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(196 min DVD, Metal Mind Records)
TRACK LIST: 1. Walls of Babylon 2. A Man of Nomadic Traits 3. Wishing Well 4. Eraserhead 5. Total Recall 6. Nostradamus 7. Learning Curve 8. Breaking the Spell 9. Sister Bluebird 10. Shadow 11. The Freak Show 12. The Voyager 13. It's Only Me 14. Masters of Illusion 15. King of the Castle 16. And We'll Go Hunting Deer 17. Queen of Hearts 18. Extra material (25 min) LINE UP: Nick Barrett – vocals; guitars; programming Clive Nolan – keyboards; backing vocals Peter Gee – bass; backing vocals Scott Higham – drums
Prolusion. PENDRAGON was founded in 1978 in the UK and has for most of its existence been the creative vehicle for Nick Barrett, who is the main songwriter and lyricist for this act. Besides Marillion they are one of the best-known purveyors of what is generally described as neo-progressive rock. 2008 saw the band releasing a new album, "Pure", where they redefined and reinvented their overall sound. They also celebrated 30 years as a band and hired a new drummer - all good reasons for making a new concert DVD for their fanbase.
Analysis. When it comes to the creation of live DVDs, Polish label Metal Mind Productions has established itself as an undisputed leader. They have an experienced crew that has been given the opportunity to specialize in such productions, an excellent theater in the Polish city of Katowice that the crew knows inside out, and a regular set-up where they record three bands in one day, cutting costs effectively. This has given a number of bands the chance to make a DVD when they wouldn't normally have had the financial ability to do so, and one of the acts that have used this possibility rather extensively is Pendragon: "Concerto Maximo" is their fifth DVD release and, as I understand it, the previous ones have all been recorded at this location as well. As with all DVDs produced by Metal Mind I've seen so far, the end result here is impeccable - as good as you can get it on the budget limitations they operate under. The images are sharp, clear and detailed; we're treated to a number of different shots (at least 5 cameras have been in action here), and the editing is smart and smooth. Likewise the audio recordings are extremely well done; all instruments are picked up beautifully, and the sound quality is all you could desire – sharp and crystal clear. As for the concert itself, Pendragon treats us to a marathon effort here, clocking in at just over 2 hours and 40 minutes. All stages of the band’s career are covered – the only negative aspect being that only 20 minutes of the material are from their most recent effort, "Pure". For a band with a 30-year history that is usually a blessing, of course – however, in this particular case we're dealing with a band which made an album much more relevant in style and sound than they had done for a number of years and most fans would probably have expected to see most of this production performed live on this DVD. From the interview in the extra material we learn that while Pendragon would also have wanted to include more songs from this production, there simply wasn't enough time to rehearse all these songs well enough prior to the tour that followed the album’s release. As far as stage performance goes, it would be a blatant lie to describe Pendragon as lively. I guess the extended length of the concert itself is a factor there – when playing for close to three hours there is a need to save energy. This doesn't mean that the band is boring to watch though, far from it. Apart from the drummer, this line-up has been playing together for a quarter of a century and it shows. There is a fluency to the proceedings and a professionalism at work here that are extremely fascinating to witness, and Nick Barrett is a charming frontman. And then there's the new boy, Scott Higham. Whereas the other band members come across as calm and relaxed, he is a real powerhouse. He shows off with big movements, comic mannerisms and signals, stands up on occasion for some drum sequences and generally appears to overflow with energy that needs to be used. In addition, he's got a number of expressions and small acts obviously meant as comic relief – I've seen professional comedians less funny than this guy. The camera crew obviously noted this aspect of his performance and therefore we're treated to a lot of shots of him during the concert. And yes, he's an excellent drummer too. Other than the band itself, well-made lighting effects add a touch of class to the live show and we're also given a few shots of the video screen set-up at the back of the stage where images and effects are shown throughout the concert. When all aspects of the concert are summarized, the overall conclusion is that this was an excellent show. Existing fans may ask themselves why they need to buy this DVD, in particular if they have all the former releases. Besides, Pendragon has been aware that many fans probably would have some or most of its previously made live DVDs, therefore it included quite a lot of old material not featured on previous productions in addition to the new material. Then, of course, seeing and hearing the band's new drummer will obviously be of interest as well.
Conclusion. Pendragon is a class act, and "Concerto Maximo" showcases this in a high-quality manner. Fans and newcomers to the band alike should find this live DVD to be an excellent investment, as long as they have an interest in watching this kind of production. It's arguably not an essential purchase to those who already own the band's previous live DVDs, but the contents on this most recent effort should make most existing fans want to get this one anyhow.
OMB=Olav M Bjornsen: September 15, 2009
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