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Arena Smoke & Mirrors album cover
3.83 | 63 ratings | 11 reviews | 41% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
prog rock music collection

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DVD/Video, released in 2006

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Bedlam Fayre
2. A Crack in the Ice
3. Midas Vision
4. Elea
5. The Hanging Tree
6. A State of Grace
7. (Don't Forget to) Breathe
8. Smoke & Mirrors
9. Purgatory Road
11. Waiting for the Flood
12. Medusa
13. The Shattered Room
14. Chosen
15. Skin Game
16. Witch Hunt
17. Enemy Without
18. Solomon
19. Friday's Dream
20. Cry VII

Bonus video: Reunion Concert - Fan Footage De Boerderij, Zoetermeer, Holland
1. A Crack in the Ice
2. Elea
3. The Hanging Tree
4. A State of Grace
5. Medusa
6. Crying for Help VII

CD (available only in MMP DVD 0064 digipack edition!)
1. Bedlam Fayre (5:39)
2. A Crack in the Ice (4:31)
3. Midas Vision (5:10)
4. Elea (2:37)
5. The Hanging Tree (7:23)
6. A State of Grace (3:27)
7. (Don't Forget to) Breathe (5:39)
8. Smoke & Mirrors (4:41)
9. Purgatory Road (7:03)
10. Waiting for the Flood (6:26)
11. Medusa (4:32)
12. The Shattered Room (10:01)

Total Time: 67:17

Line-up / Musicians

- Clive Nolan / keyboards, backing vocals
- Mick Pointer / drums
- Rob Sowden / lead vocals
- John Mitchell / guitars, backing vocals
- Ian Salmon / bass

Releases information

Arena live on stage in Poland. A concert from the 'Pepper's Ghost Tour'
-Another DVD release of Arena - doubtlessly one of the most significant prog bands today!
Fantastic show recorded in September 2005 at Wyspiański Theatre in Katowice!
- Magical, unique spectacle with almost theatrical atmosphere!
- A special, 10th anniversary setlist, including Arena's evergreens, e.g. (Don't Forget To) Breathe, The Hanging Tree, Skin Game, Witch Hunt, as well as the songs from their newest studio album "Pepper's Ghost"
- Classic collector's item; also includes:
- Animated menu
- Arena's biography
- Interview with Clive Nolan and Mick Pointer
- Discography
- Photo gallery
- Desktop images
- Weblinks
- Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound
- Also available in limited DIGIPACK edition, with bonus audio CD with the highlights of the show

Thanks to progfans for the addition
and to Tarcisio Moura for the last updates
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ARENA Smoke & Mirrors ratings distribution

(63 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(41%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(40%)
Good, but non-essential (13%)
Collectors/fans only (3%)
Poor. Only for completionists (3%)

ARENA Smoke & Mirrors reviews

Showing all collaborators reviews and last reviews preview | Show all reviews/ratings

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by Menswear
5 stars When it comes to concert DVD's, a band is usually putting everything on the table to make a good show. Marketing staffs are using this media to stir up buyers to grab attention at their products. So if I give 5 stars, it's for meaning 'above excellent job' in this case, and if you want to get a good idea of the band, get this.

Compared to Caught in the Act, this one has a much more powerful sound and more special features and more humor. The checklist is kinda the same, and the band is more dynamic than ever. Néo-prog never been this catchy and heavy since they rised in 1995. They jump a lot, laugh a lot, doing lots of silly jokes, and sing loudly from start to end. The crowd was seated, but after a while, the atmosphere is heating up and the fun really kicks in...just like in a real concert. The theater is suiting well Pepper's Ghost material, and a good bravo to a much more complex lighting equipement. Many times, the scrolling filming gave me goosebumps, making Arena look like superstars.The band is tighter than ever, and the many many camera angles are cool and give a more professionalism feel to the whole thing.

I was surprised how well this turns out and I can frankly say that I wasn't disappointed, even more happy to finally own the 10th anniversary with tons of extras and good interviews. Arena is a very generous band, on stage and out!

I saw it live in Quebec City, and the DVD is frankly giving me the envy to be there again.

Great job, buy it to be amazed.

Review by Gatot
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
5 stars A Masterpiece of Neo Prog Performance

Celebrating its 10th Anniversary, Arena did a tour in 2005 in which one of the gigs was recorded on a DVD titled "Smoke & Mirrors". This DVD comprises two gigs: first live set was filmed and recorded at Teatr Slaski im. St. Wysplankskiego Katowice, September 22, 2005 in Poland. The second live set is a Reunion Concert - Fan Footage De Boerderij, Zoetermeer, Holland, October 16th 2005. The DVD started with countdown activities by each member of the band starting with Mick Pointer which read a newspaper at 1 PM until all members were called to depart to the venue using a van. It's a cool opening right before the performance.

