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Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Pendragon is one of the major forces in progressive rock scene especially in the second generation of progrock after punk and new wave hit the music industry in late 70s until early 80s. The root of its music is on the symphonic prog but in a simplified form or typically called as neo-progressive music. The key characteristic of bands in this subgenre is the heavy use of keyboard combined with guitar solo in the vein of Steve Hackett (Genesis) or David Gilmour (Pink Floyd). I remember vividly how I listened to their debut album 'The Jewel' (1985) for the first time after I was so deep in love with Marillion's first two albums 'Script for A Jester's Tear' (1983) and 'Fugazi' (1984). Yeah, talking about neoprogressive music we cannot neglect the existence of Marillion, Pallas and IQ because these four bands were born almost at the same time in early 80s. While the other three bands focused on the song orientated music with catchy tagline melody, Pendragon focused heavily on guitar solo in its interlude combined with the keyboard solo. Guitar and keyboard are the key ingredients of Pendragon music while (in my opinion) most of Pendragon's musical composition are lacking in 'catchy' melody. That's why I have never been a great fan of Pendragon compared to the other three especially Marillion ? Fish era.

It seemed like 2008 was a an important year for Pendragon in their musical career as they celebrated their 30th Anniversary, on the 13th October they played the Slaski Theatre in Katowice, Poland. It was titled as 'Pure Tour' to promote their new album released in the same year. Unfortunately only three tracks from the new album were played in that gig due to time limit for the band to do the rehearsal.

For me personally I was quite impressed with the fact that the gig was well performed and excellently recorded into CD and DVD version. By the time I am writing this I have not seen the DVD yet. I am quite impressed with this live CD and some songs that I actually do not favor quite well, they sound good here. To be more specific, I'd rather like disc one compared to disc 2 because some songs on disc2 are quite poppy and bit boring to my ears.

Overall, this live CD is quite good for those who like neoprog with stunning guitar solo by Barrett and keyboard solo by Nolan. Keep on proggin' ?!

Report this review (#224925)
Posted Wednesday, July 8, 2009 | Review Permalink
5 stars Concert dvds are a mixed bag, I have several that have barely had a listen. A few years ago I purchased "Score" by Dream Theater and it got plenty of plays until I tired of the dying in hospital drug theme, which detracts a little from the emotional highs of their music. But now a concert to surpass "Score", "Concerto Maximo" by Pendragon.

I was a hippy for a few years back in the early seventies, went straight and turned away from Yes and King Crimson to classical music (I did a unit of baroque music at University) and jazz. Five years ago I was revisiting my youth, as you tend to do when you get older, to look at what I used to like with experience and re-evaluate it. I found that while it put things into some realignment, the greater body of music I used to listen to was still good. Since then I have listened to about 2,000 hours of internet radio, and, more or less filling in the intervening years.

I was aware of Pendragon, a favorite of "Lurker" ( but never quite got into them. Instead I approached this band through the back door. first of all Rene from Progroots played the overture to "She" a rock opera composed by Clive Nolan, keyboardist to Pendragon as a side project called Caamora. (

"She" is based on the nineteenth century novel by H. Rider Haggard ( I was instantly struck by the powerful undercurrents in the music. While there are some imperfections in the live performance, I prefer it over the studio album. Next I moved onto Arena purchasing "Pepper's Ghost" This is the type of prog I like.

Then recently I was walking in the forest and listening to "The Freak Show", a track from "Pure" on either Rogues Gallery or Epic Prog, I forget which, and was completely struck by the perfection of the theme. As we all know, prog is really baroque music in another guise. This theme is lyrical, it contains the best elements of Bel Canto style with embellishments that do not break the legato (connection between notes), it goes on and seems to sum up a whole life in so many bars of music. The version on the album "Pure" is better than the live performance where Barrett hesitates slightly with the embellishments and it doesn't have the same unbroken flow.

A good example of the Bel Canto style are the operas of Handel, Bel Canto strictly means "beautiful singing", I would describe it as a direct communication from the soul. I decided I had to get this album out of fairness to the musician, and for good measure I bought "Concerto Maximo" which a little like "Score", contains a sample of the music of Pendragon over the years.

I think it is enough to say that "Pure" the album released by Pendragon just before this concert, is the best prog album of the decade. The music is sweet, that is it is harmonic. Surely Nick Barrett is one of the finest guitarists of our time. The theme of the album is like Porcupine Tree's "Fear of a Blank Planet", a comment on youth. Initially I heard it a few times on various podcasts and mistook the commentary on youth as the opinions of the musicians, and rated it "ok" but then hearing "The Freak Show" theme when my senses were sharpened I thought, "if only out of respect for a few bars of absolute perfection, I have to buy this album". While "The Freak Show" was the hook that got me in, I've grown to love "Earserhead", and "It's Only Me" is a deep philosophical statement on the simplicity of beingness versus the betrayals of life in the world. Unlike Dream Theater the lyrics are good but then it goes on another level with Barrett's solos.

