When reviewing the concert DVD "Out Of Chaos Comes Order" from the legendary neo-prog band Pendragon - who have been around in one incarnation or another since 1978 - it's safe to assume the reader and potential buyer of this DVD is familiar enough with the band to dispense with a rudimentary history of the band and their musical style. And although we might disagree on their positioning among the neo-prog pioneers like Marillion, Pallas, IQ, Abel Ganz, Twelfth Night (and others), I think we can agree that for their part Pendragon continues to proudly carry the progressive rock torch by building on their ever-expanding musical discography.
For my part there is a completely different dynamic to writing a review for a concert DVD then a CD. Unlike a music CD which can be popped into a player and enjoyed while continuing to perform any number of other duties - a DVD concert is a visual medium and commands all your attention. It needs to be both visually stimulating as well as a treat for the ears. So my criteria in achieving a positive review for a concert DVD is as follows: How is the sound quality? Is the performance a passable representation of the original studio recordings? Is the presentation visually appealing (some bands are low energy and statuesque, rarely moving a muscle - yet provided enough eye candy in the guise of a light, slide and laser show to more than make up for their stoic performance)? Interaction with the audience and how the band is received by the crowd. And finally, if this is one in a series of concert DVDs, how does it differ from the others - does it contain fresh material, seldom performed older classics, a balanced mix of the old and the new, or is it a repetitive rehash of play lists carried over from concert to concert? Another plus that adds to my viewing pleasure is the addition of supplemental material such as back stories and interviews, giving the viewer a little insight into the mindset of the performers as well as the backstage nuts and bolts that go into the concert experience.
"Out Of Chaos Comes Order" proves to be a winner on all counts, surpassing my expectations in both sonics and visuals. What separates a Pendragon performance from many of their stoic peers is the relationship the band has developed with their audience. Pendragon has established a long-standing relationship with the Polish prog community, and once again choose Wyspianski Theater in Katowice Poland to film their concert to an enthusiastic sold-out crowd. The intimate three-tiered theater is an elegant old world concert hall; each seat providing an excellent view of the band and slide presentation. The stage is spacious enough for the members to spread out and move about. And as in the past the kinetic energy both on-stage and in the theater was at a fever pitch on the night of the recording, with the audience joining in the familiar refrains.
Nick Barrett never sounded better. After all these years his distinctive voice has retained the power and passion so integral to Pendragon's repertoire. And I was completely blow away by the powerhouse performance of drummer Scott Higham. I can see why The Classic Rock Society awarded him best drummer of 2011.
As a matter of fact Pendragon cleaned house at the Classic Rock Society Awards by taking top honors in the categories of: Best drummer (Scott Higham), Best keyboards (Clive Nolan), Best Live Gig (Pendragon at the CRS), Best Track ("This Green & Pleasant Land") and Best Album (Passion").
Clive Nolan is a true prog/rock institution ranking alongside such keyboard legends as Rick Wakemen and Keith Emerson. He looks the part of a beer bellied biker or Meatloaf stand-in but this brilliant keyboardist has the stamina of an action hero. He has an incredible resume, appearing in a variety of groups - in many cases simultaneously: Arena, Pendragon, Shadowland, Caamora, Strangers On A Train, Neo, Casino, and projects like "Jabberwoky" and "The Hound Of The Baskervilles" with Oliver Wakeman. The guy is a performing machine. No wonder he's received the Classic Rock Society Best Keyboard Award in 1995, 1996, 1998, 2005, 2009, 2010, and 2011. Very impressive!
The 16 tunes on the disc are a balanced collection spanning nearly 30 years, featuring old favorites, newer tunes, and tracks from their well received 2011 album "Passion".
Bonus video on the disc includes an interview with Nick Barrett as well as two additional features "...Some Of The Order" and "...Some Of The Chaos". The two additional features are a chronological video diary by Nick Barrett of the European tour. "...Some Of The Chaos" includes some interesting tidbits of behind the scene revelations including a personal hand held first person account by Barrett in a sort of "The Blair Witch Project" presentation. Barrett relates an early morning next day account of a gig in Italy in which the promoter tried screwing them out of their money - so the band refused to come on stage until they were paid. Leading to a very uncomfortable situation afterward. To my surprise he suggests this type of thing happens often - and usually the band and promoter can come to some mutual agreement. Which means the band makes much less than first agreed upon. Having been in a performing band myself - but not one with the stature of Pendragon - I could relate to that experience. I was just amazed to discover the greasy double-dealing backstabbing promoters exist beyond the local bar scene and in the realm of larger concert experiences. So for all you struggling bar bands who find themselves getting hosed by shady promoters ... look on the bright side ... it doesn't end when you become an established recording artists. So get used to it.
I highly recommend "Out Of Order Comes Chaos" not only to fans of Pendragon but to neo-prog aficionados in general. These guys are among the best in the genre, and have been doing it for nearly 30 years. They have remained relevant by evolving and incorporating new ideas, yet staying true to their original progressive rock roots. If you've never heard them this will be a treat - and for those who are well aware of their talent ... it's well displayed throughout the disc.
Reviewed by Joseph Shingler on November 22nd, 2012