First Set: Poland's Concert

As far as concert DVD this is my second experience watching the band's performance shot at DVD. As I do enjoy watching the first one "Caught In The Act" it's the same case with "Smoke and Mirrors". Production-wise this new DVD is better than the first one. It opens beautifully with "Bedlam Fayre" from the band's latrs album "Pepper's Ghost" with neat music and tight performance. It continues almost seamlessly with opening track of "The Visitor" album "A Crack In The Ice" which I really love as it has excellent combination of melody, beats and structure. After these two openings, Rob Sowden does an opening talk introducing the band's intention to play older tunes.

"Midas Vision" was started with unified choirs between Nolan, Sowden and Mitchell. Oh yes, this tune reminds me to the early days of Arena when I was very happy knowing that ex drummer of Marillion - Mick Pointer -strikes back into prog music arena. Yesz! This tune really gives me a right nuance of the second awakening of prog music when Marillion carried the torch of old school symphonic prog rock music in a simpler way, called neo progressive. Practically, early 90s was the period when I did not pay attention to prog music anymore - especially after Fish left Marillion. But when I saw new band Arena came out in mid 90s with their excellent debut "Songs From The Lions Cage" it made me happy really.

Well, "Elea" follows nicely which is then continued with "The Hanging Tree". This tune is really memorable in terms of melody as well as its symphonic style combining powerful voice of Sowden, ambient guitar of John Mitchell as well as beautiful keyboard work of Clive Nolan. I see that Mick Pointer enjoys his work as drummer. The guitar solo part of this track is really kicking. Ian Salmon performs his tight basslines, combined with symphonic style of keyboard work. I do enjoy this track performed live at this DVD set. Really cool!

From the beginning track until track 7 (Don't Forget to ) Breathe this DVD really stirs my emotion. I requently sing along with the band as loud as I can sing - regardless the lyric is right or not. DVD is really kicking! It does satisfy my needs that music is emotion - and I honestly experience total satisfaction with this DVD. Oh man .. you must watch this DVD yourself especially when you see "A State of Grace" and "(Don't Forget to) Breathe" tracks. These two tracks kill me really! John Mitchell's guitar work is really amazing and rocking! Clive Nolan did headbanging at the ending part of this track. Oh yeah .. "(Don't Forget to) Breathe" rocks!!!

The break is utilized by Nolan to tell the crowd about the celebration of 10th Anniversary and it was responded nicely by the crowd who sing along together the birthday song ala Poland. It's quite dynamic vibes and it indicates that the band is quite close to its fans. As I do not really favor "Pepper's Ghost" album, the next track "Smoke & Mirrors" does not seem special to me even though it's not that bad at all. It requires time for me to digest this song.

Clive Nolan's clavinet sounds at the opening part of "Waiting For The Flood" is really stunning. The classic tune "Medusa" is then performed excellently. "The Shattered Room" starts with Nolan's soft keyboard sound followed with powerful voice of Sowden backed with symphonic keyboard sound. As with previous DVD, "Chosen" is started with Pointer's drum beats - a bit annoying actually as there is little variation - but it's okay when the music plays together. Sowden is now using yellowish spectacle as he did in Caught In The Act DVD. Well, this opening track of "Immortal?" album has a powerful lyrics and great composition. "Freedom of speech but we have no voice. Freedom of spirit but we have no choice .". I do enjoy guitar solo and keyboard solo performed at different segments of this tune. Great tune!

The show is getting hotter with "Witch Hunt" where it has upbeat tempo and the crowd starts to participate actively. The classic track "Solomon" is also performed excellently. The show concludes beautifully with the crowd sing along on Cry VII "Help me .. help me . oooo .. help me!". Clive Nolan stand up at the front without his keyboard and he sings along with the crowd . Fantastic closing.

Second Set: Holland's Concert (Reunion)

The second set is covered under DVD Extra and it shot the band's performance with guest appearance of Arena's previous bassist John Jowitt which is now with IQ and Jadis. Even though the audio quality is not as excellent as first set, this performance is much more rockin' than the first one. John Mitchell and John Jowitt play their instruments with full stage acts unlike when John Mitchell played at the first set. It's quite surprising that the opening part started with Paul Wrightson sings "A Crack In The Ice" from the crowd position. It's really cool. All tracks performed at this set have been played at the first set but it's good also to enjoy this second set as the vibe is different. I do enjoy this second set as well as the first. It's really great! "We will be as one forever!"


