Ayreon Universe - Best Of Ayreon Live

Ayreon Universe - Best Of Ayreon Live

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(DVD, Mascot Label Group, 2018)

In case you don’t know Arjen, he is not a touring artist, and really there is nothing wrong with this, aside from the fact that there is no chance to get to hear his fantastic songs live. For exactly the same reason, seeing a live filmed DVD with a setlist spanning Arjen’s entire musical career is a must-have for all of his fans. But there is more to that, aside from being a rare occasion; this show was a huge success (kind of expected, despite Arjen’s pessimism), so the production took its foot from the breaks and created a once-in-a-lifetime show. Fortunately, for the unlucky ones who did not manage to get a ticket, Mascot Label Group packed this performance in two DVDs (I think there is a Bluray version also), clocking more than two hours of music, plus some interviews and tryout footage.

Seeing DVDs getting released these days is a rarity, so when something comes out, it has to be special. In this case, it is more than that and - really – one look at the ridiculously long list of guest musicians should be enough to convince you. But it is more than that; the live recording features a 5.1 audio mix and even I am not an audio-aficionado/perfectionist, I immediately understand the huge difference in the entire experience. It is not over-selling to claim that this sound mix gets you at the center of the show, giving you some relief for having missed the actual event. Seeing Arjen listed as being responsible for this mix, I totally get how it came out so awesome. It goes without saying that picture and direction are of the same top quality with the sound, so the recording of the show falls in line with what Arjen has released with the AYREON and STAR ONE vehicles (amongst others). Content-wise, there is absolutely nothing missing and having all these guest singers make each and every one song a different experience. If you twisted my arm, I would choose the singers’ performance on “Star Of Sirrah” (how heavy this one turned out to be?), the amazing “Loser” with Jeroen Goossens’ didgeridoo intro (unless this wooden flute has a different name), the shivers-down your spine “Waking Dreams” with Jonas Renkse’s warm and most expressional vocals supported but the always mesmerizing Anneke van Giersbergen, before realizing that those mentions are still not enough… I mean, can you really leave out “The Castle Hall” with Arjen’s rare onstage appearance (come on, you look absolutely thrilled) or the fantastic trio on “Valley Of The Kings” featuring Anneke, Floor Jansen and Marcela Bovio making this one of the best versions of the song? Really, there is no way to choose among the best moments of this packed-with-music DVD as it feels like a collection of the best ones.

The picture is stunning and, as I already said, the sound will blow your socks off. On top of this, the filming was done using many cameras, and with the help of the direction, you get to watch almost exactly what you would, if you were at the show. I mean, a guest’s appearance, a guitar or a keyboard solo or even the backing-vocals part are perfectly synchronized to give the being-there feeling. One of the surprises was getting to hear the power and grit on Maggy Luyten’s voice which I think sounds way better live than in the studio (sorry, Arjen!).

This DVD is not for collection purposes and, in fact, it would be such a shame not to revisit it multiple times. The collection of the songs is indeed in a ‘best of’ sense, while the visual aspects reveals another aspect of Arjen’s music that only relies on your fantasy (that’s not a bad thing though) to materialize. Another thing that made a huge impression on me was the passion of every guest that looks like genuinely having fun, and not just another day on the job. So, this is a must-buy (I wonder how better the Bluray looks and sounds) and enjoyed in the maximum possible volume. Ok, I will admit that this DVD kind of makes the pain of not getting AYREON onstage a little bit more bearable.

PS.1: Even the booklet looks awesome with all the notes about every musician involved.
PS.2: I think I run out of room and skipped talking about the bonus DVD...





Disc 1
01. Prologue
02. Dreamtime
03. Abbey Of Synn
04. River Of Time
05. The Blackboard
06. The Theory Of Everything
07. Merlin's Will
08. Waking Dreams
09. Dawn Of A Million Souls
10. Valley Of The Queens
11. Ride The Comet
12. Star Of Sirrah
13. Comatose
14. Loser
15. And The Druids Turned To Stone

Disc 2
01. The Two Gates
02. Into The Black Hole
03. Actual Fantasy
04. Computer Eyes
05. Magnetism
06. Age Of Shadows
07. Intergalactic Space Crusaders
08. Collision
09. Everybody Dies
10. The Castle Hall
11. Amazing Flight In Space
12. Day Eleven: Love
13. The Eye Of Ra


Arjen Anthony Lucassen - Guitar
Ed Warby - Drums
Johan van Stratum - Bass
Rob Snijders - Drums
Jeroen Goossens - Woodwinds, Flute
Joost van den Broek - Keyboards
Ben Mathot - Violin
Maaike Peterse - Cello
Ferry Duijsens - Guitar
Marcel Coenen - Guitar
Irene Jansen - Vocals
Hansi Kürsch - Vocals
John Cuijpers - Vocals
Anneke van Giersbergen - Vocals
Jay van Feggelen - Vocals
Jonas Renkse - Vocals
Lisette van den Berg - Vocals
Marcela Bovio - Vocals
Damian Wilson - Vocals
Robert Soeterboek - Vocals
Tommy Karevik - Vocals
Edward Reekers - Vocals
Marco Hietala - Vocals
Magali Luyten - Vocals
Michael Mills - Vocals
Floor Jansen - Vocals