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Progressive Rock DVD/Video Reviews

Jeff Wayne

Jeff Wayne’s Musical Version of The War of the Worlds - Live on Stage DVD

Review by Gary Hill

It’s always a great feeling when a plan comes together. By that criterion, Jeff Wayne must be a very happy man. His version of the H. G. Wells classic tale has always been a critical and popular hit, but until recently it had eluded a full stage production worthy of its power and majesty. This situation has certainly been rectified in recent years and this DVD fully attests to that. Through the use of animation, a digitally resurrected Richard Burton and both an orchestra and live band (not to mention a 30 foot tall fighting machine) the incredible musical rendition of this powerhouse of a story has been captured and turned into a live experience like no other. If you want to see just what is possible in terms of live staging of powerhouse conceptual symphonic rock and this show makes it your way, waste no time in getting your tickets. This DVD shows just how powerful and inspiring a show it is.

I have to say that the disembodied, huge head of Burton is a bit weird, but also rather cool – I can’t help be reminded of Third Rock From The Sun’s “Big Giant Head.” The music, has been augmented and perfected by this performance. It might differ a bit from what you are used to in terms of the CD release, but it’s more alive. They add a prequel to the story through the use of more music and a look inside the Martian plans before they are launched. The concert captures the whole story in a show that is one part musical theater, one part rock opera and all powerhouse performance. I can’t imagine ever seeing a rock show that would top this one.

The DVD is filmed with top-notch visual and audio recording to give one an experience that is probably better than being in the audience. Sure, you miss some of the spontaneity, but you also get close-ups and other effects that you won’t see in the live environment. Mind you, even the stage version is awe-inspiring with its visuals and effects – this is just ramped up a notch – or as Nigel Tufnel would say, “it goes to 11.”

This set also includes some excellent bonus material. You get a cool interview with Jeff Wayne, behind the scenes of the CGI, a section on bringing Richard Burton back to the stage and a featurette on creating the Martian fighting machine. The second disc includes even more bonus features, lending further insights into this stage production. The whole package is a sheer winner – I’d recommend it to fans of the album, fans of prog rock and pretty much anyone wanting to see one of the best stage productions ever put together. At one point we were discussing putting out a book of reviews of our favorite music video releases of all time. You can bet if we do that, this will be in my number one slot. The one caveat goes out to those in the United States. I believe that all the DVD’s are created for region 2 and 3, so unless you have a region free player, you won’t be able to see this. If you use your PC to watch DVD’s, though, it can probably be adjusted.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2007 Volume 5 at lulu.com/strangesound.
 
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