Since Pendragon released The Masquerade Overture in 1996 it has been one of my favourite albums of this British progressive rock act next to the The Jewel (1985). This is also a very special album for the band. Twenty years after it was released they celebrated the anniversary with a special tour during which they performed the album in its entirety. Unfortunately I couldn't attend the Dutch show in 2016. However, sometimes you get a second chance in life. This was the case with missing the performance of this masterpiece. The Polish record label Metal Mind filmed one of their shows in Poland and released it almost one year later on DVD. They named it very appropriately Masquerade 20.
At first when I heard that the only concert of Pendragon in Poland would be filmed for a possible live release, I had some doubts. Mainly because of the fact that the two latest progressive rock releases of the label didn't turn out as I had expected. Both Knight Area 's Hyperlive (2015, see review) and Arena's XX (2016, see review) were rather disappointing DVD releases.
But soon it turned out that I had nothing to fear. Because for the celebration of the 20th anniversary of one of their most successful albums in their career the band returned to the Wyspianski Theatre in Katowice, Poland in May 2016. The same Wyspianski Theatre which was used for the shooting of the bands former live DVDs Out Of Order Comes Chaos (2012, see review), Concerto Maximo (2009, see review), Past And Presence (2007) and And Now Everybody To The Stage (2006). All releases are top notch production on which the band could be seen in full splendour. However this time around a totally new film crew was hired.
The first bonus points go out to the person who did the beautiful art work for the cover of this DVD. His name is Björn Gooßes and is certainly not a stranger to the band. In the past he did the artwork for Pure (2008, see review), Passion (2011, see review), Men Who Climb Mountains (2014, see review) and Out Of Order Comes Chaos. What follows is of course the entire concert. With a length of two and a half hour you have as a fan, no complaints. And if the sound is 5.1 surround it even gets better. Seeing the musicians Nick Barrett (guitars, lead vocals), Peter Gee (bass, bass pedals, keyboard, acoustic guitar, backing vocals), Clive Nolan (keyboards, backing vocals) and new members Jan-Vincent Velazco (drums), Verity Smith (backing vocals) and Christina Booth (backing vocals) all at very close range makes it even more enjoyable. And if all of those people on stage are performing your favourite Pendragon compositions in an excellent way you certainly have a blast!
The concert kicks off with the complete version of The Masquerade Overture and included is the classical sounding opening piece. Of course the title track comes from a tape but after that it is goose bumps all the way. The band with the two extra female backing singers gives us sublime versions of the seven compositions that follow after the grand opening. One highlight follows another. For most people the excellent guitar solo at the end of Masters Of Illusion is the best the original album has to offer. But believe me throughout the performance of this entire album many excellent guitar and synthesizer solos can be enjoyed, as is the amazing sound of the bass pedals. The only thing I would have left out is the short drum solo when Nick is doing his awesome guitar solo on Masters Of Illusion. After the complete album was done the band even found time to do the two extra songs that were on the bonus disc when the CD was originally released. Meaning we can also enjoy fine versions of King Of The Castle and Schizo. After all this beautiful stuff it's time to do a number of fan-favourites from their other releases. But it is during the second part of the concert that their most recent studio album Men Who Climb Mountains is in the spotlight. When you hear fantastic progressive rock in Beautiful Soul, Come Home Jack, Faces Of Light and Explorers Of The Infinite you can't blame them for choosing to do those tracks. That leaves fan's favourites This Green And Pleasant Land and Indigo. And last but not least the classic Pendragon tunes Nostradamus and an amazing version of Breaking The Spell.
The DVD extras include an interview with Peter Gee and Jan-Vincent Velazco who talk about the bands history, their new drummer and the upcoming new album. A holiday snapshot taken in Sri Lanka on which Barrett is miming along on the track In Bardo can be seen as well. The usual photo gallery, discography and desktop Images are included as well.
As you can read I can only be positive about this excellent new Pendragon release. What else did you expect from one of the best progressive rock acts in the world? You would have wished to be in the audience when it actually took place. The two and a half hour went by so fast. I just loved every second and therefore only the highest rating is in place for coverage of the amazing live performance! Well done indeed!
For those who only want to hear the audio of this concert I have good news, because the same label has released a double CD of the concert as well. Isn't that great? I think so!
***** Henri Strik (edited by Tracy van Os van den Abeelen)
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