? Does the creator of this package have any connection with the target audience at all? The only thing that might be useful (at least for me) is the custom Gilmour guitar pick. I doubt however that Gilmour had special 'Gilmour Gdansk' picks designed to be used during the show.
- Why does David sing so immaculately during the concert while he is slightly hoarse during the sound check we see in the Gdansk Diary? And is it just me or is this band made of brilliant backing vocalists that perfectly recreate all the close harmonies on tracks like On An Island? How much of what we hear is really live? There's most probably a tape with backing vocals running (like in the AOL sessions) to make it sound as much as possible like the originals. And how much has been overdubbed in the studio? They certainly did do a nice job of polishing out the mistakes that some reviews of the gig mention.
All in all, as I mentioned a series of mysteries and missed opportunities. If you are really into the On An Island material or if you really want the concert on CD and having Remember That Night on DVD is not enough for you, one of the editions of this package might be good for you. Don't rush in though and do study the contents of each edition and determine which one still has added value. You might well be better off with the 2 or 3 disc edition instead of going for the more extensive packages. Having said that, it does look quite nice in my collection of box sets. But will I often play it? I doubt it. I'd probably take out the Remember That Night or David Gilmour In Concert when I'm in the mood for some Fat Old ... err ... good old Dave. The full concert on DVD plus the bonus DVD would have been the best choice for me, but alas, that one was not among the many choices.
Neal Morse – Sola Scriptura & Beyond
DVD1: Intro (1:32), The Creation (16:22), The Good Don't Last / Open Wide The Flood Gates (10:46), The Door (29:55), The Conflict / The Conclusion (35:09), Question Mark Medley (30:11) [i. The Temple Of The Living God, ii. Another World, iii. The Outsider, iv. 12, v. Entrance, vi. Inside His Presence, vii. The Temple Of The Living God], Testimedley (34:36) [i. Overture No. 1, ii. California Nights, iii. Colder In The Sun, iv. Somber Days, v. Sing It High, vi. The Storm Before The Calm, vii. I Am Willing, viii.) Oh, To Feel Him, ix. Rejoice, x. God's Theme], We All Need Some Light (3:13), Wind At My Back (6:58)
DVD2: Behind the Scenes, Bridge Across Forever, Question Section B [Sweet Elation, In the Fire, Solid as the Sun, The Glory of the Lord, Outside Looking in], Help Me, King Jesus, Reunion, Encore Medley [We All Need Some Light, Open Wide The Flood Gates, Open the Gates Part II, Solitary Soul, Wind At My Back]
Geoff Feakes' Review
In my review of last year’s Sola Scriptura album I declared a soft spot for the music of Neal Morse which is just as well because for the past couple of weeks when I haven’t been listening to the Lifeline CD this DVD has been occupying my viewing time. At this juncture I would normally provide a brief history of the artist but in Neal’s case, as they say, introductions are not necessary. Suffice to say that this is his second solo DVD release after 2004’s Testimony Live and follows relatively close on the heels of the ? Live double CD from earlier this year. They were both excellent releases in their own way so Sola Scriptura And Beyond has much to live up to. It was recorded at the Boerderij, Zoetermeer on 26th May 2007 as part of the IO Pages Festival with Spock’s Beard coincidently headlining the evening before. They were also caught on camera, the results of which can be found on their recent DVD release.
Neal’s superb all Dutch backing band remains almost unchanged form the ? Live recording in Berlin 10 months earlier. Led by Collin Leijenaar (drums), they are Wilco van Esschoten (bass, backing vocals), Henk Doest (keyboards) and Jessica Koomen (vocals, percussion, keyboard). The one exception being Paul Bielatowicz (lead guitar, backing vocals), who replaces Elisa Krijgsman. Paul also plays on the new Lifeline album. My single disc copy of the DVD arrived in a plain paper sleeve minus the artwork, not the most inviting of packages to spark a reviewer’s interest. Put the disc into a player and a single page menu appears with some very nice animated graphics and band member images but no sound options. Many of the songs appear as medleys or couplings so the short list of selectable chapters undermines the near three hours playing time. As you would expect from a recent recording the picture quality is crisp and clear as is the stereo sound. The six piece line-up and cameramen take up virtually every inch of the stage and likewise Morse’s fans fill the Boerderij auditorium.
In typical Morse style, with the exception of the SB tunes, the setlist bundles the songs from each album together rather than mixing them up. This gives each section of the set a continuity missing from most shows and you do get the feeling that you’re experiencing the album, albeit in an abridged fashion. The band appear on stage almost out of thin air to the strains of the taped orchestral intro from the appropriately titled The Creation, the epic opener to the One album. With Neal leading the way switching from keyboard to guitar throughout, the band handle the rapid instrumental sections and intricate time signatures in impressive style. They sound every bit as good as they did on the ? Live album, only this time with the advantage of visuals. The camera work is certainly inventive with Wilco in particular benefiting from low angle shots of fingers dancing on strings with a dexterity that would give Jonas Reingold a run for his money.
