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Pendragon - 2006 - "And Now Everybody to the Stage"

(240 min DVD, Metal Mind)

TRACK LIST:                    

CONCERT (150 min):

1.  No Place For The Innocent 
2.  As Good As Gold 
3.  Guardian Of My Soul 
4.  Kowtow 
5.  The Wishing Well 
6.  The Edge Of The World 
7.  Nostradamus 
8.  Dance Of The Seven Veils 
9.  Paintbox 
10. The Last Waltz 
11. Breaking The Spell 
12. Masters Of Illusion 
13. The Black Knight 
14. The Lost Children 
15. Am I Really Losing You 


Nick Barrett - vocals; guitars
Clive Nolan - keyboards; b/v
Peter Gee - bass; b/v
Joe Crabtree - drums

Prolusion. One of the best and creatively most stable English bands from the "second wave" of the Prog Rock generation (also known as a Neo Progressive movement), PENDRAGON still continue making their numerous fans from all over the world happy with their work, as they've never flirted with the notorious mainstream during their 25-year history. The group's discography includes seven full-length studio recordings, namely "The Jewel" (1985), "Kowtow" (1988), "The World" (1991), "The Window of Life" (1993), "The Masquerade Overture" (1996), "Not of This World" (2001) and "Believe" (2005), three EPs, five live albums and two DVD releases the latest of which, "And Now Everybody to the Stage", was brought out just recently - via the Polish Metal Mind label.

Analysis. This DVD, "And Now Everybody to the Stage", documents Pendragon's performance on the scene of Wyspianski Theatre in Katowice (which is definitely the 'Prog Rock' capital of Poland) on May 22, 2006. One of the longest I can remember, this concert approaches two and a half hour in its duration and is in all senses a pleasing audio-visual trip. As is generally typical of the Metal Mind DVD productions, the visuals are both diverse and vivid, now depicting one of the musicians (often down to the smallest details, such as the fingertips running the length and breadth of the guitar neck), now the entire quartet (from various perspectives), the sound being excellent as well, since even the high-frequency tones of light cymbals are clearly audible. The concert touches each of Pendragon's full-length studio albums and, therefore, spans all the most significant stages of their activity. Four songs (2, 3, 9, 12) are from "The Masquerade Overture", three (7, 11, 15) from "The Window of Life", three (1, 5, 6) from "Believe", two (8, 14) from "Not of This World", while the band's first three albums, "The Jewel", "Kowtow" and "The World", are represented by one song each (13, 4, 10 respectively). Well, the next-to-last number is in fact a medley which, apart from the one mentioned in the track list above, comprises three more songs. The classic Pendragon sound is fully retained almost throughout the concert, the three exceptions to that rule all having their studio counterparts on the band's latest CD "Believe". No Place For The Innocent is a rockingly-driving song-based tune with a groovy rhythm and a brief instrumental interlude, so it was wise of the group to play it at the very beginning of the concert. The monstrously long The Wishing Well, while being for the most part both slow and reflective, draws on a really extensive palette typical of complicated art-rock ballads. Their dedication to Polish fans, The Edge Of The World, finds Nick playing an acoustic guitar and is more of a traditional ballad with a melodramatic feeling. In their pan-musical appearance both these are things of beauty (which in turn is one of the most notable features of the band's music), but since they are progressively less saturated than the other songs it would've been better had they not been performed in tandem. Otherwise everything is perfect. All the other twelve numbers are kindred works, each brightly reflecting the trademark Pendragon style which is classic Neo Symphonic Progressive with a slight predomination of guitar-laden textures. Most of the songs begin quietly, contemplatively, soothingly, but grow and build throughout their duration. The band is in excellent form, with an obvious enthusiasm for their performance. Nick Barrett's guitar work has a nice diversity of sounds, including a number of slide elements. Clive Nolan provides a lush assortment of sonic textures while also handling backing vocals. Surprisingly, the newcomer Joe Crabtree (a young man by the way) turns out to be a very masterful drummer, additionally being a lover of complex time signatures. In short, the musicianship of each of the band members and their joint performance as well are outstanding. Each note is breathing here, and the music, vocals, and performance as a whole bring out a distinct feeling of reality of the events going on through the thematic concept of each song. Prior to performing some of them, Nick explains in English the essence of their lyrical content, which certainly appeals to the audience. I assumed there was a direct translation into Polish, but I didn't notice anyone in the hall with headphones. The "Extras" section includes The Progumentary (a home video recording where the band members speak of many things concerning Progressive and beyond), an interview with Nick Barrett, the band's history and discography, as well as a photo gallery and desktop images.

Conclusion. By virtue of the music's beauty, as well as the professionalism of its creators, this DVD is a faultless if not perfect creation and is generally a very enthralling experience. What's most important, it provides a rather fitting closure to the oeuvre of one of Britain's finest Neo Prog units of all time. The adherents of that style, let alone those forming Pendragon's fan base, shouldn't miss this release for any reason.

VM: January 8, 2007

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