support: PBII

Nov 19, 2011 - De Boerderij, Zoetermeer (NL)

Both the British neo-prog rockers of Arena and the Dutch prog band PBII had the same reason to enter the stage at 'De Boerderij', because both bands were promoting a new record. Arena was on tour to spotlight the new CD The Seventh Degree Of Separation, while PBII launched their new DVD PBII@BOERDERIJ.ORG.


Only a couple of weeks earlier I had the pleasure to witness a live performance of PBII at De Pul in Uden (see review). Therefore I guessed they would perform the same show while supporting Arena and they actually did.
Ruud Slakhorst
This time PBII had too little time to play the complete DVD and thus Cradle To Cradle and Fata Morgana were left out. They could have played them anyway since the guest musicians on these tracks were available. However, it seemed that bassist John Jowitt and guitarist John Mitchell were not allowed to guest during the PBII live show. They had to stay fresh for the Arena gig after the break. Nevertheless, PBII succeeded in giving a decent concert without them. Once again I could enjoy splendid versions of Plastic Soup, Changing The Habits and Loneliness as well as the wonderful voice of the band's new lead singer Ruud Slakhorst. He sounded even better than in October at venue De Pul. Especially the way he sang Book Of Changes had improved a lot. The sound at De Boerderij was also way better than at De Pul. PBII also played Never Old again, a tune from their new project 1000Wishes. It's a beautiful piece of music; a true progressive rock tune that ended a perfect concert!


According to Paul Manzi, the band's new lead singer, it has been six and a half years since Arena did a complete tour. Only occasionally they showed up to do a live performance like the Rock Ittervoort concert in April 2008 and the show they did at De Boerderij in November 2010. This
Paul Manzi
time they came to treat their fans to some old music and songs from the new album. The band had chosen to perform only a few tracks of the new concept album instead of playing the entire CD.

The Great Escape, the opening piece of the new album, opened this gig as well. It started with Paul Manzi's voice only; he looked like Ronny James Dio and sounded as a mixture of Bruce Dickenson (Iron Maiden) and Damian Wilson (Threshold). Soon the other band members followed. The Great Escape is a difficult song to play live, but they managed very well without making hardly any mistakes just as on the rest of the new material. Songs as What If ?, One Last Au Revoir, Burning Down, Rapture and The Ghost Walks sounded rather strong. Sure, most people weren't familiar with the new album, because it was put on the market during this tour. To my surprise some people already sang along with the new stuff. They must have seen the band in The Netherlands at the start of the tour when they visited De Pul early November or they got an illegal download.

Unfortunately the visuals were limited to the use of cardboard figures taken from the new album. No backstage projections or slide shows at all, although the light show was done well especially during The Ghost Walks. During this fine piece John Jowitt played on his bass pedals with his arms spread as if he were crucified.
Arena on stage with cardboard figures
The special use of the lights made it a magnificent view to watch! As I mentioned before, the audience could also enjoy the older material. To my surprise they played Valley Of The Kings from the band's debut album Songs From The Lions Cage (1995) preceded by a special introduction by keyboard player Clive Nolan about how he and drummer Mick Pointer met in a bar to form Arena. According to Mr. Jowitt it was a gay bar which was insistently denied by Mr. Nolan.

It seemed the band liked The Visitor (1998) and Contagion (2003) the best, since most of the performed tracks were taken from these albums. From the first one they did A Crack In The Ice, (Don't Forget To) Breathe, Serenity and The Visitor and from the second one the title track, The City Of Lanterns, Riding The Tides and Ascension. However, not only the musicians liked to play these songs as the audience went mad when they heard the intros. Being the singer Paul Manzi mostly stood in the spotlights of course; he's a great host who had no problem at all to keep the audience awake as he showed during the first encore Crying For Help VII. He not only introduced his fellow band members, but he also asked the audience to participate. Guitarist John Mitchell got a lot of attention as well. As always his outstanding guitar solos were a real treat to the ears especially in tracks like Serenity, the final encore Ascension, A Crack In The Ice, The Visitor and (Don't Forget To) Breathe. He even played some fragments from Still Got The Blues (Gary Moore) and Sorrow (Pink Floyd) during the encore section. Maybe this time Clive Nolan had a more supportive role; he only got his usual solo spot while performing the keyboard solo in Riding The Tides, but he certainly had a great share in the overall sound of Arena. Being the rhythm section, Pointer and Jowitt did their jobs properly keeping the songs together as if they'd been playing together for ages. This is of course not the case since Jowitt rejoined the band recently.

In conclusion I can only say that both bands gave strong performances making sure to sell enough CDs and DVDs to return home contented. I don't know to what extent John Mitchell was serious when he told the audience that no-one was allowed to leave the venue without buying a copy of The Seventh Degree Of Separation...

Henri Strik (edited by Peter Willemsen)

Setlist Arena:

The Great Escape
A Crack In The Ice
(Don't Forget To) Breathe
The City Of Lanterns
Riding The Tide
What If ?
One Last Au Revoir
Burning Down
Valley Of The Kings
Crying For Help IV
The Eyes Of Lara Moon
Ghost In The Firewall
The Ghost Walks
Bedlam Fayre
The Tinder Box
The Visitor
Crying For Help VII

Pictures Arena by Arthur Haggenburg

Click on the picture to enlarge.

Line up Arena:

(left to right)
Mick Pointer:
John Jowitt:
bass, bass pedals, backing vocals
Paul Manzi:
lead vocals
Clive Nolan:
keyboards, backing vocals
John Mitchell:
guitars, backing vocals

Setlist PBII:

Cradle To Cradle (Part One)
Plastic Soup
Changing Habits
In The Arms Of A Gemini
Living By The Dice
Book Of Changes
Never Old

Pictures PBII by Arthur Haggenburg

Click on the picture to enlarge.

Line up PBII:

(left to right)
Ruud Slakhorst:
lead vocals
Alex van Elswijk:
Michel van Wassem:
keyboards, lead and backing vocals
Ronald Brautigam:
guitar, backing vocals
Tom van der Meulen:

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