In 2005 we could enjoy a live DVD from the British band Twelfth Night for the first time. This DVD was recorded live at the Marquee Club in London on March 9, 1984. The title of this one hour of live footage was Live From London. It was shot after lead singer Geoff Mann had left the band and had been replaced by Andy Sears. Recently the band decided to surprise their fans by releasing a second DVD called Reading Rock '83. This release is enjoyable for their loyal fan base, because it also features former singer Geoff Mann. This DVD was shot at the legendary Reading Festival in 1983 by one of their fans with only one camera.
These recordings particularly have a historical meaning since Geoff Mann left the band a couple of months after this concert. And as we all know he passed away in 1993 at the age of 37. At the time, The Reading Festival used to be an excellent rock festival with several progressive rock bands on stage, like Marillion, Pallas, Pendragon and the local boys from Twelfth Night. They already played at the festival in 1981, but they were more confident this time. During interviews with drummer Brian Devoil and bassist Clive Mitten for this release, they explain that their gig had also been professionally filmed, though the footage was lost one way or another. However, they were not aware of the fact that somebody in the audience also filmed this gig. They got the footage from a friend and realized that they could use it in the future. Unfortunately the audio had been poorly recorded and was not suitable for use. However, someone from the BBC made it possible to use the audio tape from the archives of the Radio One Friday Rock Show for they had also recorded this concert for a radio broadcast. So thanks to those who took initiatives to release this DVD. We can now hear and see the band performing songs as The Ceiling Speaks, Creepshow, The Poet Sniffs A Flower and the classic piece Sequences.
What do you actually get when you put the disc in your DVD-player? Well, you get a forty-minute performance of a band in great shape, but not professionally shot. The audio sounds very good, but the images of the band are of an inferior quality. The distance between the audience and the stage is way too far. Unfortunately the film maker doesn't try to get a closer look of the individual musicians that often. Although the camera has the possibility to zoom he prefers to take only shots from the entire band. That's a pity because otherwise the DVD would have been much better. Between the images, live pictures from the concert are used. Maybe because of inconvenient live images, maybe one of the musicians played a solo or maybe Geoff Mann did something spectacular like wearing a white coat during Creepshow for instance. However, his mirror act is breathtaking. He holds a mirror in front of his face while singing the lyrics of Creepshow. During the vocal version of Sequences, Geoff wears several costumes in order to give the song a political statement. Thus he wears a military suit and he reveals a T-shirt with a peace sign when he takes of his coat. The red and white smoke provides this song with more special effects, but it doesn't change my judgment about the poor quality of the footage anyway.
Of course, the band members know that only forty minutes of a performance is much too little to release on a DVD. So they decided to feature some extra's to extend the total playtime to approximately hundred minutes. It was a wise decision to include an insightful thirteen-minute long interview with Brian Devoil and Clive Mitten. The men that were once boys are now almost unrecognizable grown-ups compared to the Reading footage. They talk about the Reading gigs in 1981 and 1983 and the departure of Geoff Mann a couple of months later. Another extra on this DVD are the live tracks We Are Sane, This City, Fact And Fiction and Afghan Red recorded at the Reading University in January 1983. These thirty minutes of live footage are of a bad quality either. Mostly it's very dark on stage, but again the band is in good shape especially during the instrumental track Afghan Red. The DVD is completed with three slideshows featuring some live pictures.
Looking back at this release I must confess that I was a bit disappointed when I watched Reading Rock'83. I'd expected far better footage from this legendary Twelfth Night line-up. Maybe my expectations ran too high. However, the musicians on stage are not to blame and from a historical point of view I can understand why they released this footage. The die-hard fans now have something in their hands that feature the late Geoff Mann, but being a music lover who wants his music in the best possible way, I won't recommend this DVD. Except for the die-hard fans, people are better off with the bands latest DVD MMX filmed with modern equipment and thus a more professional release.
** Henri Strik (edited by Peter Willemsen)
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