Mangrove -
More Or Less... An Acoustic Evening

(DVD 2011, 120 min, Mangrovian Music)

The tracks:
  1- Zone I
  2- Zone II
  3- Zone III
  4- Facing The Sunset
  5- I Fear The Day
  6- Wizard Of Tunes
  7- I Close The Book
  8- City Of Darkness
  9- Fatal Sign
10- There Must Be Another Way (middle section)
11- Love And Beyond
12- Voyager
13- Time Will Tell
14- Here Comes The Flood
15- Beyond Reality

Mangrove Website        Myspace

In May 2011 the Dutch progressive rock band Mangrove released Live Beyond Reality (see review), their first DVD in a series of three to be released consecutively. The third one will be a special DVD-show performed at venue Cultuurpodium Boerderij in Zoetermeer featuring the band's latest line-up. Before that one appears they released a DVD containing the recordings of the acoustic show More Or Less...An Acoustic Evening. At the time I couldn't witness this special show, but I asked Janke Rijpkema to review this unique event for me (see review). Reading the article of this live performance anew made me realize that I had missed something worthwhile watching. Fortunately they recorded and filmed this outstanding show which gives me the chance to watch it as much as I like.

The name of the show, an idea of their manager, has also become the title of the DVD. They released it to celebrate their tenth anniversary. On the cover you see two naked shop-window dummies − also on stage during the concert - symbolizing the kind of music you can expect inside the package: progressive rock stripped to its essence performed without the usual bombastic aspects as layers of keyboards, bass pedals and electric guitar solos. All the elements that are so important for the genre were left out. The music is performed in a simple setting strongly related to what MTV once called'unplugged'. It's comparable to Less Is More and Live From Cadogan Hill (see review) by Marillion or Magenta with Live At Real World (see review). All these recordings prove that progressive rock can be made and enjoyed without all the additional electric instruments.

Also Mangrove proved that it's possible to entertain a progressive rock audience in a minimal live setting. The two hours of music on this disc just passed by without getting bored or being distracted. The musicians Roland van der Horst (acoustic guitars, lead vocals), Chris Jonker (grand piano, keyboards), Pieter Drost (acoustic, fretless bass) and guest musician Aldert Glas (drums, djembe, conga, cajón) succeeded in playing fine versions of their complex album tracks. Even with the new arrangements these tracks still sound very recognizable. Only at the start of a song you sometimes wonder which one they're going to play. And in a few cases the songs got a more jazzy approach, but that makes no difference at all for enjoying the performances as I noticed on Zone 1 and City Of Darkness. It also didn't make any difference for me that the amazing electric guitar solo on Voyager was performed on the acoustic guitar. I just love it as much as the studio version. It shows what a competent guitar player Mr. van der Horst is. He even masters the drums which can be seen on the intro of Time Will Tell. It marks the beginning of an impressive percussion solo.

The other musician that impressed me was Mr. Jonker. He often proves to be a skilled piano player who doesn't need the additional keyboards to express his talents. Maybe it would have been a better if he had only played on the grand piano. However, the extra string synthesizer and organ parts sound very good and give the songs that special progressive rock sound. But what if these keyboards would have been replaced by a small string section consisting of a cellist and two or three violinists? That would have given the entire performance a more acoustic feel and even a classic touch! Well, maybe next time, who knows?

Some habits of an electric Mangrove concert remained like the eye contact between Chris and Roland while playing. Or Roland who couldn't sit still during the concert and stood up to make contact with his fellow-musicians and the audience. Finally I have to mention that Chris Jonker and Roland van der Horst play a perfect rendition of Here Comes The Flood (Peter Gabriel) at the start of the encores. I guess Gabriel would have loved it as much as the audience did. Maybe he would have been as speechless as I was after watching this entertaining live show performed by four musicians who were in great shape. I've got only one negative remark: they forgot to add the subtitles for the non-Dutch speaking viewers, since all the introductions are in the Dutch language. I hope that one day Mangrove will release this superb soundtrack on a double-CD. Then I don't have to switch on my TV to listen to this amazing concert!

**** Henri Strik (edited by Peter Willemsen)

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