Universe - Best of Ayreon Live

1. Prologue
2. Dreamtime
3. Abbey Of Synn
4. River Of Time
5. The Blackboard
6. The Theory Of Everything
7. Merlin's Will
8. Waking Dreams
9. Dawn Of A Million Souls
10. Valley Of The Queens
11. Ride The Comet
12. Star Of Sirrah
13. Comatose
14. Loser
15. And The Druids Turned To Stone
16. The Two Gates
17. Into The Black Hole
18. Actual Fantasy
19. Computer Eyes
20. Magnetism
21. Age Of Shadows
22. Intergalactic Space Crusaders
23. Collision
24. Everybody Dies
25. The Castle Hall
26. Arjen's Speech
27. Amazing Flight In Space
28. Day Eleven: Love
29. The Eye Of Ra

The Cast:
Singers in order of appearance:
Mike Mills
Edward Reekers
Irene Jansen
Lisette van den Berg
Marcela Bovio
Robert Soeterboek
Hansi Kürsch
Marco Hietala
Floor Jansen
Jonas Renkse
Anneke van Giersbergen
John Jaycee Cuijpers
Maggy Luyten
Damian Wilson
Tommy Karevik
Ed Warby
Jay van Feggelen
Arjen Lucassen
Additional singers try-out:
Jan Willem Hetelaars
Paul Glandorf
Stan Verbraak
Ed Warby - drums
Johan van Stratum - bass
Marcel Coenen - lead guitar
Ferry Duijsens - guitar
Joost van den Broek - keyboards
Ben Mathot - violin
Jeroen Goossens - flutes, woodwinds
Maike Peterse - cello
Rob Snijders - percussion & drums
Peter Vink - bass
Arjen Lucassen - guitar

The Final Experiment (1995)
Actual Fantasy (1996)
Into the Electric Castle (1998)
Universal Migrator Part 1: The Dream Sequencer (2000)
Universal Migrator Part 2: Flight of the Migrator (2000)
Ayreonauts Only (2000)
The Human Equation (2004)
01011001 (2008)
The Theory of Everything (2013)
The Theater Equation (2016)
The Source (2017)

Executive producer: Arjen Lucassen
Lead Producer: Joost van den Broek
co-producer and storyboard: Lori Lindstruth
Production manager: Naomi van Hak
Project manager and press: Shanti Lalta
Stage manager: Leon Dona
Video filming by Panda Productions
Video production and post production: Jens de Vos
Cameras: Jens de Vos, Nick Maris, Jolein Arits, Jeroen de Wilde, Timo Vandiest, Jorgos Gilis, Erik Wijnen, Maria Munoz, Charlotte van der Bogaert, John Vis, Meriam Verkleij, Geert-Jan Schoonbeek, Bianca de Ruiter
Runner: Matthijs Vanstaen
Data: Cheyoban de Winter
Crane operator: Maaike Kuppens
Crane assistant: Roy Smits
FOH sound engineer: Niels Jensen
FOH assistant: Joe Driessen
Monitor engineer: Gino Krishnadath
Wireless tech: Freek de Greef
Audio recording: Dave Schinkel
Lights: Wouter van den Bosch
Spot operators: Joop de Rooy, Hessel Swarte
Spot director: Dick Zwart
Stereo and 5.1 audio mix by: Arjen Lucassen at the Electric Castle Studio
Mastered by: Brett Caldas-Lima at Tower Studio
Front cover: Lori Lindstruth, Arjen Lucassen, Roy Koch
Layout: Toy Koch
DVD/Blu-ray authoring: Scott Long
DVD/Blu-ray menu: Wayne Joyner, Roy Koch, Scott Long
Photographers: Cristen Brouwer, Tim Tronckoe, Bert Treep, Dorien Goetschalckx, Rik Bauters, Tom Dekkers, Mattias Kirsch, Laili Soeng Photography, Amy Wiseman, Irene Serrano, Justin Richardson and Amplified Exposure
Visuals: Wayne Joyner, Lori LIndstruth, Arjen Lucassen, Simon van Vegten, Yann Souetre
Video engineers: Rene Luijt, Lasse Groenevald
Audio recording engineer: Nick Partouns
Robots by Valk Welding DK
Robot operators: Marcel Dingemanse, Richard Noordzij
Robot film crew: Sjaak Boer, Pieter Meijers

