When a band as good as Magenta make it through to their 20th anniversary, it is a real cause for celebration amongst the prog rock community. When Robert Reed and Christina Booth talked through the Magenta band concept back in 1999 – eventually leading to the release of their debut album Revolutions in 2001 – even they would not have envisaged the twists and turns they would experience over the next two decades.
The 20th anniversary concert took place at Arlington Arts Centre, Newbury, Berkshire on Sunday, 19th May, 2019 and was truly a special night of celebration for all those fortunate to attend. TPA’s Leo Trimming wrote an excellent and expansive concert review which I strongly recommend you read, Here.
However, for those of us not able to be there – as well as those who were – the release of the whole concert as a 2CD/2DVD package is great news and very much recommended. Magenta have produced a number of live releases over the years, including the excellent We Are Seven as recently as 2018, showcasing the albums We Are Legend and Seven. Do we really need another one? Well… the answer is an emphatic YES!
Not only do you get selections from all seven studio albums up to that point, but they are all complemented by impressive multi-media visuals, graphics, actors, light orchestration and special guest musicians, which make the concert a truly unique experience.
After the wonderful Gluttony (still sparkling with its nods to ’70s Yes amongst others), there is the fresh, enhanced and re-imaged medley from the underperformed Home, taking up most of the first half of the show – with Chris Fry’s contribution on guitar as integral to the Magenta sound as Robert’s flowing keyboards and Christina’s angelic vocals. Peter Jones’s saxophone solo on Moving On is just one of many special moments in the first half – as the enthusiastic and appreciative audience acknowledge.
The second half is equally impressive. The power of Trojan from We Are Legend, even in condensed form, is stunning. However, it is then balanced by the poignancy of both Pearl and an extract from The Ballad of Samuel Layne from Metamorphosis with Christina’s emotive vocals enhanced by the Great War theatrics and background images accompanying it. The highlight of the second set, though, is a dramatic arrangement of the epic The White Witch. With Christina resplendent in white amid the darkness, the richness of the instrumentation, the maturity and confidence in the vocals and the additional ‘witchfinder’ lines (spoken on screen by Andy Coleman) may possibly make this the definitive version of this epic track, the whole band pushing the drama to a powerful and cathartic conclusion.
If that isn’t enough, for the first encore we have a lovely version of the Parkinson’s Charity release of Steve Hackett’s Spectral Mornings, with Big Big Train’s David Longdon perfectly reprising his 2015 vocals in a duet with Christina. Frankly, these two could read the phone book and it would hit me emotionally! Add Peter Jones doing full justice to Hackett’s guitar lines (his presence on many tracks is a joy) and it is a great ‘goosebumps’ moment, captured here for posterity. After that, proceedings end with the popular, upbeat, The Lizard King, leaving a warm glow emanating from both the audience and the performers at the end.
The sound quality is excellent, with enough separation to appreciate the individual musicians, especially the soaring guitar solos of Chris Fry, whilst remaining well-balanced across the whole stage. The contribution of Dan Nelson on bass and Jiffy Griffiths on drums to the whole sound deserves a mention, along with the subtle orchestral embellishments across many tracks from Simon Brittlebank, Karla Powell and Katie Axelsen. Visually, the DVDs complement the music superbly, with clear, sharp multi-camera work. You really feel you are on the front row for this special occasion.
Magenta remain one of the very best prog rock bands around. Since this concert they have released the superb Masters of Illusion in 2020 – one of my favourite lockdown albums – and I am looking forward to seeing them performing some of it live in the near future. With brilliant musicianship, soaring vocals and a way of celebrating the classic prog rock era whilst adding so much modern freshness and a blend of styles, may Magenta continue to give us pleasure for many years to come.
Angels and Damned is a quality double live CD/DVD release of a very special night that would be a worthy addition to any Magenta fan’s collection, but also provide a great starting point for any prog rocks fans out there who have yet to succumb to their charms.
CD/DVD Disc 1:
01. Opus 3 (2:23)
02. Gluttony (12:35)
– Home (Medley)*
03. This Life (2:23)*
04. Hurt (6:01)*
05. Moving On (7:58)*
06. Tower of Hope (4:19)*
07. Demons (5:40)*
08. Morning Sunlight (3:31)*
09. The Dream (1:52)*
10. Visionary (6:41)*
11. Journey’s End (9:58)*
12. Lightspeed (3:26)
13. The Warning (4:25)
CD/DVD Disc 2:
01. Trojan (short version) (6:00)
02. Pearl (8:41)
03. The Ballad of Samuel Layne (extract) (8:30)
04. Red (9:18)
05. The White Witch (22:45)
06. Spectral Mornings (5:50)
07. The Lizard King (short version) (7:13)
Total Time – 140:00
Robert Reed – Keyboards, Backing Vocals
Christina Booth – Vocals, Tambourine
Chris Fry – Acoustic & Electric Guitars, Backing Vocals
Dan Nelson – Bass Guitar
Jonathan ‘Jiffy’ Griffiths – Drums & Percussion
Peter Jones – Guitar, Saxophone, Penny Whistle, Backing Vocals (Moving On/The Ballad of Samuel Layne/Red/Spectral Mornings/The Lizard King)
David Longdon – Vocals & Flute (Spectral Mornings)
Simon Brittlebank – Timpani Drums, Glockenspiel, Gong, Congas, Tubular Bells
Karla Powell – Oboe
Katie Axelsen – Flute
Andy Coleman – ‘Witch Finder’ (The White Witch)
Adam Reed, Charlotte & Harvey Rowe (The Ballad of Samuel Layne/The White Witch)
Record Label: Tiger Moth Records
Country of Origin: U.K.
Date of Release: 30th May 2021