30 Years Of ‘War Of The Worlds’

A couple of days ago, the day of a long-waited concert finally rolled around. Last October, I purchased tickets for the stage production of Jeff Wayne’s Musical Version Of The War Of The Worlds at the tackily named and shamelessly over-commercialised Heineken Music Hall, here in Amsterdam. I don’t think I’ve ever purchased tickets that far in advance of an event before.

The multi-platinum album has been in my collection for some 30 years now. Nary a human-being, never mind an inanimate object, has featured so consistently throughout the passage of my life.

Although the music on the album sounds dated now (particularly the wah-wah of the rhythm guitar), the story is as fresh and compelling today as when the book was first published. And, whilst the music clearly hails from the seventies with its fusion of disco rhythms and bombastic prog-rock tendencies, it’s still eminently enjoyable.

I bought a couple of singles from the album back in 1978/79, but it wasn’t until a school trip to Rome with my Latin class that I was exposed to the whole album; repeatedly, incessantly, in the coach on the way there and then back again, so that the listening experience became inextricably linked with that one, brief period in the space and time of my lost youth.

Listening to it now, therefore, is not only an enjoyable and meritorious musical experience in its own right, but inevitably also a nostalgic excursion to a period of my life now so far removed that it, too, seems little more than vivid fiction.

The stage show has never travelled to continental Europe before. The performance in Amsterdam was to be the only one of its kind at the end of a UK tour, but the tickets sold out so quickly that another night was soon added. Somewhat later, a third performance was tacked onto the schedule, along with a night or two in Oberhausen, Germany.

Reviews of the stage production can be found all over the Internet, so I won’t go into detail here. Suffice it to say that I was blown away, particularly by how faithfully the sound of the album had been reproduced. That’s due, perhaps, to a decent number of the original recording cast having been contracted for the stage show, with Jeff Wayne himself conducting.

Sarah, too, for whom the music was basically an unknown quantity, enjoyed herself immensely.

After the concert, we picked up a copy of that very evening’s concert on CD and headed home, where Mina had been babysitting for us.

To our amazement, she had managed to put both children to bed with very little fuss and they had slept soundly for almost the entire evening, Lucas awakening only once, briefly, for a quick grumble before going back to sleep.

I ripped the CDs and we were listening to the performance again the very next morning. The quality of the mix was incredibly good and I’m very impressed by the fact that Concert Live can have CDs of a show on sale within fifteen minutes of the final note having been struck. That’s no mean feat and there’s no better memento of a gig than a high-quality recording of it.

The third night’s performance will be broadcast live tonight by Radio 2 and won’t cost you a thing.

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