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Arena - Breakfast In Biarritz CD (album) cover





3.78 | 81 ratings

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Symphonic Team
4 stars And dinner in Amsterdam?

While Arena's first live album, Welcome To The Stage, focused on material from their first two studio albums, this second official live album focuses on material from their third and fourth studio albums. Only Midas Vision is present on both albums. The strangely titled, Breakfast In Biarritz, was not recorded in Biarritz at all, but in Amsterdam on the tour in support of the Immortal? album.

Immortal? had seen Rob Sowden replace Paul Wrightson on vocals and here Sowden for the first time on record sing songs that were originally sung by Wrightson and original vocalist John Carson. Sowden does a fine job at this, but he sounds best on the Immortal? material. Two tracks are taken from Immortal?, including the 20 minute epic Moviedrome that opens the show. The pre-recorded spoken introduction used here is not present on the studio version. Generally, I would say that the studio versions are all better than the live versions found here, but Moviedrome could be the exception to that rule. This has never been one of my favourite Arena songs, but this live version is very good indeed. The other song taken from Immortal? is the sublime The Butterfly Man, a very existentialist song about the (lack of) purpose in our lives and how desperate the human situation really is when you really think about it. Is The "butterfly man" God? (That is my personal interpretation of the song, anyway. There are certainly other interpretations as with many of Nolan's lyrics. That's what make them so interesting for me). The guitar play by John Mitchell is magnificent here and throughout.

The masterpiece album The Visitor, is amply represented with six out of ten tracks here being from that album. Regarding these songs, I must say that the studio versions are better. Don't get me wrong though, these versions are more than fine. But perfection just cannot be improved! A possible exception is the instrumental, Serenity, on which Mitchell gets his moment in the spotlight, and he really shines. On the studio album, this piece is more of an interlude. But here, it becomes a precious piece in its own right. Still, overall, The Visitor is best heard in studio form and in its entirety.

The show ends, as has become standard, with Crying For Help VII which originally appeared on the band's second album, Pride. There it was an a cappella number, but when played live it is treated with the full on band approach. Again, I find the studio version to be impossible to improve upon. But then again, the purpose of live performances and live albums is not to improve things, but to bring your music to the people. I would have loved to be there!

Though I strongly recommend starting with the studio albums, this live album is a worthy addition to any collection that already holds the studio albums by the band.

SouthSideoftheSky | 4/5 |


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