Sometimes you regret the decisions you have made. Because they probably weren't the right ones. Not going to the concert the Dutch act ENorm did at Cultuurpodium Boerderij in Zoetermeer on November 4 last year, was by all means certainly one on the list. Most of all because they did for the first time a complete version of an album which was released in 1994. I am referring to The First Run, the debut album recorded by one of the best progressive rock acts The Netherlands ever had. Namely Marathon. In 1996 they released their second studio album Norm. After the release of their live album Marathon Live in 1998 the band strangely enough, split up in two parts. One became La Villa and the other one became e-Norm. Later on renamed to ENorm.
Three members of Marathon are nowadays still in ENorm. Drummer Ferry Bult, guitarist
Ronald ten Bos and his brother Eric ten Bos, who is the lead singer, occasionally do perform songs from their former band. Just like they did on that day in November which I missed. But sometimes you get lucky and can you hear what happened during that concert after all. Because almost one year later ENorm decided to release a part of that concert on a live album. Actually the whole part on which they performed an integral live version of the earlier mentioned Marathon debut album. It got the title The First Run Live and I must admit I was very fortunate to get a review copy to inform you how it sounds!
Those who own the original album will certainly compare all of the tracks to the original studio versions. However those who had been lucky to see the band perform the songs on a stage do know what to expect. Just like I did myself. In the past I heard several songs during live performances and enjoyed them all the way, because they gave perfect renditions of those pieces of music. But still, I was very pleasantly surprised to hear what came out of my speakers.
Most of all the true live feeling grabbed me by the throat. That's just how I wanted to hear those songs. Not been fixed in the recording studios and making them sound too clean and smooth. I just wanted to hear the voice of Erik as he acts during a concert. I wanted to hear the raw guitar parts of Ronald as he managed to let his guitar talk during their live shows. Or how keyboard player Martin Platenkamp managed to replace the original bass pedals parts of Jacques Suurmond on his keyboards. Doing this in a perfect way. Listening to a rhythm section which can play heavy parts next to rather delicate mellow parts. So thumbs up for the earlier mentioned Ferry Bult and his rhythm partner Liejondo Nijhuis on bass guitar.
Those who have heard the original album do know that the main dish on the album are compositions which are very much related to the music the Canadian progressive rock act Saga came up during their golden years. Just listen to the tracks such as Beyond The Veil, Man In The Mirror, Medicine Man, Voices and A Wall and you know what I am talking about. Most of all the Ian Crichton kind of guitar parts makes the band sound on this release like Saga. But also at the time the band was very much inspired by Marillion and Rush. A song such as Open Field very much expresses the influences of Marillion, most of all the Steve Hogarth kind of vocal parts and the beautiful Mark Kelly kind of keyboard parts. But also a piece such as Red Ride with a Steve Rothery kind of guitar solo. As for the Rush influences it is clear that Ronald ten Bos gets much of his inspirations from their guitarist Alex Lifeson. That's why it isn't strange he also in a Rush tribute band.
It's always great to hear that the band not just copies the original songs perfectly, but also that they add extra instrumental parts to them. Listen for example to the intro of one of their classic tracks. The Patterns Of The Landscape sounding probably even better than on the original album. Also the original news flash in the Dutch language was added to the live version. Something which I had not heard before when they started to play this song again. Also the drum solo in A Wall is something which you can't find on the original album.
One things becomes very clear after listening to this live album. The band surpassed itself and comes with perfect performances of songs that I and many others did not hear for a very long time. The way they come up with the live renditions of the studio versions made me think about the way Marathon played them in the 1990s on a live stage. I guess you can't give them a bigger complement! Let's play this beauty one more time! Again and again! Well done boys! You nailed it!
****+ Henri Strik (edited by Tracy van Os van den Abeelen)
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