The coupling of the Beard songs The Good Don’t Last and Open Wide The Flood Gates provide a playful respite to the intensity of some of the other pieces. With Morse on acoustic guitar for both there’s still plenty of passion and feeling however despite the light-hearted chorus from Seasons In The Sun during The Good Don’t Last. The band make both songs their own giving skilfully judged performances so next time Neal, how about reviving epics like The Doorway or The Great Nothing? Wisely, having warmed the audience with the more familiar, almost all of Sola Scriptura follows with the announcement that this is only the second time it’s been performed. They literally kick open The Door with some of the best and ridiculously fast playing your ever likely to witness. It’s evident that the band are clearly enjoying themselves and the music, these guys are more than a collection of hired session players. Collins excels with a mesmerising drum workout spurned on by Morse. The In The Name Of God section works so much better live with Bielatowicz joining Morse for the trademark call and response verses. Henk Doest adds two impressive solos, first on organ and later during Mercy For Sale on synth. Morse provides a reminder that he’s still an excellent guitarist before Bielatowicz responds with a showy display that deservedly receives a standing ovation.
The Conflict and The Conclusion follow, skilfully arranged into one extended piece (with a little trimming around the edges). The former explodes from the stage in convincing style confirming that this is by far Morse’s heaviest song to date. This is tempered by a beautiful four part harmony interlude and a lyrical Spanish guitar solo from Morse. Doest again takes the limelight with a jazzy, almost improvised piano break before Bielatowicz adds a melodic Santana-esque guitar line to the memorable vocals of Already Home. Shifting seamlessly into The Conclusion, a powerful Come Out Of Her sounds very Spock’s Beardish before a moving Clothed With The Sun strays towards Transatlantic territory. Rich organ chords and symphonic keys provide the perfect underscoring to a majestic guitar coda before subsiding for Neal’s sensitive closing vocal and piano. He looks strangely apprehensive as it draws to a close but he need not worry, it’s a stunning performance justifying the audience’s enthusiastic response. You’ll certainly need a healthy appetite for this DVD because if Sola Scriptura is the main course there’s so much more on the menu including a hearty Question Mark Medley. Opening with the familiar strains of The Temple Of The Living God, the highlight for me is the progtastic 12 with everyone playing their hearts out including dazzling guitar and synth interplay prompting an enthusiastic scream from Morse. Following an absolutely storming Entrance and a heartfelt Inside His Presence it builds to the majestic climax capped by a stunning guitar duet. Brilliant stuff and thankfully free from the impromptu sermonising which for me marred the ? Live set. As the band troop off stage there is off course going to be an encore but the appreciative audience are surely unaware that they are in for one of the longest encores I can recall.
The Testimony medley opens with the taped orchestral intro to Overture No. 1 before the band take over displaying in this one defining instrumental everything that is good about the music of Neal Morse and prog for that matter. Fast but melodic guitar and synth runs are skilfully juxtaposed with a stately symphonic backdrop and staccato rhythmic punctuations. When Neal announces the melancholic Somber Days he reveals that this is a song that he had to include in the medley and it’s certainly in stark contrast to the rest of the piece. The moods changes for the aptly titled Sing It High and doesn’t let up with the final section of I Am Willing, Oh, To Feel Him, Rejoice and God's Theme providing one of the most emotional and uplifting experiences I have ever witnessed on camera. With Morse literally moved to tears during the final song even this hard nosed reviewer had a lump in his throat! To use a well worn cliché this section alone is worth the price of the DVD. But it’s not over yet because they still have enough energy to go out with a rousing sing-along coupling of We All Need Some Light and Wind At My Back to send the Transatlantic/Spock’s Beard fans home satisfied.
The Radiant Records website promotes the 2 DVD set as “Nearly 6 hours of breathtaking live prog and more!” That’s as maybe, but this is where it ends for me because unfortunately only disc one made it in my direction. But then again that might not be a bad thing because if disc two is anywhere near as good I could still be writing this review. Of course I can find fault with this release. Although there are six cameramen involved some of the angles are compromised by the compact setting and as a result it doesn’t look quite as slick as say the DVD’s recorded at the Wyspianski Theatre, Katowice. Whilst Morse understandably receives the majority of attention, on a personal note the gorgeous Jessica Koomen doesn’t receive anywhere near the lens time she deserves. Then of course there is the usual ‘focus on the bass player during the guitar solo’ syndrome. But I’m being a might picky here because performance wise and for sheer musicality this disc takes some beating. As a result it’s going to find its way back into my DVD player more often than most. Shell out your hard earned for your favourite band’s ‘Director’s Cut’ DVD or your favourite guitarist’s ‘5 Disc Special Edition’ if you must, but do yourself a big favour and add this to your must have list.
Martien Koolen's Review
This is something that you really need time for as these two DVDs will entertain you for more than 5 hours!! DVD 1 was recorded at the Boerderij in Zoetermeer, The Netherlands on 26 May 2007 and DVD 2 was recorded at the Columbia Club in Berlin, Germany on 14 June 2006. Besides the 38 songs you can also take a look behind the scenes of the Sola Scriptura tour, but in my point of view you can better skip this and enjoy the music, which is really great.
If you are a frequent visitor and reader of our DPRP pages then you will know that I always loved and appreciated Neal Morse’s music but that I really had problems with his religious lyrics… Well on this double DVD the music is without a question of a doubt fabulous; especially the three epic songs from Neal’s last album Sola Scriptura (The Door, The Conflict and The Conclusion) are almost out of this world. This is prog rock at its best; Neal and the band, especially guitar player Paul Bielatowicz play at their highest musical level. There are also a couple of surprises on the DVD like for example the two Transatlantic tracks (We All Need Some Light and Bridge Across Forever) and even more surprising the four songs from the Spock’s Beard classic album Snow!! Especially Open Wide The Flood Gates and Help Me are true Spock’s Beard gems!! And talking about SB gems how about that marvellous track, back from 1997, The Good Don’t Last, from the classic Beard album The Kindness Of Strangers, gooseflesh ...
