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Arena - Smoke & Mirrors CD (album) cover





3.83 | 63 ratings

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Tarcisio Moura
Prog Reviewer
4 stars In 2005 Arena released their sixth studio album, Pepperīs Ghost. However it was not as well received as the previous ones. It still bugs me why. Certainly it was not for the lack of quality of the songs, but I guess weīve accustomed to expect something extraordinaire from them every time they put out a new album or simply the timing was not right for the CD. Whatever the reasons, the band decided to record a DVD to commemorate their 10th anniversary during the tour to promote it. And for good reason, since Arena started as just another of many side projects from celebrated keyboards player Clive Nolan (Pendragon), this time with original Marillion drummer Mike Pointer, and it evolved into not a only a īrealī band, but an excellent one.

As expected, the quality of the DVD is top notch. In terms of sound and images, it is quite superior to their debut, 2003īs Caught In The Act. It was recorded (again, as usual) in Poland, at the Wyspiański Theatre in Katowice, in 22 september 2005. The line up was the same as their previous DVD and shows a very tight and skillful band belting songs from all of their discography. Unlike Caught In The Act, however, this time they chose to play only four tracks from the new album and mix them with the older material as the show went along.

I was always confused by how the band released the low volume of their debut DVD, a mistake they do not make here, as the sound and images are excellent. The repertoire does not differ much from the previous one, though, and they could have included some more obscure stuff from their earlier albums. Certainly they had some strong tunes that were not recorded live (like Sirens). Thatīs my sole complaint, since their performances are spotless and full of energy. John Mitchell may not have the looks nor the stage stance one should expect from a guitar virtuoso, but, boy, does he play!!! He is one of the best prog guitarists around and was a great find for the definition of the bandīs trademark sound and personality. The band owns a lot to his terrific guitar lines that complement very well Nolanīs dark, heavy and atmospheric tunes.

One of the extras is a bonus video recorded by a fan in October 16th of the same year at De Boerderij, Zoetermeer, Holland, where they made a īreunionī concert with their previous (and best remembered) line up consisting of John Jowitt (of IQ and Jadis fame) on bass and Paul Wrightson on vocals. Although the quality of the the video is obviously inferior to the main menu, it is still quite good. Since it seems that there is no other available footage of the classic line up, this is really a treat for fans. Wrightson has a very Fish-like dramatic stage presence and he knows how to surprise the public singing the first lines of the opener Crack In the Ice from the audience! Nice show, but again, it would be nice if the tracklist was a bit more varied instead of the obvious tunes. Still, very good.

Conclusion: if youīre a fan of the band, this is another must have. If you donīt, a then Smoke & Mirrors is a nice way to get to know this outstanding group. Not perfect, but still an excellent display of what Arena can do on stage. Four strong stars for this one.

Tarcisio Moura | 4/5 |


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