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Easy Livin
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
4 stars Clive's back (in Poland)

There is a rumour (I just made up) that there is a dressing room in the theatre in Katowice, Poland where this concert was filmed, reserved for the sole use of Clive Nolan. He has certainly been a regular visitor there of late, appearing with Caamora, Pendragon, and now Shadowland.

This gig was filmed in February 2009, and captures the first live performance by the band for many years. Indeed, Clive himself make the point that songs from the band's third album, the 1996 release "Mad as a hatter" performed here are actually making their live début. All three albums contribute generously to the set list, which compiles them into a pleasingly coherent whole.

For those unfamiliar with Shadowland, the project is a collaboration between the aforementioned Nolan and the equally prolific Karl Groom (of Threshold). Groom plays lead guitar and contributes backing vocals. Nolan though largely delegates keyboards duties to Mike Varty (in concert at least), and instead assumes front and centre stage as lead vocalist and sometime second pianist. Those more familiar with his work with Pendragon and Arena may wonder at the wisdom of this, but Clive actually has a strong singing voice in his own right. He is not perhaps the most natural of front men, but he takes to the role with genuine enthusiasm giving a polished performance throughout.

The overall sound is a bit harder and more direct than that of Clive's other bands, but the songs develop well both instrumentally and vocally. Groom's lead guitar work is reminiscent of Nolan's Arena band-mate John Mitchell, while adding some superb colours throughout (and especially on "Painting by numbers", "The seventh year", etc.).

Feature songs such as "Hall of mirrors" (14 minutes) and "Dreams of the ferryman" (13 minutes) allow the band more space and are thus closer to that of bands such as the aforementioned Pendragon and Arena (especially the "Immortal" album). The performance is as tight and well rehearsed as we are used to from bands such as those, a clear reflection of the ethic to which Clive and Karl work. Incidentally, the title track does not appear on any of the three studio albums, but was recorded specifically for the 2009 Shadowland compilation "A matter of perspective".

The gig runs to just under 2 hours, drawing in 14 songs in total. The Polish audience are warm and receptive towards the music, but understandably as usual they struggle with the between songs banter and introductions.

Among the bonus offerings is footage of the band performing in Holland a few days later. There is more of a bootleg feel to this set, the sound quality of the recording being notably inferior. With the setlist being tracks 2 to 9 of the Poland gig, this extra will appeal mainly to those who actually attended the Dutch performance. We are also treated to a 17 minute interview with Clive Nolan and Karl Groom. As usual, the Polish interviewers questions are very knowledgeable, securing suitably informed and interesting responses.

The total package here runs to well over 3 hours, offering a wonderful summary of the life of Shadowland. The main performance is captivating and highly enjoyable. In all, another superb DVD from Metal Minds.

Report this review (#242514)
Posted Friday, October 2, 2009 | Review Permalink
Symphonic Team
4 stars Arena light

After having found far greater success with Arena and Threshold respectively, Clive Nolan and Karl Groom reformed Shadowland after many years to perform some concerts. Clive announces between two of the songs that this show in Poland was the first Shadowland concert in 13 years. Surely, the popularity of their more recent musical projects was a large part of what made a reunion like this possible? Fans should rejoice!

The set list consists of songs from the three albums that Shadowland released in the 90's plus one brand new song that gives the DVD its title. As also announced by Clive, the band never toured in support of their third album, Mad As A Hatter. This is therefore the first time that material from that album was performed live. Three songs from that album are played here; Mephisto Bridge, U.S.I (United States of Insanity) and The Seventh Year. The second album, Through The Looking Glass, is represented by four songs in total, two of which merge together and open the show (just like they open said studio album). Finally, with the exception of only one track, the debut album, Ring Of Roses, is represented in its entirety.

Songs like Ring Of Roses, Dreams Of The Ferryman, The Waking Hour and The Hunger all have very catchy choruses that I would say are perhaps a bit too catchy for my taste. But they work slightly better live than on the studio albums. The best moments of the show for me are the instrumental The Kruhulick Syndrome (the mysterious title of which Clive explains during the bonus interview), the longer Hall Of Mirrors and The Seventh Year, Mephisto Bridge, the new song Edge Of Night and, of course, the masterpiece that is Jigsaw. Oh what a great song the latter is, both musically and lyrically - an all time favourite for me!

For those who have never heard the music of Shadowland it might perhaps be described as Arena light. As I said in one of my reviews of their studio albums, fans of Arena and/or Threshold are bound to find Shadowland rather lightweight both in terms of sound and quality of the songs. But we have here a nice set of songs. Groom is a very good guitarist and his playing in Shadowland is very different from what can be heard on Threshold's albums. But the most surprising feature for newcomers will be to see Clive Nolan as a singer and front man. I must say that Nolan does a very fine job singing lead in Shadowland.

