Preamble: the fan arrived from every part of the world.
There is one thing I would like to say about the event, before talking about the concert: this event gathered 12000 persons in the Dutch city of Tilburg of 64 different nations, with each continent being represented by at least two different countries. As you can see in the photo there were also people coming from Australia and New Zealand.
Introduction: the news, and the moment we entered the theater.
The news about the concert until then were:
- Four of the original singers would
have been replaced in the following way
- John de Lancie would have replaced Peter Daltrey in the “Narrating voice” role
- Simone Simons would have replaced Sharon den Adel in the “Indian” role
- John Jaycee Cuijpers would have replaced Jay van Feggelen in the “Barbarian” role
- Mark Jensen would have replaced Robert Westerholt in the “Death” role, while the other singer playing the same role was still George Oosthoek, as in the original album
- John de Lancie worked on the monologues introducing each single song, and he modified them giving them a style of his own.
The Main Singers list for these four concerts, would have been the one on the following photo
There was a friend of mine with me in the travel and when we entered the concert hall, we suddenly felt the magic in the air, which portended something special would have happened, so the crowd itself felt that kind of atmosphere.
The first enthusiastic roar of the crowd happened with the lowered curtain, when the show was not started yet, and the voice of Mike Mills resounded in the air by saying “I’m TH-1…”.
The crowd stopped applauding after a few seconds, when the voice explained that we were listening to a recorded message. Then the message continued by saying that the show would have been professionally filmed and registered, so we did not have to use “our rectangular devices to record the show by ourselves” making some people in the crowd smile and laugh.
The curtain rises… and the show starts.
The crowd started applauding and roaring again immediately after the curtain raised, revealing the stage design: the front of a castle with two towers at the side. Keyboards and Drums were put at the base of the towers. The keyboard player (Joost van den Broek) and the drummer (Ed Warby) were already on stage, and they would have been there all throughout the show. On the right tower, from the crowd point of view, John de Lancie were ready to recite the introductive monologues, while Marcela Bovio, Dianne van Giersbergen and Jan Willem Ketelaers are on the walkaway as the choir that will support the main singers during the show. The left tower is still empty.
Over the castle and inside the castle gate, there were two cinema screens where many images appeared to let us in the electric castle dimension, and let us visualize what each single song would have been told us during this show.
When John de Lancie started reciting the first introductive monologue, we can realize the beauty of the work he did: he changed the prose monologues by giving them a poetic structure, with rhymes and metrics even if he kept their meaning unchanged, letting them fit perfectly in the songs they have to introduce.
When the music starts, the musicians go on stage by entering from both sides of the stage itself, while the main singers’ first entrance is done form the castle gate. Both musicians and main singers always exit the stage and re-enter the scene from the stage sides, by leaving on stage only the musicians and the main singers involved in the song that was playing on stage.
The “Into the Electric Castle” execution.
The music impact is wonderful, with its changing mood alternating tones now epic and solemn, now aggressive now delicate. When Fish enters the stage, the emotion of the crowd becomes tangible for seeing such a rock legend back on stage, when He announced his own retirement after the Misplaced Childhood 30th anniversary tour, and the most amazing thing is to how he wonderfully played the “Highlander” role in this concert.
Monologues and songs flow during the show, with Jonh de Lancie being the perfect image of the crazy divinity that captured those eight human beings, to involve them in an escalating cycle of slaughter, with the musicians playing their own parts in perfection and with a remarkable passion, and the main singers both singing and acting, especially in the songs whose text is composed by a verbal crossfire between two or more characters.
Before the song “Into the Mirror Maze”, there a classical interlude, played by a piano player (Robby Valentine), that enriches the quality of the show, with Arjen himself that kneels at piano player’s feet in sign of prayer and adoration after he finished own performance.
