[DVD Review] Clive Nolan – Alchemy Live (2013)

Clive Nolan - Alchemy LiveClive Nolan.

There, chances are that I have your attention now.

You might remember the prog maestro from, oh, Arena, Pendragon, Shadowland, Caamora, Strangers on a Train, Casino and a number of solo efforts. You might also know him from the splendid Jabberwocky and The Hound of the Baskervilles, both in collaboration with fellow keyboard wizard Oliver Wakeman. He has just released his second rock musical Alchemy, and it flew by completely below my hard rock radar, just like Caamora’s She did back in 2008. Having enjoyed She immensely, though, my interest was piqued immediately when I heard of Alchemy, and the two cd’s spanning work hasn’t left my player ever since I bought it. It’s that good. It’s so good, in fact, that it makes Nolan’s 2008 musical sound like a mere dress rehearsal. And for everyone who missed Alchemy the first time round, here it is again, performed live on stage this time.

More a pre-cursor to the full stage production than an actual musical play, Alchemy Live gives us a good glimpse at how things will eventually turn out in the theatre. The downside to this is that we are presented here with a concert that awkwardly moves somewhere between a stage production and a regular concert. On one hand, we have all the players in (changing) costume and a few props like the chair standing in the corner of the stage, whilst all the singers remain quite static by their microphone standards with the band sitting in the back. This makes Alchemy Live a somewhat strange and sometimes even jarring experience, especially when compared to the more theatrically delivered She dvd.

Thankfully, the music and the performances make up for a lot here, and although the story is not the most complicated one, dealing with a cast of characters searching for lost artefacts in order to unearth the secret of alchemy, it is delivered with conviction and the appropriate amount of aplomb. And with a cast including vocalists like Damian Wilson (Threshold), Tracy Hitchings (Landmarq), Andy Sears (Twelfth Night) and Caamora’s lead singer Agnieszka Swita (awesome voice, if only she’d lose the thick eastern European accent), you cannot do much wrong. The music in Alchemy is a tad more bombastic than it was on Nolan’s last musical, and is a little heavier overall, reminding the listener of his main band Arena on more than one occasion.

Counting twenty-seven songs, spread over two acts, Alchemy is quite demanding of your time and attention, but it is worth it from start to finish, with great songs like The Unwelcome Guest, The End Justifies the Means, the amazing Anzeray Speaks, the two happy, mood alleviating stompers Quaternary Plan and Tide of Wealth and Alchemy’s undeniable West End ballad Share this Dream. It’s both musical and very accessible prog, as Nolan successfully manages to bring the best of both those worlds to the stage. The only real letdown is the understandably wooden presentation, which is inherent to having the vocalists trapped behind their microphones, as opposed to having them walk around with small and wireless headset mics. It’s a small niggle, but it would definitely make for a more immersive viewing experience.

In the end, though, Alchemy Live is a great set if you enjoyed the studio recording and would like to take a step further. It might not be for everyone, with the risk of being too heavy for the average musical lover and too poppy for the rockers amongst us. If you love Nolan’s work, however, chances are you will enjoy Alchemy Live. The deluxe box set features both the live audio recordings, the concert and a host of special features that make the purchase all the more worthwhile. In any case, I cannot do anything else than hearthily recommend this dvd. Now if we can only get our hands on a recording of the full Cheltenham stage production.

Label: Metal Mind Productions

Box set tracklist:

DVD:

Act I:

  1. Prologue
  2. Deception
  3. One for the Noose
  4. The Warning
  5. Amelia
  6. King Explains
  7. Desperate Days
  8. Planning a Break In
  9. Quaternary Plan
  10. The Unwelcome Guest
  11. Waiting for News
  12. The Girl I Was
  13. Highgate

Act II:

  1. The Labyrinth
  2. Ambush
  3. Tide of Wealth
  4. Jagman Arrives
  5. The End Justifies the Means
  6. Sanctuary
  7. Street Fight
  8. Amelia Dies
  9. Burial at Sea
  10. Share this Dream
  11. Treachery
  12. The Ritual
  13. Anzeray Speaks
  14. Aftermath
  • Bonus video:
  • The Making of Alchemy
  • Interview with Clive Nolan
  • Interview with Agnieszka Świta and David Clifford
  • Interview with Scott Higham and Mark Westwood
  • Photo gallery
  • Desktop images

Bonus DVD:

  1. Alchemy Advert
  2. Amelia Sting
  3. King Sting
  4. Anzeray Sting
  5. Jagman Sting
  6. Farrell Sting
  7. Milosh Sting
  8. Eva Sting
  9. Jessamine Sting
  10. Gardelle Sting
  11. Greaves Sting
  12. Muncey Sting
  13. An Interview with Clive Nolan
  14. The Fundraisers – A Tribute
  15. Zoetermeer Fundraiser – Covenant of Faith
  16. Zoetermeer Fundraiser – Closer
  17. Zoetermeer Fundraiser – Desperate Days
  18. Zoetermeer Fundraiser – The Warning
  19. Guitars for Alchemy with Mark Westwood
  20. Magda’s HandyCam Diary
  21. Clive Nolan Discusses the Alchemy Themes

CD 1 – Alchemy Live Act I:

  1. Prologue
  2. Deception
  3. One for the Noose
  4. The Warning
  5. Amelia
  6. King Explains
  7. Desperate Days
  8. Planning a Break In
  9. Quaternary Plan
  10. The Unwelcome Guest
  11. Waiting for News
  12. The Girl I Was
  13. Highgate

CD 2 – Alchemy Live Act II:

  1. The Labyrinth
  2. Ambush
  3. Tide of Wealth
  4. Jagman Arrives
  5. The End Justifies the Means
  6. Sanctuary
  7. Street Fight
  8. Amelia Dies
  9. Burial at Sea
  10. Share this Dream
  11. Treachery
  12. The Ritual
  13. Anzeray Speaks
  14. Aftermath

Bonus CD:

  1. Overture – Song of the Dark
  2. The Holy Bond
  3. Amelia (First Draft)
  4. The Unwelcome Guest (Early Version)
  5. Desperate Days (Soheila Mix)
  6. Ambush (Original Demo)
  7. Tide of Wealth (with Bass Milosh)
  8. Invisible (Victoria Mix)
  9. The Romans are Coming
  10. Burial at Sea (Original Demo)
  11. Sanctuary (Clive and Noel Mix)
  12. The Nightmare
  13. Street Fight (Original Demo)
  14. Snow Chase
  15. The Graveyard
  16. Final Chords (First Version)

Cast:

  • Agnieszka Swita – Amelia Darvas
  • Clive Nolan – Samuel King
  • Victoria Bolley – Eva Bonaduce
  • David Clifford – William Gardelle
  • Tracy Hitchings – Jane Muncey
  • Andy Sears – Henry Jagman
  • Soheila Clifford – Jessamine
  • Chris Lewis – Thomas Anzeray
  • Damian Wilson – Captain Joseph Farrell
  • Paul Manzi – Milosh
  • Chris Longman – Ben Greaves

Musicians:

  • Mark Westwood – guitars
  • Claudio Momberg – keyboards
  • Kylan Amos – bass
  • Ian Stott – horns
  • Penelope Gee – violin
  • Scott Higham – drums

Further Surfing:

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