As you have seen at the top that I have already given full five stars rating for this DVD because it proves that the band is much matured in its 10th anniversary. John Mitchell's guitar playing is really awesome. Clive Nolan's keyboard work is stunning. They perform the concerts in solid state. There is minus point as well even though it's not significant: ie. John Mitchell and Ian Salmon do not seem very happy with this gig as they do not do any stage acts like they did at "Caught In The Act" DVD. Keep on proggin' ..!

Progressively yours, GW

Note: For those proggers in South East Asia countries, don't miss the prog metal event: i-Rock! presents: ANGRA Live in Jakarta, October 16, 2006!

Review by E-Dub
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars As brilliant as Arena's music is, I'm still not thoroughly convinced of them as a live act...this is according to the two DVD's I have (this and Caught In The Act). The music is explosive, intense, gripping, and really keeps your interest; however, as a live act, I haven't really seen any proof that they would be very exciting live.

Right off the bat, the music on this DVD is grade A stuff. Covering their entire career as a band, and performing the newer material from Pepper's Ghost, the skill this band posesses is amazing. Even Pointer the weak link does a nice job. Clive Nolan and John Mitchell especially exhibit brilliance on their respective instruments. I also enjoy hearing the live performances of "The Hanging Tree", which Sowden always seems to do a brilliant job (I think he performs the more sinister sounding vocals a bit better than the previous frontman, Paul Wrightson.) By that same token, I like to have seen "The Butterfly Man" on here; but, I digress. "Chosen" is another brilliant song and does showcase the band's potential to be an intense live act. The biggest surprise, however, is hearing "Medusa" by this lineup. To be honest, I could like this lineup's version better than the original from the Pride album.

The new material especially sounds vibrant and fresh. It also seems that the band does enjoy performing these as this is where they become their most mobile. "Purgatory Road" is an instant Arena classic and so glad they included it.

As for the dynamics of the performance, well it's a bit uncomfortable in spots. Frontman Rob Sowden does a better job on this DVD over the previous DVD, but he still appears to be quite awkward on stage. Oftentimes looking a bit bored and indifferent. In all seriousness, the same can be said for the rest of the band. Bassist Ian Salmon is a bit more animated this time and has been seen bouncing up and down to the beat, but he seems more content to focus on his playing and flash that sly smirk every now and then. There just doesn't appear to be any life to the performance. You watch a guy like Steve Hogarth of Marillion, and you can see a true showman who looks as if the stage is his second home (as much as the Fish faithful dislike h, you can't deny his stage presence.) With Arena, however, you see a guy laboring to get the crowd going. If only it stopped at the frontman, though. If only John Mitchell was as exciting to watch as his playing is to hear. If only, if only, if only.

Another little wrinkle to this DVD is a performance by The Visitor lineup for 6 songs. Wrightson seems a bit out of stage shape and his vocals aren't as crisp as Sowden's, but what a difference bassist John Jowitt makes. Not a shy performer as he bounces around the stage and mingles quite frequently with Mitchell. I think it's just his style, as he seems to do the same on the Jadis and IQ DVD's as well.

Don't get me wrong, I do enjoy the two Arena DVD's....but mainly for the music. That part offers a lot to the progressive fan, but you're definitely not paying for a visually stimulating performance. Much like what I said upon watching Caught In The Act a few times, Arena are better heard than seen. Rating is somewhere between 3-5 stars.

Review by Prog Leviathan
2 stars A boring, and mediocre performance from an excellent band.

The production of the DVD, as well as the concert's set list are actually quite good, featuring songs from across the band's career-- but the concert itself shows that Arena is much, much better sounding in the studio.

Little of the lead player's virtuosity is displayed, while Sowden's vocals aren't nearly as powerful on stage as one would hope... especially during his high notes. More upsetting are his goofy neon-green sunglasses and leather outfit, which look absolutely ridiculous.

As a whole the band is simply uncharismatic, and rather blah to watch, making this DVD only for dedicated fans.

Setlist 3 Performances 3 Energy 2 Live Experience 2

Review by Finnforest
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Refreshing lack of mugging and cheap pyrotechnics.

Neo is not my favorite genres but I do enjoy sampling concerts from all bands. I am not a "fan" of Arena (yet) but I did enjoy their music and this concert in particular.