Furthermore Neal and the band also play the entire Question Mark album, which is in fact not really my favourite Morse album but live it really sounds great if you do not listen to the lyrics too intensive, that is…. From Neal’s “first” solo album Testimony (2003), my favourites are: Overture No.1 and California Nights.
Neal again proves that he really is a great musician and multi-instrumentalist – I did not know that he could play guitar that well - and the band really shines as well. A must for prog rock lovers and fans of Neal Morse!!!
Bart Jan Van Der Vorst's Review
When our colleagues from iO Pages teamed up with the Boerderij venue in Zoetermeer for a two-day prog festival the bagged themselves a line-up to die for. Headliner for day 1 was Spock's Beard, whereas their former front man Neal Morse closed the second day. Both days were filmed for DVD release; the Spock's Beard DVD was reviewed a few months ago. This gig was the first time I saw Morse live since his departure from Spock's Beard. I lost interest in his music when he went solo due to the repetitive nature of his albums, but was drawn back by the rather good ? and the equally impressive Sola Scriptura. So luckily for me the gig featured a good hour and a half worth of music from these two albums.
And truth is, the blueprint formula of Morse's music does have its advantages, since it doesn't really matter which songs he plays during his gig - I never cared much for his album One, but thoroughly enjoyed concert opener The Creation. Self-plagiarizing copycat and religious nutcake/messiah he may be, above all Neal Morse is a fantastic performer. The passion with which he brings his music is unprecedented. Whereas some bands can be accused of merely going through the motions at times you can clearly see that Morse means every word he sings and every note he plays, up to the point where he breaks into tears during the climax of Testimony - there's nothing formulaic about his performance at all.
Another interesting aspect of his live performances is his Netherlands based backing band. While he has been using his American friends Randy George and Mike Portnoy on all his solo albums since Testimony, Morse keeps his European tours financially viable by leaving his American backing band at home and using the talents of Collin Leijenaar (drums), Wilco van Esschoten (bass), Henk Doest (keyboards), Jessica Koomen (vocals, percussion, keyboard) and Polish guitar revelation Paul Bielatowicz instead. Not sure if he plays his American prog gigs with an American band though. But his European backing band is more than just a financial model, they are in fact a bunch of damn talented and skilled musicians. Aforementioned Bielatowicz is an excellent addition to this band, he looks like is about 17, and plays the stars from the sky. Obvious focal point is the gigantic Colin Leijenaar, sitting behind his monstrous kit, whose fantastic drum work will leave you wondering "Mike who?". It's almost an insult that Morse keeps returning to George and Portnoy for his solo work.
The nearly three-hour gig is documented exceptionally well by Dutch production company D'Images, which were also responsible for the aforementioned Spock's Beard DVD, as well as Stream Of Passion and Ayreon. The camera work is very dynamic, and both editing and camera movement adapted to the style of music played (i.e. very fast and frantic editing and moving shots during the fast and heavy bits, and simpler steady shots during the mellow parts).
Unfortunately my promo copy contained only disc 1 of this DVD set, but looking at the tracklisting the 'bonus' DVD is equally impressive, featuring the second half of the ? album, as well as a 100-minute tour documentary.
The only minor gripe I have about this DVD is that it doesn't feature a surround mix. In my opinion Neal Morse's music would lend itself perfectly for surround treatment, but it seems Morse felt otherwise and the concert was only mixed in stereo (I doubt a 168 minute DTS track would fit on a single disc though).
Other than that, I can only say that this is a must-have for any Neal Morse fan.
Yes - The New Director's Cut
Disc 1: Birmingham N.I.A. 3rd July 2003: Siberian Khatru, Magnification, Don’t Kill The Whale, In The Presence Of: (i) Deeper, (ii) Death Of Ego, (iii) True Beginner, (iv) Turn Around And Remember, We Have Heaven, South Side Of The Sky, And You And I, To Be Over/Clap, Show Me, Rick Wakeman Solo: (i) Intro To Catherine Of Aragon, (ii) Celtic Jig, (iii) Jane Seymour, Heart of the Sunrise, Long Distance Runaround, The Fish
Disc 2: Birmingham N.I.A. 3rd July 2003: Awaken, I’ve Seen All Good People: (i) Your Move, (ii) All Good People, Roundabout Glastonbury Festival 29th June 2003: Siberian Khatru, Magnification, Don't Kill The Whale, We Have Heaven, South Side Of The Sky, And You And I, Heart Of The Sunrise, Awaken, I've Seen All Good People: (i) Your Move, (ii) All Good People, Roundabout
A courtesy glance at the DPRP reviews index will show that since Yes’ last album 2001’s Magnification there has been a plethora of DVD releases, a testimony to the bands enduring appeal. Following Magnification and the subsequent Symphonic Live tour and DVD, Rick Wakeman fittingly returned to the fold for the band’s 2002 North American tour and the lengthy ‘Full Circle Tour’ the following year. When they eventually hit the UK in the summer of 2003 it was the first time that the so called ‘classic’ line-up of Anderson, Howe, Squire, Wakeman and White had appeared together in their home country since 1991’s ‘Union’ tour.
