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Tour 2009 UK: Reviews & Interviews, June 23, 2009

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Review: War Of The Worlds, The O2 arena

By Jon Massey on June 23, 2009 10:19 AM


Jeff Wayne's Musical Version Of The War Of The Worlds
The O2 arena


The Martians invade Earth but are eventually thwarted by prog-rock and the common cold.

The orchestra and band are seated, the audience is standing, waiting, there is an atmosphere of anticipation. 

Jeff Wayne, the show's composer, takes the stage. The arena erupts in a wave of applause.

He gets a greeting even the biggest names in music would rarely receive. 

But this is no average composer and no average show - it is a tour marking the 30th anniversary of one of the biggest selling albums of the last 30 years, half prog-rock, half classical, and all inspiring.

Wayne mounts his podium, everything falls silent, the enormous projection screen comes to life.

An army of writing tentacle-laden Martians are planning the demise of earth and we're going to see it.

Then, to the left of the stage, eight-feet-high and dominating, appears Richard Burton in holographic form. It is an eerie and startling moment. 

"Who would of believed," Burton begins. Who would believe indeed? Burton almost alive on stage looking young and fresh. It is something you have to see in order to really grasp.

Burton finishes and Jeff gives the sign and in an overpowering thrust of noise the orchestra launchs into The Eve of War, a breathtaking piece of music which, live in the arena, has a power the recording fails to capture.

The music is fresh and flawless and conveys an underlying passion that is clearly shared by the musicians and performers involved.  

Justin Hayward performs hit single Forever Autumn with a voice that is as faultless and crisp as it ever was.

As he sings, brown and orange leaves begin to float down onto the audience from the roof of the arena.

But few seem to notice this touch as they are so enthralled in the performance.

The first act ends with a passionate and show-stopping performance by Chris Thompson of Manfred Mann, followed by a blinding crescendo of pyrotechnics and lights that leave me filled with awe and wild anticipation.

For the second act the stage is a fiery red, writhing and moving, recreating the Martian weed that has covered the earth.

Through this mist Shannon Noll and Jennifer Ellison perform a 12-minute epic piece that holds its own against the offerings from many of the established performers involved with the original recording. 

Ellison is both serene and flawless, clearly a talent that requires more attention than she currently gets.

Watching her levitate and disappear above your head as her character dies delivers the show's most unnatural and impressive moment, there are no visible signs of any support - it is truly haunting.

The cast, musicians, and a beaming Wayne receive a lengthy, well-deserved, standing ovation for the experience in sound, vision and performance they have created.

For those who could not get tickets for The War Of The Worlds, Jeff Wayne has revealed to The Wharf that due to overwhelming demand, he has been asked to plan another tour - due to start in about 18 months. 


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