They avoid the annoying and insidious current day habit of draping a concert performance in cheap artsy visual effects. No cheesy strobes, no grainy footage, no constant lightning fast edits. A concert DVD is a historical event being captured on film/video and I think many of us would like to actually see the music being performed rather than the nonsense the visual art people come up with. In this Arena show you get some great clean video close ups of the guitar and drums so you can actually see what the hell the musicians are doing. The music is what is emphasized here, not running around the stage, jumping up and down, and mugging for the cameras. The seriousness and respect with which the musicians treat their material is returned by the polite crowd, who listen intently without constant yelling, screaming, and other mouthfoaming. They did however break into a local birthday serenade for the group when they announced it was their 10th anniversary as a band. It was a sweet moment which genuinely touched the guys I think.

So what about the music? I'm no expert on Arena so my review is more about the presentation overall than the material itself, but I found the music well performed, interesting and engaging. The singer dressed as a bit of a goofball looking like Johnny Depp in the Chocolate Factory movie but handled his vocals with passion. The guitarist blew me away with gorgeous lead parts in every song and used the flash speed solos judiciously enough that it was effective when employed. Let me repeat: GREAT guitar work in this concert! Mick Pointer was very good at the kit. My only complaint was that the bass was a little down in the mix but not enough to wreck the overall sound. The bonus features include nice interviews with the band and more live footage.

I would recommend this show to people who like *music* from their concert DVDs. Those who prefer gigantic budgeted super-shows with more emphasis on visuals than music will be bored out of their minds here. I for one prefer this type of authentic "music first" experience and if any of the lads from Arena ever happen to see this, please know that you may have picked up two more fans today simply because of your decision to present a DVD free from the artsy video-speed-edit nightmare. May other bands follow your lead!

Review by evenless
4 stars Their tenth year anniversary: BRAVO!

Pepper's ghost is an illusionary technique used in theatre and in some magic tricks. Using a plate glass and special lighting techniques, it can make objects seem to appear or disappear, or make one object seem to "morph" into another. Often "Smoke and Mirrors" are used to make the trick work.

So this DVD is called "Smoke & Mirrors" after track 2 on the Pepper's Ghost album. It makes sense ARENA plays 3 tracks from their latest album. Fortunately the track list of this DVD has contains some of the best tracks of all of their albums till present. The show kick in with "Bedlam Fayre", an up-tempo track that also is the opening track of the Pepper's Ghost album.

The second track is the wonderful opening track from one of ARENA's finest albums: "the Visitor". As this sung was originally sung by my favourite ARENA singer Paul Wrightson, I was wondering how well Rob Sowden would sing it. I can only say he does a great job. Even so great that I personally don't miss Paul Wrightson too much anymore. But I was very delighted to see him perform some songs on the extra's of this DVD: The Reunion concert in "De Boerderij". During this extra footage John Jowitt and Paul Wrightson are invited to play bass and sing for ARENA once more. Great to see Paul Wrightson thank Rob Sowden for letting him sing a few songs. Makes you even wonder more why he left the band. (maybe he had to?). The best thing is to see that he's really enjoying singing and he gives us a stunning performance of "his songs" "A Crack In The Ice" and "The Hanging Tree". Rob and Paul are both singing "Crying For Help VII" together. Simply wonderful!

One more thing I have to say that this DVD shows once more that Mr. Clive Nolan really is one of the best keyboard players around in the prog-scene today! He's also the mastermind behind ARENA. And another thing I would like to say is that guitar player John Mitchell, IMHO, is just as good as Steve Rothery from Marillion, ARENA's big brother.

"Elea" is a wonderful instrumental track and the ARENA epic "The Hanging Tree" and "A State Of Grace" are performed after one and other, just like on "the Visitor" album, the way it should be done! All tracks are really worth it. Maybe special attention to the fact that also the epic "Solomon" of their debut album is played and "Medusa" from their second studio album "Pride" as well. All and all the tracks being performed life on "Smoke and Mirrors" could be seen as a nice ARENA overview for the last decade. This DVD may actually be seen as ARENA's tenth anniversary: BRAVO!

Review by friso
3 stars Arena is one of my favorite modern progressive rock groups. On the Smoke & Mirrors dvd we get to see the tour of the 'Pepper's Ghost' album, which was a minor letdown after the much appraised 'Contagion' album and accompanying 'Live & Life' album. By adding a lot of songs from the new album the overall tracklist of the Arena shows became less interesting than before, but we still get to hear a long list of classics like 'Crack in the Ice', 'Butterfly Man', 'The Hanging Tree', 'Chosen', 'Witch Hunt' and 'Solomon'. Considering how much of a classic 'Contagion' was, it's notable that there are few songs from that album.

