October 6th, Arena at De Boerderij, Zoetermeer.

How do you avoid falling into all kinds of superlatives when your favourite band has given the best performance you've ever seen from them?

No idea, just let me get started..

I attended my fourteenth Arena concert with a good friend who had never seen them live but mainly went along because Damian Wilson is the singer. And I can imagine that this can be a very strong motivation because Wilson is for me one of the very best singers in our beloved genre.

An extra exception this time was the fact that because of my "Bob" status I could not drink a beer and spent the entire concert on coca cola.(no sponsor, sadly enough) A sober look and therefore no reason for a foggy opinion.

Fortunately, the new live album Lifian was for sale and well, we  did it again, we bought a T-shirt. (Thanks Erno) You just have to support the band in these turbulent times and reward them for the courageous choice to give a few gigs outside the UK. Even two in Canada!

As you can read, I also saw them last year in Metropool Hengelo and I was already enthusiastic about this performance. But this time it was really a few steps better. Why is that? I have been able to experience quite a few concerts and have often witnessed the struggle to provide a decent sound for everyone in the hall and this is a very big plus for the Boerderij. This is probably why so many bands like to return to this venue and so many live recordings are made here for later albums. Also for me, as a man from the east (I did not say wise!), it is always a choice that I have to make, do I go for a prime location that I have to drive two hours for or do I choose an option close by, if there is one, and have to wait and see how the sound is.

While we were waiting in line we were surprised by Damian who welcomed everyone in line and had a chat with many of the visitors. Where do you still see that nowadays?

I have no regrets at all that I went to Zoetermeer again because the sound was just perfect this time and the band was in great shape. Although they are always critical themselves (I know Clive), I dare to say that everyone played almost flawlessly and that the mix of older and new tracks went very well with all visitors in the almost sold-out hall. It was filled to a very pleasant level so that you could move around very easily but still had a feeling of a full venue. So a big compliment to the sound guy, to the people from the Boerderij and of course, the band.


The setlist was very close to the one on the new live CD, and so last year's tour, but somehow everything just sounded better, tighter and Mitchell was back on track. The solos were very convincing and I think I saw a clearly more motivated Mitchell. Serenity sounded as good as ever and as always The Visitor was epic. I can't ever get bored hearing these songs.

And of course we can't ignore Damian because he is such a phenomenal frontman and vocalist. His enormous range and power fit so well with Arena's music and as far as I'm concerned it always had to be that way despite all the good predecessors. He was also a bit more relaxed compared to last year, as far as that is possible with him, and he seemed to feel more  at ease. He forced a little less and exuded authority and just sang great. A lot of the older songs really get an extra dimension with his voice and his intensity of singing. The Butterfly Man is a favourite track of mine and it was just awsome this time.

Given that the set-list hardly differed from last year's, I won't go into this further and refer everyone to Lifian! Folks, buy this album, you won't regret it. The eternal debate about whether Solomon should be played was, as usual, settled in favour of the audience and that is certainly nice, but I would be fine with other tracks being chosen for the next time. If I could make a suggestion, I would think of Ascension, Sirens, Purgatory Road or even the tricky Opera Fanatica. (yes I mean that seriously) Or rather, all four. Did I not mention Moviedrome? The hanging Tree is always welcome too. Oh, I would like to hear Under The Microscope in a live setting too. Well I guess I should stop now.

After more than two hours of pure enjoyment, it was time to drive home with a very satisfied feeling and in a kind of trance. Gosh, that return trip was much faster was it? Did I drive so much faster than? Probably so, but it was mainly because of the state of mind we were in.

I would say, on to the next album, another tour and above all keep everyone on board.

The photos used have been used with the permission of Marc Wijnands. Thank you Marc.