“No one would have believed
In the last years of the nineteenth century
That human affairs were being watched
From the timeless worlds of space
No one could have dreamed that we were being scrutinized
As someone with a microscope studies creatures
That swarm and multiply in a drop of water
Few men even considered the possibility of life on other planets
And yet, across the gulf of space
Minds immeasurably superior to ours
Regarded this Earth with envious eyes
And slowly and surely, they drew their plans against us”
Manchester AO Arena was a perfect venue to show Jeff Wayne’s amazing The War Of The Worlds, immediately on arriving at the arena, we was greeted by the stewards in a polite manner, they could not do enough for us, the security process was very smooth the lines moved really efficiently, the security teams were really helpful throughout. Once we made it to our seats (Block B5) I was impressed how good the stage was set up, there was music playing like a steady bass, kind of gives you goose pimples in anticipation for the show, there was numerous venue staff selling show programme’s in the aisles, there were numerous stalls selling merchandise for the show, well staffed and very reasonably priced, once the show started the lighting effects were superb, the sound was crisp and clear and the beats thumped through your body as the iconic notes were reached, during the show seeing the 50ft tripod martian descend from the rafters was awe inspiring, really adding to the incredible music being played live, the visuals were superb but did look like they were meant for 3D glasses as there was blurring around the figures on the screen, no glasses were handed out nor was there any notifications that 3D glasses would be needed, didn’t ruin the show or the experience, a further enhancement to the show was a bridge that was suspended from the arena roof that lowered during the show, offering a great new dimension to the show, bringing the cast closer to the audience. All in all the arena provided an amazing venue for the acclaimed show, the views were superb, the sound and visuals were 10/10, the cast were the show has had in its entire run, lastly the outstanding music compose and conducted by Jeff Wayne was inspiring, as good as his original from 1978, just incredible from start to finish.
Liam Neeson reprises his role as “The Journalist” with the very difficult task of filling the boots of Richard Burton the original “Journalist” from the hit 1978 recording, Neeson gives the performance a unique angle which to voice those iconic lines we’ve all come to know and can recite. His Ballymena accent is smooth and crisp as he delivered his performance, even though we all know the album, and can probably recite it in our seats, he somehow kept you on the edge of your seat waiting in anticipation as to what was about to come next? The way the holographic projection system worked was inspiring, it was as though he was there on stage, the choreography between him and the live actors was flawless and perfect. Neeson was worthy of “The Journalist” role and gave a performance that won’t be forgotten.
Justin Hayward the incredible lead singer of the legendary Moody Blues group returned as “The Sung Thoughts of the Journalist” firstly what a privilege to see him walk onto the stage, and at 75 years old his voice has not waned in any way! When he sung that iconic line “The Chances Of Anything Coming From Mars Are A Million To One He Said” echoed around the arena with a power like we were teleported back to 1978 and the original recording, his performance was flawless and crisp, his costume was superb, when he began to sing “Forever Autumn” I felt a sense of nostalgia maybe a moment of belonging, to see Justin sing as Jeff Wayne conducts just does not get better than that, incredible, amazing, nostalgic are just a few words to describe Justin Hayward “The Sung Thoughts of the Journalist”
Kevin Clifton (Strictly Come Dancing) joined the show as “The Artilleryman” his performance was show stopping, the energy he gave the role was unprecedented, running around the stage, down into the audience, across bridges etc. He really was fantastic from start to finish! What I found uniquely interesting was how he injected almost an air of childish innocence to the character, you genuinely felt sorry for him, you offered empathy when he started losing his mind, very clever way to draw the audience in, with such a moving and powerful performance, having seen Ricky Wilson and Shayne Ward play the same character, Clifton smashes it and then some by far eclipsing his predecessors, fantastic addition to the show, and I hope we get to see him again in the world renowned production.
Duncan James (Blue) came into the show as “Parson Nathaniel” a hard role to fill as the character is unique in the mixed message he trying to give during the performance, following in the shoes of legendary Thin Lizzy front man Phil Lynott, as well as Jimmy Nail, Jason Donovan, Russell Watson to name but a few, but he came in and gave the character intensity as well as being completely believable, his voice has a fabulous bass to it which really delves in to that intensity I’ve mentioned, he was flawless in his movement on stage. His interaction with Liam Neeson was a sight to be seen truly inspiring, Duncan James came to the show as a great stage performer with a brilliant voice, he left the stage as an outstanding performer from all aspects and his voice was legendary.