Now this is where the story gets a little convoluted so stay with me if you can. The ‘Full Circle Tour’ was first documented on DVD with the European release of the double disc Yesspeak in November 2003. This featured 3 hours of often dull interviews, interspersed with tantalising segments of high quality concert footage recorded at the Birmingham N.I.A. and the Glastonbury Festival. With only 4 months separating its release and the shows themselves, it bore all the hallmarks of a rushed job. A drastically edited 75 minute version was premièred in USA cinemas on 26 January 2004 along with an acoustic set from the band broadcast live. A week later Yesspeak received its official American release with the same running time as the European version but with different packaging and artwork. In October the same year the acoustic performance was released on DVD worldwide with the imaginative title Yes Acoustic – Guaranteed No Hiss. Are you with me so far? I hope so because the plot thickens.
Eager to maintain sales, Classic Pictures released a so called 35th Anniversary Edition single DVD in March 2005, combining the cinema version of Yesspeak with Yes Acoustic. To confuse things, just 3 months later Warner Music unleashed Songs From Tsongas ~ 35th Anniversary Concert. This double disc was recorded in New England USA in May 2004, a year after the Yesspeak recordings. As a point of trivia, the review of this DVD marked my debut for the DPRP. But the story doesn’t end there. In March 2007 Yes Live At Montreux 2003 arrived courtesy of Eagle Vision, another double DVD celebrating the ‘Full Circle Tour’. It was recorded on 14th July 2003, within two weeks of the Yesspeak shows but it had one major advantage over its predecessor. It featured for the first time on video the entire show, unlike Yesspeak which included an audio only presentation of the Birmingham set as a ‘Special Feature’.
This brings us bang up to date and to the subject of this review, Yes - The New Director’s Cut DVD. This is basically a revamped Yesspeak with the original 190 minutes playing time expanded to 256 minutes. Additionally, a good deal of the interview material has been jettisoned to make room for both the Birmingham N.I.A. and Glastonbury Festival sets in their entirety. A great idea I hear you cry and a positive (if a tad late) response to the almost unanimous criticism that greeted the original Yesspeak five years ago. The artwork is very similar to the US version of Yesspeak featuring Roger Dean’s beetle and the ‘35’ logo but the basic packaging is a disappointment. Why is it that record labels do not invest the same imagination in DVD presentation as they do CD’s? On the plus side a further improvement is that Roger Daltrey’s stilted commentary has been removed. He may be a great singer and frontman but his narration on Yesspeak was more wooden than an IKEA flat pack. Edited sections of the interviews have been retained as autobiographical links between each song providing a potted history of Yes.
Yes’ best ever show opener Siberian Khatru fittingly gets disc one underway although admittedly it does sound a little ragged around the edges on this occasion. A brief cutaway to Jon Anderson’s home in San Luis Obispo, California allows the singer to acknowledge that it was original guitarist Peter Banks who came up with the bands name (he also designed the original balloon logo featured on the first two album covers). The title song from the last album Magnification contains some interesting references to past Yes songs but the weak chorus is well below par. No wonder it was dropped from the set the following year. It also features an uncharacteristically sloppy ending from the band before segueing into Don’t Kill The Whale. This was never one of my favourite Yes tunes but it always sounded better live and this is no exception especially Rick’s blistering synth solo. He gives an engaging account of how he joined the band without even realising it after turning down an invitation from David Bowie to join The Spiders From Mars. In The Presence Of is the only song to have stayed the distance to date from the Magnification album and its continued presence is wholly justified. Following the lyrical piano intro (usurping White’s performance on the studio album and the Symphonic tour) Wakeman replicates the orchestra superbly with Howe providing more slide guitar than I recall on the original, topped by precision harmonies.
Filmed on a lake by his US home, the north-east of England born and bred White’s recollections are delivered in a curiously inflected American accent, turning Bournemouth into “Born Mouth”. Cutting to inside the house, he is upstaged by his young daughter’s charming rendition of All Good People. We Have Heaven follows and has to be the most bizarre choice for a Yes set with Squire and Howe clearly miming to Anderson’s pre-recorded vocals. No matter because it segues into South Side Of The Sky, a long neglected song from the Fragile days which has been reappraised in recent years by the likes of Spock’s Beard and Glass Hammer as well as the band themselves. The piano solo stands out as always as does the glorious wordless harmonies but the highlight is the blistering call and response guitar and Moog exchanges in the extended finale. Following a truly symphonic version of prog-rock’s most symphonic song And You And I, Howe gives a slightly apologetic account of his love for his legendary Gibson ES175D which is as old as the band. Appropriately his solo spot follows, with the inevitable Clap overshadowed by a captivating acoustic arrangement of To Be Over from Relayer. Ironically it replaces the perennial Mood For A Day in a set list that is otherwise weighed heavily in favour of the Fragile album.
Following a justifiably ecstatic response for Howe’s performance, Anderson briefly explains that musicianship and stage presence is the key to the bands longevity. His solo follows with the wistful Show Me, a then recent discovery from the Fragile sessions. Rick’s crowd pleasing solo spot is based as always around The Six Wives album, making good use of his extravagant rig (11 keyboards in total), larger than I can recall on previous tours. Heart Of The Sunrise is preceded by some interesting footage of the road crew setting up the stage for an open air gig in Rome. This is a poetic Sunrise featuring a monumental bass solo from Squire. An extract from a press conference, with the band looking and sounding a tad self conscious, leads into a note perfect Long Distance Runaround. But then it should be, as along with I’ve Seen All Good People and Roundabout it has to be one of Yes’ most (over?) played tunes. Howe’s ringing guitar introduces The Fish; could a Yes gig be complete without the sight of Squire prowling up and down the stage assailing the eardrums with his rumbling bass? It’s a workmanlike performance from the big man incorporating a welcome snatch of Tempus Fugit from Drama. Naturally he receives a standing ovation and also has the final word on disc one declaring that the Yes lineup has always been a mismatch of personalities.
