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Progressive Rock DVD/Video Reviews

Stream of Passion

Featuring Ayreon – Live in the Real World

Review by Josh Turner

Like a platypus, this is double-billed for twice the satisfaction with two effective mouthpieces. Stream of Passion is the main attraction while Ayreon is the fins and feathers that make this unusual creature swim. It’s enough to make Scrooge McDuck rich with envy.

Since the dawn of entertainment - whether it be music or martial arts - there has been a fascination with pitting different styles together. While the best intentions are often meant, it typically results in muddled mayhem. Keeping the recipe simple and focused is how successful bands have done it in the past. Apart from Dream Theater; rock, metal, and music school shenanigans don’t mix well. Even so, Stream of Passion is one of those rare exceptions to the rule.

In this case, Marcela Bovio’s operatic voice works wonders within the framework of these compositions. She also proves to perform just as well live as she does on studio recordings. Unlike Britney Spears or Ashlee Simpson, there is no need to filter out flaws. Her voice is clean and strong; ascending to high-notes as if it has wings. She’s much less bombastic than many of the banshees in the genre. Without a stinger, this singer floats like a butterfly, prances over petals, and then tenderly suckles their nectar.

In this deal, you also get a second star for the price of one as her mentor, Arjen Anthony Lucassen, is present with three other Norsemen (Lori Linstruth, guitar; Johan Van Stratum, bass; Davy Mickers, drums). Lucassen’s wirework can be described in one hyphenated word: awe-inspiring. To a degree, he plays his guitar like a keyboard. Ironically, when Bovio later dons a violin, her acute maneuvers on that classical instrument closer mimic the edgy pestilence of a twelve-string attack ship.

By the way, Diana Bovio is along for the ride and in a support role. She’s a splitting-image of her older sister and a dead-ringer when it comes to vocal chords too. As a result, this is just as good as any overdub, but it’s on-the-fly. Due to the familial duet, songs like “Computer Eyes” are better live than in their original format.

In addition to the sisters, Alejandro Millán hails from Mexico as well. Oftentimes, his pianos act as glue; causing the dichotomous traits of this slick material to stick together.

And entering into the bargain is a very special guest in Threshold’s Damian Wilson. While he’ll get no further mention, his reputation precedes him. Here, his execution does his world-renowned status justice.

With four men and three women, it’s an odd mix for a band; yet, each member is essential to their sound.

Likewise, this particular program features a good mix of great tracks, and Lucassen frequently spices up the engagement with his fiery solos. In some ways, Stream of Passion is there in name only. Besides the singing and the track selection, it’s the kind of party Ayreon has been known to throw. Still, we get a number of cuts exclusive to each band. So whether you’re a fan of either entity, this special event will surely pique your interest.

It’s also necessary to point out that the production is excellent. It’s bloody apparent that Mirko Pelgrom and Angelique Wassink spent much time in the editing room. The way they’ve spliced the material together is nothing short of meticulous. They use smart animation in the menus and the transitional scenes. Each new passage is stamped with print that helps home audiences find their place. By this, viewers know where they are in the montage of their tour. As for the live event, helpful lettering and graphics tell what song and album they’re on; making it easy to discontinue and return. Then again, it’s difficult to stop - if even temporarily - and harder to go cold turkey. Plus, this creates a problem when jumping ahead: The alphabet soup in the root menu can be a bit overkill, as there is excessive wait time and several layers to traverse. Normally this isn’t a significant problem, but their superior material will encourage inveterate customers, and the extraneous delays do hinder repeat patronage.

On a separate note, the stiletto-bearded man – that’s Lucassen – emanates a certain charm every time he grabs the mike to speak. When he makes an announcement that’s related to Star One, it’s a reminder of the many ventures he’s taken over the years. He talks while the towel dries; mostly unintelligible words. Regardless of the language barrier, the crowd connects with him. He also makes a quaint comment in relation to “Slow songs for the non-European fans.” While such expressions can be easily lost in translation, this was not meant as a put down. He aims to please almost to a fault.

Before the concert’s through, they provide several encores including an adventure that goes “Into the Black Hole.” Afterwards, the applause is the audio that’s used on the splash screen. So when it’s over, you hear the same ovation twice in succession. In retrospect, the only thing that’s weirder is the occasional dance with an inflatable banana. Yes, that’s in there.
 
Together, Bovio, Lucassen, and a talented support crew play for over two hours. Alone, their instrumental and vocal duets are majestic, but the extras are plenteous too. Among them are various galleries, diaries, and clips. With Lucassen’s perpetual flow of jaw-dropping solos and Bovia’s steady stream of passion, Live in the Real World will not only live up to; but will exceed expectations.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2009  Volume 3 at lulu.com/strangesound.
 
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