Claire Richards (Steps) joined the cast as “Beth” Parson Nathaniel’s wife played originally by Julie Covington then reprised by such performers as Tara Blaise, Sinead Quinn, Jennifer Ellison, Liz McClarnon and Carrie Hope Fletcher to name but a few, soon as Claire walked onto the stage for her performance she owned it, controlled and powerful, hitting her notes perfectly but also injecting humility to the character as she interacted with James as Parson Nathaniel, they both hit it off on stage with perfect chemistry, her outfit was fantastic and she carried herself with poise and elegance, Claire was a fantastic choice as Beth and I only hope we will see her again in this production.
The role of “Carrie” was reprised again in this live performance by the amazingly talented Anna Marie Wayne (Jeff Wayne’s Daughter) but lets be clear she got her part based on the incredible talent she oozes on stage, an accomplished actress and performer in her own right, her beautiful singing voice was perfect for Carrie, and gave the character meaning and sustenance, her notes were impeccable as were her interactions with others on stage, I would have been sorely disappointed if Anna Marie had only performed on VT! Seeing and hearing her live was an honour.
Nathan James as “The Voice of Humanity” and wow what an incredible powerful voice he has, absolutely blew the part away with his power, soon as he came on stage he commanded a presence, and you gave him your full undivided attention! As he went into his part and his power echoed that immortal line:
Sensing victory was nearing
Thinking fortune must have smiled
People started cheering
“Come on Thunder Child”
“Come on Thunder Child”
It made you shudder and absorb his energy, I’ve seen many performers take on this role and they have been good, but Nathan James owned and smashed it, I personally will never be able to envision somebody else as “The Voice of Humanity”
Last but by absolutely no means the least I introduce Jeff Wayne composer and conductor, he came onto the stage quietly greeting the audience with his hands raised and offering an appreciative hand clap, we have to remember that Jeff Wayne and his father acquired the rights in 1975 to adapt the work from Wells’s estate, which at the time was overseen by Wells’s son Frank. From there recording started between 18th May 1976 to 30th June 1977 at Advision Studios, Fitzrovia, London. The album was released on 9 June; four weeks later, Wayne said he was able to repay CBS its share of the album’s costs due to strong sales. In September 1978, the album reached its peak position of No. 5 on the UK Albums Chart, during a 20-week stay in the top ten. It has since been in the UK top 100 albums for 240 weeks, and has sold over 2.7 million copies in the country. In 2018, it was the UK’s 32nd best-selling studio album of all time. Elsewhere, it charted in 22 countries and reached number one in 11 of them including Australia, where it was top for seven weeks. In April 1979, the album exceeded platinum status in the Netherlands, New Zealand, and Australia, and gold certification in Canada, Spain, Israel, and Belgium. It has earned gold and platinum sales certifications in 17 countries. The album has sold an estimated 15 million copies worldwide.
Jeff decided to take the show on the road performing live shows across the globe, always complete sell outs whether it be medium concert venues or large arena’s, the enduring attraction of the album and the story living on from generation to generation, the music is iconic and legendary as is the man himself we can only thank him for giving us the privilege of sharing his work and living inside The War Of The Worlds and being submerged in such an amazing piece of work.
The band performing the music to Jeff’s composing was the following:
Black Smoke Band 2022 (current)
- Jeff Wayne – composer, conductor
- Olivia Jageurs – harp, percussion
- Accy Yeats – drums
- Pete Hunt – bass
- Thomas Gandey – keyboards, synthesizers
- Neil Angilley – keyboards
- Chris Spedding – electric guitar, acoustic guitar
- Laurie Wisefield – guitars, mandolin, autoharp, tar
- Paul Bond – electric guitar, acoustic guitar, keyboards, backing vocals
- ULLAdubULLA Orchestra
They were fantastic never missing a note, totally in sync with each other, some new added chords making the experience even more enthralling, the sound was pulsating the Ulla’s were deafening the orchestra took us on a journey all the way through the performance, outstanding from start to finish, in particular the opening overture was something else captivating. Truly fantastic to be in the audience and witness such outstanding performing.
To sum up what a magical and amazing evening to watch this show, everything was 10/10 from start to finish the venue, the cast, the stage set up, the martian, lights, sound and visuals everything was sublime. Seeing the 50ft tripod descend from the roof gave you goose pimples gave the whole performance substance and reality absolutely amazing. I did not hear a disappointed word from anybody as we filed out of the arena, a massive overwhelming thumbs up for the entire performance in its entirety. Worth every single penny paid which was very reasonable to be honest, if Jeff Wayne takes The War Of The Worlds on tour again, I urge you to secure a ticket, go and see the show and live the experience for yourself.