Only a few progressive rock bands are capable to perform great concerts in an acoustic setting. Without doubt Marillion are one of these bands. I noticed this for the first time while listening to the album Unplugged At The Walls (1998). It was almost unbelievable how well they rearranged their prog rock sound into simple acoustic arrangements and still sounding perfectly. Also the DVD-release A Piss Up In A Brewery (2002) proved that they were able to play their complex music on acoustic instruments. People who are familiar with the latest studio album Less Is More (see review) or watched the accompanied live shows (see review), know that they're really stunning while playing acoustically. It was obvious that a recording of these shows would be released on DVD, CD or Blu-ray; a good opportunity to show those who stayed at home they had missed something special. Well, I discovered that I certainly missed something special myself when I got a copy of Live From Cadogan Hall. The double-DVD was recorded in high definition on the final performance of the Less Is More acoustic tour on December 7, 2009. This release features the full-length concert.
On the first disc the band members explain what kind of instruments they used to perform the songs acoustically like the dulcimer, autoharp and glockenspiel. These instruments give the songs a different atmosphere and make them sound otherwise compared to the well-known original studio versions, but still very enjoyable. The first part of the show contains the whole Less Is More-album with the same track list as on the studio album. They also start with Go! and end with This Is The 21st Century. In between these songs I saw a band in great shape. Steve Hogarth sings with passion showing a lot of emotion. He also gives a short introduction to the songs and explains something about the content. Just before performing The Space he tells the audience about an accident with a car and a tram when he visited Amsterdam as a child. He remembered the incident on growing older. He also gives away that It's Not Your Fault is just a lullaby for grown-ups. Not all songs are performed completely acoustically for in Quartz Steve Rothery plays a great electric guitar solo. From time to time Mark Kelly not only uses the acoustic piano, but he also adds some organ sounds to colour the songs a bit.
The second disc contains the performance after the break. None of these songs appeared on Less Is More and in a way that's a pity. For instance, if you listen to the opening tune No One Can performed on the acoustic piano, you would have wished it had been on that album. After a splendid version of Gazpacho the audience get two encores. The first time Marillion get back on stage they perform fine versions of The Answering Machine and Estonia. The second encore was even more special; during Easter you can enjoy an acoustic guitar solo instead of the usual electric one. However, an electric guitar solo can be seen in Three Minute Boy. After watching both discs it's evident that Marillion knows how to entertain an audience. It really doesn't matter whether they play acoustically or with modern electronic instruments.
When you watch this DVD you'll discover that the sound quality is fabulous and the camera work has been done very well with many fine close-ups of all musicians. The lightning on stage is very good as well and you'll notice that it was around Christmas time indicated by a large tree at the back of the stage. As with all other DVD-releases by Marillion this DVD deserves a positive judgment. It's highly recommended to those who enjoy the music of Marillion and bands that stylewise come close.
Finally I have to inform you that the Blu-ray Special Edition features the full concert in 96kHz-24bit High Resolution audio in either stereo or 5.1 surround options. Also included on the Blu-ray disc is the full 96kHz-24bit High Resolution version of the studio album Less Is More. Moreover, the Blu-ray disc contains the complete first series of Racket Television in High Definition, unreleased versions of tracks from the Less Is More acoustic recordings and a double-CD featuring the audio of this whole performance. Unfortunately I don't possess both releases, so I'm not able to judge them, but I guess they're top-notch either just like the DVD-version of Live From Cadogan Hall.
**** Henri Strik (edited by Peter Willemsen)
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