Clive Nolan & Friends

January 26, 2024 - Parkvilla Theater, Alphen a/d Rijn (NL)

The album The Rise Of Medici
The rock opera The Rise Of Medici (see review) was released in 2022 by Imaginaerium. This is the collaboration between keyboard player Clive Nolan (Arena, Pendragon), the Italian female vocalist Laura Piazzai and guitarist Eric Bouillette (Nine Skies), who tragically passed away in mid-August that same year. With several guest singers they gave their musical interpretation of the tempestuous lives of the Italian Medici family. It's told in the typically Nolan style of Prog theatre, verging at times on the operatic, in tandem with Bouillette's musical flourishes telling tales of Renaissance Italy when Cosimo and Contessina De'Medici ruled Florence. It was probably never the intention to perform the whole rock opera in front of a live audience. However never say never and sometimes things turn out differently. Because thanks to a unique collaboration between Clive Nolan, Mr Bowler Music Agency and Serious Music Alphen the first official performance of the entire Rise Of Medici rock opera took place in the Netherlands. It was held at the rather small but cosy Parkvilla Theater in Alphen aan de Rijn. To only perform the rock opera was probably not enough to make it a full entertaining concert program. Therefore, an additional set of Nolans compositions was added to the show. Making it together the Clive Nolan & Friends concert.

Part 1: Clive Nolan's selection

So, the first set of the concert kicked off with compositions taken from Clive's massive repertoire. Containing songs taken from the albums he made with Arena and Strangers On A Train. Strangely enough no compositions
Andy Sears and Clive Nolan (r) (►more pics)
were used which can be found on the albums he made with Shadowland. On the other hand, lots of songs taken from several of his rock operas could be enjoyed. The first set was a half acoustic show with Clive playing on one single keyboard and the Italian Simone Millavia assisted him from to time on the acoustic guitar. According to Mr. Nolan it was a lot of fun and he really enjoyed sharing various thoughts and anecdotes about the songs they performed. And telling that from where they were staying during the rehearsals everything was within a range of 20 minutes!

All of the singers who contributed on the rock opera took part of this semi acoustic performance. They took off with Sacrifice, which can be found on the first Strangers On A Train album titled The Key, Part I - The Prophecy (1990). The first singer welcomed was the earlier mentioned Laura Piazzai. It was her duty to sing the vocal parts originally sung by Tracy Hitchings who sadly passed away December 2022. Clive accompanied her on the keyboard. It was done in a rather good way. Next up, two Arena tunes. First How Did It Come to This? taken from The Unquiet Sky (2015, see review). Again, Laura took the vocal parts, which sounded a bit strange because the original parts are done by a male singer. Namely Paul Manzi. Together with Clive
Marijke Groenendaal (►more pics)
and Simone she managed to make it sound very good. The other Arena tune The Tinder Box, taken from The Seventh Degree Of Separation (2011, see review) came more closer to the original version thanks to the strong male vocals of Andy Sears (ex Twefth Night) and the strong instrumental parts of Clive and Simone. It made me wonder why Andy never became the lead singer for Arena. It was followed by the second Strangers On A Train tune. Namely The fist Veil-Sensing A Presence taken from The Key, Part II - The Labyrinth. A song originally sung by the two vocalists of this musical project. Therefore, Laura again stepped forward to do Tracy's vocal parts and Andy stepped into the shoes of Alan Reed. With the musical assistance of Clive and Simone it became a beautiful version of this excellent composition. After that it was time for the more rock opera and musical kind of songs. They opened with Closer taken from She (2007). Here for the first time the audience could enjoy the wonderful vocals of the classical trained Marijke Groenendaal who was accompanied by Clive. It sounded excellent! She also contributed on Legend Of The Unicorn Orchid taken from King's Ransom (2017). She was assisted by Laura, Clive and Simone. This also got an excellent rendition. Next up probably the highlights of the first set. Andy put on some special costumes to perform the songs The End Justifies The Means, taken from Alchemy (2013, see review) and Trust from the upcoming The Mortal Light (2024). His singing and gestures were incredible and also Clive did some excellent playing on his keyboard during those two pieces of music. The first set was closed by another Arena tune. Taken from the bands most famous album The Visitor (1998). Again, Laura took care of the vocal parts on (Don't Forget to) Breathe. A song which is probably played during every Arena concert according to Clive. And I think he might be right about that! Together with Simone they did the instrumental parts of the last song of the first set. Again, it sounded rather strong even sung by a female.

