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(138:56 2CD, Metal Mind Productions)
Prolusion. The UK band PENDRAGON has been an ongoing concern since 1978, celebrating their 35th anniversary this very year. They made their debut in 1985, and have since then established themselves as one of the most popular artists exploring what is generally described as neo-progressive rock. "Out of Order Comes Chaos" is their latest release, a double CD live album which was released by Metal Mind Productions in early 2013. It is also available as a live DVD by the same label.
CD 1 (74:02)
TRACK LIST: 1. Passion 5:35 2. Back in the Spotlight 7:09 3. Ghosts 8:09 4. Not of this World 16:03 5. Comatose 17:11 6. If I Were the Wind 9:26 7. Empathy 10:29 LINEUP: Nick Barrett – vocals; guitars Peter Gee – bass, guitars; vocals Clive Nolan – keyboards; vocals Scott Higham – drums; vocals
Analysis. Pendragon is a veteran band on the scene, and they come with the skills that document just why they have been an ongoing entity for more than 30 years on this live double CD. They have a highly skilled set of musicians, able to perform with faultless elegance even when performing material is of a fairly challenging nature. Including lead vocalist Nick Barrett, who manages to utilize his limited range to perfectly suit the songs also in a live setting. Being a seasoned performer does come with a few advantages, and the ability to perform with a generally high standard is one of the major assets does who have been around for some time can draw upon. A fact excellently documented throughout this production. As for the contents of this opening disc, we're given a run through a number of Pendragon's phases as a band during the just over 70 minutes it takes before we need to change the CD to the second one. Opening piece Passion establishes the mood quite nicely with the sound they started exploring when reinventing themselves as a band a few years back, expanding their palette with many nice and effective details from a more contemporary point of view. Still with plenty of details that make it easy to trace their origins back to the start of the so-called neo-progressive movement in the early 80's, but also featuring subtle details that can be traced to artists such as Porcupine Tree and Rush in terms of similarities. Back in the Spotlight is perhaps the most purebred neo-prog sounding item of this disc, a composition that should please old Pendragon fans just as much as those who love what Marillion did when they started out, while Ghosts and Not of This World both document what I'd describe as the Pendragon sound more exclusively. Both of them are creations one step removed from the origins of the neo-progressive style, with the combination of Nolan's keyboard skills and Barrett’s peculiar vocal delivery giving them a strong identity within this particular context. Comatose returns to Pendragon's reinvented sound again in a spectacular manner, one of the clear album highlights, followed by the more traditional Pendragon item If I Were the Wind and a nice bridge before Empathy concludes the disc with yet another spectacular display of Pendragon as the contemporary band reinventing itself, up to and including a nice little vocal section that borrows rather heavily from the hip hop genre in general and arguably Eminem in particular, without loosing track of the symphonic arrangements and harmony details at the core of what is commonly described as neo-progressive rock. Pendragon is a high quality act, and the 70 or so minutes of the first disc of this dual set documents this in an excellent manner.
CD 2 (64:52)
TRACK LIST: 1. This Green and Pleasant Land 12:29 2. Shane 4:35 3. Feeding Frenzy 5:53 4. Last Man on Earth 14:57 5. Indigo 13:32 6. Prayer 5:16 7. Paintbox 8:12
Analysis. The second disc of this live concert obviously enough continues where the first disc ended. The only reason for the concert to be divided is the limits of the medium on which it has been released. The blend of material from Pendragon's extensive back catalog and some of their more recent creations continues in a similar manner as the first part of the set too, combining the new and the old in a seamless manner. Which is a good thing I think, rather than setting up a concert to consist of sections with recent material first and older favorites since, or the opposite way around, Pendragon opts to incorporate the songs from the different eras into a total context. Which also makes it easier to appreciate and grasp that their more recent albums don't stray that far away from what the band did earlier on, and that it is a case of expanding the palette more than an alteration in style as such. As for this part of the concert itself, my impression is that the intensity and vitality of the performances dwindle ever so slightly as the concert approach the two hour mark and beyond. If it is a case of the performers getting a tad tired on stage and preserving energy ever so slightly or the sheer massive experience of listening to a concert that long with full concentration from this writer's side is a matter open to discussion I suspect. The main difference for me is that there are no clear highlights in this second half of the concert. Their most recent material still the ones I feel the most compelling, with the Pink Floydian-tinged Shane the most intriguing of their older material, while Last Man on Earth didn't quite manage to hold my attention in this take of this classic Pendragon epic. High quality symphonic oriented rock of the neo-progressive variety is still the name of the game, rather unsurprisingly, with Indigo as the standout track to my ears as a total experience and the final third or so of This Green and Pleasant Land providing the longest consistent sequence of sheer alluring beauty.
Conclusion. UK veterans Pendragon have a number of live albums out, time and again documenting their expertise at performing their material on stage. As all good live bands they don't merely replicate the studio versions so that fans have a reason to attend their concerts as well as purchasing the recordings from them. In this case we're treated to a fair few items that haven't been documented in a live setting previously, and some that haven't been covered live by this version of the band. Good enough reasons to note down this production as a likely buy in itself. A strong live recording that should be of interest to just about anyone with an affection for the neo-progressive part of the symphonic prog universe.
OMB=Olav M Bjornsen: May 18 & 19, 2013
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