Disc two opens with the tail end of the Birmingham N.I.A. concert and the token show stopping epic Awaken. Of all of Yes’ long form songs, Awaken has stood the test of time better than most. That should come as no surprise because it has it all – Jon’s emotive vocal, heavenly choirs, celestial organ, Squire’s triple neck bass, magisterial guitar and a powerful rhythm. With hardly any visual effects to speak of and a modest light show the spectacle of Yes comes courtesy of the music and the musicianship. The audience are on their feet before the last note fades and following Chris’ brief recollections of past glories it’s straight into the encore. Steve’s lyrical Portuguese guitar leads the band into a vocally rich Your Move before exchanging for his beloved Gibson and a rocking All Good People. During the instrumental break Jon runs to the side of the stage for an impromptu dance with his wife Jane who’s been watching from the wings. They close with the proverbial Yes chestnut Roundabout and all credit to them for keeping it sounding fresh and vital each time it’s aired. Alan brings the song and the set to an explosive conclusion.
As the credits roll on the Birmingham N.I.A. show, it’s a good time to put the kettle on because next up is the full 90 minute Glastonbury Festival performance recorded 4 days earlier. For most bands it would be a respectable set length but it’s an abridged one for Yes with In The Presence Of, Long Distance Runaround and the solo spots abandoned to accommodate the time constraints. Otherwise it’s the same running order as Birmingham, opening with the familiar strains of The Firebird. Despite the smaller stage and the sometimes compromised camera angles, it’s great to see the band playing outdoors on home turf. You will have to go right back to the mid seventies to witness Yes’ last open air concert in the UK. There is an overuse of overlapping images with each band member superimposed next to another but thankfully the editor gets this out of his system early on. It’s a much sharper Siberian Khatru than Birmingham with White excelling throughout and Anderson in great voice. In fact it has to be said that his singing throughout both sets is pitch perfect belying his advancing years. Howe looks cool in his shades and matching t-shirt and trousers and is clearly enjoying the Glastonbury experience as is the typically animated Squire. They lose the momentum a little with Magnification (a song that for me could have been dropped in favour of In The Presence Of) but its all guns blazing for a menacing Don't Kill The Whale.
Wakeman fans may feel a tad short changed with the Glastonbury footage as surprisingly the man well known to TV audiences receives the least lens time here. Even his solos are filmed from long distance as is most apparent during South Side Of The Sky. Howe fairs much better and it’s a joy to watch him during And You And I moving seamlessly from slide guitar to acoustic then electric and back again. Wakeman provides a variation on the normal classical piano intro to Awaken whilst Howe plays a large body acoustic guitar during Your Move rather than the customary diminutive Portuguese model. As is the case with the Birmingham show there are plentiful shots of the crowd throughout which adds to the atmosphere. A Dark Side Of The Moon flag waving conspicuously in front of the stage provides a reminder that this is a mixed festival crowd. With the dedicated fans towards the front of the stage, the more casual observers further back may have wondered why the hits Wondrous Stories and Owner Of A Lonely Heart were absent from the set. No one however could have failed to be impressed by a storming Roundabout heralding the end of the performance and the signal to join the queues for the bar and fast food stands.
If this review’s proved to be a long haul then except my apologise but given the current state of affairs in Yes this may well be the last opportunity to cover a DVD featuring the classic line-up. On a more positive note this overhaul provides an almost perfect balance between the talk and the music with the accent shifted firmly in favour of the latter. Some may still quibble however. With the interviews now punctuating the live footage rather than the other way round, select each song from the chapter menu and it’s necessary to sit through the (all be it brief) anecdotes before getting to the song proper. In which case, you will be pleased to know that the Glastonbury footage is virtually free of such interruptions.
So how does it stand up in the grand scheme of recent Yes DVD’s? Whilst the improvements over Yesspeak are patently clear, its thunder is somewhat diminished by Yes Live At Montreux which pre-empts this release by 18 months with an identical set list. On the other hand this is better lit for the camera, producing clearer images. The production values are certainly not as high as Songs From Tsongas and in my view that has a stronger set list, despite the absence of Awaken. For my money Symphonic Live is still the one to beat but I’m straying off the mark a little. The real ace in the hole here as far as Yes fans are concerned is the inclusion of the Glastonbury performance, providing two complete shows for the price of one. To close on a personal note, as I was sitting in the middle of the fifth row at Birmingham with my ugly mug clearly visible between several songs, how could I resist a DPRP recommendation?
Conclusion: 8.5 out of 10
Believe - Hope To See Another Day (Live)
Tracklist: Liar, Needles In My Brain, What Is Love, Pain, Don't Tell Me, Seven Days, Memories, Beggar, Coming Down, Hope To See Another Day Bonus Audio: What They Want (Is My Life), Unfaithful
Having raved about this Polish band's second album, Yesterday Is A Friend, I was excited but rather surprised to see it being quickly followed by this, the band's first live DVD. With a set of barely released songs, how on earth did they manage to turn them into a live show and a DVD in such a short time? Anyway, eager to see how the new songs translated into a live show, I quickly put the DVD into the player, sat down and .... didn't recognise anything they played!!
So with the DVD on pause, I went back to the beginning and read the packaging properly. Tucked away in the small print is the answer. The DVD takes its title from Believe's 2006 debut album Hope To See Another Day. The concert captured here, actually took place in November 2007 in the Wyspianski Theater, Katowice when the band supported SBB - their concert has already been released as the Four Decades DVD.
