Progarchives, the progressive rock ultimate discography
Arena - Live & Life  CD (album) cover

LIVE & LIFE

Arena

Neo-Prog


From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

Bookmark and Share
Gatot
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars Best Neo Prog Live Acts

When this box set was displayed at local CD store down here in Jakarta, I was in a big doubt whether to buy it or not. Two reasons: 1. As the title in the box set mentioning that this is The Contagion Tour 2003 and I have got the DVD Caught In The Act that's basically the same tour, I thought that buying this box set would be of waste, especially with US$ 25.7 price tag was quite expensive for me. 2. There is no track list displayed visible to potential buyers that created another doubt, what's inside? But there's an information that it contains 2 live CDs plus bonus DVD that represents 40- minute documentary about the tour. Anyway, I didn't buy it and in fact I don't need to worry as there are 2 sets displayed, I took chance not to buy it. The day after, my prog mate Tatan called me up at my cell phone informing that he saw the box set and willing to purchase it. I checked the set at progarchives.com and see the track list and content. Well, I made decision to ask Tatan to reserve the other set for me. I went back to the store the same day and here I am with the box set!

I only had a chance to play this set at first time using my son's compo system when I arrived at home as when I was in the car I played another prog CD that I bought in that store - CONDITION RED first and second album (hey, this band must be featured here! It's prog to the corner man! Derek Sherinian, Alex Masi are contributing here). OK, for the Arena box set, to my surprise, even though the track list is similar with the Caught In The Act DVD but the live set was shot at different venues - taken from various stages during their Contagion European tour. First, I am amazed with the sonic quality of the live CD. It's so perfect hi-fi-wise and also technically as I don't here any technical glitches as usually I find in live records. Especially, when I played this CD with much more decent stereo set with LOUD volume, I could hear all sounds were produced perfectly, wide dynamic range, with all instruments and vocals can be heard in great details clearly. I don't believe that it's a live record! Second, on performance this live CDs offer much more dynamic and more lively performance of all musicians in the band. Especially, the guitar work by John Mitchell is much more alive and stunning compared to Caught In The Act DVD. Ian Salmon plays his bass wonderfully with some improvisations and inventive notes. WOW!!!!

On Performance

As in the DVD set, the live set begins with an energetic song taken from the Contagion album opener Witch Hunt. The music is delivered by the band lively with more dynamic sound. John Mitchell demonstrates his best skills in delivering high register notes guitar solo throughout the song. I think he is one of the best prog guitarist nowadays. Ian Salmon solid basslines also another place to observe as throughout the song he plays the bass guitar dynamically. Clive Nolan? Who would argue for his killing keyboard fills that characterize the neo-progness of ARENA music? Excellent. Rob Sowden brings his vocal power in his performance. "Exile! You show no mercy .." oh .. what a great lyrical piece and music segment. Mick Pointer plays his drums set wondefully - providing good fills especially during transitions.

The first four-track set is performed continuously and it's something that you should not miss any second of listening to them in its entirety. It's so energetic, so powerful and it has great music flow from Witch Hunt - An Angel Falls - Painted Man - This Way Madness Lies (instrumental). This Way Madness Lies projects an image of true dynamic of the four-track piece. It gives chance to John Mitchell and Ian Salmon demonstrate their work in an attractive way. Stunning!

The band then delivers mellower track Spectre at the Feast with low register notes voice, typical neo prog vein, continued with more uplifting one Skin Game, Salamander. Well, if you are familiar with ARENA you must have known that all tracks listed on CD one is basically coming from Contagion album. It ends up beautifully with Ascension. Disc One is a masterpiece: composition-wise and the band's performance!

Disc Two contains materials from the band's classic tracks of previous albums: The Visitor, Immortal?, Songs from The Lions Cage and Pride. It starts beautifully with Floydian guitar work by John Mitchell with Serenity (The Visitor album). He performs his guitar playing wonderfully: soft touch and great melodies. It continues with my favorite track from Immortal? album Chosen where, again, John Mitchell demonstrates his killing melodies during guitar solo interlude. I have to tell you that I'd rather listen to this live version than the original studio version. It's so LIVEly! Clive Nolan's keyboard solo is much more better here. Bravo Arena!!! Your musicianship represent maturity! "Freedom of speech but you have no voice. Freedom of spirit but we have no choice!". It flows seamlessly to Double Vision with an uplifting mode.

