1. Why did they make this album? What was their motivation for the themes they chose for this album?
No Man includes Steve Wilson and co-collaborator Tim Bowness. They have been around since 1987 and have released eight albums but had not released any videos of their live shows. Mixtaped serves the dual purpose of providing video of a show recorded at Bush Hall, London on August 29th, 2008, in front of loyal fans on disc one and a documentary of the band on disc two.
2. What message are they delivering through their lyrics and music?
1. Only Rain – Wow! What a stunner to finally play this. I wanted to watch and hear it all of 2009. Sometimes you have to be patient for the good stuff, especially when it’s coming from Europe and not yet released in the USA. Well it was well worth the wait!
This one starts off with the band entering the stage to the roar of the crowd. Gentle violins open this masterpiece giving you the presence that this will be something special and indeed extraordinary. Tim Bowness’ vocals reaching through the haze of lights and violin. Tim standing and delivering the peaceful, quiet lyrics of power standing at the edge of the stage, chandelier above, and the theater’s red curtain and decorated architecture surrounding. Just a perfect awe inspiring atmosphere!
2. Time Travel in Texas – Then Steve Wilson’s raw guitar bursts through the quiet serenade to rip open the seam and bring on the heaviest song this band plays and it really takes over. Wilson’s playing reminded me of some of Jimmy Page’s work with the mighty Zep. Amazing effects and you can tell Wilson is having one of his best moments of the show. Drums and bass begin to build the rhythm as Bowness delivers the rough lyrics in such a cool calculated way that blends so well with Wilson’s guitar echoes. They definitely have your attention right from the beginning. I am sure these two openers were an early crowd pleaser and probably a highlight of the show. The guitar work on this one is just incredible. Definitely the best work from Wilson on this DVD.
3. All Sweet Things – Lights up, and we get to see the backdrop of the theater stage. This is Tim’s showcase. One of my favorite No Man songs and a crowd favorite by the sounds of the crowd as soon as the melody begins. Tim has the best voice in prog IMHO and he really delivers as well live as when you hear this on CD. On DVD you get to see the emotional care in the delivery of each of these lyrics. The care and precision is as wonderful to watch as it is to hear. The piano on this song is also another great highlight. The violin is a constant warming effect to all of their music and to finally see it live is truly a gift.
4. Pretty Genius – Steve switches guitars from acoustic back to electric for this one. The cool jazzy vibe of the bass is wonderful. Tim delivering the lyrics again with such precision. All guitars blazing with great support of drums, keys and violin. Another favorite song and they deliver it with plenty of enthusiasm. When you get to see the crowd, you can see them grooving to this one.
5. All the Blue Changes – Another Tim Bowness showcase off All Together We’re Stranger. The piano opens to set the tone for another brilliant song. When Steve’s guitar finally enters it is strummed with accuracy. Then guitars and percussion kick in to build tempo as another of Wilson’s best guitar riffs rips through the air to create drama and effect.
6. Truenorth – One of the band’s most famous tracks. That keyboard opening is so distinctive and perfect, like falling snow. “You survived another winter.” Tim’s vocals again steal the show. Just incredible to watch him deliver the power of these lyrics. Improves the appreciation of the music beyond just hearing on CD. The electric violin and strings supporting the guitars and percussion. The presence of the bass is everywhere. The violin before “you survive yourself”, just lifts the song so perfectly.
7. Wherever There is Light – Another of my favorite songs, and they do a wonderful job of making it sound perfect. The keys are wonderful as are the violins. But this is Bowness’ stage and he delivers the power of the lyrics precisely. Almost impossible to describe the quiet power of this music. It has feeling and soul and must be appreciated first person. The lyrics have so much meaning and depth.
8. Days in the Trees – Drums and acoustic guitars open this before the violin pours in. Then Tim takes over with vocals that now draw the attention of the band itself. Probably wondering like me and the audience how he can keep this powerful emotional performance going. The violin strings are great on this one as well.
