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Jeff Wayne - Jeff Wayne's Musical Version: The War of the Worlds, Live on stage CD (album) cover


Jeff Wayne


Crossover Prog

3.47 | 9 ratings

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Symphonic Team
4 stars "Jeff Wayne's War of the Worlds Musical Stage Show" is a sheer delight from start to finish. I bought this DVD after being treated to the stage show in Australia. I enjoyed seeing this phenomenal performance live in Melbourne and especially seeing Justin Hayward of The Moody Blues was a spine tingling moment. It was terrific to see and hear original album vocalist Chris Thompson singing 'Thunder Child' also. He sounds as powerful as on the album. When Hayward sings "the chances of anything coming from Mars are a million to one" I think it took me way back to my childhood when I used to listen to this album repeatedly on vinyl. The DVD captures the essence of the live show though it is missing the elements of the dazzling light show and that massive war machine that descends to the stage.

The music as a visual feast works on many levels. We can marvel at the images on the massive screen as we watch the orchestra blaze away on note perfect renditions of the album classic. Spedding and Flowers are back to revisit their musicianship. Sadly no David Essex or Phil Lynott. Jeff Wayne's arrangements are nothing short of mind bending, with powerful violin sweeps and science fiction effects used to maximum effect, including the unscrewing of the cylinder, searing heat rays, screams, cylinders falling on a house, and the martian howls. Richard Burton is personified on a huge sculpt with his face projected on to it, cleverly syncing his lips to the original narration with eyes blinking and eye brows raising occasionally. It is unnerving when Burton speaks of the martians emerging from the cylinder, their scales "glistening like wet leather, as the clumsy body heaved and pulsated." You can hear the disgust in his voice in these moments. He is also able to exude great sorrow and empathy when his beloved Carrie is gone and has an air of excitement as the Thunder Child vessel valiantly steams forward to meet the martian invaders head on. The more recent shows ditched the sculpted head and replaced it with laser projected CGI, which is way better.

The song 'Thunder Child' is a very powerful composition on the album and Thompson stands centre stage and belts this out with the same passion and exuberance as on the album. he waves goodbye to the boat that holds Carrie and a swarm of survivors. The next act is certainly not as powerful as the first, with fire and smoke emitting from the war machine. However Act II features a wonderful version of 'Spirit of Man' with Russell Watson as the priest, and Tara Blaise as Beth; "there must be something worth living for, even something worth dying for, and if one man can stand tall there must be hope for us all". She looks and sounds beautiful and very close to the album so good with Julie Covington. I prefer Phil Lynott but Watson is tolerable as the Priest. The version I saw live featured Shannon Noll who has a better voice as the Priest. The red weed is captured sonically with very doomy keyboard work. As it crawls across the land turning everything red we are able to watch on the huge screens the artist's interpretation using CGI and actual artwork inspired on the album. I wish there had been a feature where we could just listen and watch the screen images as they look amazing.

Eventually the narrator meets another character that would try and coerce him in to a foolhardy plan. The meeting with the Artillery Man played with passion and drive by Alexis James, is quite inspiring at first as the madman dreams of a new empire constructed underground so that the martians can no longer "clap eyes on us." He dreams of a world with hospitals, schools and cricket grounds built right under the martians noses, "right under their feet". He imagines capturing one of their fighting machines and then "wallop! Our turn to fight, woosh with our heat ray! Beating them at their own game. Man on top again!" Of course it is a forlorn idea and there is no way it can be done. During this song a steel bridge descends on the stage and is used to good effect as the Artillery Man climbs literally up onto his own Empire. He looks out into the crowd and toasts a glass of champagne but hten looks very worried as a martian machine is heard coming towards him. As he leaves the stage he salutes the appreciative audience.

As the narrator muses on this and walks off into the empty streets we hear the bone chilling cry of the martian but it sounds elongated and painful; "Uuu-llaa-aaaaaa!" the narrator resolves to give himself over to the martians as he can no longer live without his beloved Carrie and knowing the earth belonged to the martians. The lighting goes greener and redder for a while until we see the images of the crows tearing at the red shred of the martian's hood. There are then images of mankind celebrating freedom and redemption from martian subjugation. All of the main players come out and bow to rapturous applause. The loudest applause of course goes to Mr Wayne himself. He smiles and is generally content wth the response to his master creation. The NASA epilogue follows with creepy effects and images and thus the show comes to a head. A great show in any format this is worth shelling out for. The special features are lengthy docos and how the machine was constructed, as well as interviews and assorted extras.

AtomicCrimsonRush | 4/5 |


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