The Hanging Tree is another great track from The Visitor album performed excellently. Another favorite of mine (Don't Forget To) Breathe is also performed wonderfully. It starts beautifully with a musical loop and some soft riffs and powerful vocal line. I like the guitar part after fist lyrical verse. It's rocking man!!! Yeah .!! Arena rulez ..!!! This is the kind of music that's truly memorable. Oh my God . I cannot bear it anymore, it's so stunning! The other follow-up tracks are also excellently performed: The Butterfly Man and Enemy Without (I like the guitar solo at the end of the track). Well, it seems like it's the end of the performance. But, the band adds some other three tracks as its encore: Solomon (13:47), Jericho (6:42), and Crying For Help VII (3:52). Even though Rob was not the original singer of Solomon but he performs wonderfully here. For those who are familiar with early albums of Arena would agree with me on this. It's a great encore!

On DVD Documentary

Disc Three is basically a 40-minute DVD documentary of LIFE ON TOUR. It has only single menu offered here: PLAY. And you can see all various activities of the performance from preparation, execution (the show) and after the show interviews. As with any DVD offer, I always enjoy this documentary. Hey, I live in "rest of the world" country where live performance from prog bands from the west is just a dream that's hard to materialize. So, I always enjoy the live footage: all stage preparation, instrument setups, rehearsals, fans interview about the show, the Y-NOT Volvo truck and the comments of the tour bus driver, lighting technician, video technician, tour manager - all are good views for me. I imagine if they play down here in Jakarta, I will participate of course . But again, for people who live in rest of the world countries and love Arena will find this documentary worth seeing. BTW, throughout the film there are some spots of the live acts by the band in various places.

Summary

I have no single regret at all buying this box set of limited edition (only 10,000 copies printed). Performance wise it's a masterpiece. Selection of tracks is also excellent. Sonic quality is beyond expectation as usually live records have not so good audio quality. This one has excellent dynamic range and you must play it LOUD. Of BTW, the audience handclapping and shouting have also made this set lively. Don't miss this box set. On overall rating, I'm already biased now as I cannot afford to put anything less than full five stars rating. I will not back-off from the view of giving five star and ready to take the blame of biasness. What can I do my friend? It's a terrific set! Keep on proggin' .!

Progressively yours,

GW

Report this review (#33213)
Posted Tuesday, May 24, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars Live & Life is one of my all time favourite live albums. every song on the double CD is presented with skill and passion, and received by an appreciative crowd, giving the whole thing an excellent feel. The tracks have been amply covered in Gatot's review so I won't repeat the list, but will point out my own highlights. Enemy Without with John Mitchells quality guitar,and hanging tree brilliantly sung by Rob Sowden, are both breathtaking, on disc two. My own favourite though is on disc one and skin game, which is so much better live than on the Contagion album (wich takes some doing). The DVD is for me interesting, entertaining and at times amusing, but I do love this band, even a new listener to Arena should find it worth watching though.

Overall this is a great little package which I have recommended to people previously and it got them hooked on Arena, so go on and give it a try!

Report this review (#100187)
Posted Friday, November 24, 2006 | Review Permalink
ZowieZiggy
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Arena is a very good live band. They have regularly produced great live recordings and this one is definitely on par with all the previous ones.

This live one is of course pretty much centered on their last studio release "Contagion". It was a very good album, and no less than twelve numbers (out of sixteen) are taken from it. It represents the whole of the first CD. This is only justice to one of their best albums. But Arena has never produced a weak one - IMHHO (in my humble and honest opinion).

Second CD is a great kaleidoscope of their career although I believe that the setlist from the "Immortal" numbers could have been more original. If you except "Breathe", each number played here were present on their previous live album bizarrely called "In Biarritz" (while being recorded in Amsterdam). Actually this live album was recorded in Poland. I would have anticipated that Arena would have chosen The Netherlands to do so since they are extremely popular in this country (as well as in Germany).