Thus, this concert contains every track on Hope To See Another Day, a sole track, Memories - (link to YouTube footage), from the then forthcoming album, and a reworking of Beggar, a song originally recorded by guitarist Mirek Gil's former band Mr. Gil. So this is nothing like what I was expecting, but very enjoyable anyway.
The set only lasts for about 73 minutes, and like last year's DVD from Andromeda, the fact that they are a support act means the crowd reaction is minimal. If like me you've never heard the debut album, then on the first few listen it is also unfamiliar territory. Despite all of this, this DVD is an absolute joy to watch, and especially to listen to.
The twin guitars of Gil and Tomek Rozcki are complemented by the orchestral keyboards of Adam Milosz. What stands out the most is the violin work of Satomi. Gil says in the accompanying interview that he felt they did not fully exploit her talents on the first album. If that's the case then the balance is addressed well in this performance. Throughout, the interplay between the guitars and the violin is magnificent.
As a live act, the band is a little static although clearly enjoying themselves. Rozcki appears rather nervous at the start. His voice struggles to maintain the notes and his movement is minimal. However he does improve as the set goes on and there is plenty of potential to develop his own live persona. Nothing a bit of time on the road wouldn't solve.
While the music of Believe is generally classified as neo-prog, there is so much more to it. I won't repeat my comparisons from the review but on this evidence the music on the debut album treads similar ground, if not quite up to the same quality in terms of songwriting and melodic catchiness.
The bonus features include a 20 minute interview with Gil and Rozcki conducted in Polish with English subtitles. It's an above average interview with some interesting snippets and background information, especially about the role of violinist Satomi. Also included are audio-only studio versions of two tracks from Yesterday Is A Friend, plus the usual photo gallery. There is a limited swing-case edition, which includes an audio CD of all the live tracks.
Conclusion: 7 out of 10
Gordon Giltrap & Raymond Burley - Double Vision | In Vision [DVD]
Stickford Church - Maddie Goes West, The Racer, Under This Blue Sky, Daisy Chain, Down The River, Simply Margaret, Mrs Singer's Waltz, A Christmas Carol, Ravensbourn, Isabella's Wedding, Kaz, Tears Of Joy
Fulston Manor - Spoken Introduction : Maddie Goes West, A Christmas Carol, The Racer, Kaz, Rainbow Kites, Under This Blue Sky, Tears Joy, Ravensbourn, Mrs Singer's Waltz, Simply Margaret, Fast Approaching Bonus Material: Meet Ray And Gordon (informal discussion)
Gosh this review has been a long time coming! Now there have been occasions in the past, (not too many I hasten to add), when I have made this similar remark, whilst offering a rather lame explanation as to why a review of a certain CD or DVD has taken so long to emerge. Sometimes reflective of the time needed to fully appreciate the depth or perhaps complexity of the music on offer. Here it is merely the sheer enjoyment of the music which has meant each time I sat down to put pen to paper, I have become immersed in the performance. Then to find time had run out... so this review has been written without the music of Gordon Giltrap & Raymond Burley playing - what a shame.
Double Vision | In Vision is perhaps the natural progression to the 2004 CD release Double Vision. Featuring many of the tunes from that CD, Messrs Giltrap & Burley have taken this music into two different settings. The first is Stickford Church - performed to an audience of Calor gas stoves (you'll have to buy the DVD to find out why) and the second (with audience) at Fulston Manor. A glance at the track listing will reveal a similar set-list for both and possibly the perception that this may not be a value for money purchase. However the performances compliment each other very nicely and offer enough variation to warrant two similar sets be included.
Many, I hope, will be familiar with Gordon Giltrap - progressively speaking - releasing several highly regarded instrumental albums in the late Sixties and early Seventies. Since then he has travelled a different path and concentrated his efforts around his love of the acoustic guitar. A gifted musician who's unique style is highly regarded... Raymond Burley also began a career in music during the Sixties, with Georgie Fame, before he also decided to pursue a different path.
So what of the music I hear you say? The Stickford Church footage is a subtly edited registration of these two superb acoustic instrumentalists performing together tunes from Gordon's repertoire. Very little in the way of visuals are employed, barring the occasional split screen and close-up. In may ways reminding me of early footage of Julian Bream & John Williams - although musically not quite in the same vein. Those familiar with Gordon's work will know of his fluid lyrical style intertwined with his captivating melodies. These all instrumental pieces lodge very quickly in the mind.
Part two of the DVD takes us to the Lincolnshire countryside and the venue is Fulston Manor. The footage is simply filmed and the audio, although not as clear and crystalline as it is on Stickford Church footage, is more than acceptable. Our two troubadours perform an almost identical set, this time to an appreciative, (if perhaps not as warm and glowing), audience. It goes without saying that this is not a flashing light, pyro infested extravaganza, the only pyrotechniques here come from the fingers of our two seated musicians. However what is engaging is the interaction between the two and with the gathered masses. Many years of performance have certainly given Gordon a warm and friendly repertoire with his audience.
Of the two performances I found that I preferred more to listen to the Stickford Church performance, whilst the interactions between Gordon and Raymond made the Fulston Manor footage more a visual event. Very little is offered as additional features barring an interview or more accurately discussion between Gordon and Raymond filmed at Stickford Church. The two talk of their contrasting styles and how these have come together through the Double Vision project. Gordon very briefly discusses the many guitars he uses for his recording and performances - Raymond who only uses one classical guitar, speaks less... This is an engaging quarter of an hour so and although not something to watch over and over, certainly something I will view again.