9. Lighthouse – Soft drums and then bass open this fantastic song off the Returning Jesus album. “Come to me and make it special.” “Come to me and make me feel.” “Shine your bright light over me and help me see.” The power in the delivery of the vocals on this one is incredible. The guitar solos and bass interactions along with drums and violin working together to build a jam are just awesome. Then Steve’s guitar solo riffs rip through the building crescendo, just before it all cools down to a jazzy interlude. Another of the many highlights of this DVD and the RJ album.
10. Carolina Skeletons – Another fan favorite. The piano at the beginning tells you which song is coming. Then that lifting guitar riff that helps you settle back and relax into an almost dream state. Those cool guitar riffs come in and out at just the right time during the song.
11. Returning Jesus – Another of my personal favorites. Those cool percussion sound effects that open this one along with the quiet violin. “Slow it all down.” Yeah, we always move to fast and this one really helps take away the rush every time I need to be reminded. Time is precious and they treat it with unbelievable respect on the album and it carries over here in this performance. The emotion is translated so well. Then the instrumental begins and completes the song. The crowd roars in reverence.
12. Mixtaped – The DVD title track. Slow guitar plucked before Wilson’s soaring riff takes over with great support of percussion and bass. The closing song off their last album Schoolyard Ghosts. “You’d kill for that feeling once again.” Yeh, Tim can express the feeling in those lyrics so well. The soaring guitar solos and riffs Steve plays are also grand highlights of this song. “You’re scaling the mountains, crossing the plains, afloat on the ocean, avoiding the rain.” “Dare to believe, dare to believe in silence.” “Dare to believe, dare to believe in noise.”
13. Things Changed – There is a shot of the full crowd and the theater as this and the next song make up the two encores. The band re- takes the stage and introduces original electronic violinist Ben Coleman to the roar of the crowd. “I remember when heaven's lips kissed your every word.” “I pretended nothing you said could ever hurt.” Coleman’s violin solos is worth every minute and make an already great song even better. The bass and Wilson’s guitar riffs on this song off Flowermouth, are excellent. Then the jam begins and with Coleman and Wilson and we are treated to an awesome spectacle of sound. The almost dueling guitar/electric violin is really a powerful closer. Wilson’s excitement is no longer contained as he lets the guitar roar! But we’re not done yet…
14. Watching Over Me – Coleman and the band exit, but quickly return to end the show with this cool ambient/jazz song off Flowermouth. The instrumental section is brilliant and leaves you with that warm comfortable feeling their music has a way of creating. The band bows and a brilliant representation of some of their best works have been brought to you live and with a ton of feeling and emotion.
Documentary – This documentary is stellar. It retells the No Man story from the beginning with each and every turn the band has taken over their career. It should be a template all bands use. If you missed the full story of No Man, this documentary will get you caught up in a hurry. Pictures, never before seen footage, interviews, radio excerpts and a painstakingly well documented road to the present day, including some slight glimpses into the future.
3. Does this music improve, change, or add to the genre? What does the listener receive from listening to the music?
Watching these guys perform this intricate and emotional music live is really a treat for any fan. Their ability to bring the emotion with the precision sound of their albums really makes this one of the best DVDs of 2009, IMHO. They know how to reproduce the power and majesty of the sound they create on their CDs, live.
Not the usual Neoprog sound of England. No Porcupine Tree here, just amazing music which borrows more from the classics and jazz than any prog dinosaurs. They definitely have carved out their own sound and despite the difficulties they discuss on the documentary, have held strong to the mission of creating music they are proud of. This is the first show I have ever seen and I really hope it isn’t the last. Two consummate professionals delivering heartfelt lyrics with fantastic supporting instrumentation.
They picked the perfect acoustic theater with a classic backdrop, with their own loyal English fans supporting. They picked this theater well, because the acoustics are perfect. It matches the perfection displayed on stage. You really feel you have experienced more than a concert after this performance. You feel like you have been part of an emotional experience. Now you can see as well as feel and hear the quality that goes into this music. The power in the silence from this emotional music is just unsurpassed by any other band in the genre.
4. Does it have longevity? Is it something a fan will like to play again and again?
Absolutely, one of my favorite DVDs of 2009.
Rating: 10/10 – I cannot find anything I’d change except to include the songs “Song of the Surf“, “No Defense“, “River Song“, and “River Run“.
Reviewed by Prof on February 7th, 2010