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Arena (Classic Rock Society Awards Night) http://rocktopia.co.uk/media/reviews/photos/thumbnail/200x200s/35/77/8d/Arena-Live-CRS-Thumb-93-1552592142.jpg Hot

Added by Central Electronic Brain     March 14, 2019    
 
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Arena (CRS Awards Night) - Montgomery Hall, Wath-on-Dearn (UK) - 02 March 2019

Anybody reading this may probably be thinking, hang on, haven't I read this before? Well, yes and no, because Arena played at the awards night last year, although it was a little later in the year last time: April in fact, when they played the whole of 'The Visitor' album plus a few other songs. And they were going to do the same tonight, only on this occasion it would be the very last time they would do it.

The evening kicked off, quite strangely really, with two members of a Welsh band called Multi Story playing an "acoustic set", despite the keyboard player (Rob Wilsher) being surrounded by four of the tools of his trade, none of which were acoustic. I also do not know why there were only two of them, and if it was mentioned, I didn't hear it, and I apologise if that is the case. The material they played had touches of Marillion, Yes, Jon and Vangelis and a bit of the Blues, but probably more in delivery than style, all the songs being long, and "performed" by vocalist Paul Ford. I was not familiar with their songs, but two of them were 'Beautiful World' and 'You Turn Me On To', and one I was familiar with, 'I'll Find My Way Home' by, yes, Jon and Vangelis, although Mr Ford didn't even try the high notes.


Classic Rock Society - Multi Storey Live

This was followed by the presentation of the awards by none other than ex Move and ELO drummer Bev Bevan, none of which were given to me, but the guy stood not far from me got four, and he wasn't even in a band. One thing I need to mention, and that is that there didn't seem to be that many people here tonight, which was unusual for an Arena appearance, and an awards night.


Classic Rock Society - Bev Bevan Live

Ok, so now we got to the (for me) main part of the evening, the second appearance of one of my favourite bands, at the same venue, in less than a year. Unheard of. And the performance of 'The Visitor' in its entirety for the very last time. And the hall had a few more people when, coming on at 9pm prompt, the familiar strains of 'A Crack In The Ice' filled the room and we were off, with the black coated Paul Manzi taking his position of front centre stage. The stage was not well illuminated, as I had found out earlier that half of their lighting set up wasn't working.


Classic Rock Society - Arena Live 1

Still, with Manzi's appearance it all probably added to the drama as 'The Visitor' is a dramatic album, and taking on the guises of the various characters (a hooded robe in 'The Hanging Tree', a priest's dog collar for 'A State Of Grace', a "swag bag" over his shoulder for 'In The Blink Of An Eye', top hat and dark glasses for '(Don't Forget To) Breathe' and the white ruff for 'Tears In The Rain'), Manzi always adds something extra; their best front man so far in my opinion. And although there were some technical issues with guitarist John Mitchell's equipment, it didn't stop my enjoyment of favourites like 'Elea', 'The Hanging Tree', the Nolan and Mitchell duet of 'Serenity' and 'Enemy Without'.



Having completed the rendition of 'The Visitor', I expected them to go off and return for the encore. Paul Manzi did leave, and Clive Nolan stated that was to get his trousers off, and during that time there would be a question and answer session, with him asking the questions. Manzi wasn't gone long, explaining that he could not get them off, and they continued with two songs from 'Double Vision'; 'Poisoned' with Manzi and Mitchell on acoustic guitars, and 'The Mirror Lies'.


Classic Rock Society - Arena Live 2

This was then followed by 'Tinder Box' from '7 Degrees Of Seperation' and then 'Solomon' from the very first album 'Songs From The Lion's Cage', following which they left the stage. They then returned once more for 'Help Me', also from that first album.


Classic Rock Society - Arena Live 4

So that was it, the last time we would ever hear 'The Visitor' in its entirety live, that is (they said) unless someone pays them an awful lot of money. Oh yes, and Clive told me that the concept has already been decided for the next album, which they hope to release next year. Go and buy it, and go see them if you have the slightest chance, and support British Music at its best. You won't regret it.

Review and photos by Andy Brailsford


Classic Rock Society - Arena Live 5

P.S. Four days after attending this show, I had an email with some very sad news, telling me that the Classic Rock Society would be closing its doors for the very last time very soon. This is bad for many reasons, one being that they have catered to lovers of "Progressive" music for many years, when most people didn't know it still existed and would blanche at the mention of the word, as well as finding an audience for and promoting the smaller, up and coming bands of that nature. Others have now taken up the banner, and are publishing bigger and glossier magazines, which must show that there is still an audience for this kind of music, but none have done it as fully as the CRS.


Classic Rock Society - Arena Live 6

And I know there is still an audience, having attended the Roger Waters and Nick Mason shows last year, and let me tell you, there were more than a few dozen in the crowds. I did mention above that I thought there were not that many at the awards night, which is most unusual, especially with one of the legends of British Pop/Rock being there, alongside one of the best British Prog bands, who usually draw a crowd, and I am still puzzled as to why that was. Maybe Mrs May's austerity isn't over after all, or are we just witnessing another victim of apathy.


Classic Rock Society - Arena Live 7

I find that a little hard to believe as usually the people who like this music don't just like it, but are passionate about it. I have spent many happy hours at shows put on by the CRS, and seen some quite big name players, John Wetton, Camel, Carl Palmer, Rick Wakeman to name just four, and also some who have grown over time such as Porcupine Tree with Steven Wilson and David Kilminster who, last time I saw him, was at Hyde Park playing guitar in Roger Waters' band. A lot of their and other band's successes can only have been helped by the exposure that the CRS gave them. But sadly, this is coming to an end.

CRS you will be missed. Long live the CRS.

P.P.S. Rather strangely, at the point of submitting this, nothing regarding the above had been announced on their website www.classicrocksociety.co.uk, (fake news anybody?), so I would suggest just keeping an eye on it, in case things change.

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