How often do you listen to a live album that has such an impact that you wish you had been there on the day of the recordings? Well, not that often I guess. However, it happened to me whilst listening to MMX from Twelfth Night, the band's first new release since 1986. In May 2010, Twelfth Night recorded a complete live show performed at Wath-upon-Dearne (UK). To be honest, I never expected the band to release a new album after they broke up, but as many other progressive rock bands they started afresh and got together to do some live shows. A new studio album has not been released yet.
The new line-up of Twelfth Night is a strong one which is proved by the recordings on this double live album. I heard several live recordings before the band split up, but MMX definitely is the best one I heard so far. You'll hear a very tight band that has a great live groove. The audience apparently agreed on that, because they expressed their feelings while the band played their songs. They shouted, clapped their hands and sang along with the lyrics. Lead singer Andy Sears has the ability to make them even more hysterical than they already were. He's a real stage personality and his voice is still as strong, powerful and passionate as in the eighties. At the time, Sears was the perfect replacement for Geoff Mann who left the band in 1983. Of course, it's always easier to give a great show with an excellent playing band which is the case here. The six-piece band has a lot of strength and power. With the addition of two members of Galahad the sound gets much bigger than in the eighties. Dean Baker (keyboards) and Roy Keyworth (guitars) did an excellent job on MMX. However, it's a bit difficult now to distinguish between the band members who played the guitar, the bass guitar and the keyboard parts, because several musicians are able to perform on more than one instrument. With two multi-instrumentalists who both can play on the bass guitar, guitar and keyboards, Twelfth Night created a very rich sound.
Original band member Clive Mitten and newcomer Mark Spencer can play on many instruments and they can add vocals to the songs when needed. The DVD-version of MMX (see review) will give the decisive answer on who played what instrument on which track. You probably will see that two musicians play the bass guitar on Creepshow. The bigger line-up is also the reason that some classic Twelfth Night-tracks could be played again live. An epic piece as The Collector can now be heard again. And even songs from their underrated XII-album (1986) were performed for the first time. I enjoyed tracks as Theatre, The Craft and Last Song, all performed in a perfect way. I got shivers down my spine from the classic piece Take A Look, also taken from XII. Sadly the original guitarist Andy Revell was unable to join the band for the 2010 concerts, but I have to admit that I didn't miss his playing that much. The rhythm section on this album is also excellent. Both bass player Clive Mitten and drummer Brian Devoil already play together since the start of the band in the late seventies. It's easy to hear that both musicians have a certain click together. Clive Mitten must have had an important role in the writing process of the band's compositions, because his bass lines are very dominant. Just as Chris Squire (Yes) he loves to have a leading role although his playing differs quite a lot.
The keyboards have a leading role too on MMX. Even more than in the band's early days. They now sound more up front and many new synthesizer parts were added in the new arrangements. It was a real pleasure to listen to these new arrangements, but also to all the classic songs that made Twelfth Night one of the leading bands in the eighties progressive rock revival. In those days they could easily compete with bands as Pendragon, IQ, Marillion or Pallas with pieces as The Ceiling Speaks, Creepshow, We Are Sane and Love Song. At the time, someone wrote that the members of Twelfth Night were better musicians than those from Marillion. I never really could understand such a remark, but after listening to MMX I have a better notion, because Twelfth Night performed on a very high musical level and therefore I do something I've never done before: giving a live album the highest possible rating of five stars! I'm already looking forward to the DVD-version of this concert. I wonder if it will get the same high score!
***** Henri Strik (edited by Peter Willemsen)
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