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Oliver Wakeman - Coming To Town - Live In Katowice (DVD) CD (album) cover


Oliver Wakeman


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3.36 | 4 ratings

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Easy Livin
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4 stars Another Katowice concert classic

The 31st October 2007 was quite a night at the Wyspianski Theatre in Katowice, Poland. On that night, the charming old building hosted not one but three fine gigs. The centrepiece of the night was Clive Nolan's Caamora making their debut presentation of his ambitious "She" rock opera. Supporting this were Pallas and the Oliver Wakeman Band. Oliver and Clive have worked together several times in the past, so it made a lot of sense for Wakeman's band to play that night, their music being of a type which was bound to please the partisan but appreciative audience. Recordings of the Caamora and Pallas performances have already been released on DVD, so with the arrival of this DVD the unique night has now been captured in full.

Given that Caamora's set ran for the best part of two hours alone, it is perhaps surprising to find that we get a full set of 13 songs from Oliver here the gig running to about 75 minutes.

This is the first DVD release for Oliver, who chooses the band environment for the excursion. Hence this is not simply an exercise in keyboards wizardry, but a full blown rock band presentation. The five piece line up focus mainly on the 2005 album "Mother's ruin", on which guitarist David Mark Pearce and drummer Dave Wagstaffe also performed. No less than eight of the nine tracks on that album feature in this set. The remaining numbers are taken from Oliver's two collaborations with Clive Nolan, "Jabberwocky" and "The Hound of the Baskervilles".

The set gets off to a rousing start with the first track on "Mother's ruin", "Don't come running". There is a sort of Rainbow feel to this song, with singer Paul Manzi sounding reasonably like Ronnie James Dio. While Wakeman's relatively modest keyboards array is naturally fairly predominant in the sound, equal prominence is given here and throughout the gig to Pearce's guitar work. Pearce's style is similar to that of Nick Barrett of Pendragon, the overall sound often being reminiscent of that fine band. The mood soon changes for the fine ballad "Dangerous world" from "Jabberwocky", the lead guitar being particularly appealing here. Manzi turns his hand well to the four Jabberwocky songs included here, displaying admirable versatility with songs originally performed by a variety of singers. The sole track from "Hound. . ." is the instrumental "Three broken threads", which offers Wakeman and Pearce the opportunity to compare dexterity.

There are a number of fine ballad style songs throughout the set, including the excellent title song from "Mother's ruin". Towards the end of the gig the band seem conscious of the number of ballads and the desire of the audience to party when introducing "If you're leaving" (Also from "Mother's Ruin"), promising "a few fast ones after this". The song is a superb Journey like number, Manzi now sounding admirably like Steve Perry. Given that he did not sing on any of the songs here when they were first recorded, great credit is due to Manzi for the way he adopts them as his own. He also makes an excellent front man too.

"Wall of water" is introduced as the "epic track from the last album" ("Mother's ruin"), the song running to around 11 minutes. Even here, while Oliver does slip into some of the family magic, it is more in the form a Yes like Wakeman/Howe duel, the lead guitar remaining equally prominent. The gig climaxes with the crowd pleaser "Walk away" ("Mother's ruin") and the encore "Coming to town" ("Jabberwocky"), Oliver describing the latter as one of his favourites.

While the Wakeman name will naturally attract interest from fans of Oliver's illustrious father, he is very much his own man. He tends to avoid the flamboyant excesses of his father (on stage at least) preferring to remain towards the rear of the limelight. Rick's influences can naturally be found in Oliver's style, but the band environment means that he is happy to simply take his place as a contributor to the overall sound of the band. This in turn results in a highly satisfactory set of great diversity, played flawlessly by a quintet of fine musicians.

The sound quality is superb throughout, the 5.1 surround sound capturing the well balanced sound with great precision. The main DVD extra of interest is a 25 minute interview with Oliver, which shows him to be articulate, interesting, and a right chatterbox!

Easy Livin | 4/5 |


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