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Ayreon: The Theater Equation (DVD/2CD)

Arjen Anthony Lucassen has long been an innovator in bringing the theatric side of the music world to rock and prog. Many of his projects have touched upon these themes, however with Ayreon he has always gone 'all in'. For many his sixth (of eight so far) Ayreon album, The Human Equation, has remained the project's crowning glory (other opinions are strongly available), however what's maybe less arguable is that while no less intricate, grand, or detailed, if any of the Ayreon albums was to make the leap from CD to stage, this would be it. Lucassen himself has long stated this move into the live environment would never, due to the music's complexity and his dislike of live performance, happen and so it's maybe little surprise that while he has been involved and supportive, the theatrical production, The Theater Equation, isn't actually his baby. Instead Joost Van Der Broek is the play's musical director and it is also he who simplified the original music into that which could be performed in this setting – all endorsed by Lucassen, of course.

The result was four sold out performances in Rotterdam in 2015, one of which is now brought to those who couldn't attend via this DVD/2CD (or Bluray/2CD and of course there's a special edition). For review purposes the action has been in 'stream' form and due to a variety of issues, it's been a disjointed experience that I'm sure will be much more pleasurable once I purchase a hard copy (which tells you I like it a lot nonetheless). So while I haven't been able to savour this performance in the single seating preferred, I can tell you that the show is more rock opera than rock show, with the stage set quite beautifully representing the story the music and lyrics portray. That story being of a man trapped inside his own head after a mysterious car accident leaves him in a coma. Forced through lucid dreams to confront his own past and present and the wider issues facing the human species, his emotions are played out through different characters that lead him to…. Well that would be telling….

Many of the original cast return to reprise their roles from the original album, while new additions also appear to fill some parts – familiar names such as James LaBrie (Dream Theater) as Me, Marcela Bovio (Stream of Passion) as Wife, Heather Findlay (ex-Mostly Autumn) as Love, Eric Clayton (Saviour Machine) as Reason, Jermain "Wudstik" van der Bogt as Best Friend and amongst others Anneke van Giersbergen (ex-The Gathering) as Fear ensuring the vocals are deployed in quite stunning style. While on the whole the acting, of which there isn't a huge amount, is strong enough to keep things running along smoothly. Add in a group of musicians including Ed Warby (Gorefest, Hail Of Bullets) on drums, Jeroen Goossens on flutes and woodwinds, Marcel Coenen (Sun Caged) and Freek Gielen on guitar, Johan van Stratum (Stream of Passion) on bass and Erik van Ittersum and Ruben Wijga (ReVamp) on keyboards and the picture is complete in all its glory. The audio discs also make for quite wonderful listening and while I think there's little doubt that the chance to see one of Lucassen's creations live, as it were, is the main draw here, the audio alone makes for a quite wonderful experience.

Arjen Anthony Lucassen may not be the driving force behind this Ayreon project, however this expert execution of what is the undoubtedly phenomenal music and wonderful tales his song and story writing provide, proves more than strong enough to amaze. The Theater Equation finally is the live Ayreon experience his fans have long asked for.

Track Listing
Disc One
1. Day One: Vigil
2. Day Two: Isolation
3. Day Three: Pain
4. Day Four: Mystery
5. Day Five: Voices
6. Reprise Pain 1
7. Day Six: Childhood
8. Day Seven: Hope
9. Day Eight: School
10. Reprise Childhood
11. Day Nine: Playground
12. Day Ten: Memories
13. Reprise Pain 2
14. Day Eleven: Love

Disc Two
1. Day Twelve: Trauma
2. Day Thirteen: Sign
3. Day Fourteen: Pride
4. Reprise Vigil
5. Day Fifteen: Betrayal
6. Reprise School
7. Day Sixteen: Loser
8. Day Seventeen: Accident?
9. Reprise Pain 3
10. Day Eighteen: Realization
11. Reprise Trauma
12. Day Nineteen: Disclosure
13. Day Twenty: Confrontation
14. Dream Sequencer System Offline

Added: January 5th 2017
Reviewer: Steven Reid
Related Link: Ayreon online
Hits: 2736
Language: english

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Ayreon: The Theater Equation (DVD/2CD)
Posted by Jon Neudorf, SoT Staff Writer on 2017-01-05 21:17:05
My Score:

The concept album. Depending on your point of view, they are all that's right or wrong with progressive rock. Of course, if you are reading this review you likely reside with the former assessment and appreciate a well written story line that has the ability to transport the listener to another universe, another timeline, whatever it is the artist is trying to convey. Throughout the history of progressive rock there has been some iconic albums that have captured a theme or concept in a unique and genre bending way. Pink Floyd – The Wall, Genesis – The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway, Queensr˙che – Operation: Mindcrime, Rush – 2112, Jethro Tull – Thick as a Brick and Pink Floyd – Dark Side of the Moon are just a few of the more well-known concept albums. Ayreon's The Human Equation should also be added to the list as it was a landmark album, both musically and conceptually.

Arjen Anthony Lucassen, the brains behind the Ayreon project has always hesitated to perform the music of Ayreon live due to the complexity of the music and the multiple players involved. Plus, playing live isn't something Lucassen enjoys doing. This is precisely why The Theater Equation is so special. On the original album Joost Van Broek was integral to the overall product and here he assumes the role of musical director. Many of the original players and vocalists are the same except for a few notable exceptions. Devin Townsend is replaced by Mike Mills, Mikael Akerfeldt is replaced by Anneke van Giersbergen and Jermain 'Wudstik' van der Bogt fills in for Lucassen.

The concert took place at the Nieuwe Luxor Theater in Rotterdam and judging from the video this was a great venue to pull something like this off and the crowd certainly enjoyed themselves.

As this is an album to be enjoyed in one sitting I will not cover individual tracks. Suffice it to say the playing and vocals are executed at a very high level. The vocalists and musicians, including the string section are in complete sync with one another and the entire event is immaculately produced. The video quality is quite good while the audio quality is excellent. The vocal actors do a great job really getting into the emotional aspect of each role. Really, there is not much else to say except if you are at all a fan of Lucassen The Theater Equation will be an essential addition to your collection.

An InsideOut Music production.

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