Arena, March 31st 1998
Stairway to Heaven, Utrecht, The Netherlands

By Jan-Jaap de Haan

Yesterday evening was a brilliant event again. Arena presented their new album for the very first time. About 150 people came to the 'Stairway to Heaven'-cafe in Utrecht to enjoy a 40 min. acoustic gig by Paul, Tarquin and Clive.

The atmosphere was very good. The guys made some jokes and it was all very informal. Arena 'visited' all of their albums, including four songs from The Visitor. Since this was an acoustic set, all songs were changed into complete new versions.

The crowd was very enthusiastic about the new material. Especially the impressive performance by Paul during new songs like State of Grace and Don't forget to Breathe, got well received.

Crying for Help VII was a familiar one, and people sang along... It was not the accapella version, but The Cry version, including piano. Whereas other songs were 'stripped', this one was, dressed up! Isolation got lost when the waiter in the cafe used a loud coffee-machine to make some cappucino !! Everyone laughed (except Tarquin), and Clive promised us to play a heavier version next time.

Solomon was a nice surprise... But after the quiet intro, the stopped. Clive shouted: 'Ha, we fooled you' and then immediately started Jericho, which was clapped and sang along. It was a wonderful version! The audience asked for more, but this was it. They only had 2 (!) rehearsals so there was no material left. Paul even had to use text-sheets for the newest songs! (Not many people noticed that).

After the show I bought the brand new Visitor T-shirt and I had my promo-copy signed. I even received Tarquins plectrum, he promised me last time (in Boskoop in August). The Visitor was played (from CD) in the cafe, so many people stayed to enjoy it. I had a great night. Pictures and a longer review will be shown at the Cage-pages soon ... till then!

Additional notes by the editor (Ed Sander)

It was quite strange to hear all those Arena songs in an acoustical version. Some very unexpected tracks were included in the set list. Who would have thought that heavier tunes like Medusa and State of Grace from the new album would stand up this well in a stripped down version with only vocals, piano and acoustic guitar ?

Paul once again threw his whole soul into the performance with great theatrical postures and faces, although sometimes dangerously balancing on the thin line between acting and making a fool of himself.

The Cry (heeeeeelp me ...) got a marvelous response from the audience, as did Jericho.

Let's hope they'll record some of these acoustical versions for a release on a (fan club) CD in the future.

A review of The Visitor can be found on the Reviews Page.


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