BARRETT & NOLAN put a folksy, acoustic twist on the music of
Jeffery K. Matheus | Indianapolis, IN United States | 03/14/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Recorded in Poland in June of 2005, "A Rush of Adrenaline" is a two-man acoustic concert by Nick Barrett & Clive Nolan, two-forths of the prog-rock band Pendragon (a band who, it is no secret, rate right alongside Landmarq as my personal favorites of all the 2nd generation prog bands.) Of course Clive is also known for his extensive work outside the Pendragon fold with artists such as Shadowland, Arena, Strangers On A Train, and Nolan & Wakeman, and the set-list here wisely celebrates the songwriting talents of both men. What is great about this concert is that it allows us to see a different side of Barrett & Nolan's artistry - a more laid back, fun side. Watching it for the first time, I kept thinking that they seemed like 2 folksy coffeehouse musicians, simply making music for the sheer love of it - yes, this concert truly has that type of honesty & intimacy. We also see a bit of humorous between-song banter, which makes it easy to see that these guys are not just bandmates, but have been close friends since childhood. The show kicks of with spirited performances of two Pendragon classics, "The Walls of Babylon" and "A Man of Nomadic Traits" (both of which sound 'fuller' than I was expecting in the acoustic format.) Next is Arena's "Don't Forget to Breathe", and this version gives as a small glimpse of what this song might have sounded like if it had been recorded by Pendragon. (I really like the way that Barrett adds a bit of his own personality to the lead vocal line!) More Pendragon follows with note-perfect renditions of "Alaska", "And We'll Go Hunting Deer", and "Paintbox" - and I must say the intricate playing during instrumental second-half of "Alaska" is a sight to behold! In fact, it is a true testament to Barrett & Nolan's songwriting skills that the featured songs hold up so well in this stripped-down setting, even without all the drums, layered synths, and panoramic production fiddle-faddles. Oh', and when I say "stripped down", I mean REALLY stripped down! The entire show is performed with only 2 voices and two instuments - with Nick on a black Yamaha steel-string acoustic guitar, and Clive on a Roland digital piano. Clive also gets his turn as a front man when he comes out from behind his keyboard for some emotive lead vocals on Shadowland's "Mindgames" (It's a good version, too, and one that definitely adds to the overall "coffehouse/folkie" atmosphere.) Two more Nolan compositions, "Shadows of Fate" (from Nolan & Wakeman's "The Hound of the Baskervilles") and "Lightshow" (from the first Stangers On A Train album) help add a bit of variety to the show, and Barrett once again successfully adapts the lead vocal lines to his own unique style (although it does seem stange to hear "Lightshow" without the lovely Tracy Hitchings!) Next up comes an emotionally-packed version of "Two Roads" from the latest Pendragon album, "Believe" (actually, this performance came before the release of the album), followed by a folk-ier take on "King of the Castle" from the classic "Masquerqde Overture" CD. Clive then returns to lead vocals for a medley of songs from the first Shadowland album ("Jigsaw/The Kruhulick Syndrome/Ring of Roses") and although I'm usually not that fond of medleys, I must say this one is actually one of my favorite moments from this show! (I've always been a big fan of Shadowland, but less impessed with Arena...hard to explain why, though) The main set then draws to a close with 2 more Pendragon tracks; "The Voyager" (which proves a great showcase for Barrett's acoustic guitar stylings), and "Nostradamus" (a fun, stomping version with a warm, friendly vocal from Nick.) After a quick retreat from the stage the guys return for a breathtaking encore of "The Black Night", featuring some tight piano/guitar interplay. Again, this is a song that I didn't expect to work well within this 'stripped down' format, but somehow it does! I really like Nick's voice on this one, too. Especially when he pushes it into the higher registers. (I realise that some consider Barrett's vocals 'an aquired taste', but I guess I'm just one who's aquired the taste, because I love to hear him sing!) One interesting side note is that this show was actually performed as the opening act for another artist (new age guitarist Gordon Giltrap), and the audience was packed with mainly with older people who had little knowledge of Pendragon, Arena, et al. What's great is to see how Nick & Clive slowly win the audience over. There is just a polite reaction for the first few songs - but by the end there is some wild applause, a standing ovation, and even some enthusiastic audience participation during "Nostradamus"!...So then, any criticisms? Well, the cartoonish cover art is certainly a bizzare choice! To me, it just doesn't seem to represent the fine music we hear on the DVD (maybe I'm spoiled, but I've always liked the way that Pendragon's album cover images always tie into the lyrics.) Also, although the running time of this DVD is advertised as 2 Hours, the actual concert performance only runs for about 80 minutes (remember, a few of the songs are performed in slightly abreviated form.) Some decent "Special Features" make up the remainder of the 2 Hours, including individual bios & discograpies for Nolan & Barrett, a photo gallery, website links, and a pre-show interview. The interview is quite amusing, and can either be watched in it's entirety, or by using a special menu that allows you to access the various questions/subjects individually. All in all, if you are a fan of any of the musical projects of Barrett and/or Nolan, this concert certainly warrants a look & listen! If you also happen to be open to acoustic sounds, and don't mind hearing a different spin on some of your favorite prog epics, then you may well find yourself in for a true "rush of adrenaline"!"
Russ Bellinger | Bradenton, Florida USA | 04/06/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Nick and Clive have given us another twist on the songs of Pendragon, Arena, Strangers On A Train, Nolan & Wakeman, etc. Very nicely performed with class and style. Interesting banter abounds between various songs like the comments on the preferred alcohol by the two that keeps you smiling. It was great to hear some of my favorite tracks by Pendragon performed here in acoustic form like "Paintbox" and "Walls of Babylon" all played with precision and minimalistic virtue. Overall, a great show well worth seeing and hearing. An nteresting interview with the two long time friends appears in the extras. I found it quite amusing that they had never heard of Porcupine Tree - a band that is closely tied with Arena and Pendragon in the world of prog! Also interesting was to learn what a hotbed South America is becoming for progressive rock bands (check out SETI from Chile!) where Nick and Clive sold out two shows! That would be unheard of in the United States! Unfortunately for those of us who love and thrive on progressive rock there wasn't even a mention of playing in the States."