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4 stars I happened to be playing this DVD, which captures my 1 year old's attention and I use it while baby sitting, when I wandered to PA and saw it had been added, so I decided to review it.

Anyway. This is a two DVD set in letterbox format, which I happen to love. Disc one has the main show and disc two has an acoustic set and interviews with the band. The show was in a very intimate setting with a small but enthusiastic audience. I'll start with the second DVD since the actual show in London started with the acoustic set.

The set starts with one of my favorite Iona tracks, Chi-Rho from The Book of Kells album. This is an ok version of what was an excellent track on the original album. On the DVD the song lacks energy. Even though Phil Barker is an excellent bass player, I miss the killer bass line that Nick Beggs played on the original. Up next comes a duo featuring lead guitarist, Dave Bainbridge and multi instrumentalist Troy Donockley. Now this had enough meat in it to satisfy any art rock fan. Iona being what they are, they always have the Irish flavor to their music and Donockley is a master at his country's folk music. Edge of the World is a pretty ballad, in an odd time signature at times. Also miss Nick Beggs' stick bass from the original. Jigs is self explanatory, a couple of traditional Irish styled songs. Lots of fun on this one, I think. The last song on the acoustic set is Today. The original version of this song had very nice drums, however, this scaled down version is not as powerful. Don't get me wrong, it's still very enjoyable. As always Joanne Hogg's voice is beautiful and soothing.

My verdict on this second disc is mixed. Knowing the level of intensity Iona is capable of in some of their acoustic studio tracks, I was a little surprised at how laid back this set was, especially when it included such musically strong songs as Chi-Rho and Today. So this is really a two star performance. But wait, there's the main show to come.

Disc one starts with the instrumental Woven Cord. Here's the Iona I was dying to see. This tune feature Donockley and Bainbridge prominently playing unison scales, but what grabbed me here was the drum intro. The 5.1 surround sounds brings out the ghost notes on the snare drum and you can see you are in for a drum treat for the rest of the show. Wave after Wave starts with a sweet violin intro played by drummer/violinist Frank Van Essen and we can hear Iona in its fullness. The ending seems a little abrupt here. The studio version ends with some atmospheric voice and keys not done here. This is still a great version of the tune.

Inside my Heart is another favorite of mind, with its acoustic intro and killer guitar solo at the end. Joanne Hogg sounds awesome here. The next three songs Wind off the Lake, A Dhia Ghleigil (Angel of God) and Factory of Magnificent Souls are new tunes. Angel is sung in Gaelic and Factory is inspired by the prison where Nelson Mandela was locked in.

Now the next tune is worth the "prog" price tag. When introducing this song Joanne says that at the end of the song the guitarist's head may explode. Donockley adds that "it happened in Frankfurt". At over 10 minutes, Encircling is the longest song on the DVD and by far the most complex. I won't spoil it. Strength and Treasure are solid rock tracks. Treasure stands out with it two solos at the end, guitar and low whistle. It also has Phil Barker playing the bass with what looks like a vibrator!!! Someone please tell me what it is!!! He gets a sound similar to what Tony Levin gets with the Funk Fingers.

Castlerigg and Reels are fun tunes featuring uilliann pipes and guitar duos. I don't know how those two guys do it. Jamming! Irish Day is a very good pop tune with a gentle and sad pennywhistle intro that always brings a tear to my eye. Bi-Se I mo Shuill Part 2 is a good prog track with an excellent trio of keys, guitar and low whistles in unison at the end. Flight of the Wild Goose is a jazzy mid tempo instrumental. The last song is the moody and beautiful Murlough Bay. Love the crescendo in the middle part of the song.

In conclusion, I believe this is a very good addition to any prog DVD collection. Even though most of the tracks are not exactly "proggy", what makes Iona progressive in my opinion is the way they add traditional instruments in a rock context, without losing the Celtic flavor. The musicianship is top notch and it's great to see the band members switching instruments and showing as much virtuosity in one as in the other.

One thing about this DVD is that it was very hard to find here in the USA. The only websites I could find that had it for sale were all in Europe, not even ebay had it. But finally I was able to find an online store that shipped over here and got it at what I hope is not a rip-off price.

When it comes to technical stuff, besides a minor ocassional video flaw at the top of the screen and a silly black and white effect at times, the video quality is pretty good. The sound is beautifully mixed. A nice touch during the credits is that they list the names of everyone in the audience.

