Ayreon – The Theater Equation DVD Review

Released by: InsideOut Music

Release Date: June 17th, 2016

Genre: Prog Rock/Metal

Links: https://www.facebook.com/ArjenLucassenOfficial/

 

Line Up:

From original Human Equation album
James Labrie as Me
Marcela Bovio as Wife
Magnus Ekwall as Pride
Irene Jansen as Passion
Heather Findlay as Love
Eric Clayton as Reason
Devon Graves as Agony
Replacing original artists from album (who were
not available)
Anneke van Giersbergen as Fear (originally
Mikael Akerfeldt)
Jermain ‘Wudstik’ van der Bogt as Best Friend
(originally Arjen Lucassen)
Mike Mills as Rage / Father (Originally Devin
Townsend and Mike Baker, respectively)

The musicians:
Ed Warby – drums
Johan van Stratum – bass
Marcel Coenen – guitar
Freek Gielen – guitar
Erik van Ittersum – keyboards
Ruben Wijga – keyboards
Jeroen Goossens – flutes and woodwinds
Ben Mathot – violin
Maaike Peterse – cello

Supporting cast:
Peter Jan Moltmaker – Doctor
Nienke Verboom – Nurse 1
Katinka van de Harst – Nurse 2
Anita van der Hoeven – Mother

Tracklist:

DVD 1
1 Day one: Vigil (live in Rotterdam in September 2015) 00:01:43
2 Day two: Isolation (live in Rotterdam in September 2015) 00:08:12
3 Day three: Pain (live in Rotterdam in September 2015) 00:04:50
4 Day four: Mystery (live in Rotterdam in September 2015) 00:06:05
5 Day five: Voices (live in Rotterdam in September 2015) 00:06:52
6 Reprise Pain 1 (live in Rotterdam in September 2015) 00:00:34
7 Day six: Childhood (live in Rotterdam in September 2015) 00:05:10
8 Day seven: Hope (live in Rotterdam in September 2015) 00:02:22
9 Day eight: School (live in Rotterdam in September 2015) 00:04:27
10 Reprise Childhood (live in Rotterdam in September 2015) 00:01:08
11 Day nine: Playground (live in Rotterdam in September 2015) 00:02:06
12 Day ten: Memories (live in Rotterdam in September 2015) 00:03:52
13 Reprise Pain 2 (live in Rotterdam in September 2015) 00:01:39
14 Day eleven: Love (live in Rotterdam in September 2015) 00:04:07
15 Day twelve: Trauma (live in Rotterdam in September 2015) 00:09:41
16 Day thirteen: Sign (live in Rotterdam in September 2015) 00:05:06
17 Day fourteen: Pride (live in Rotterdam in September 2015) 00:04:46
18 Reprise Vigil (live in Rotterdam in September 2015) 00:01:09
19 Day fifteen: Betrayal (live in Rotterdam in September 2015) 00:05:09
20 Reprise School (live in Rotterdam in September 2015) 00:01:24
21 Day sixteen: Loser (live in Rotterdam in September 2015) 00:04:15
22 Day seventeen: Accident? (live in Rotterdam in September 2015) 00:05:16
23 Reprise Pain3 (live in Rotterdam in September 2015) 00:00:53
24 Day eighteen: Realization (live in Rotterdam in September 2015) 00:03:05
25 Reprise Trauma (live in Rotterdam in September 2015) 00:02:14
26 Day nineteen: Disclosure (live in Rotterdam in September 2015) 00:03:49
27 Day twenty: Confrontation (live in Rotterdam in September 2015) 00:07:27
28 Dream Sequencer System Offline (live in Rotterdam in September 2015) 00:01:15
01:48:36

DVD 2
1 Try-Out Show 00:28:58
2 The Theater Equation Trailer 00:01:26
3 Behind The Scenes – Introduction 00:02:13
4 Behind The Scenes – Casting 00:05:05
5 Behind The Scenes – The Epic Rock Choir 00:01:49
6 Behind The Scenes – The Band 00:06:16
7 Behind The Scenes – Band Rehearsals 00:02:42
8 Behind The Scenes – The Understudies 00:03:58
9 Behind The Scenes – Cast Rehearsals 00:05:57
10 Behind The Scenes – 5 Days To Go 00:03:49
11 Behind The Scenes – Opening Night 00:05:05
12 Behind The Scenes – Emotions: I Remember 00:02:07
13 Curtain Calls 00:08:52
01:18:17

 

It has been admittedly impossible for Ayreon to travel across the globe to put on live Prog-theatrical performances for multiple reasons that include expense, guest singers involved in their own projects and the mere fact that the mastermind Arjen Lucassen has chosen to dedicate his time inclusively to compose and produce.  Luckily, during September 2015 a once in a lifetime experience was put live at the Nieuwe Luxor Theater in Rotterdam for four sold out shows.  Fans from all across the world managed to travel out to the Netherlands to see the acclaimed 2004 album, ‘The Human Equation’ being performed and put to life in its entirety and it was called ‘The Theater Equation.’  This production took almost two full years to bring Arjen’s perfectionist vision live to the stage.  With that alone led to the inevitable follow-up that includes the Blu-Ray and DVD release made for the many that were unable to make it and for those who were there that want to have a long-lasting token from it.  This exclusive release not only shows just a live show, it is the first time in the history of Ayreon’s career where an album was performed in its entirety and the first full live hard copy release that also includes about ninety minutes of special bonus content.