The event is one of my top five concerts of all times even with only the part of “Into the Electric Castle”, that was astonishing, both for the artists’ interpretation and for the massive crowd participation to the show from the first note to the last one. However, there were several points I would like to highlight, because the show in those moments reached the highest emotional level:
- The first monologue of John de Lancie, and his perfect crazy divinity voice and gaze
- The first part of the show, where
every character has been introduced, with the songs:
- “Isis and Osiris” where the Highlander, the Egyptian, the Ancient Roman and Knight of the round table start expressing their own shock to find themselves in an unknown reality
- “Amazing Flight”, with the Hippie acting and voice highlights even more the difference between him and the Barbarian character, and with the song finale enhanced by the Indian chants
- “Time Beyond Time”, with the Future Man completing the main cast
- “Across the Rainbow Bridge” the last song of the first part of “Into the Electric Castle”, where the remaining characters reaching the castle and with the crowd singing all together the song chorus
- “Valley of the Queens” where the Egyptian sings her own death chant with an enchanting mix of intensity and delicacy, highlighted by the silence of the crowd that lets the air resonate in pure emotion. I had already listened to that song in the acoustic version Anneke did with Arjen in the Gentle Storm tour, but in the original version, the song works much better.
- “The Castle Hall” one of the two darkest moments of the show, where the ghosts of the victims of violence, return to haunt their own killers, with the Barbarian and the Knigt of the round table doing a wonderful duet, with all the crowd shouting and singing with them
- “Cosmic Fusion”, the other darkest moment, with the two singers playing the Death role to start singing in raging growls, that perfectly fit in the music, even if it is not as fast and as heavy as it is in the extreme metal genre
- “The Two Gates”, that describes the moment where the characters must choose the gate to pass through, knowing that only one of the gates will lead them back home, while the other one will make them die
- “Another Time, Another Space”. The final song of the story where the survivors sing about the lack of memory about the adventure they lived. The song on stage is played by all the main singers’ cast and the “Into the Electric Castle” show ends with John de Lancie saying loud “Remember” and all the crowd roars back saying “FOREVER”.
The beginning of the end: introduction to the “Other Stories” and their own execution.
After the “Into the Electric Castle” show, the image of Mike Mills appears on the screen over the castle telling us there will be more tales to come…
It was a big surprise for me seeing Anneke van Giersbergen back on stage singing a song of “The Gentle Storm” project, but it was only with the second song of the “other stories” that we could understand the idea behind “The other stories”: they would have played songs from the different parallel projects created by Arjen.
After “The Gentle Storm” song played by Anneke the sequence was the following one: Simone Simons played an Ambeon song; Damian Wilson played a Guilt Machine song; Marcela Bovio played a Stream of Passion song; a tribute to Fish’s career, when he played Kayleigh; Arjen played a song from his solo album “Lost in the new real” and he gave a tribute to the legendary actor Rutger Hauer, by showing the song intro Rutger recited when the album was recorded.
The show finished with a Star One song, played by all the main cast, in a wonderful performance with crowd singing the chorus all together.
All the singers and the musicians played the songs with incredible passion and perfection, giving all the crowd a show that can’t be forgotten anyway, and the most amazing thing of all was the we understood that also the music Arjen created for his side projects could wonderfully work even in a live performance.
Before the start of the show, the magic atmosphere portended a great event. After the show we realized we have been part of an event that can be defined part of the music history without any doubt.
Thank you Arjen, for having created that music, thank you to all the singers and to all the musicians for how they played that music, creating a wonderful show, and thank you to all the people who worked to organize and to let this unforgettable event came true.
P.S. I completed the podium of my best albums ever seen alive with this concert, so I can say I’m a really lucky music-maniac.
P.P.S. The main image of this post is the painting “The Concert”, by Jef Bertels, the artist who created almost all the Ayreon album covers, and the two images in this post have been originally published on the Ayreon Official Facebook Page and on the official event page on the Arjen Lucassen’s site. I thank them both for having let me post those images on my blog.