WAYNE, JEFF, 2009-06-30 (NL+E)
Heineken Music Hall
dinsdag, juni 30, 2009

Jeff Wayne’s Musical Version Of The War Of The Worlds in de Heineken Music Hall in Amsterdam was uitverkocht. Het was de eerste in een serie van drie concerten in Nederland. Het optreden was bijzonder groots van opzet en Wayne fungeerde zelf als dirigent van het orkest en de band. Er waren onvoorstelbaar grote schermen achter de muzikanten opgesteld met gigantische projecties met een mix van animaties en close-upbeelden van de vocalisten. De vertelstem van Richard Burton werd als originele opname gebruikt in combinatie met een 3D-animatie van zijn bovenlichaam waardoor het leek alsof hij in levenden lijve links op het podium stond.

Naast de grote namen Justin Hayward (Moody Blues) en Chris Thompson (ex-Manfred Mann's Earth Band) werden de overige vocale stukken vertolkt door respectievelijk Alexis James, Jennifer Ellison en Damien Edwards, mensen die zo te zien goed thuis zijn in de wereld van de musical. Juist zij waren in staat om naast de vocale prestatie tevens het theatrale aspect tot zijn recht te laten komen, terwijl Hayward wat stijfjes leek en minder krachtig zong dan vroeger. Ook Thompson, die slechts een zeer bescheiden rol vervulde, had even moeite om op gang te komen. De lichtshow en de effecten waren bijzonder indrukwekkend en de samenhang tussen beelden, effecten en muziek was ongeëvenaard goed; nog nooit zo’n spektakel gezien!

Om het geheel nog spectaculairder te maken stond er op een gegeven moment ook een torenhoge Martiale driepoot, die ook zelf licht gaf en een ‘hittekanon’ kon afvuren, terwijl inslaande kanonskogels werden gesimuleerd met vuurwerk. In de band bekende namen als Herbie Flowers (ex-Sky) en Chris Spedding die een aantal mooie solo’s speelde. Een uitmuntende geluidskwaliteit van een perfect spelende band en orkest en de geweldig fraaie beelden overtroffen de originele luisterversie met een straatlengte.

Dit is entertainment zoals het vaker zou moeten zijn. Een gedenkwaardige show dus en mensen die de drie kansen nu hebben gemist: de show komt volgend jaar opnieuw naar Nederland in november. Van harte aanbevolen!


Jeff Wayne’s Musical Version of The War Of The Worlds in the Heineken Music Hall in Amsterdam was sold-out for the first of three concerts in the Netherlands. After a successful rerelease of the original double LP as a remastered - some editions even extended - double CD, the world was ready to witness a full-scale live version featuring huge screens, animations, a ‘real’ Martian machine, a full orchestra as well as a full band and an impressive light show.

Although I’ve never found the music on the original record too exiting, the stage show was far beyond my expectations. Author H.G. Wells would have been proud if he could have seen this show! The stage setting was really awesome and most impressive were the gigantic screens behind the band and teh orchestra over almost the full width of the venue! The quality of the images was equally fantastic and the images were a mix of animations and close-ups of the vocalists. Jeff Wayne appeared to be in excellent shape and was foremost directing the orchestra. As usual, the sound in this venue was terrific, unbeatable. All vocalists were dressed as if it were theatre, and the dresses were matching with the time Well’s wrote his novel. Since Richard Burton, performing as the narrator, had passed away a long time ago and Wayne really wanted to stick to his voice, the techs created a huge 3D-animation of his head in the left hand corner of the stage, talking to the audience as if he was still alive. So animation and the use of the original tapes proved to be a both practical and original solution. What struck me the most was the unsurpassed coherence between live music and animated images together with lights and effects. I’ve never seen anything like this before and I was stunned. After the instrumental overture we can see on the screens how the Martians plan to invade the earth and how the cylinders are launched from Mars with destination Earth. We see the landing and the first Martian setting foot on earth.

