Arena - Breakfast In Biarritz

Year of Release: 2001
Label: Verglas
Catalog Number: VGCD021
Format: CD
Total Time: 114:18:00

This is not their first live disc from Arena (Welcome To The Stage - 97 & The Visitor Re-Visited - 99) and I doubt it will be the last, but this is the first one I have heard. With this in mind, I only have a couple of Arena CDs but this will definitely hold a towering place in my collection.

To begin with, it comes as a limited edition double CD set (disc one has 10 tracks and disc two has 3 tracks plus a 30 minute Arena documentary). But let's start with the music first. The 20 minute epic Immortal? piece (extended by a two minute introduction) "Moviedrome" opens the proceedings and brings a somewhat disconcerting beginning. I find a twenty minute opener to be somewhat, well, off-putting. I like to be led into an album, not swamped by its opening track. But, if it is a reflection on what they regularly do live then that is what they do. It's no major drama as the whole first disc is 70 minutes long and they integrate other lengthy tracks including an extended "The Butterfly Man" and "The Hanging Tree".

There is a nice blend of music featuring tracks from all of their studio albums although, whilst all performances are suitable, some may complain at Rob Sowden (v) attempts at John Carson's (ex-vocalist) and Paul Wrightson's (also ex-vocalist) material. To me, Rob sounds wonderful - a few missed notes here and there but nothing to debilitating for a live album. Plus, who of us doesn't like to listen out for minor mistakes or albums that have a raw/real feel to them. Special mention to John Mitchell (g) and Clive Nolan (k) who both do an outstanding job. Progressive rock & metal bands are unanimous in the attitude that the best live CDs show off how faithful they can be to the original studio recordings and unfortunately this disc, for the most, suffers from that problem. At the same time though, it doesn't distract from the enjoyment gained by listening to it. Given this, only a couple of numbers differ greatly from their original counterparts, namely "Crying For Help VII" which has the crowd chanting at the end of it.

Two final notes. Firstly, the bonus documentary is amazing. 31 minutes in length and featuring the current Arena line-up discussing history and the current line-up even though two of the members are relatively new to the band (Rob Sowden & Ian Salmon (b)), we get a pretty good examination of the band at work. Secondly, great artwork from Mattias Nor?n who's been doing wonders in prog metal/rock "arena" lately.

A worthy addition to a consistent band and for those who don't have the opportunity to see the band live, then this is a great beginning.

[This review originally appeared November 2002 at the ProgPower Online review site -ed.]
Disc One: Moviedrome / Crack In The Ice / Double Vision / Midas Vision / Serenity / The Butterfly Man / The Hanging Tree / A State Of Grace / Enemy Without / Crying For Help VII

Disc Two: Chosen / Elea / Friday's Dream / Arena Documentary CD-ROM Track

Clive Nolan - keyboards
Mick Pointer - drums
Rob Sowden - vocals
John Mitchell - guitars
Ian Salmon - bass

Songs From The Lion's Cage (1995)
Pride (1996)
The Edits (1996, OOP)
Welcome To The Stage (1997)
The Cry (EP, 1997)
The Visitor (1998)
The Visitor - Revisited (1999) (Dutch fan club only release, OOP)
Immortal? (2000)
Unlocking The Cage - 1995-2000 (2001) (Dutch fan club only release, OOP)
Breakfast In Biarritz (2001)
Contagion (2003)
Radiance (2003) (fan club only release)
Live & Life (2004) (box set)
Pepper's Ghost (2005)
Ten Years On (2006)
The Seventh Degree Of Separation (2011)
Live 2011/12 Tour (2012)
Arena XX (2016)
Contagion Max (reissue of Contagion) (2014)
The Unquiet Sky (2015)
The Visitor - 20th Anniversary Remastered Edition (2018)
Double Vision (2018)

Caught In The Act (DVD) (2003)
Smoke And Mirrors (DVD) (2006)
Rapture (DVD) (2013)
Arena XX (DVD) (2016)

Genre: Progressive Rock

Origin UK

Added: November 27th 2004
Reviewer: Gary Carson
Artist website:
Hits: 1067
Language: english


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