Report: The Theater Equation – Nieuwe Luxor Rotterdam, 20-09-2015.
The works of Dutch prog mastermind Arjen Anthony Lucassen, a.k.a. Ayreon, have always conjured up images with their engaging stories. One of his most critically acclaimed albums is “The Human Equation” from 2004, telling the emotional and philosophical story of a man in a coma. He faces his past, present and his feelings and the listener slowly finds out what has happened.
Ayreon is known for not doing a lot of shows, so the dream of many, to see “The Human Equation” played live seemed a pipedream. However, this year the dream has finally come true with “The Theater Equation”, an actual metal opera featuring most of the original cast from the album and a few very welcome additions, thanks to the hard work of Yvette Boertje.
“The Human Equation” album is one of my personal favourites of all time, so I was very intrigued to see how they would bring it to live. Would they manage to do the colossal story justice? The theatre was filled up nice and the beautiful interior seemed an odd location for a metal show. But just turn those thoughts around, because this was in fact a metal opera and the setting proved to be perfect.
The lights went out and we heard the intro. Goose bumps started to rise and they would be there for pretty much all of the show. The stage was built to accommodate all the locations used in the story and the singers would be able to stroll through it and take you on a journey. Almost every singer from the album was present, or at the very least suitably replaced. Arjen’s part were sung magnificently by Jermain van der Bogt, also known as Wudstik, whom fans may know from the “01011001” album. Mike Mills from Toehider (and Ayreon’s “The Theory of Everything” album) was there to take over for Devin Townsend and the late Mike Baker, as well as filling in with great singing, as well as acting all over the place.
I was really interested in seeing how the lovely Anneke van Giersbergen could ever take over for Mikael Åkerfeldt, but god damn it, she totally killed it! Her voice really suited his softer parts of the songs. At first I thought that they had used the original recording for Mikael’s harsh vocals, but as it later turned out they were in fact done by Els Prins from Sisters of Suffocation.
And to top it all off they had a full metal choir made up of a lot of different singers who’d provide superb backing vocals, as well as take a few bit parts, intermezzos and they brought “Day 11: Love” to life. That crescendo of music was also the last song before a very much needed break to get our feet back on the ground.
After a short break with pretty much unanimous praise it would be time for the heavier part of the album and it worked out perfectly. While they were all singers foremost, they really did bring the story to life with their expressions, poses and the very apparent pleasure of being there. Just sitting here thinking about the music is making goose bumps appear all over again.
It’s hard to pick out the highlights, but I just have to make a special mention of Mike Mills and his portrayal of Father as well as Rage in the folk-tastic “Day 16: Loser”. He really brought the bastard Father to life.
The most spectacular moment was at the end, when everything came together in the pure eargasm of “Day 20: Confrontation”.
Today was a very special day, one that unfortunately not many were granted and being one of the lucky few brings you a few hours of pure happiness.
Actually, the most special moment was at the very end of the show and anyone who’s heard the album will know what that moment is. However, there was quite the brilliant (and not wholly unexpected) twist at the end. This will not be spoiled though, because a DVD has already been announced and it’s sure to be a real treat for fans! I can wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone with the smallest bit of interest in metal and even opera!
Text: Robert Popovic
Photo’s: Rik Bauters