The first Crescendo Festival took place in the Palais Des Congrťs in Royan (France) in 1999 and it kept growing ever since. It now takes place every summer at the Esplanade Du Conciť in the open air at the waterfront at Saint-Palais-Sur-Mer. Every year, thousands of progressive rock devotees visit the festival and all concerts are for free. A combination of tourists and music lovers gather in front of the stage to witness many progressive rock bands from all over the world. Besides the free music, the weather in this part of France is most of the time beautiful. What else do you want if you are fond of progressive rock music?
For those who have never visited the Crescendo Festival now an alternative is available to see some of the bands that once performed at this seaside resort. A DVD has been released which contains gigs of several bands that performed on the 2005 and 2006 version of the festival. Itís just too bad that the progressive rock level of the presented bands is low. This is mainly caused by the fact that bigger bands and above all better bands in the genre probably didnít allow the organization to release any footage from their concert on this festival. Thatís a shame for we canít see bands as Pain Of Salvation and Drama who played at the festival in 2005.
The DVD opens with Finnish band Crazy World doing the longest performance of them all. From their presentation in 2006 we see 53 minutes. Looking at the act of their lead singer while listening to his voice you immediately know that Led Zeppelin mostly inspired him. They even play two of Zepís well-known songs, but their versions of Immigrant Song with drum, organ and guitar solos, and Since Iíve Been Loving You canít stand in the shadow of the original versions. Their singer might look like Robert Plant, but he certainly doesnít sound like him. Nor did I discover any kind of Jimmy Page on the Crescendo-stage. The band has a keyboard player who possessed many vintage keyboards such as a Mellotron, Hammond-organ and a MiniMoog, but he hardly uses them the way we would like it. The best track they played was the ballad Poor Alice.
One year earlier, another Finnish band gave a concert at the same stage. During the 35-minute performance of Five Fifteen I noticed that the band has the same singer as Crazy World, but this time he also played some guitar parts. The female lead singer of the band looked and sounded similar to Ann Wilson from Heart. She even played like Ann on the flute. The best track from this rock and roll band was High Times We Had. The rest was just mediocre.
The musician that probably can be seen as the best on this DVD is bass player Michael Manrig from the USA. His 16- minute footage from 2006 includes two tracks: the instrumental pieces Selena and Helios. However, I must honestly confess that I didnít want to see him any longer. This kind of music gets boring after a while.
Canadian outfit Hamadryad, the best progressive rock band on this DVD, only plays one wonderful song. Watercourse is a 10-minute long epic piece from their great debut album Conservation Of Mass (2000). Only this time their bass player sings the lead vocals since their fabulous lead singer Jocelyn Beaulieu left the band after their first album. Jean-Francois Dťsiletsí voice resembles the voice of Peter Gabriel, but he doesnít reach the high notes like Jocelyn did. However, in a way, it doesnít seem to disturb. Itís also great to hear how Denis Jalbert plays acoustic guitar and how he practically copies the studio version. Highlight on this track is the awesome synthesizer solo by Sebastien Cloutier. Anybody who wants to see more of Hamadryadís performance of 2006 should buy the special edition of their latest album Intrusion (2010). It contains a bonus-DVD with more footage of this concert. The CD-version Live In France 2006 was already released in 2007.
Spaced Out, another Canadian band featuring on this DVD, also made a release of their 2006 performance. This trio released Live At The Crescendo Festival in 2007 on DVD and CD of which we can enjoy three pieces on this DVD. Unfortunately, their performance only lasts twenty minutes.
First track The Lost Train is a kind of duel between bassist Antoine Fafard and guitarist Marc Tremblay. Sometimes the song sounds a bit like Los Endos from Genesis. On the second piece Singularity/Antimatter drummer Martin Maheux gets a chance to show how great he can hit his instrument by doing a drum solo. On the last track Furax all band members show that theyíre masters on their instruments. However, not everybody likes this kind of instrumental music with elements from fusion, jazz rock and prog music.
German band Trigon is the last band to perform, but only one song: Spoil The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun. With a title like that you might expect a Pink Floyd- sound, but the band plays very experimental music in the style of King Crimson. Iím not sure if they are fans of the Dutch football team, because all musicians were dressed in orange. Maybe it was a way to camouflage their musical weakness, because I couldnít hear anything pleasant in their music.
The DVD ends with a 10-minute long photo gallery, but only three acts appear in this gallery: Crazy World, Michael Manring and Five Fifteen. While watching the pictures you can enjoy music from Hamadryad. The live footage on this DVD was certainly well done. It contains a lot of close-ups from the musicians on stage. Neither can I complain about the sound, itís just perfect, but I had higher expectations from this release music wise. This certainly influenced my final verdict. Hopefully, the next releases from the Crescendo Festival feature more real progressive rock bands, because that is what we want to hear and see.
**+ Henri Strik (edited by Peter Willemsen)
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