Only sixty devoted Magenta- fans were invited to watch their heroes perform at Peter Gabriel's Real World Studios in his hometown Bath, England. But thanks to the camera people, the photographers, the live sound recording engineers and some other people anyone else can relive this fine performance of November 21st, 2009. A year later Magenta Live At Real World has been very well documented on audio, video and photographs. It has become a three-disc set containing the entire concert on DVD and double-CD. It turned out to be something exceptional especially for people who like acoustic performances.
The whole set-up reminded me a bit of a question I asked Magenta's mastermind Rob Reed several years ago. Back then I wanted to know if we could ever expect a Magenta-album recorded with an orchestra and Mr. Reed playing the grand piano. He answered that he certainly would like to do that one day. Well, watching the entire registration of this special concert you may say that the line-up almost meet his wishes, for Rob Reed is sitting behind a grand piano and a string quartet and an oboe player are added to the normal line-up.
It's obvious who form the core of Magenta, because they perform on every song: Rob Reed on acoustic piano, acoustic guitar and backing vocals, Rob's musical 'partner in crime' Chris Fry on acoustic, nylon guitar and backing vocals and of course Christina Booth, the voice of the band. The first half hour they perform as the Magenta trio accompanied by the female oboe player and a female string quartet. They perform splendid renditions of songs as Children Of The Sun, Cold and Anger, but also Hate You from Christina's solo album Broken Lives & Bleeding Hearts, which wasn't released yet at the time. This rather simple piece of music was specially written for Christina. For the last seventeen minutes of the first set Kieran Baily (drums), Martin Rosser (guitar) and Dan Fry (guitar with only four strings), the other three band members join to play on three tracks. It's evident that these songs are more rhythmic than the previous ones. Especially Speechless sounds very good. Frankly speaking I didn't expect that of such a radio-friendly sounding piece. Next the band takes a well-deserved break to get fresh for the second part.
After the break they once again return as a three-piece unit accompanied by the classical trained musicians. With a selection of well-performed songs taken from Magenta's concept album Home (2006) they start the second acoustic set. Again we can enjoy Christina's great voice even if she's only accompanied by acoustic instruments. Between the songs she's also permanently in touch with the audience and her fellow-musicians. As a real entertainer she tells stories or makes short remarks to the musicians. After a special performance of Greed, on which Rob and Chris use their voices for the right pace for Christina to sing, the other members return on stage for another fifteen minutes in order to play three tracks from Magenta's latest studio album Metamorphosis (2008). The title track and The Ballad Of Samuel Layne are not performed completely, only a section of the songs but in a rather strong way. After Metamorphosis the musicians leave the stage. I'm not sure if they returned for an encore because the DVD ends after this song.
Alongside this 96-minute intimate and perfect acoustic performance the DVD contains four extras. Firstly a 2-minute long 'behind the scenes' gallery which shows the musicians preparing themselves for the live show. Secondly a 2-minute long 'concert gallery' with shots of all musicians involved. Thirdly a 5.1 mix of Joe from the Home- album that certainly sounds better now than on the original album. Finally you can enjoy an artistic video clip of Blind Faith shot in an old building. The double-CD coming along with this release has three additional tracks, which are not on the DVD. They are called the Sunday Extras. You can enjoy fine versions of Night And Day, I'm Alive and All Around The World at the end of the second disc and again played by the Magenta-trio.
If a band succeeds in keeping the attention for one and a half hour on your TV-screen while only playing acoustically I think you did a rather good job, especially because I'm not very fond of unplugged concerts. Only a couple of acts can keep an audience focused whilst playing their music without all the extra instruments. Marillion is such a band, but we can add Magenta now. Although their music is played in a different setting, it keeps interesting. Well done indeed!
**** Henri Strik (edited by Peter Willemsen)
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