Ayreon Universe: The Best of Ayreon Live (Mascot, 2018). In various forms-including CD, DVD, and/or Blu-Ray. Whichever version you purchase, you’ll get 30 tracks.
The stage is massive. The number of musicians is massive. The visuals are massive. The sound is massive. Some might even state—without exaggeration—that this whole thing is over the top. But, then, what do you expect? It’s part opera, which is always over the top. It’s part prog, which is always over the top. How could prog opera not be doubly over the top?
Then, of course, it’s all written by Arjen Anthony Lucassen, who is always over the top. Now, it must be at least triply over the top, right?
No, you’d be wrong.
In this case, one plus one plus one do not equal three—they equal one. One freaking incredible show. Oh, Arjen, you just get better and better.
As I’ve happily had the chance to proclaim here at progarchy and even in my several classes I teach on science fiction and humanism, Arjen Anthony Lucassen’s AYREON story is one of the finest science fiction stories of the last quarter of a century, equal to anything in any other medium, including film, television, and printed fiction. After all, this story spans everything from the ancient and medieval eras of earth to galaxies and consciences beyond our imagination. If you add in Guilt Machine, Lucassen’s solo work, and Star One—which I believe you should—the universe just gets bigger and more majestic. At this point, when taken together, Lucassen’s musical corpus is starting rival those created by J.R.R. Tolkien and H.P. Craft, especially in scope and depth.
How Hollywood, the publishing industry, and the graphic novel industry have not allied with Arjen is a great mystery to me. Come on, Netflix—Arjen has several seasons essentially ready for production. The story is there as well as the soundtrack. Imagine what the Duffer Brothers (of STRANGER THINGS) could do with Ayreon? Or, Adam Simon (SALEM)? Sheesh, talk about majesty.
And, of course, it’s impossible to mention Lucassen without nothing one of his greatest traits, one he shares with most other proggers but which he also excels—his perfectionism.
Intelligence, imagination, breadth, and perfectionism—what more can we ask in this insane whirligig of a world of the first third of the 21stcentury? Not much, frankly.
Being the lover of perfectionism, over the top music, and all things Arjen, I went for the super mega never ending deluxe package! Actually, I don’t think it was called that, but it might as well have been. It’s an LP sized book with 2 cds, 2 DVDs, and 1 blu ray; a really high-quality photo album; and a poster. Arjen also signed this copy.
As noted above, there seem to be an endless parade of musicians and singers, all having a blast. I tried to count how many, but I finally gave up. I’m sure someone knows how many were actually there, but I’ll leave that up to someone else to figure out. Of those I saw, I liked them all, but, not surprisingly given my own personal interests, I was most excited to see Damian Wilson and Anneke van Giersbergen (I don’t mean to be inappropriate, but, Holy Moses, she’s attractive!). And, the Master of It All, Arjen finally emerged on stage for the final song of the of the main set, track 25, “The Castle Wall.” Of course, the crowd went wild—as well they should have. During the encore, Arjen gave a heart-felt speech about why he does what he does. The speech just makes me love the guy all the more.
As I finish this totally inadequate review, I must thank Mascot Label. Progarchy will be six year old this October, and I’ve had to deal with a lot of labels. Mascot is nothing if not an absolute pleasure. They have treated us very well, and I want to thank them immensely for everything they’ve done for us. When I emailed the U.S. Director of Publicity, he responded within moments. Thank you, Jon!!!
And, thank you, Arjen! You are The Master.