Of course the prog interest in Poland (but probably the rock interest in general) is enourmous for this big country (over than forty millions inhabitants) which has been for so long ignored (for the reasons we all know) from the rock concerts. I really believe that their people just deserve to get as much as rock music as possible. And the country has delivered really great prog bands as well.

Two of the three encores do belong to the best Arena's repertoire. "Solomon" and "Jericho" are great rock anthems. It will always be a pleasure to listen to those ones. The last time they were included on a live record was in 1997 for "Welcome To The Stage" (another great live album, BTW).

This double CD set will end with "Crying For Help VII" which is the traditional end of an Arena concert.

I really recommend this live album. It gives a perfect idea of their studio ones. It is also a cheaper way to get into Arena's repertoire. If you get hold of their three live albums so far, you'll get the essence of their whole studio recordings and save some substantial ? or $ or .

An even better investment is to get hold of their DVD "Caught In The Act". It holds the same tracklist + some bonuses for even cheaper (on the marketplace of a well known on-line reseller). Four stars.

Report this review (#125944)
Posted Friday, June 15, 2007 | Review Permalink
Warthur
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars A decent live release from the Contagion tour. The band missed a bit of a trick here - whilst it is nice to have an (almost) complete live rendition of the Contagion album as disc 1, they could have made the live show a real treat by reincorporating into the running order the additional songs from the Contagion saga which were trimmed from the studio album and distributed amongst the Contagious and Contagium EPs. Then again, at least disc 2 here offers a decent selection of non-Contagion tracks, even if there is a large overlap with the track selection for their previous two live albums.

One thing Live and Life does particularly well is tease out what makes this era of the band stand out - namely, that whilst they at times seem to be rehashing old ground in the "prog" stakes, they inject a healthy dose of high-energy *RAWK* into the "rock" side of the "neo-prog rock" equation. Your enjoyment of Arena's 2000s releases, I suspect, will largely hinge on whether or not you consider that an improvement by your personal standards and tastes.

Report this review (#846902)
Posted Tuesday, October 30, 2012 | Review Permalink
friso
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars Arena - Live & Life (2004)

I've been picking up some new Arena live records and was quite blown away by this one. I've been listening with goosebumps to the Contagion album since age fourteen (delivering papers after school hours!) and I still frequent this magical album.

On the first disc of this double live set they play the album almost in its entirety. Though some of the original's abstract magic is lost, this powerful rock star rendition recorded has a charm of its own! Rob Sowden shines throughout with vocals that mach the atmosphere of the original, whilst opening up registers of vocal strength on some major powerful moments. The guitars sound thicker and grittier, the keyboards are a bit more to the background the rythm section is playing in a higher gear throughout. The total mix sound fuller and more intense then the Contagion album itself. Surely this is one of the best neo-prog live album recordings I know of. If the genre lacks one thing, it's the feel of really rockin' out.

On the second disc we get an overall 'best of' from the debut, Visitor and Immortal. Standout song like Solomon, The Butterfly Man and The Hanging Tree are glorious, whilst 'Chosen' seems to be the only song that doesn't benefit from this spiced up version of Arena. On songs from the first three Arena albums Rob Sowden again stands out as the best vocalist the band ever had.

I will give five stars for this most entertaining and uplifting live record.

Report this review (#2117647)
Posted Saturday, January 12, 2019 | Review Permalink

ARENA Live & Life ratings only


chronological order | showing rating only

Post a review of ARENA Live & Life


You must be a forum member to post a review, please register here if you are not.

MEMBERS LOGIN ZONE

As a registered member (register here if not), you can post rating/reviews (& edit later), comments reviews and submit new albums.

You are not logged, please complete authentication before continuing (use forum credentials).

Forum user
Forum password

Copyright Prog Archives, All rights reserved. | Legal Notice | Privacy Policy | Advertise | RSS + syndications

Other sites in the MAC network: JazzMusicArchives.com — jazz music reviews and archives | MetalMusicArchives.com — metal music reviews and archives