“Come with me now; be joyful. It is time to enter The Electric Castle!”
After the wild success of the Ayreon Universe shows in 2017, where an audience of international Ayreonauts was treated to a best-of selection of Ayreon’s most popular songs, the Poppodium 013 once again opened its gates to the gentle hordes in September of 2019. 2018 had seen the twenty-year anniversary and the re-mixed and -mastered version of Into The Electric Castle, and thus it was a logical step that this new live show centered around that album, a favourite of many. To the great thrill of not only the fans but the artists as well, Arjen managed to gather most of the cast members of the original album, and the most admirable substitutes for those who couldn’t make it.
The Main Cast:
Fish as the Highlander
Simone Simons as the Indian, replacing Sharon den Adel
Damian Wilson as the Knight
Edwin Balogh as the Roman
Anneke van Giersbergen as the Egyptian
John JayCee Cuijpers as the Barbarian, taking over from Jay van Feggelen
Arjen Anthony Lucassen as the Hippie
Edward Reekers as the Futureman
George Oosthoek as Death, joined by Mark Jansen instead of Robert Westerholt.
Where the harmonies on the original album were sung by the singers themselves, the live show features the magnificent Marcela Bovio, Dianne van Giersbergen, and Jan Willem Ketelaers on backing vocals.
One prominent departure from the album is the narration, which is performed not by Peter Daltrey, but by the fantastic John de Lancie, best known for playing Q in Star Trek: The Next Generation. Where the original had a very cryptic and atmospheric style, De Lancie took it upon himself to adapt it into a coherent and encompassing plot befitting the stage and the characters. Perched upon one of the towers of the massive castle that fills the 013 stage, he reigns as a not-quite-benevolent god, introducing us to the mortals that he is studying. This castle is backed by a massive LED screen, which shows amazing moving artwork, and features an actual LED-screen gate which opens up to let the artists on stage.
The artists, apparently determined not to be outdone by the set, are dressed fabulously, some with subtle hints to their character, while others have clearly opted out of subtlety. Edward Reekers looks mystical in a futuristic cloak and staff, JayCee sports a fur collar to complement his barbarian locks, and Damian Wilson has gone all out in tabard and armour, brandishing a sword. Bonus points for the corpse paint on Oosthoek and Jansen, who steal the show with their ghoulish antics during ‘The Castle Hall.’ With the story, the stage, the outfits, and especially the interaction between the artists, the whole starts to look remarkably like a progressive rock musical.
The band does an absolutely fantastic job of making the record come to life, thanks to the tireless work of Joost van den Broek (keys), Johan van Stratum (bass), Marcel Singor (guitar), Ferry Duijsens (guitar), Bob Wijtsma (guitar), Ben Mathot (violin), Jurriaan Westerveld (cello), Ed Warby (drums), and even Thijs Van Leer, who regales us with flute-solos galore! Robby Valentine makes a special appearance to once again lend his virtuoso piano skills to the Electric Castle.
After the original album is complete, the show proceeds with the ‘And Other Tales’ part of the programme, featuring a song from every Arjen Lucassen project:
Anneke van Giersbergen sings “Shores of India” from The Gentle Storm
Simone Simons sings “Ashes” from Ambeon
Marcela Bovio sings “Out in the Real World” from Stream of Passion
Damian Wilson sings “Twisted Coil” from Guilt Machine
Fish sings “Kayleigh” from his time with Marillion, the only Arjen-free song in the show.
Arjen sings “Pink Beatles in a Purple Zeppelin” from his latest solo album
And as the grand finale, Robert Soeterboek shows up to sing “Songs of the Ocean” from Star One with the rest of the cast.
But just because the show is over, doesn’t mean the watching is! There is an over 1,5 hour long behind-the-scenes documentary, and a full 1,5 hour interview with Arjen and Joost. Here you will learn about the history of Into the Electric Castle, the musicians he worked with then and now, and even how the castle was built. If you want to know more about the band or just how excited Arjen was to be able to work with John de Lancie, this is the place to go.
If you were lucky enough to snag one of the 12000 tickets before they all sold out, this is the perfect way to relive the experience. If you weren’t that lucky in 2019, the wonderful footage and sound quality will hopefully make you feel like you were right there, at the base of the castle.
“And remember, Forever.”
9 / 10