A Weekend With Ayreon's Arjen Lucassen, Erik Norlander and Lana Lane

Lana Lane/Eric Norlander – DeBoerderji, Zoetermeer,
NL – 27 April 01

I set off from Ipswich at 9am and made it to the venue about 6.45pm. I was
a bit later than I meant to be since all the waits for changes of connection
to the hotel delayed things somewhat. It had been two trains for the 30 miles
in England. Then the boat (Things have improved on since I last crossed the
channel by boat. It used to take 6-7 hours. Now it is just 3 30hr. I was very
impressed at how fast the engines jet out the water and the speed we were travelling
at. I believe the journey was about 120miles.)

Arjen and his running partner, Ruud, at Lana’s
gig in Zoetermeer

At Hook of Holland I was a little stump by the fact there was no ticket office
and no one to ask information from. I wonder around the platform then the Stena
line buildings and by the time I got back to the platform again a conductor
appeared and sold me a ticket (Hand written to my amazement). It was a train
to 2 stops away. Then a tram ride to the centre of that town (Das Haag or something
my Atlas doesn’t list it) and then another train to Zoetermeer. Taxi’s seem
to operate on the New York method of taking groups of unrelated people to similar
locations. I had a choice of two routes to Taxi’s as I left Zoetermeer East
station and after some local Advice it was suggestion I go to the wrong side
because there were never any Taxi’s the other side. There weren’t any the side
I went either. I asked around and was told there a button to push to phone for
a Taxi. One eventually came and took me and three other people. Two were separately
dropped off before me and then we crossed the dual carriageway to the side it
was suggested I didn’t go and I finally got delivered. I wouldn’t have minded
but I wanted to be at the venue for 6pm so this was a little frustrating. I
tried to arrange for a taxi to pick me up ten minutes later but it was booked
for 20mins later and arrived about 35mins oh well. The good thing was it was
a shorter journey than I had expected. So I made it to the venue. Yippee. There
was a fan sat at the door waiting for it to open but no sign of life inside.

Erik Norlander setting up his gear

I decided to look for a back entrance and found one and checked if Erik was
about and if I could go in. I could and did. The first thing I saw was the size
of Erik’s Keyboard rack. Rick Wakeman has one about the side of an old separates
hifi cabinet. Erik’s is about twice as tall and three times the width. Erik
was busy plugging in the reams of spaghetti like wiring. Apparently this takes
90 mins or so.

The next thing I noticed was the venue was very high tech for a place that
seemed reasonably I would say small but I guess mid-sized is more appropriate.
It holds 400 downstairs and if that many arrive they then open a balcony. The
stage was on the long side and there were bars on both the short sides but one
was kept shut behind curtains. Strangely there was a token system for drinks.
You had to buy tokens and then hand the over in varying amounts IE 1 for a coke,
2 for a Vodka.

Arjen and Ernst Van EE the drummer on the Final
Experiement

I mentally noted the Balcony was probably the best place for me and checked
that was OK. Later on when the gig started I found a man in a wheelchair up
there and his friend on a beer crate so I looked for a couple myself and had
the luxury of a seat. Phew!

After a few minutes Erik was called to a mobile phone so when he finished I
introduced myself and he then pointed out some of the band and introduced me
to Lana.

I then watched the soundcheck. I assume most of the individual instrumentation
had been set up so it was just a run through of a few segments of songs.

It sounded very good but very loud from downstairs so I ended up having to
use earplugs, which I never really like. I can’t recall if I needed them upstairs
or not.

Robert Soeterboek, Hans the man that released
Arjen’s first Ayreon Project and Arjen

Arjen arrived with Robert Soeterboek and it was easy for me to guess I had
the right person given his height. He was immediately very friendly and he introduced
me to a few friends during the night. Arjen’s brother Gjalt was there too so
I can now confirm he does exist and I am sure he is the real man behind the
music of Ayreon 😉 He is very proud of his little brother and seems to be quiet
into the prog scene. He didn’t really enjoy Bodine and Vengeance but loves Ayreon.

Arjen and Gjalt. Who really writes the music
for Ayreon?

Erik had been surprised there was a support band. I didn’t find out who they
were but predictably enough for a band I don’t know I didn’t think much of them.
Their set was about an hour. And it meant Lana didn’t get on until about 22:45pm.
I assume gigs in Holland are generally late by my standards.

The Decision to go in the balcony was wise. I had a brilliant view of everything
except one of Erik’s keyboards.

I should have asked what the set was as I have no idea what the first instrumental
was. Lane came on next to a loud cheer.

I have better Live shots of both gigs here

The next songs title escapes me too. It had lyrics like "Break the chain,
walk the path Forever More". (It turned out to be Escher’s Staircase from
Curious Goods)

I instantly took a liking to the way the guitarist Peer Verschuren was playing.
Neil Citron was originally going to do the tour but couldn’t make it. He is
a more modern guitarist so I can’t always relate to some his runs. Peer was
much more up my street.

