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Camden Underworld 18 April 2003

Pendragon opened the show as a duo and played an accomplished selection of their songs. Not knowing any I’d be hard pushed to give you song titles! Clive Nolan, a member of both bands, came on stage for keys/backing vocals on one song and they closed the set with a splendid version of the Beatles ‘All You Need Is Love’. I for one will seek out more of their music having enjoyed this acoustic version.

Arena took to the stage complete with a projection screen, which ran all through the concert mixing live film of the band with weird and wonderful images. The first half of the set was all from the new album ‘Contagion’, which pleased me no end as it’s the only album I have by the band! Vocalist Rob Sowden makes for an imposing figure on stage and tackles the old and new material with style. The band rip through the new tunes like ‘Witch Hunt’, the mellow ‘An Angel Falls’ and the ultra heavy ‘Painted Man’. The band are on top form musically, with Clive Nolan romping away on his keyboards (including the OTT keyboard driven instrumental ‘Riding The Tide’) and drummer Mick Pointer providing a solid backbeat. Guitarist John Mitchell has to be one of the best guitarists in the prog scene at the moment, he can switch from heavy rhythm parts to fast soloing. ‘Skin Game’ and ‘Spectre At the Feast’ both come over well live, with Rob Sowden again giving his all into the songs (liked his florescent green glasses !).

The second part of the set dusted of the older tunes such as ‘Serenity’, ‘The Butterfly Man’ and ‘Hanging Tree’. The band left the stage to rapturous applause and cam back for ‘Soloman’, then a second encore of ‘Jericho’ and ‘Crying VII’. Having never heard any of the band’s older material I was very impressed by the strength and quality of the songs. A very enjoyable gig and hopefully the band will be back later in the year.

Text © 2003 Jason Ritchie

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