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Arena - XX CD (album) cover

XX

Arena

 

Neo-Prog

3.52 | 23 ratings

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Easy Livin
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
5 stars Playing the Moviedrome

Filmed in Katowice, Poland in April 2015, XX (20 in Roman numerals) celebrates Arena's 20th anniversary. The line up is essentially the same as that which recorded the excellent "Rapture" DVD in 2011 (released in 2013), with Kylan Amos replacing John Jowitt on bass. Several tracks from the fine new album "The unquiet sky" are included, but the set list spans pretty much the entire career of the band, with "The visitor" and "Immortal" albums featuring strongly.

Indeed the highlight is arguably the wonderful rendition of the 20 minute "Moviedrome" (from "Immortal"). Clive Nolan, who is much more to the fore between the songs than usual, explains that the complexity of the track meant that the band had never intended for it to become part of the live set, but persistent requests from fans persuaded them to do so. The result is a live opus that will surely become a staple of the live set to match epics such as Yes' "And you and I" or Genesis "Firth of fifth". It may be Nolan's recent experiences in presenting his rock musicals that have led to him now introducing some of the songs, but whatever the reasons, his anecdotes and relaxed chat greatly enhance an already spell-binding gig.

The new songs fit is well with the more established ones, with tracks such as "The demon strikes" and "The unquiet sky" bearing all the tenets of classic Arena numbers. Special mention needs to be made of the unique atmosphere created by Clive Nolan's multi-layered keyboards and John Mitchell's mesmerising lead guitar work. For my money, Mitchell is one of the best lead guitarists of his generation.

The accompanying interviews with co-founders Clive Nolan and Mick Pointer are worth a look too. Nolan is particularly candid in his comments, explaining among many other things, the song-writing and recording processes of the band.

It goes without saying that the filming of the gig and the sound quality is everything we would expect from the Metal Mind team, who once again set the standard from DVDs such as this.

My warped sense of humour was tickled by a Spinal Tap" like moment during the gig when Vocalist Paul Manzi proudly announces "here's a track from our new album" to be met with complete silence, although this is enthusiastically rectified by the audience after the rendition!

Overall, a wonderful presentation by a band at the top of their game. Recommend both as an introduction to the band, and equally as a superb addition for the already converted.

Easy Livin | 5/5 |

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