August 20th 2003
Tromprock Festival, Ter Heijde aan Zee, The Netherlands
Kayak By The Sea
On august 10, 1653, a big seabattle took place between The Netherlands and England. The location was near the Dutch village of Ter Heijde. Exactly 350 years later, that village remembers the battle with the "Trompfestival", named after one of the Dutch admirals. Part of the fesitvities was "Tromprock". Near the sea, just behind the dunes, a beautiful open-air arena was built, with a capacity of 7500 seats. And on the brilliantly sunny evening of the 20th of august, almost every seat was occupied for Kayak's special rendition of their rock-opera "Merlin-Bard Of the Unseen".
Before I describe Kayak's effort, I must mention that the first part of the evening was a concert by a regional orchestra plus rockband, playing Alan Parsons songs. Not bad at all, the arrangements were good, as was the lead guitar player. Pity that some lead vocals weren't that good (was it a coincidence that the sound engineer sometimes 'forgot' to switch on the singer's sound???).
After a lengthy break, Kayak took the stage at 22.15 pm. I have seen seven concerts on the Dutch "Merlin"-tour, including one of the the first try-outs and the 'grand finale' in Amsterdam. Thus I have seen the show (and the band) develop. But this time, the show got some new dimensions: The stage was three times as big as the average theatre stage, and the view of the dunes, the sun, the seagulls etc. gave it all a special atmosphere. But there was more: three dancers of dance company Opus One helped Kayak out in the Dutch theatres. But for this occasion, they brought along five more colleagues. They obviously had to use a large part of the front stage, so the band had to be moved back quite a bit.
A larger stage asks for more lights, and there were lasers as well. At each side of the stage there was a big videoscreen, showing the "Merlin"-pictures and live shots. It almost felt like watching a Pink Floyd concert! But perhaps the most striking novelty was the live orchestra that accompanied the band, instead of the recordings that featured in the theatre concerts. The fact that there were real musicians present, demanded a lot from drummer Pim Koopman. He, together with the conductor of the orchestra, had to make everybody start and stop in time.
There's not much to say about the songs that were played: it was the entire "Merlin" album. But the performance was unique and brilliant! Every band member seemed to have a good day (which wasn't always the case during the theatre tour). Singer Bert Heerink sang in a convincing way and (for a change) knew all his lyrics. Pim Koopman played tight, and was in charge of everything. Cindy Oudshoorn was good as always with her powerful and at the same time crystal clear voice. Guitarists Joost Vergoossen and Rob Vunderink also played nearly faultless, and bassist Bert Veldkamp just did his job in the usual, accurate way. And for everyone who doesn't know yet: Ton Scherpenzeel is world class….
To make the evening even more special, Toto-singer Bobby Kimball was invited to do the ballad Friendship And Love, together with Dutch operatic singer Petra Berger. Maybe it was because the evening was getting colder, maybe because it was not his own song, but Kimball wasn't really convincing. He certainly wasn't better than Heerink, but then again, it's not easy to jump on stage, do one song and get off again. Petra Berger has a golden voice, but so has Cindy Oudshoorn. So these 'special guests' were nice for a change, but their version couldn't come anywhere near what Kayak usually brings.
It is impossible to name highlights, as nearly every song was brought in a superb way. But my personal favourites this time were Niniane, The King's Enchanter and The Last Battle. At 11.45 pm the "Merlin" show was over, and Kayak filled the time until midnight with Starlight Dancer and Ruthless Queen. Then, to end it all, they played a messy (but still unique) medley of the Dutch and English national anthems (in which Joost Vergoossen got completely lost…).
Many people in the audience were locals who weren't especially there to see Kayak. But each and everyone of them was blown away by this concert. Being a regular visitor of Kayak concerts, I really couldn't spot any big mistakes. The band, the orchestra, the lights, everything was more than OK. This was a show of international standings, and it once again showed that Kayak still has something to say.
Merlin-Bard Of The Unseen:
The Future King
The Sword In The Stone
When The Seer Looks Away
At Arthur's Court
The Purest Of Knights
Friendship And Love
The King's Enchanter
The Last Battle
Wilhelmus / God Save The Queen