On the 19th of November 2011, I witnessed the first Arena concert in the Netherlands in years. During their performance (see review) they promoted their latest studio album The Seventh Degree Of Separation (2011, see review). They didn't play the entire album, but just a selection supplemented by older material that mainly comprised songs from The Visitor (1998) and Contagion (2003). To my surprise they also included a track from the band's debut album Songs From The Lions Cage (1995), namely the wonderful piece Valley Of The Kings. During this show the visuals were unfortunately limited to the use of cardboard figures, similar to the ones on the cover of the new album, and no backstage projections or slide shows were used. Almost a week earlier the band filmed a performance in Poland meant to be Arena's third live DVD.
At first I thought that the Polish show would undoubtedly include additional stage props and visuals to make it worth watching. However, when I watched Rapture for the first time, I was quite surprised because the full two hours of footage were almost a copy of what I'd seen myself in November 2011! The people from Metal Mind Productions had shot a performance that could have been recorded as well at Cultuurpodium Boerderij in the Netherlands. The only difference is the added epic piece Solomon. Well, I guess the band just wanted to keep it simple and let the audience be focussed on the music only. On the one hand they're right since all that eventually matters is the music, but on the other hand appearances count for something and not only the musicians on stage. However, this doesn't mean that the DVD isn't worthwhile watching. Certainly not! In general all Arena gigs are wonderful experiences and always show a band in great shape. It doesn't even depend on their line-up!
While watching this concert from a DVD you can say that you're watching it from the front row or even on stage sometimes together with the band members. You don't have those tall people in front of you who never stand still or scream along with the songs. You can watch how keyboardist Clive Nolan steals the show while performing Riding The Tide. Or you can witness how bassist John Jowitt plays on his bass pedals during The Ghost Walks with his arms spread as if he were crucified. Or you can get goosebumps when guitarist John Mitchell performs Serenity in a close view to the cameras. Or you can notice how lead singer Paul Manzi looks like the band's former singers Rob Sowden and Paul Wrightson when he visualizes the songs from The Visitor. The 5.1 surround sound is very good, but unfortunately it can never replace the real live sound of a concert hall. I can only be positive about the way Arena has been filmed in the Wispiański Theatre in Katowice.
People who can't get enough of Arena may watch the DVD extras as well. As usual they're not very spectacular and watching them once is just enough. It features a short interview with founding members Mick Pointer (drums) and Clive Nolan who talk about the new album, amongst others. Also included is a twenty-minute 'bootleg' film from the same tour seeing the band play live in Warsaw, Poland. This gig was only shot with two cameras, but it looks rather good. You may enjoy songs as Crack In The Ice, Don't Forget To Breathe, City Of Lanterns and Riding The Tide. Finally you can watch some pictures, the complete discography and desktop images.
Rapture, the third DVD of Arena, is just a must have for all Arena fans; nothing more, nothing less. In general this disc will be welcomed by most devotees of neo-progressive rock music.
**** Henri Strik (edited by Peter Willemsen)
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