The amazing energy of the 'Live & Life' album is - alas - nowhere to be found! Rob Sowdon is one of my favorite vocalists, yet on this footage he doesn't seem to feel very inspired or celebratory at all. The white wig and sun glasses of the first halve of the show don't help to sympathize either. The band plays really tight and the sound recording is good, yet I can't help but missing the spark, especially in the newer material. The guitars by John Mitchell are still brilliant and I love to see him play on this dvd. This would prove to be last footage of the band with Sowdon and after it the band would grow into a more mainstream symphonic metal style. Recently I started to appreciate the 'Pepper's Ghost' album a lot more than I did when it was released, but this live dvd remains a bit underwhelming.

Review by Tarcisio Moura
4 stars In 2005 Arena released their sixth studio album, Pepper´s Ghost. However it was not as well received as the previous ones. It still bugs me why. Certainly it was not for the lack of quality of the songs, but I guess we´ve accustomed to expect something extraordinaire from them every time they put out a new album or simply the timing was not right for the CD. Whatever the reasons, the band decided to record a DVD to commemorate their 10th anniversary during the tour to promote it. And for good reason, since Arena started as just another of many side projects from celebrated keyboards player Clive Nolan (Pendragon), this time with original Marillion drummer Mike Pointer, and it evolved into not a only a ´real´ band, but an excellent one.

As expected, the quality of the DVD is top notch. In terms of sound and images, it is quite superior to their debut, 2003´s Caught In The Act. It was recorded (again, as usual) in Poland, at the Wyspiański Theatre in Katowice, in 22 september 2005. The line up was the same as their previous DVD and shows a very tight and skillful band belting songs from all of their discography. Unlike Caught In The Act, however, this time they chose to play only four tracks from the new album and mix them with the older material as the show went along.

I was always confused by how the band released the low volume of their debut DVD, a mistake they do not make here, as the sound and images are excellent. The repertoire does not differ much from the previous one, though, and they could have included some more obscure stuff from their earlier albums. Certainly they had some strong tunes that were not recorded live (like Sirens). That´s my sole complaint, since their performances are spotless and full of energy. John Mitchell may not have the looks nor the stage stance one should expect from a guitar virtuoso, but, boy, does he play!!! He is one of the best prog guitarists around and was a great find for the definition of the band´s trademark sound and personality. The band owns a lot to his terrific guitar lines that complement very well Nolan´s dark, heavy and atmospheric tunes.

One of the extras is a bonus video recorded by a fan in October 16th of the same year at De Boerderij, Zoetermeer, Holland, where they made a ´reunion´ concert with their previous (and best remembered) line up consisting of John Jowitt (of IQ and Jadis fame) on bass and Paul Wrightson on vocals. Although the quality of the the video is obviously inferior to the main menu, it is still quite good. Since it seems that there is no other available footage of the classic line up, this is really a treat for fans. Wrightson has a very Fish-like dramatic stage presence and he knows how to surprise the public singing the first lines of the opener Crack In the Ice from the audience! Nice show, but again, it would be nice if the tracklist was a bit more varied instead of the obvious tunes. Still, very good.

Conclusion: if you´re a fan of the band, this is another must have. If you don´t, a then Smoke & Mirrors is a nice way to get to know this outstanding group. Not perfect, but still an excellent display of what Arena can do on stage. Four strong stars for this one.

Latest members reviews

5 stars Smoke & Mirrors contains all the elements of the previous Arena DVD Caught in the Act. Great songs performed by one of the worlds great prog bands, Excellent sound and vision, with some great camera work, and an enthusiastic involved crowd. Strangely only four songs from the Peppers Ghost albu ... (read more)

Report this review (#100302) | Posted by laghtnans | Saturday, November 25, 2006 | Review Permanlink

4 stars This is another tour I was present at, exactly on 16 September 2005, and a month later at the reunion concert. Too bad the setlist was much the same, but I finally got to see Paul Wrightson live for the first time. Yes proggers, I was one of the poor saps who saw Arena live for the first time ... (read more)

Report this review (#93002) | Posted by Tailscent | Monday, October 2, 2006 | Review Permanlink

4 stars I have ordered the dvd just released and yesterday it arrived to my home in Italy! Arena are my preferred neo-progressive bnad, I have seen live them in 1998 and in 1999, really astride the last changes of formation, but in the last years they have not come in Italy anymore so to appreciate ... (read more)

Report this review (#75940) | Posted by borussia | Sunday, April 23, 2006 | Review Permanlink

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