Arjen brought Joost van den Broek (Star One, Ayreon, After Forever) as the musical director that would respectfully work with his perfectionistic visions.  Generating a full new cast was something that Arjen did not want to happen. Therefore, he managed to have most of the original singers that were on the 2004 release join.  These familiar faces includes, Dream Theater’s frontman James Labrie who performed his original role as “Me,” and the rest of the original cast consists of Marcela Bovio (Wife), Magnus Ekwall (Pride), Irene Jansen (Passion), Heather Findlay (Love), Eric Clayton (Reason) and Devon Graves (Agony).  The remaining cast who replaced the original artists includes Anneke van Giersbergen as Fear (originally Mikael Akerfeldt), Jermain ‘Wudstik’ van der Bogt as Best Friend (originally Arjen himself), and Mike Mills as Rage/Father (originally Devin Townsend and Mike Baker).  The musicians on the stage consisted of Ed Warby (drums), Johan van Stratum (bass), Marcel Coenen (guitar), Freek Gielen (guitar), Erik van Ittersum (keyboard), Ruben Wijga (keyboard), Jeroen Goossens (flute and woodwinds), Ben Mathot (violin), and Maaike Peterse (cello).   Now with all of that on the stage, there was one more addition to this production that includes a full backing choir that became known as a 19 person choir entitled the Epic Rock Choir.  Arjen felt a choir would be better than a few backing vocalists or to generate pre-recorded tracks, and he was right.

For those who are unfamiliar with ‘The Human Equation,’ it is a brilliant concept album, which steps aside Ayreon’s traditional Sci-Fi themes and focuses more on subconscious imprisonment.  The character “Me” went through a mysterious car accident where he drifted off the road in broad daylight and landed himself comatose on the hospital bed.  As the story unravels, it reveals how “Me” was at first as a powerful businessman in a cutthroat industry.  As he lies in a comatose state, his mind takes him on a torturous journey where he becomes trapped with his thoughts from the past and present.  Different emotions from Pride, Passion, Love, Reason, Agony, Fear and Rage reaches the surface as he tries to overcome his personal demons.  These feelings continue to play tricks on him where they become different people inside his mind, where a few want him to survive, and others want him to die.

Outside of his mind, where doctors, nurses, his Best Friend and Wife appear to be physically visiting him, another story unfolds that allude a revealing to the cause of his accident that involves his discovery that the Wife and Best Friend had an affair.  Each song represents another day of his coma, while he discovers more about himself as he reflects on his life that also includes his childhood with his abusive father and being bullied at school.  I must say with these overlapping layers to the story was well choreographed on the stage.

The stage Production was well designed that features the hospital, a car, and the backing band.  The lighting added a separate musical instrument in a way, as it moved along with the different directions of the story.  The points of consciousness flowed in a dreamlike state, where I couldn’t tell what was a dream or reality in the story.  The performance was powerfully emotive as it sounded as though it was a recording of the actual album.  I loved seeing this piece live, where listening to this near two-hour record alone added questions.  Visually seeing it played out on the stage answered most of them for me with believable acting.

It also showcases struggles that all humans face, the line alone “You were afraid to live, and now you are afraid to die.” was powerfully constructed even more to see performed than just listening to on the album.  The only item that set me away from the story was the Epic Choir; I don’t know what it is, but I did not like seeing them in everyday clothes.  It looked lacking in production, and I think they should have worn all black or keep with the robes where you see later on.  Aside from that, witnessing the album generating the stream of “Me’s” consciousness in his own human suffering live on the stage was performed with compelling reactions and dramatic turns.  The instrumentals were pristine that this DVD or Blu-Ray is well worth the purchase.

I hope this leads to a follow-up release and performance where I have wanted to see albums such as 2008’s ‘01011001’ or even the space opera of 1998’s ‘Into the Electric Castle’, or the recent 2013’s ‘The Theory of Everything’ come to life like this.  That would be sweet, and it is a form of gratitude and safekeeping to see this hard copy release since it will be the only way to watch ‘The Human Equation’ performed live in its completion with most of the original cast.  It’s sad that Arjen did not play his role as “The Best Friend” where he spent his time behind the scenes.  Regardless, it is well worth picking up a copy.

 

Written By: Zenae D. Zukowski

Rating     9/10

 

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