November 20 2021 was a dark day in the history of progressive rock. Everybody who loves Big Big Train was in shock on hearing the news that lead singer David Longdon had died after a fall at his home. They were devastated and could hardly believe this was true. Longdon joined Big Big Train in 2009 releasing many excellent albums with them, along with many concert Blu-rays and CDs. Now one year after his tragic death the fans can enjoy another fantastic live release from the band. This release is in a way, a tribute to their fantastic front man who died much too early. Titled; Summer Shall Not Fade - Live At Loreley.
Summer Shall Not Fade - Live At Loreley is a Blu-ray and double CD set of the band's legendary performance at the Night Of The Prog festival on 13th July 2018 at Loreley in Germany. The bands appearance at the time is one of those "I was there!" moments for many of their fans. The full band in those days consisted of David Longdon (lead & backing vocals, flute), Rachel Hall (violin, viola, backing vocals), Gregory Spawton (bass, bass pedals, backing vocals), Rikard Sjoblom (keyboard, guitars, backing vocals), Nick D'Virgilio (drums & percussion, backing vocals), Danny Manners (keyboards), Dave Gregory (guitars) and Robin Armstrong (keyboards, guitar, vocals). They were on stage a couple of times accompanied by a five piece brass section.
The over two hours long performance is musically the best you can get from this wonderful band. It probably beats all the other live releases they have made so far. This even makes it more remarkable if you know that it was only the band's eighth live show in this incarnation. The thirteen songs played in front of an exited crowd, are done in an excellent way. Founding member Gregory Spawton said the following about their performance: “Our show at Loreley was a real coming of age experience for Big Big Train as a live band. The stars aligned perfectly for us. It was a truly magical night with the band performing brilliantly and a wonderfully welcoming audience as they and we enjoyed the glorious outdoor setting”. Also drummer Nick D'Virgilio said some nice words about this special show: “I have been blessed to play some amazing shows with Tears For Fears, Cirque Du Soleil, Spock's Beard and many others during my career, but the BBT show at Loreley was off the charts. It's hard to believe that this was only our eighth performance together. Every second was simply awesome.” Rikard Sjöblom, the band's guitarist and keyboard player, remembers David's performance well: “David was an absolute star, his vocal performance and the way he commanded the stage were both extraordinary. Loreley is an amazing record of our precious time together with him. The show is one of the highlights of my life.” I guess I couldn't agree more after seeing and hearing this amazing live concert!
A concert which has been mixed in both 5.1 surround and stereo by Big Big Train's resident sound engineer, Rob Aubrey. And he did an amazing job. Having a bigger stage to perform on certainly benefited the band, and I particularly liked how Aubrey had highlighted Hall's violin solos and Gregory's guitar solos to the centre of what is a very well balanced mix, especially considering how many instruments were being played. Lots of good use of rear speakers as well. I would say this is their best live mix to date. As for the filming I can also be very positive. The team did an excellent job. Many great close ups of all the musicians. Also the editing is brilliantly done. At the right time you see the performers play on their instruments. The back screen video footage is also very well integrated during the whole show. The location makes it of course look even better, rather than a small stage in a venue somewhere in the United Kingdom for example. The outdoor arena gives you a real live feel, daylight in the beginning that slowly turns into dark. It is as if you are present as well.
It's difficult to mention any highlights because the whole performance is one musical highlight for me. However a special mention goes out to songs the songs where David wore his special attributes. Such as on Brave Captain where he is wearing the pilot glasses. Or on Wassail where he is wearing his flower masque. These made his performance even better than it already was. Also the piano solo performance of Manners during Prelude & Fugue was simply extraordinary. Not forgetting that D'Virgilio did an excellent drum solo with the five piece brass section during the piece Drums & Brass. But I guess the absolute highlights were the songs at the end of the live show. During East Coast Racer and Wassail you just feel how the audience and band become one. Just amazing!
Only the highest rating is possible for this true masterpiece in audio and video presentation delivered by an outstanding live band. The highest possible rating of five stars is well deserved. Highly recommended! Get it as long as you can!
***** Henri Strik (edited by Tracy van Os van den Abeelen)
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