Image © Open Sky Records 2006
.: More Iona :.
Woven Cord (1999)
Open Sky (2000)
The River Flows (2002)
Songs for Luca (2003)
Iona (DVD) (2003)
Rotherham Rocks (2002)
University of London (2004)
Veil of Gossamer (2004)
Iona Live in London (DVD/CD) (2006)
The Circling Hour (2007)
:: Compilations ::
Songs for Luca (2003)
Songs for Luca 2 (2007)
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Image © Open Sky Records 2006
(13 May 2006) One of the challenges with a live concert DVD is that it is very difficult to capture the atmosphere of the concert itself when the footage is edited. This will have been a consideration for the wonderful Iona, whose music is very dependent upon the ambience it creates. The venue has been a major part to play, and the decision to use an intimate, small hall at the University of London has turned out to be an excellent one. And packed audience gives the music a very special boost. It was a long time from recording that very rainy night in November 2004 until release in the spring of 2006. We review Iona - Live In London (Open Sky Records / Voiceprint (UK) OpenskyDVD2, 2006) below.
We will deal with the programme itself in chronological order, and begin with the Special Features disc. While there are no other features than some relatively brief interviews, the main part of the disc is given over to the band's charming opening acoustic set. Thankfully, much of the between-song chat has been preserved, with Troy Donockley particularly funny, adding to the relatively relaxed feel of this section. The lovely "Chi-Rho" from "Book of Kells" kicks things off, with Troy and Dave Bainbridge on guitars and Frank Van Essen supplying percussion, before the ambience of "Greenfields of Canada," one of the pieces Troy and Dave play as a duo, with Uilleann Pipes featured for the first time. The subtle changes in Dave's synth sounds are also impressive here, and the piece segues into the lovely "Edge of the World," originally from Beyond these Shores. The serenity lifts slightly for some jigs, with Troy moving from Cittern to Low Whistle, while Frank doubles the melody on violin. "Today," which closes this 30-minute set, is given a near-perfect acoustic treatment, a programmed rhythm allowing Frank to solo on violin and with Joanne, as always, singing beautifully.
On to the main feature--and what a delight the electric set is. This section opens with two familiar pieces from Open Sky. The fabulous instrumental "Woven Chord" with its unison guitar / Uilleann Pipes is up first. This is a trademark Iona piece, beautifully performed, while the glorious "Wave after Wave" continues the set. "Inside my Heart" is up next, humorously introduced by Joanne and Troy. This is a personal favourite-- the tension of the acoustic section leading into an astonishingly powerful and dextrous guitar solo from Dave. Joanne’s keyboards are crucial, here, as they so often are when Dave is occupied on guitar.
Three new pieces continue the concert: "The Wind off the Lake" is strongly rhythmic and very Celtic, with Troy's pipes prominent before a chanted vocal section and a final guitar / low whistle coda. Next up is the charmingly gentle instrumental "A Dhia Ghleigil" featuring Troy on low whistle, while "The factory of magnificent Souls" is a more straight forward song, beautifully sung by Joanne and with Dave doubling on bouzouki and lead guitar.
The lengthy, multi-layered progressive classic "Encircling" from Journey into the Morn is next, followed by the final new song, the dynamic "Strength" which builds from a sparse beginning towards a hard-rock, emotional climax. The up tempo pop song "Treasure" continues the set, which is brought to a close with the stately "Castlerigg" leading into the high-energy "Reels" section which allows all members of the band to let off steam, with more superb unison pipe / lead
guitar work. There are four encores, the delightfully tuneful "Irish Day," the rhythmic "Bi-Se I mo Shuil Part 2," the lead guitar led instrumental "Flight of the Wild Goose" and the classic ballad "Murlough Bay."
Throughout, the camera work is tasteful and accurate, and the occasional cuts to black and white are nicely handled. The sound mix is first rate, and the performances are superb. It looks like very little "patching up" has been done, though some keyboards sound like they may have been added, though may have been pre-programmed by Dave on the night.
Each member plays his part: Troy shows his amazing versatility on a variety of instruments despite a heavy cold, while Dave's keyboard playing is matched by his astonishing virtuosity as a lead guitarist. Joanne's voice remains as stunning as ever, and Frank Van Essen is that rarest of things--a violin playing drummer, who could find a place in any band on either instrument. Phil Barker's bass playing is also remarkable throughout.
The audio track from the concert is also captured on a two-CD set. Iona Live in London (Open Sky Records (UK) OPENVP12CD, 2008) was actually released two years
after the DVD. Perfectly recorded with a full color booklet that includes stunning individual and group photos from the gig taken by Tim Martindale. It is a superb album.
Iona – Live in London (DVD) has only a few bonus features, but as a live
recording of a brilliant band at their very best, this long awaited live performance on DVD is superb.--Stephen Lambe in Cheltenham, England and Russ Elliot in New York