Magenta & Friends - Acapela 2016 & 2017,
In recent years, Magenta's pre-Christmas performances at Acapela Studios near Cardiff have become something that all fans make every attempt to attend. Unlike their normal full-blown shows, this gives the band the opportunity to have some fun with their material and deliver unique, semi-acoustic performances which are very different indeed to how the songs usually sound. This 4-disc set comprises songs from the 2016 and 2017 shows on two CDs and two DVDs (which I have not seen, so this review is for the audio only). Not only does the band deliver different arrangements to some of their most well-known songs, such as “Greed” or the wonderful “King of the Skies”, but they also feature solo material from Chris Fry, Rob Reed and Christina, while this set also features the first ever live performances of songs from Rob's Kompendium project sung by Steff Rhys Williams.
When music is being performed like this there is no room for anyone to hide, and while there are many standouts throughout the whole album, one which really hit home for me is “Prekestolen”, the penultimate track over the two CDs. The first half of the song is delicate, with Christina’s vocals (as always) taking centre stage with some wonderful oboe (care of guest Karla Powell who plays a very important part on many numbers) and of course delicate piano from Robert, before it transforms into a wonderful version of “Bridge Over Troubled Water”. It takes balls to perform a song live which everyone knows, with everyone waiting to see if Christina is going to hit the notes, and of course she does with aplomb. The final song on the album is one of my very favourites, “The Lizard King”, which features some wonderful acoustic guitar from Chris, gorgeous bass from Dan Nelson, and sympathetic drumming care of Steve Roberts.
There are few progressive bands who sound so happy in a setting like this, but what really shines through is not only the quality of the musicianship, the depth and power of the songs, but just how much fun the guys are having onstage. Magenta continue to be one of the finest progressive rock bands around, who continually deliver in multiple ways, and this is yet another gorgeous example.