Mostly Nolan supports Barrett with a very Mellotron type sound, its amazing how much variety he gets out of his keyboards in such a short time. Peter Gee, a very versatile musician, does a great job on the bass, but you have to listen a bit to hear him, I think the mix could be adjusted slightly to boost the bass to what you would hear live. The camera team missed a few close ups of Peter when he was playing keyboard for instance. Scott Higham, who worked with Nolan on "She" and has only just joined Pendragon, seems to have been there for years, he is totally on top of the music. The other slight criticism I have is that the sound volume levels have been flattened so you don't get the dynamic variation of the live performance. But it is easy to criticise, it is a very good production and as I began this review, so many live dvd's are disappointing. This one isn't.

This dvd is expensive, but it comes with two audio cds. The Australian dollar has been down and it cost me half a day's pay but it is worth it. The music is powerful and I find about 3-4 tracks at a go is enough. (Dream Theater are similarly intense). I think the "Pure" tracks are a cut above Pendragon's earlier material, as I said earlier I would rate it the best prog album of the decade, but on relistens, I am finding more and more in the other material on the dvd and I highly recommend the purchase of it.

Report this review (#236236)
Posted Tuesday, September 1, 2009 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Like the good wine....They get better with age

Normally Prog bands have a long live (If they don't split because of their own ego), but usually they reach the peak soon and live of past glories, presenting excellent concerts with several changes in the lineup because clue members leave in pursue of a solo career.

This is not the case of PENGRAGON, since their second album they had a stable lineup, in 1996 (Something unusual with Clive Nolan working in so many bands and personal projects) they reach their peak with "Masquerade Overture" and when I believed everything was downhill, they kept the quality for 18 years more. In 2006 they release the good but uneven "Believe" and the next year their iconic drummer "Fudge Smith" leaves.

Again I thought the story was over, but they surprised in 2008 with the outstanding "Pure" and in 2009 with their definitive live album "Concerto Maximo", recorded in Poland for their 30 Anniversary.

Won't talk about the DVD, because it deserves a separate review, I'm here to write about the double CD. So let's start with the quality saying it's flawless, the selection of tracks has been done with care, presenting a balanced set with no weeks moments and representing their long and fertile career.

But the most important issue on a live album is the performance, incredibly this guys sound better as the years go by, Nick's voice is as peculiar as always, (you like it or not), but his guitar is simply impeccable, he has gained strength and accuracy, the best example of this can be found at "Masters of Illusion".

Clive Nolan makes one of his usual displays of quality with incredible solos and team work, being his best moments in the frenetic solo of "A Man with Nomadic Train", in which he plays in the best style of Rick Wakeman but with a modern sound, and of course the delicate Mellotron "A la Genesis" in the sweet and delightful "The King of the Castle".

Peter Gee, is strong and accurate, his best moment is in the closer "Queen of Hearts", but more important than his personal achievements is the interplay with the surprising "Scott Higham", who doesn't sound like the new kid in a band that has played for 3 decades, the guy is precise and extremely loud, what enhances the listening experience, the rhythm section works as if they had been together for decades and not only for a couple of years.

Not much more to say aboutt he tracks, because all are well known and reviewed repeatedly on the studio albums, so will go directly with the rating that has to be not lower than 4 stars.

If PENDRAGON keeps in this level, I'm sure we will listen from them for a long time, and this are good news.

Report this review (#239690)
Posted Wednesday, September 16, 2009 | Review Permalink
3 stars Concerto Maximo captures a Pendragon concert in Poland - where they've enjoyed strong support since the early 1990s, and so could be assured of a friendly crowd - which happened hot on the heels of the release of Pure. So fresh was the Pure material, in fact, that despite wanting to play Indigo the band decided to leave it off the set this time because they simply hadn't had time to rehearse a live performance of it.

Still, the new album is well-represented by Eraserhead, Freak Show, and It's Only Me: the real question here is how the Pure cuts end up slotting in alongside earlier material, given the shift in sound that album presented. As it happens, it works out fine. It helps that this is new drummer Scott Higham's first live album with the band, and his more forceful style already helps give a new twist to the old songs, and the band show good taste in where to tweak their older material to better fit the new style (the version of Walls of Babylon here teases out a disquiet not evident in the original, for instance) and where to keep things true to their former approach (The Voyager being a good example of the latter).

The end result is a set which skillfully interweaves old and new material to more clearly reveal the Pure material as an evolution of what came before, and to tease something new out of the well-worn songs. With each studio album from as far back as Kowtow represented, plus a deep cut in the form of Sister Bluebird from the Fallen Dreams and Angels EP, it packs in a wide variety of material, and with a running time of some two and a half hours you get a nice substantial concert for your money. Indeed, it feels a little long - had it been trimmed back a bit more you'd have an amazing two hours here, but I find myself flagging partway through.

Report this review (#2771630)
Posted Monday, June 20, 2022 | Review Permalink

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