This latest work by progsters Dreamwalkers Inc was recorded live at the Parktheater, Alphen aan den Rijn at the end of August 2019. I am fortunate to have been witness to Dreamwalkers Inc’s first live performance, an acoustic set in 2016, and even now recall the joy and energy of it. I wasn’t sure how this energy was going to transcend the impersonality of a download or a cd, but this is what I was going to find out. It was nice to be re-united with some of the band’s intense and delicate prog songs, while becoming acquainted with some new visions from their world.
The opening song “Chameleon” begins with a quiet duet. It’s simple but thoughtful. The piano plays quietly. From a sprinkling of synth, away we go into high energy guitar. Tom and his female chorus capture restlessness, alienation and uncertainty. “Chameleon” finishes with a flourish. A quick “Dank u wel” and we’re “Surface Scratching”. With a typical symphonic-styled intro, vocalist and leader Tom de Wit launches into his narrative. The words are clear, like an articulate and expressive synopsis of Tom’s view of the world. The music belts on as Tom introduces “Happy Day”. The prog bombast is there. Tom and his singing partner duet once more, as the band plays merrily. “Dirge” is a song I remember well from “The Antithetic Affiliation”. This was the highlight so far. It’s a melancholic song but delivered with great emotional expression by Tom, and supported by luxurious instrumentals.
“Lovesong” is evidently a song that Tom likes as it’s on a couple previous works and now here. It’s a floaty, dreamy, airy thing and altogether a lightweight prog song. Saying it’s “nice” is faint praise, but it just isn’t more than that to me. Let’s leave it at that. Contrast this to the sensitivity of “My Room”, which is a heartfelt narrative with classic prog accompaniment – why do I want to pay more attention to this one than “Lovesong”? It’s a mystery. So, to “Aphrodisia”, the title of Dreamwalkers Inc’s 2016 ep and a dynamic piece of prog metal. By far the heaviest piece so far, it has a Hakenesque quirkiness, and an utterly urgent and playful energy – great musicianship, expressive vocals and terrific theatre. Now this is what I call imagination. Lovely harmonies too. Then comes the 22 minute epic “The More We Remember” from the “Antithetic Affiliation” album. I must confess I’ve struggled with this one in the past. As we hit a climax, and Tom’s hey – hey invited crowd reaction, it was disappointing not to hear any. Yet there’s plenty of gusto here. This was the most vivid and dynamic interpretation I’ve heard of this song. Progsville Inc pull everything together and put on a glittering display of imaginative prog musicianship and flamboyant vocal gymnastics. Prog is about feeling, and I had the same sensation that I would have if I was at a London West End show, where colourful images and musical theatre unfold in front of my eyes, except that I had to imagine here what I was seeing of course. Tom and his supporting cast play their part. There is anger, there is emotion, there is tension and there is drama aplenty. A night at the theatre indeed. “New Strength” could only be an anti climax, but Tom and co are sailing now, and the prog energy is now equal to and even greater than the septet that are creating it. Not unexpectedly the set closes with “Anthem”. It is one of those unstoppable songs, in keeping with the three songs that go before it. The flamboyance is capped by the sing-a-long chorus, and this is perfect for making an audience feel good and happy as they go home.
Live albums used to be the pits at one time, but not anymore. The production here is fine, if at times it sounds a bit hollow. Apart from Tom thanking the crowd before they thanked him – in fact the crowd seemed very reserved – and a few exhortations in Dutch, this wasn’t the most obvious live album until the monstrous “The More We Remember”. This needs a video really. Well there is one out there of “New Strength” if you fancy it. If you don’t know the works of Dreamwalkers Inc, this is like a Greatest Hits. The music and lyrics are for a certain type of sensitive soul, with the power coming in the latter part of this collection. “A Night at the Theatre” is mature, occasionally playful, very prog but packed with content, tight and an altogether invigorating experience.
(8/10 Andrew Doherty)
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