Released 2018-03-30
Reviewed 2018-04-01




Arjen Anthony Lucassen has been quite busy lately with three releases in the last three years and this time it is a live release. It is the first time that Ayreon officially is brought to the stage; The Theatre Equation was released as an Ayreon thing but the concerts was not marketed as such. This time they had three sold out shows with people from all over the world visiting and the tracklist is an impressive showcase of what is possibly the best discography in the world. And I have looked at the mediabook release that holds CDs, DVDs and a blu-ray disk and I have been watching the latter a few times now. But it is not only the content, the book itself is really nice with good graphics and pictures, it looks great and is almost worth getting for the package alone.

Yes, it is a big production on all accounts. Big stage, super big screen, robots, 18 singers, 11 instrumentalists, 30 cameras and almost two and a half hour of Ayreon and Star One songs. And I can’t help singing along when I get to the brilliant River of Time from what is possibly my favourite Ayreon album 01011001 and I am pleased to see that there are quite a few songs from that album to be found here. I am also pleased to hear Merlin’s Will even though it comes in a very different style than it was on The Final Experiment but floor really own the stage when she does that song. The variation of songs fit this show perfectly as it becomes a very dynamic show where you never loose interest during the two hours and more it goes on. And one has to point out that the performances are quite brilliant from all artists that appear.

Really strong production the sound is excellent, perhaps the backup singers get too loud on a few occasions but other than that I cannot really complain. Perhaps Arjen’s speech is a bit on the long side as well but in such a strong show you can live with that. The video is quite excellent as well, well filmed and cut very well. There are some flaws in colour on some parts but not really much enough to be very disturbing. I think it is one of the best looking video productions I have written about, it may not have the same charm and intensity as I think the Live on Earth by Star One has but it is certainly a higher quality production. And it is hard to see that a live album with better musicians and track-list exists, perhaps it is somewhat rivalled by that Star One live release.

Energetic and great album and certainly a competitor for the top spot of the year, one of the best live albums of all time and certainly highly recommended. No real weaknesses, the small niggles I mentioned in the earlier paragraph are easily overlooked. And I think all singers do it brilliantly and own the stage for their parts but some of them perhaps stand out a little bit more and make big lasting impression. The first I come to think of is the duet between Hansi and Marko Hietala in River of Time but they are perhaps not standing out in person, like Floor Jansen who just owns the stage every time she comes on. And on the subject of the ladies, Maggy Luyten is another one that stand out in this collection of amazing singers. And there is one guy as well, Damian Wilson is quite excellent as well. It is just a wow-experience to listen to this brilliant album, Edward Reekers and Marcela Bovio are also great especially in Day Eleven: Love.

On the subject of the songs I think that River of Time is my highlight of the album but that is a position it holds in stiff competition because all of the songs are quite amazing. But if I were to pick out half a dozen that stand out a bit extra in my view I think that we should besides River of Time also mention Ride the Comet, Merlin’s Will, The Two Gates, Dawn of a Million Souls and Intergalactic Space Crusaders – but that is not an easy list to pick out as all of what we hear on this album are amazing songs. A plus also for ending with The Eye of Ra which feels like a great way to end an album like this – an album that is certainly a great showcase of what Ayreon has to offer, a good way to make a best of. It is also really an album and video that has way too much to be able to break it down into a short text, and it will certainly be up there when the best albums of 2018 shall be summarised.

Now, this is without a doubt the longest review I have written this year, but it is hard to keep it short due to the amount of content and brilliance this Ayreon Universe has to offer. It comes in great packaging, it sounds and looks great and I can also recommend the “behind the scenes” documentary with good interviews and insights that adds a lot to the one who likes Ayreon – it is very well worth watching and the same goes for this show. Excellent stuff and highly recommended for anyone who like the progressive rock/metal and especially to the one who likes Ayreon. It is an album you shouldn’t miss.




Label: Mascot Label Group
Three similar bands: Star One/Arjen Anthony Lucassen/Vengeance
Rating: HHHHHHH (6/7)
Reviewer: Daniel Källmalm

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