Since the three studio albums are hard to get your hands on individually (I own them as part of a box set called Cautionary Tales that also includes this DVD), this live DVD is a good way to discover Shadowland without spending a fortune. The sonic and visual quality of this DVD is flawless and the musicianship is also. Great cover art too!

Highly recommended in addition to the Ring Of Roses studio album

Report this review (#250048)
Posted Wednesday, November 11, 2009 | Review Permalink
3 stars No doubt that Clive Nolan is one of the most remarkable genius of nowadays prog rock.

Such a good musician and composer.

And because of that the best prog bands have the active hand of CN(Pendragon,Arena,Caamora...).

This personal project for him as vocalist (and he is a good one for this kind of music) must have had a DVD concert .The concert is good:with excellent images quality and sound,good selection of songs...but may be Shadowland doesn't sound so well in a concert.

Shadowland music is not so complex as Pendragon or Arena(sometimes) music.

It is more melodic a little more pop prog related(sometimes). Its music is a perfect mix between Arena(their most AOR Rock music) and Pendragon.

In a concert in my opinion Shadowland looses emotiviness.

3 stars will be enough , I think

Report this review (#253119)
Posted Friday, November 27, 2009 | Review Permalink
Tarcisio Moura
3 stars 3.5 stars. This was the first ever chance to see Shadowland live (as usual in so many neo prog acts, recorded in Poland). And I must say I had mixed feelings about it.

Itīs easy to understand why Shadowland was never as big as Arena, Clive Nolanīs (of Pendragon fame) other side project. While the quality of the music is clearly high, on Arena Nolan always lent vocal duties to strong singers. Here the man himself takes that place. And live, he literally leaves the keyboards in the hands of the capable guest musician Mike Varty. Surprisingly Nolan does have a good singing voice and a rather good stage presence. However, the very nature of his lyrics calls for a more dramatic, versatile and stronger vocalsit. In other words, his voice is too īsoftī and īcomfortable` for the kind of dark and broody tales he writes. Somehow they donīt really match, which is really a pity, since the songs themselves are great. Oh, well, I might be wrong, but thatīs the feeling I get hearing him live with this band.

The instrumental part of the group on the other hand is pretty good. Guitarrist karl Groom (better known for his work with prog metaller group Threshold) is an excellent musician, even though his style here is pretty different from the one he does with Threshold, which proves he great versatility. New bassist Mark Westwood and original drummer Nick Harradence are not far behind in terms of technique and passion. And when they all have the chance to explore the instrumental breaks on longer songs like Hall Of Mirrors, Dreams Of the Ferryman and Jigsaw, they really show their enormous potential in full glory. Not that the other songs are bad, no. They are all good and catchy, but somehow too short and too song oriented for them to display their skills in full. It wouldnīt work.

The show itself was very professionaly recorded, the sound production is top notch and the images are also excellent.

If you like Shadowland, then this is a must have. If you donīt but like good, melodic prog, this is a nice way to know the group since their perfomances are spotless and, in several cases, actually a little better than their studio versions. My rating may be a little harsh considering the overall quality of the songs and the players involved, but really, I must take in consideration that Nolan has done better jobs in both Arena and Pendragon in my opinion.Itīs a matter of taste, really.

Report this review (#523488)
Posted Wednesday, September 14, 2011 | Review Permalink
Heavy / RPI / Symphonic Prog Team
3 stars For a band that has only made 3 albums in almost 30 years, the band never split up and after many years of inactivity they jump on the opportunity to make a video with the "charity club" of Metal Mind productions who has invited all Neo Prog band to play in Poland for a few bucks. Shadowland is another project from Clive Nolan when he has nothing to do with Arena, Pendragon or others projects with some female singers... The music is a bit similar to those bands with a Karl Groom touch on guitar and the vocals of Clive which is not the best singer but does an honest job like he did with Caamora. After a standard rock start to the show, "The Whistleblower" brings some progressive rock passages with a different mood. "Mephisto Bridge" has a dark intro followed by one of many Karl Groom guitar solo. "Hall of Mirrors" contains some definitive Arena/Marillion flavors with big instrumental parts and tasty keyboards lines from Mike Varty. "Edge of Night" is a song only available on a compilation album and still has that Arena influence. "Dream of the Ferrymen" is coming from a recurrent dream of Clive about a serial killer. The heavy guitar riffs on this one are trying to capture the dark nature of the lyrics. This song again could have been on an Arena album. In conclusion, the show is well shot by Metal Mind with enough visual to keep things enjoyable. But the music is not for those who want to hear the best Neo Prog Bands, but it's close. If you don't have enough Neo Prog music, this is a nice complement to the IQ type of bands.
Report this review (#1780489)
Posted Saturday, September 9, 2017 | Review Permalink

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