Through the Rain was next up. Peer during one of his solo leant back into Lana
on his knees and Lana decided his head needed a bit of a polish with her scarf
she seemed to enjoy mucking about with him like this during the night.

Next up was Cleopatra. This is a favourite of mine so it was good to hear.

The pace was then taken up several notches with Rome Is Burning. Don Schiff
on his stick bass thing is really impressive. I have never seen anything like
it. He seems to play it with both sort of like a piano.

Neurosaur was next. Eric started alone and then was joined by Ed and Don.

Dreamcurrents followed this with Erik completely solo. Halfway through he did
use a backing track drum section. This is a bit strange for a gig when a drummer
is there but perhaps he was practising the song for the show in Bussem.

Lana and the whole band returned for Fly from Erik’s Into The Sunset. I had
problems finding this one as it sounded like Arjen Backing Rhythm and I therefore
expected it to be on Secrets of Astrology. Lana and the guitarist interacted
well he seems a bit of a character. When Lana is not singing she tends to wave
her scarf around etc to keep her looking active. It must be tough to find things
to do when you are singer in a band with long instrumental passages

Lana sings incredibly well live. It is hard to tell her from her recorded performances.
The next song was the ELO cover When Time Stood Still. I feel Lana has made
this song her own. I get so much more feeling from her performance than I do
with the ELO original.

Keeping up the mellow mood Erik and Lana continued with "Seasons End".
Now while Lane has improved "When Time" she has done an even better
job on this one. I just love this track. The lyrics come across so much better
than on the original Marillion version. Erik has a Da, da, dah sequence running
for the performance on this song and it works really well.

Watching Erik play I get the impression he is more of technician than say a
Rick Wakeman. He gets really wonderful sounds out of his gear and really knows
how to play but he doesn’t seem to be all fingers flying in the same way Rick
does. It is very interesting to see the difference. I enjoy them both almost
the same.

There was an Instrumental next. Probably Secrets Prelude. It had Ah’s in it
but Lane is just enjoying being on stage. Peer seemed to enjoy trying to shoot
the audience with his guitar. He was guitarist with Vengeance for a while so
I wonder if that is trick her learned with them or if it is just natural to
him.

Secrets of Astrology followed so it seems highly like that was the Prelude.
During the show Erik tends to have a Mic on his head. I hadn’t really appreciated
he does backing vocals. I am sure they sneaked Purple’s Stormbringer in to the
middle of Secrets.

Oblivion Day’s was topped and tailed by Pink Floyd’s "In the flesh?"

Don Schiff then showed of his Stick skills to a backing track from Erik’s Sequencer
(Don later wrote to me to clarify all the ‘Stick’ sounds that
come out on this solo piece, are just the Stick, and peddles I.E. no backing
tracks.
) Very impressive they were too. As I say I had never seen a 12
string Bass before and basically it seem to cover the whole range of Guitar
and Bass. Don also used foot pedals at one point to. I watched and watched but
I just can’t work out how he got bass and guitar parts going the same time.

A Rocket Scientist Medley followed this with just Erik, Ed and Don. I am not
a good person to comment on drums but I suspect this gave Ed a different work
out to normal.

Lane and Peer then returned for Love Is An Illusion.

Destination Roswell was next. I guess it was at this point I was thinking bother
I am not going to get my favourite Frankenstein Unbound. Roswell is another
favourite of mine though so never mind.

The band felt they had made a few mistakes during the night but I am sure they
are just perfectionists. They did a really great job at putting the songs across.

I heard the vocals and keyboards on the main floor was a bit difficult to hear
at times but from where I was with ear plugs (if I used them) it was very clear.
Lana is such a good singer live. She really does seem to get the notes right
all the time.

After the Show

The final song of the set was In The Court Of The Crimson King a King Crimson
Cover. I guess that shows there were a lot of covers in the set but they are
all ones that Lana has recorded so why not. It no doubt helps neutral concertgoers
appreciate the gig more.

The Encore Started with a short guitar Solo from Peer, which then became Symphony
Of Angels. And sadly that was our lot. I must admit in some ways I was relieved
as my body was so exhausted but of course my brain would really have loved to
have seen more. And get Arjen on stage too. I am just greedy though.

Spant, Bussem, Nl- 28 April 2001

I had no trouble getting to Bussem from Zoetermeer. Rosie Baron who I know
from the Rick Wakeman list her daughter and her friend offered to pick me up
from the hotel despite it being not exactly on their route so I was very grateful
for the door to door service. We got lost a bit but we were under no time pressure
and it was nice to see what there was to see en route.

