Image © F2 Music Ltd 2005
Seven | "Broken"*
Another Time/Another Place | "I'm Alive"
Spring Tour (2004)*
Spring Tour (2005)
(26 November 2005) The art of making an in-concert DVD is a difficult one. Firstly, the very idea that they are being filmed can often reduce the artists' performance subtly (or, indeed, significantly). Furthermore, what passes for an excellent concert on the night often becomes less so when sound and vision are pieced together. A band needs a good performance, decent sound and vision recording, good editing and mixing--and a big slice of luck--to make the whole package work.
One occasion where all these factors have come together in spectacular fashion is on The Gathering (F2 Music (UK), 200510D2005)--a live video record of Magenta's performance at The Pop Factory in Porth, South Wales in May 2005 (review). The band picked the occasion well. They had just returned from a triumphant headlining appearance at the ROSFest festival, in Phoenixville, Pennsylvania. They were well rehearsed and raring to go. In addition, the decision to record the gig in a TV studio rather than a traditional concert venue allowed them full control over the set up, sound and recording process. It also allowed the pick up footage--shots recorded earlier in the day from different angles without an audience getting in the way – to be stitched into the film almost seamlessly. Of course, for some bands this may have made the final results a little sterile. Not so Magenta, thanks to the characteristic exuberance of the band, and a genuine connection made between the band and an enthusiastic audience.
From a technical perspective, the concert is mostly flawless. The visuals are crystal clear; the cutting is brisk without being irritating, and most importantly--and so often spoilt by under-prepared cameramen or poor direction in other DVDs--all the important moments have been captured. No guitar solo, keyboard run or cheeky grin from Christina has been left uncaptured. Indeed, such is the detail in the camera work and editing, that one suspects that a DVD of the second best shot of every moment might be almost as good as the one used. As for the sound, with a home cinema system it is difficult to comment on the 5.1 mix, though other reports suggest it is excellent, but the stereo mix is immaculate.
Best of all are the performances. The band were on top form that night, which comes across brilliantly. Christina gives one of the best vocal performances seen on a rock DVD, while the technical ability required to play such music is laid bare with the thrilling close-ups of Rob Reed, Matthew Cohen and Chris Fry. Fry, especially, gives a remarkable performance--perhaps a little more studied than his audience-wandering antics at other concerts, but the accuracy of his playing is all the better for it. As noticed when we attended the concert itself, it is great to see the band giving backing vocals full importance--an aspect of the bands performance that can occasionally be a weakness. Finally, a note of praise should be given for two unsung members of the band--Allan Mason Jones and Martin Rosser. The camerawork really allows both to shine here, with plenty of exciting close ups. The delicacy of Allan’s drumming is often evident, while the very varied work that Martin does--which stretches from stabbing lead guitar to acoustic picking via flute and orchestral sounds using his VG8 effects unit--really shines through.
The set represents the band as the reach the end of the Revolutions era, and well over half that album is played ("Children of the Sun", part of "Genetesis" and "The White Witch"), alongside "Gluttony" and "Pride" from Seven plus a variety of the shorter tracks. The dramatic "King of the Sky" wisely opens the set and both "I'm Alive" and the delightful "Call Me" are wonderfully effective. Most interesting to fans will be the first recorded outings of Demons and Overture from the forthcoming album "Home." Now very familiar after several live outings, these are both very strong pieces and bode very well for the much-delayed double album.
Finally, a brief note about the extras is required. These are decent rather than particularly essential, and their brevity may disappoint some, though Graeme Brown has put them together with considerable skill. Of the interviews, Christina's is charming, but the most revealing of these is with Rob Reed, whose obvious joy at the process of multi-layered, one man recording--fuelled by his love of Mike Oldfield's Tubular Bells album as a child--goes a long way towards explaining his solitary attitude towards the studio incarnation of Magenta. But in the end, it is the live performance
that is the most important, and it is just about as perfect a concert film as you are likely to see. Outstanding in every respect.--Stephen Lambe in Cheltenham, England and Russ Elliot in New York