Arena — Rapture
(Metal Mind MMP DVD 0203, 2013, DVD)
by Paul Hightower, Published 2014-06-27This Metal Mind DVD (yes, it was recorded at the same theater in Katowice, Poland, where they all are) gives British neo-proggers Arena a chance to reconnect with their fans after a six-year hiatus. Lineup changes include new singer Paul Manzi and the return of John Jowitt (ex-IQ) on bass. The rest of the band — drummer Mick Pointer, keyboard player Clive Nolan, and guitar player John Mitchell — are all back, though looking a little older. This show was in support of their 2011 album with Manzi, The Seven Degrees of Separation, which has proven to be somewhat controversial in that most fans don’t consider it on par with their earlier work. Not to be denied, the set list of the two-hour show includes about half of the new album with the rest taken from the back catalog. Manzi acquits himself well throughout, with a voice that is part Ian Gillian and part Tom Jones and a stage presence that is friendly, though not as theatrical or charismatic as his predecessor, Rob Sowden. Overall the technical aspects of this package are solid, though — like many of the performances — unremarkable. Plus, I’ve seen footage of Arena in years past and perhaps it was due to the many cameras around them but this crew (Manzi excepted) barely moved or made any significant connection with their audience. As Nolan and Pointer admit in the bonus interview, live DVDs are an important selling tool for bands these days. I’m afraid this one is a missed opportunity.
Gong Announces UK Tour for 2020 – Having spent the last few years touring the world, including dates in Japan with psych legend Steve Hillage, multiple headline European tours and festivals, America’s Cruise to the Edge festival, a South America headline tour, and a headline performance at Tomorrow Festival in China, the band have won the hearts of both traditional and modern Gong fanbases. During this live journey, Gong has delved further into the truly psychedelic, exploratory, and mind-expanding side of the music. » Read more
Wolfgang Dauner RIP – Pianist Wolfgang Dauner, one of the pioneers of both European free jazz and jazz rock, has died at the age of 84. With his own groups and with the United Jazz+Rock Ensemble, his playing and compositions were a prominent presence in European jazz from the mid-60s until just recently. » Read more
Michael Allison RIP – Michael Allison, who since 1997 has been recording as Darshan Ambient, passed away on January 9th after a long and brave battle with cancer. He has been at at the forefront of the new ambient/electronic music scene, with over eighteen releases to his credit. » Read more
Neil Peart RIP – One of rock music's defining drummers has died at the age of 67. Neil Peart's work with Rush provided one of the templates for percussion in rock, and he certainly ranks in the top ten most influential drummers of the 20th Century. Peart retired from playing in 2015 due to health issues, and succumbed to brain cancer on January 7, 2020. » Read more