We got to the venue, which was a nice place and checked things out. There were
lots of CD stalls in the foyers of the two main halls. Erik was already setting
up his spaghetti box. I was rather disappointed to find out he wasn’t in the
main hall. Instead he was in the conference room type location. A big one but
all the same rather small for the expected crowd.

No wonder Arjen needs the help of Erik on his
albums!

The festival was mainly for Electronic coma inducing music it seemed judging
by what I heard from the other bands. That is of course harsh of me but I do
like music to be active rather than soundtrack like. Erik and Rick were the
only "musical" acts there and I suspect a lot of people had come to
see both and ignore the rest of the festival. It was also well know that Arjen
Lucassen was going to join Erik on stage. Since this was the first time in 7
years Arjen had played live I think quite a few had come to see him alone. It
was therefore a big shame not everyone could fit in the room. Erik had been
a last minute addition to the festival since he was in Europe for the tour and
quite fancied performing to such a crowd.

The venue was not really suited to the performance at all. The stage was barely
raised and Erik could not be seen behind his 3 high keyboard stands. I get the
impression that even the bottom two keyboards alone were higher than Rick has
his. And I feel that if possible Erik should try and moving to a two high Horseshoe
shape so that he can be seen when he tours again. Perhaps this is not possible
or it is incompatible with the way Erik plays but it would be nice to be able
to see him 🙂 (Oh I just saw a photo and noticed there is a forth keyboard
on the rack on his right.  Bang goes my suggestion!)

Erik started off completely solo and Dark Water opened up the set with a gentle
atmospheric piece to get the crowd in the right mood. Then Erik really kicked
in with the excellent low-end groove of Neurosaur.

Dreamcurrents from Into The Sunset was next. This was more of a Piano oriented
classical track. This was very good to watch from behind the keyboards in the
sound check. It is such a shame that most of the crowd couldn’t see what was
happening in detail. Halfway through a Pan-pipe type sound was used and Erik
kicked off a drum backing sequence.

Erik Norlander

Next Erik introduced Lana Lane and we got Seasons End with the new backing
sequence. This is one of my favourite Lana tracks (Well Marillion really but
I don’t like the original even 1/4 as much.)

In some ways it was an easy gig for Lana but also it must have been a hard
gig as there is not a lot for her to do when she is not singing. I can see why
she carries a scarf to play with.

Arjen was introduced and they did the Mariner song. This has a long intro and
again it was hard for Lane to look busy. She interacted with Arjen and probably
helped him settle in. I know he had been nervous for days.

It cracked me up, Arjen was only playing on three songs and yet he felt the
need to bring three different guitars. I wonder how many he used in his Vengeance
days. Gjalt had joked Arjen wasn’t used to having to play more than 4 notes
in a row he had become so studio bound. I wonder what sort of effect it has
had on him. Thinking about it Erik had 7 keyboards for 7 songs so he is as bad.
At Least Arjen’s effect box would fit in a bag unlike Erik’s 6 foot by 12 foot
boxes!

Mariner song was very good. A nice vocal part and some nice moog too. Arjen
was just on an acoustic guitar and sat on a chair but he was clearly enjoying
himself.

Lana’s work was now done and it was time for Arjen’s showpiece Dream Sequencer.
Most unusual for an electric keyboard festival but wonderful all the same. Halfway
through Erik again kicked in a drum sequence and Arjen got really wound up.
Curiously he was still sat for this one. Erik joked when Arjen did stand up
for the final number he hadn’t let him earlier because he didn’t want to make
Erik’s kit look small.

Thankfully Arjen found the right place to plug
in during the gig.

The final number was the Theme from Space 1999. This was by far the heaviest
and yet several people said they enjoyed this the most. Arjen’s role was mainly
just chugging away on Rhythm guitar. Erik had the main solo lines. I assume
Erik enjoyed this one too as he could occasionally be scene stepping back from
his keys and smiling.

This was an excellent set. Far too short of course. It only lasted about 50
mins. Still that was 5 more than programmed.

I have a feeling Arjen will be back on stage before another 7 years are out
and with a set of his own or with Erik.

Erik said he would lack to go back to the festival next year and the promoter
seemed keen to so fingers crossed!

On my way home I saw a CD shop at a station and for the first time in my life
I saw Ayreon CD’s on sale. If only that would happen in England!

Joost Warners the man that introduced me to
the music of Ayreon, with Arjen and Lana

A person opposite me on the train to Hook of Holland noticed my Erik/Lana T-shirt
and commented how good they were. He had read about them in a Belgian Magazine.
I better I never get another comment from a fan outside of a gig setting again.
I hope I am proved wrong.

Robert Soeterboek, Me and Arjen

Time To Go!

You can see a video clip of Arjen and Erik performing The Dream
Sequencer here (At least while I have the Bandwidth!)

In case you missed the link above more photos can be seen here