Report this review (#83771)
Posted Friday, July 14, 2006 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars As I celebrate 38 years as a mightily insubordinate and proudly irascible "proghead", which should surely qualify me with some kind of PHD (read Prog Heaven Diploma), I realized only recently that my misconception about power was totally misguided. I guess when we reach the teenage years, power is measured by deafening notes, booming amps, shrieking guitars, thundering organs, boisterous bass , concussive percussives, vociferous vocals and the loudest attitudes to boot. As we grow older (read more mature), the sonics evolve to somewhat gentler tendencies in search of that perfect chord. When I first heard Iona over a dozen years ago, I fell into a fairly common habit: pigeon-holing the band as Celtic-folk with Christian overtones without really paying closer attention, liking it a lot but nothing to lose one's proggy head over. The 2000 album "Open Sky" was the first "wake up and smell the java" slap , suddenly obliging a closer analysis and then becoming aware about the true subtle meaning of power. This group of stellar musicians has mastered a unique recipe, introducing at times misty ambient themes that slowly swirl, twirl and whirl in an unequivocally upward crescendo that verges on the intoxicating at its climax. When Bainbridge unleashes a quivering guitar solo or when Donockley lets his Uilleann pipes express the emotion of his soul, the true definition of power comes shining through the dense "Irish fog" atmospherics. Joanna Hogg's siren voice simply provides the lyrical cherry to the entire dreamy formula. You can now witness with your own eyes through this sumptuous DVD, the sheer passionate radiance and the overpowering spirituality of their style. While heavily influenced by folk, ethnic and Celtic elements, Iona has carved out their own inimitable imprimatur on the progressive map. This is not New Age music and has only distant connections with comparative lightweights Clannad or Enya. The five musicians express themselves imperially, so obviously entranced by the spirit emanating from their collective notes. Their honest smiles, onstage humorous banter and brotherly winks at each other as well as with the audience are simply priceless. The show is shot in London, in a steamily hot venue, with their perennial instrumental opener "Woven Cord" setting the atmospheric table, a compact non-vocal résumé of their approach. "Wave after Wave" is one of "Open Sky"s centerpiece tunes with that same startling, gushing and cascading feeling just as ever- present in a live setting as it was on record. Joanna really shines on this majestic song and the crowd responds with utter glee. A somewhat under the weather Troy Donockley jokingly introduces "Inside my Heart", warning that "In Frankfurt, Dave lost his head during his solo and it had rolled somewhere under a table" but I guess a little decorum was necessary since this was being filmed for posterity, so Dave just shred a sulfurous solo very nicely, thank you. Power indeed and you got to see this to believe it. "Wind off the Lake" and companion "A Dhia Ghleigil" serve as showcases for Troy's unique handling of the Irish pipes and Low & Tin whistles, providing some of the most poignant visuals, a true musician entranced by the outright power of the music. "Factory of Magnificent Souls" is another magnificent masterpiece, based on a poem by an Irish friend of Joanna's who was inspired by Robben Island , the South African jail that housed Nelson Mandela for a quarter of a century. The lyrics and the vocal are both heartrending, to say the very least. The towering "Encircling" is a lengthy piece of highly ambient music, with unending swaths of wind and wave, some crashing polyrhythmic drums colliding against the shoreline, screeching gulls overhead and misty rains enveloping the landscape. Tons of contrasts, gentle detail with soaring and panting vocals, brutally seared by another intrepid Bainbridge fret job, good God can this man play! A gentle low whistle outro ends this colossal piece of musical magic. "Strength" is a more conventional Iona song; much needed relief after all the afterglow from the previous thrill, supplying a spirited vocal, some mournfully beautiful lyrics and some resourceful drumming from Dutchman Frank Van Essen. Companion piece "Treasure" injects some outright Celtic folk tinges with more stunning vocals and an even poppier mood that goes down very well, especially with Troy's butterfly whistle playing and a fast country-style lead from Dave. My all-time favorite Iona track, the tremendous "Castlerigg" is twinned with "Reels", closing the main show pre-encore, a monumental arrangement that betters the recorded version with an awesome melody, some slippery rapid Uilleann pipes work that is simply mesmerizing, Phil Barker's bass popping all over the place, the gaga crowd clapping along in as if in a trance and Dave unleashing another gigantic solo. This is scintillating stuff, with an audience gone rightly berserk. MONUMENTAL! John, "youz gonna' flip yore lid" when you see this! Next up is a rousing two song encore, the lavishly sung "Irish Day", a gorgeous simply tune loaded with gusto and feeling. This is followed by a subtle Gaelic ditty "Bi-Se I mo Shuil" part 2, a lilting melodious cascade with some enchanting scat wailing from the ever impressive Joanna Hogg and another breathtaking Bainbridge rip on the 6 strings (the guy is sickening!), weaving magic with Donockley's whistle. The crowd claps them back on stage "You are not going anywhere!" yells out one patron, "Yes we are!" replies the very quick witted impish guitarist! Brilliant stuff, I tell you! The last two songs, the windswept "Flight of the Wild Goose" and the wondrous "Murlough Bay" are simply overt punctuation marks to a concert that was clearly a winner from the opening "Woven Cord". What a band, what a collectible! This powerful 2 DVD package comes with a second disc containing an enthralling 5 song acoustic stripped down folksier set, eschewing all the usual proggy elements, as well as interviews with the 5 musicians. Obviously, we are in the presence of 5 misty yet exhilarating stars.
Report this review (#161740)
Posted Thursday, February 14, 2008 | Review Permalink
5 stars Completely blown away by this DVD! To date I have not heard any of IONA's albums. This DVD was given to me as a present a while ago, but reading up on the band's Christian, Folk, Celtic leanings, I've put it away, wrapper intact to be perhaps disposed off at some stage.Big mistake!

Well, I am a Christian by nature, but not through religion and Folk is not really my preference, whilst feeling somewhat saturated with Celtic offerings. A recent less than favourable review of one of IONA's albums reminded me of this gift and I gave it a spin, expecting of letting it go afterwards.

Somewhat of a veteran of the Prog scene, I am now rather hard to please with new offerings these days. This performance has become a rare exception. It only took the first few notes for me to realize that I was in for an experience. A powerful opening reminiscent of better moments of Genesis is followed by a mix of pastoral approaches speckled with breathtaking shredding in a truly complimentary way. Just how do you mix Fire and Water? These people can do it.

Exceptional talent is on display here and the skillful blending of traditional instruments with powerful Prog deserves accolades, nothing like cliched, folksy, annoying stuff. And the best part is that it's all performed live.

There are some moments of a bit of lull here and there, but the overall performance deserves the highest rating. Recommended!

Report this review (#1131722)
Posted Saturday, February 15, 2014 | Review Permalink

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