There’s always been an intrinsic sense of drama about Ayreon’s music. Created by Arjen Lucassen, their eight albums have included a ludicrous number of guest musicians, who add their own quirks to recordings which give a prog twist to rock opera. In a genre that’s ridiculed for pomposity and disastrous theatrics, Ayreon have maintained an unaffected consistency, generally free from those glaring pitfalls. Yet these albums have never been performed on stage, due to the logistics of gathering together the musicians required. However, in September 2015, Lucassen managed to persuade the likes of Dream Theater’s James LaBrie, and Anneke Van Giersbergen (and a further 17 musicians and 19 strong choir) to perform their 2004 album The Human Equation, and this grandiose film is the result. The album’s plot essentially follows the story of a man, who, after being involved in a car crash, undergoes soul searching while in a coma. All of which is necessary to comprehend why LaBrie opens the performance in a mangled car, before delivering a tender duet with Van Giersbergen.
It’s a role that LaBrie clearly relishes, and anyone who saw Dream Theater’s performances of The Astonishing will appreciate his dramatic presence. The renditions of all the album’s songs are captivating and given the gravitas they deserve by the cast. Granted, those expecting a more orthodox gig may find the presentation melodramatic, but The Theater Equation is more than a concert – it’s a musical spectacle. Sure, there are fleeting moments of cheesiness but the pulsating music, transforming from gentle segments to moments of alluring bombast, counteracts those am-dram flashes. Lucassen and his musical director Joost van den Broek should be congratulated for providing The Human Equation with the live treatment that the music deserves. The bonus rehearsal footage shows just how much work cast put in to this ambitious performance.