So perhaps as Christmas approaches and the thought of those over played, often crass commercial Christmas hits fills you full of dread, then perhaps a few scheckles may be well invested in this delightful DVD - which I might add sits very comfortably as an enjoyable listening audio CD. I will certainly be listening to this DVD over Christmas, and probably during Spring, Summer and Autumn. I have linked here to a three minute "seasonal" Youtube clip to give you a little taster. Heartily Recommended.
Conclusion: 8 out of 10
Dream Theater - Chaos In Motion
DVD 1 [194:04]: Psycho/Also Sprach Zarathustra (3:57), Constant Motion (7:01), Panic Attack (8:05), Interview (4:04), Blind Faith (10:22), Surrounded (12:53), Interview (5:08), The Dark Eternal Night (9:40), Keyboard Solo (5:27), Lines In The Sand (11:16), Interview (0:51), Scarred (13:25), Interview (6:02), Forsaken (5:38), The Ministry Of Lost Souls (15:07), Interview (1:22), Take The Time (11:24), Interview (1:25), In The Presence Of Enemies (26:04), Interview (3:37), Schmedley Wilcox (20:57) [i. Trial Of Tears, ii. Finally Free, iii. Learning To Live, iv. In The Name Of God, v. Octavarium], Credits (3:14), Easter Egg: Rock Juice (6:49)
DVD 2 [176:05]: Behind The Chaos On The Road (87:03) [pt.1 The Band (21:31), pt.2 The Crew (22:39), pt.3 The Pre-Show (24:16), pt.4 The Show (18:37)], Promo Videos: Constant Motion (5:11), Forsaken (5:36), Forsaken (in studio) (5:51), The Dark Eternal Night (in studio) (9:02), Live Screen Projection Films: The Dark Eternal Night (N.A.D.S.) (5:17), The Ministry Of Lost Souls (14:57), In The Presence Of Enemies pt 2 (16:37), MP Stage Tour (8:24), MP Backstage Tour (5:28), Photo Gallery, Easter Eggs: 5 Dollars (9:14), Neck Beard (3:24)
The 2007/2008 "Chaos In Motion Tour" was Dream Theater's biggest ever. Perhaps it wasn't their longest ever, but certainly the biggest in both the number of different countries played and total audience reached. The band played 115 shows in 35 different countries, including many areas that are normally beyond the realm of the usual prog tour, like Australia and South-East Asia. This DVD set is a document of that tour, spread out over two discs with a full set of songs on the first disc, and an extensive documentary and a wealth of extras on the second disc.
Usually Dream Theater DVDs are of a particularly high standard. Mike Portnoy is a self-confessed movie buff, and his love for the greatest of directors is evident in all DVDs he's produced so far. Well, not so much this time. Instead of doing a DVD shoot he decided to take footage from the normal onstage cameras used for video screens during gigs and edit it all together into this DVD. An interesting idea, which unfortunately doesn't pay off particularly well. Most of the footage is of particularly poor standard, with most colours either drained out or over saturated. Also, the resolution of some of the digital cameras which have been used is so low that it doesn't look particularly well when it's blown up on a large TV screen.
As far as performances go, this isn't Dream Theater at its best either. I don't know if it is because the musicians are getting older, or that they simply aren't the perfectionists they used to be any more, but especially John Petrucci comes across as sloppy at times. Also James LaBrie's performance is probably the worst that has ever found its way on an official Dream Theater release. The Canadian is notorious for the varying quality of his live performances, but on this DVD there are sections which are particularly cringeworthy. I am not a fan of bands doing overdubs on their live albums, but on this one some re-recorded vocals certainly wouldn't have hurt.
The first disc contains 14 songs which are interlaced with interview snippets and backstage footage, a similar approach as on Images And Words Live In Tokyo, which I quite like. Although it breaks the continuity, I like such bits better than an hour long documentary which contains just people talking. In that respect Dream Theater does particular well, as neither the concert, nor the documentary, is ever boring throughout its 4.5 hours running time.
Possible highlight of the first disc is Surrounded. It starts with an extended intro with Rudess playing his new Memotron (in his words the first proper digital Mellotron emulator). Then the rest of the band kicks in to continue with a nice mellow guitar and piano intro before LaBrie appears to sing the first verse. The mid section contains an extended solo duel between Rudess (on his portable Zen Riffer) and Petrucci. Then towards the end there is another extended guitar solo which turns into the solo of Pink Floyd's Mother, before turning into the end section of Marillion's Sugar Mice of which LaBrie actually sings a verse, before turning back to the final verse of Surrounded.
Also the full integral version of In The Presence Of Enemies will undoubtedly please many fans, as it was cut in two on the studio album.
The main part of the second disc is taken up by an extensive four-part documentary dealing with all aspects of the tour. The documentary includes everybody involved in the show, so that means the band as well as the whole crew. At times it feels like watching Marillion's Colours & Sound all over again, but fortunately the director did not go down that road completely, and edited the documentary in a way which makes much more sense, and interspersed it with live footage, so it is a lot more fun to watch than aforementioned Marillion doc. However, do we really need multiple interview with the bus driver??!?
The rest of the disc is filled with some nice bonuses like promo videos of the singles taken from Systematic Chaos, and the screen films which were used during the show. While nowhere near Pink Floyd quality, these are quite fun to watch separately from the performance.
