In 2012 Pendragon released the DVD Out Of Order Comes Chaos (see review) recently followed by a double live CD (see review) with the same name. Both discs contain music and images of the same concert recorded in Poland. Some people thought the latter release to be one to earn some extra money with; others gladly welcomed it because now they could, for instance, also listen to these live recordings in their cars. Well, recently Arena released the DVD Rapture (see review) and now - only a couple of months later - the live album Arena: Live appeared, so actually I expected the same procedure as with the Pendragon releases.
However, when you listen to this new double live album, you'll notice that this isn't the case at all. The DVD was recorded during a performance in Poland, while Arena: Live was recorded across Europe during their 2011-2012 tour to promote the latest studio album The Seventh Degree Of Separation (2011, see review). While listening to these live recordings I heard the band members speak to the audiences in different languages several times. This means of course that the recordings must have been done during different shows. However, this cannot be heard since I really got the feeling to listen to the same show all the time. This is a big compliment for the way they mixed these songs together to one single live performance.
For this double live album Arena recorded the same songs as for the DVD Rapture, but on CD they were placed in a different order. While listening to these recordings I noticed that the band was in great shape performing fine versions of a number of sometimes complex studio tracks. Every now and then an additional keyboard or guitar part can be heard. Therefore some of the songs last a bit longer than the original studio tracks. Listen for instance to the additional guitar solo on Ascension or the special rendition of Crying For Help VII that contains more electric guitar playing and a participating audience.
You can never be sure of what has been adjusted in the studio later on, but as far as I'm concerned I could hear hardly anything that was done to improve the overall sound. I just heard what I always hear during one of Arena's live performances: a band that entertains an audience until the dying minutes of a show! This record is of course a fine keepsake for those who attended the concerts to promote their latest studio album. The people who didn't can now hear what they've missed. The main part of the songs was taken from The Seventh Degree Of Separation; the remainder of the material chiefly came from The Visitor (1998) and Contagion (2003).
Compared to the DVD and live album of Pendragon both discs of Arena certainly differ, but they have one thing in common. Just like the Pendragon live album Arena: Live is magnificent in its own right, regardless of the fact whether you already possess the DVD version of the same live show or not! This double live album is a must have for all Arena fans in particular and for lovers of neo-progressive rock in general. Highly recommended!
**** Henri Strik (edited by Peter Willemsen)
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