If there is one thing that cannot be denied about Arjen Anthony Lucassen, it’s that he has a very bold vision when it comes to his music and it’s presentation. In Ayreon in particular, he shows intricacy and complexity like very few others when it comes to layering, narrative and bombast. Perhaps less mind-boggling than much of his career, The Human Equation (InsideOut) certainly made up with its operatic feel and storyline. So much so it finally lent itself to a live offering (albeit still without the near reclusive Lucassen), of which The Theater Equation (InsideOut) showcases.
Rather than just a usual offering of a band performing live, The Theater Equation offers the album in a way it was meant to be, as a full performance. Thus much of the original cast reprise their roles, including James Labrie as main protagonist Me; albeit with some exceptions such as Anneke Van Giersbergen replacing Mikael Akerfeldt. Thankfully such replacements are hardly downgrades and perfectly encapsulate the feel of their adoptive characters and roles with aplomb. Alongside the strength of its vocal cast, musically this strikes an impressive balance between studio album quality and consistency with the feel and energy of the live arena. Together these elements give such an immersive and emotional performance through a detailed story that delves into many elements of the human psyche and emotional range, as well as the original album does through its narrative.
With the original album’s sheer length it wasn’t for the faint hearted per se, and as follows the live version will similarly mostly suit those who are already fans of Ayreon, or at least in tune with the world of prog. With the changes in vocal personnel however and the strength of the performance and lore, The Theater Equation makes this more than just a collectible for the diehards, but a piece that many will find worth in, in what is still one of Lucassen’s more accessible works in such a rich and deep catalogue.
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