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Ayreon '01011001 - Live Beneath the Waves' review: Arjen Lucassen brings to life another concept album

Whenever  Arjen Lucassen releases a new album you can be sure that you’ll get first class musicianship, a multiplicity of influences and epic arrangements. The fact that Lucassen doesn’t really like performing live and these theatrical shows are a rarity makes them all the more sought after by fans. When he does goes all in for a live show, it’s a jaw-dropping spectacle. 

This latest extravaganza from the Ayreon universe is a full-scale production of 2008’s album '01011001'. 'Live Beneath the Waves' sold out five performances at Poppodium 013 in Tilburg, The Netherlands and fans from all over the world attended. The concept album is performed in full, with a few fan favourites as encore songs. 

From a visual point of view, it’s stunning and mesmerising. There are plenty of pyro, visual effects immersing the audience in the Ayreon world. The editing is a little bit too fast-paced at times with slow motion effects added, clearly to attempt to engage the audience at home. I find this sort of editing style detracts from the overall film performance experience, but the performances and live show are spectacular. The camera work captures the audience's reactions and shows that Ayreon's live shows are a symbiotic experience, and the DVD aims to capture this as faithfully as possible.

Listening to the album is a different beast. Without the theatrics, you have to rely on your ears for the immersive experience. The production is so razor-sharp that it’s impossible not to engage with this live album. In some ways it calls to mind Kate Bush’s 'Before the Dawn' shows which were filmed but never released. She chose to release a live recording and I can see that it offers another dimension to just listen and use your imagination - especially when the show is visually complex. Of course, fans want to relive a great concert, but it’s never the same as actually being there, but with a live recording you really can close your eyes and focus on every detail. I suppose one good thing about this latest Ayreon package is that you have the choice of what format you’d prefer. Speaking of which, Lucassen doesn't do anything by halves and the release of this live concert also comes in a behemoth package:  3LP, 2CD+DVD, Blu-ray, Earbook, and digital formats.

The show features an incredible lineup featuring many original cast members from the original album and various special guests such as Simone Simons (Epica), Damian Wilson (Threshold), Anneke van Giersbergen, Jonas Renkse (Katatonia), Tom Englund (Evergrey), Daniel Gildenlow (Pain of Salvation), Marcela Bovio (MaYan), Brittney Slayes (Unleash the Archers), who takes on the operatic range of Floor Jansen. Brittney also puts on an astonishing performance on the track 'Fate of Man' for one of the encore tracks.

Hansi Kürsch (Blind Guardian), John Jaycee Cuijpers (Praying Mantis), Maggy Luyten (Beautiful Sin), Michael Mills (Toehider) and Wudstik, among other incredible musicians. The band featured top instrumentalists from the genre - Ed Warby (Drums), Johan van Stratum (Bass), Timo Somers (Guitar), Marcel Coenen (Guitar), Joost Van Den Broek (Keyboards) and more. The enigmatic Lucassen makes an appearance too, although Ty Tabor takes his original part on 'Connect the Dots'.

The plot is fairly simple: there are a group of aliens called the 'Forever' who create the human race only to risk destroying them with technology. It's a well-worn sci-fi trope that calls into question our reliance on tech and what it means to be human. With AI getting more of a stranglehold on creative industries, the message is even more profound.

Stepping aside from doomsday scenarios, the show is an enjoyable over-the-top spectacle and the music is complex, weaving rock, metal, prog, classical or whatever else the genius of Arjen Lucassen wants to throw into the mix. At times you can hear, Blackmore's Night, at other times Pink Floyd, Jethro Tull, and Iron Maiden, but Lucassen has never hidden away from his influences and that's what makes his music so appealing: you can literally come from any genre and find something in his music that you can connect with.

'Liquid Eternity', Comatose', Beneath the Waves' and 'River of Time' are all notable tracks, but the best thing to do is turn off from the world for a few hours and immerse yourself in Planet Y, however, you choose to do that - visually or aurally, you can't go wrong. Either way, the music is brought to life with terrific production and incredible performances.

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May 18
Rated 5 out of 5 stars.

Great Concert!

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