Part 2: first live presentation of The Rise Of Medici

After a short break it was time for the main dish. The first live presentation of The Rise of Medici rock opera. The stage was set in a minimal setting. Four singers and one guitarist had the task to give the audience the best presentation possible. No drummer or bassist. No orchestra or keyboard player to accompany them. Everything
The Rise Of medici (►more pics)
that you would hear came from backing tapes except for the real live vocals and one single electric guitar. I guess nobody cared it was done this way, because after the final note was sung a standing ovation at the end proved that the audience loved it all the way. Even if it was done in a simpler way.

The rock opera tells the story of the second generation of the De Medici family from Florence and in particular the developments in 1434. Leading roles in the rock opera are for son Cosimo played and sung by Andy, his wife Contessina played and sung by Laura, his behind-great-granddaughter Lucrezia played and sung by Marijke and his sworn rival and enemy Rinaldo Albizzi played and sung by Clive. The story of the success, envy and betrayal of Cosimo De Medici was told in the best possible way if I may say so. I will not go into details what happened during all of the performed compositions. But I can tell you that each of the twelve songs were done in an excellent way. All singers were dressed in special costumes related to time the story took place. This way they got into
Andy Sears as Cosimo (►more pics)
the role they were playing and singing. All of them sung their vocal parts the best possible way they were able to do. Done with a lot of expression, emotions and passion. As for the acting on stage it was great to see Marijke reading from her book telling the story of the family. It was great to see Clive walking around and from time to time see him drinking from his cup. It was great to see Laura moving around in different outfits. Looking always rather beautiful. And finally, Andy. For me personally the real star and entertainer on the stage. It was great to see Andy writing his notes with a feather on a piece of paper. But most of all the way he played his role. With so much passion and emotion he brought the character of Cosimo to live. A real musical star that's for sure! Of course, we must not forget the excellent guitar player Simone. Who was standing at the back of the stage playing his parts on his electric guitar. Stepping forward when an incredible solo was played. All in all, I can only put both of my thumbs up for all of the people on stage for presenting this fine excellent piece of music the best possible way.

But both of my thumbs also go up for the people of Mr Bowler Music Agency and Serious Music Alphen for bringing this excellent rock opera to a stage in the Netherlands. And most of all giving its premiere in our tiny country. Bravo! Hopefully we will have more of these kind of events in this venue. Because if you once tasted such special performance, you only want more. Don't we?

Henri Strik (edited by Dave Smith)

Live video

Henri, Eden & Roel Strik

Clips will be published later

Pictures by Arthur Haggenburg

>>> Click here to view all pics on one page.

Click on the picture to enlarge.



Set 1: Clive Nolan's selection
Sacrifice (Strangers On A Train - The Key, Part I - The Prophecy)
How Did It Come to This? (Arena - The Unquiet Sky)
The Tinder Box (Arena - The Seventh Degree Of Separation )
The fist Veil-Sensing A Presence (Strangers On A Train - The Key, Part II - The Labyrinth)
Closer (She)
Legend Of The Unicorn Orchid (King's Ransom)
The End Justifies The Means (Alchemy)
Trust (The Mortal Light)
(Don't Forget To) Breathe (Arena - The Visitor)

Set 2: The Rise Of Medici
The Rise Of Medici:
Festina Lente
Duty Of Love
House Of Dreams
The Tide Will Change
Never Close Your Eyes
Glass Throne
Fall From Grace
Will I Never Return
Fortunes Reverse
Return Of The Medici

Imaginaerium - The Rise Of Medici


Line up Clive Nolan 2:

(left to right)
Marijke Groenendaal (Lucrezia):
Andy Sears (Cosimo):
Laura Piazzai (Comtessina):
Clive Nolan (Rinaldo):
vocals and keyboard set 1
Simone Millavia:
electric and acoustic guitars

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