The DVD is available as a special edition which contains the 14 live tracks on 3 CDs. Considering the poor quality of the performances my recommendation would be not to bother. Personally I don't think I'll be watching this DVD very often in the future. Instead I'd rather put my copy of Score, or Live Scenes In New York into the DVD player..
Conclusion: 6 out of 10
Circa - Live
Tracklist: Cut The Ties, Don’t Let Go, Together We Are, Information Overload, Trust In Something, Keeper Of The Flame, Life Going By, Look Inside, Brotherhood Of Man, Chronological Journey, The More We Live [125:30] Bonus Footage (17:08)
Circa is a band that, as the saying goes, should need no introduction. The names of Billy Sherwood (vocals and bass), Tony Kaye (keyboards), Alan White (drums) and Jimmy Haun (guitars) have at one time or another been linked with Yes. Unsurprisingly, their debut album Circa: 2007 proved to be an updating of the Yes sound for the 21st century, continuing where a certain Trevor Rabin left off. Rabin coincidently co-wrote a couple of the songs with Sherwood. Releasing a DVD after just one album may appear on the face of it to be over egging the material but they do have one or two tricks up their sleeve. It was recorded on 23rd August 2007 in San Juan Capistran#07DB00lifornia whilst White was still part of the band (he has recently been replaced by Jay Schellen a long-time colleague of Kaye and Sherwood). This was their debut live performance with a setlist that includes the entire Circa: 2007 album. The ‘tricks’ I mentioned earlier are a 38 minute Yes medley under the shrouded title of Chronological Journey and The More We Live from Yes’ Union album.
Compared with the simple but cool artwork of the Circa: 2007 CD the outward appearance of the DVD looks very basic with hazy images of each band member on the front and back. Put the disc into a player and the cracks really begin to appear, but first the good news. Audio wise the stereo only option is razor sharp and had this been a CD only release, it would have been an enjoyable listen. But this is a Digital Versatile Disc which brings me to the bad news. The credits boast five camera operators but the quality between each is so variable that it felt like I was watching two or three different shows edited into one. Some of the camerawork isn’t bad with good colour definition but this is continually inter-cut with some very amateurish bootleg quality filming. It’s often shaky and out of focus with grainy images, harsh zooms and washed out colours. The aspect ratios are also out of sync with one frame clearly visible below another. I’m prepared to make allowances for budgetary constraints but the arbitrary quality here made it for me a very difficult viewing experience.
Dressed in matching grey (or black depending upon which camera you believe) the band’s performance of Circa: 2007 is unsurprisingly a good one given their collective pedigree. For me however the sometimes tuneless material lacks the substance to fully justify its 70 plus minutes. Several songs are given the extended treatment mainly due to showy solos from each band member. If like me you’ve never witnessed Haun in concert then his guitar work will come as a revelation, especially to Steve Howe purists who couldn’t fail to be impressed by his superb slide guitar work. Sherwood’s ‘more lead than rhythm’ bass technique is a tad overdone for my tastes but he’s in fine voice with guest keyboardist Scott Walton adding Vocoder to beef up the harmonies (especially during Information Overload). White is as solid as ever although his drum solo that introduces the aforementioned Information Overload is one too many in my opinion. Kaye’s playing is characteristically organ orientated which for me gives a one dimensional (not to mention one handed) quality to his sound. There is a genuinely hilarious moment, much to White’s amusement, when Sherwood fluffs his cue during Look Inside. By the time they reach Brotherhood Of Man the strain on his voice is beginning to show sounding curiously like Pete Townsend during this song. They go out in style however with a searing solo from Haun.
The audience were probably expecting the odd Yes song in the set but they couldn’t have anticipated the superb Chronological Journey. Opening with Looking Around from the first album and closing with Lightning Strikes from The Ladder they romp their way through a superbly arranged near 40 minutes of Yes classics providing a potted history of the band. With extracts from 28 songs it’s an all instrumental affair broken only by Sherwood’s folky interpretation of Endless Dream. Haun handles his role with aplomb although there are a few bum notes along the way but to be fair this was the first performance. His playing during Close To The Edge is especially impressive as is the whole bands. Kaye is naturally on top form with the earlier organ dominated material right up to Roundabout but the richer keyboard textures of the classic period are absent from And You I. But then again how many Yes fans would have guessed that one day he would be performing Ritual from Topographic Oceans? White is in his element of course as is Sherwood who probably knows Squire’s bass parts as well as the man himself. Following a so-so solo from Kaye the ending is a little scrappy but no matter, the appreciative audience laps it up.
Although it’s a very good song (certainly the best Union had to offer) The More We Live provides a surprisingly low key encore and ending to the show. That’s despite the addition of a showy, if over milked guitar solo from Haun. A sweat soaked Sherwood performs gainfully but his voice is beginning to desert him by this point. The bonus footage is a basically a selection of random clips showing the band individually and collectively rehearsing for the album recording, plus a short clip of Joe Gastwirt mastering Brotherhood Of Man. It also demonstrates that in the cold light of day Sherwood is a far more accomplished bass player then he is a singer. Recalling as I do that Kaye was allegedly booted out of Yes because he would only play one handed it was very amusing to see him rehearsing with one hand in his pocket!
I’m left with some really mixed feelings towards this DVD. The material (due in no small part to the Yes medley) warrants a respectable 6, the performances a well deserved 8, the sound merits 7 but sadly the video quality a poor 3. If I’ve got my sums correct that should make an average of 6. However I can’t get over how badly the visuals have been put together and after all the visuals are a DVD’s selling point so I’ve deducted 1. That brings it to a disappointing...
Conclusion: 5 out of 10