To whom are interested here’s the summary of War Of The Worlds (source: Wikipedia).
The narrator is at an observatory in Ottershaw when explosions are witnessed on Mars, causing interest among the scientific community. Later a "meteor" lands on Horsell Common, south of London, close to the narrator's home. He is among the first to discover that the object is a space-going artificial cylinder. When the cylinder opens, the Martians—bulky, octopus-like creatures the size of a bear— briefly emerge, show difficulty in coping with the Earth's atmosphere, and rapidly retreat into the cylinder. A human deputation moves towards the cylinder, but the Martians incinerate them with a heat-ray weapon, before beginning the construction of alien machinery.
An army of Martian fighting-machines destroying England.
After the attack, the narrator takes his wife to Leatherhead to stay with relatives until the threat is eliminated. Upon returning home, he discovers the Martians have assembled towering three-legged "fighting-machines" armed with a heat-ray and a chemical weapon: "the black smoke". These Tripods easily defeat army units positioned around the crater and proceed to attack surrounding communities. Fleeing the scene, the narrator meets a retreating artilleryman, who tells him that another cylinder has landed between Woking and Leatherhead, cutting the narrator off from his wife. The two men try to escape together, but are separated at the Shepperton to Weybridge Ferry during a Martian attack on Shepperton.
A Martian fighting-machine battling with HMS Thunder Child. More cylinders land across southern England, and a panicked flight out of London begins, including the narrator's brother. The torpedo ram HMS Thunder Child destroys two tripods before being sunk by the Martians, though this allows the ship carrying the Narrator's brother, and his two female companions to escape. Shortly after, all organized resistance has ceased, and the Tripods roam the shattered landscape unhindered. Red weed, a fast growing Martian form of vegetation spreads over the landscape, aggressively overcoming the Earth's ecology, in much the same way the Martians have overcome human civilization. The narrator takes refuge in a ruined building shortly before a Martian cylinder lands nearby, trapping him with an insane curate, who has been traumatized by the invasion and believes the Martians to be satanic creatures heralding the advent of Armageddon. For several days, the narrator desperately tries to calm the clergyman, and avoid attracting attention, while witnessing the Martians feeding on humans by direct blood transfusion. Eventually the curate's evangelical outbursts lead the Martians to their hiding place, and while the Narrator escapes detection, the clergyman is dragged away. The Martians eventually depart, and the narrator heads towards Central London. En route he once again encounters the artilleryman who has plans to rebuild civilization underground, but their quixotic nature is shown by the slow progress of an unimpressive trench the artilleryman has been digging. The narrator heads into a deserted London, finally decides to give up his life by rushing towards the Martians, only to discover they, along with the Red Weed, have succumbed to terrestrial pathogenic bacteria, to which they have no immunity. At the conclusion, the narrator is unexpectedly reunited with his wife, and they, along with the rest of humanity, are faced with a new and expanded universe as a result of the invasion.

A clean vocal performance by veteran Justin Hayward (Moody Blues) although his voice was just a little less powerful than in the early days. James as the artilleryman, obviously is an experienced. The other big name for us progfans was Chris Thompson. He had only a few lines to sing and it took him quite a few notes to prove he could still deliver. The lovely Jennifer Ellison proved to be a worthy replacement for Julie Covington and also stand-in Damien Edwards did a fine job as Nathaniel. Nice guitar solos by Chris Spedding while both the band and the orchestra did a really superb job on that evening. Through widely used animations anyone could pick up on the story as described above. The impressive huge Martian tripod could be lit and it could fire its heat beams and through fireworks the hits of the canons were simulated nicely. Another nice piece of décor was the bridge on which James sang near the end of the show. Unfortunately all photographers were asked to leave before the end of the show, so I can’t describe the grand finale but I’m pretty sure it was equally stunning as the rest of the evening.

Jeff Wayne proved that even an old record of 1978 can still stand the test of time and especially with the rather successful movie with Tom Cruise in the back of his head, this whole stage show and this way of performing is the ultimate experience one could possibly offer. I can honestly recommend this show to anyone, even if you’re not particularly fond of the music! A seated concert, unequalled sound, stunning visual effects and light show and great vocalists and performers on stage. There will be another chance to go out and see Wayne’s War Of The Worlds live in November 2010!

Line-up: Jeff Wayne: musical director, The UllJeff Wayne - War Of The Worldabulla Orchestra, The Black Smoke Band featuring Chris Spedding (guitar) and Herbie Flowers (bass), Justin Hayward: the journalist, Alexis James: the artilleryman, Chris Thompson: the voice of humanity, Jennifer Ellison: Beth, Parson Nathaniel’s wife, Damien Edwards: – Parson Nathaniel

Tracklist: The Prequel, The Eve of The War, Horsell Common And The Heat Ray, The Artilleryman And The Fighting Machine, Forever Autumn, Thunder Child, The Red Weed (Part 1), The Spirit of Man, The Red Weed (Part 2), The Artilleryman Returns, Brave New World, 

Dead London (Part 1), Dead London (Part 2), Epilogue (Part 1), Epilogue (Part 2), NASA.