at The Utilita Arena, Newcastle, U.K., April 7, 2022

THE WAR OF THE WORLDS (Live at The Utilita Arena, Newcastle, U.K., April 7, 2022)
Photo: Mick Burgess

“No one would have believed”……that at the tail end of the Punk explosion in the 1970s, a Prog Rock/Musical Theatre double album based on the classic novel by H.G Wells of a Martian invasion of earth, would have found its way into the homes and hearts of so many families across the country.

Jeff Wayne’s Musical Version of The War of The Worlds did just that, selling over 15 million copies worldwide and becoming one of the biggest selling albums of all time in the UK.

In 2006 Jeff Wayne’s vision broadened into a live stage production which has grown and grown with each subsequent tour with the latest titled ‘Life Begins Again’ a direct reference to the world emerging from a 2-year pandemic.

Wayne promised the biggest and best tour so far and he certainly stayed true to his word as this was an audio-visual extravaganza with a stunning light show, startling animation on huge video screens and more fireworks than Bonfire Night with the centre piece being a huge Martian fighting machine that descended from the rafters spewing flames and smoke from its heat ray, scorching the stage and the first ten rows in the process.

With Jeff Wayne conducting theULLAdubULLA strings and the Black Smoke Band featuring guitarist Chris Spedding from the original album and one time Wishbone Ash guitarist, Laurie Wisefield Wishbone Ash, this was one musical tour de force and when those iconic opening chords thundered across the arena, it raised the hair on the back of your neck. This was stirring stuff.

Of course, the show features an incredible cast of characters including The Moody Blues singer, Justin Hayward, again from the original album, making a much welcome return as the Sung Thoughts Of The Journalist and he hit the mark to perfection with “Forever Autumn”, as well as a touching duet with Wayne’s daughter, Anna-Marie, stepping out from her screen role onto the stage for the first time.

Kevin Clifton from Strictly Come Dancing gave a spirited performance as The Artillery Man, desperately trying to save the human race by tunnelling underground while Duncan James from Blue and Claire Richards from Steps created an unrivalled chemistry as Parson Nathaniel and his wife battling with his inner demons in the face of the Martians. Inglorious frontman, Nathan James brought his powerhouse voice to the fore for a rousing rendition of “Thunderchild”.

Alongside the 50ft Martian and the on-stage actors, Liam Neeson played the part of the journalist, in hologram form, narrating throughout with the help of H.G Wells himself played by Callum O’Neill. This was a new and very effective addition to the show as Wells aged as the show progressed giving his commentary on the Imperial Age and the Post First World War and Second World War world with a message of hope for the future as the Martian invasion was ultimately defeated by the bacteria of planet earth.

As the show drew to a close, we were taken to the NASA control room to witness the Mars landing only for the haunting, menacing music to pervade as the screens switched off one by one as the Martian burst into life with a jet of flames rendering the NASA space station a smouldering wreck. Absolutely stunning.

Forty-four years on from the original album, Jeff Wayne continues to breathe new life and energy into his classic album and has produced his best, most spectacular and thrilling show so far.

Review and Photos By Mick Burgess


  • Mick Burgess

    Mick is a reviewer and photographer here at Metal Express Radio, based in the North-East of England. He first fell in love with music after hearing Jeff Wayne's spectacular The War of the Worlds in the cold winter of 1978. Then in the summer of '79 he discovered a copy of Kiss Alive II amongst his sister’s record collection, which literally blew him away! He then quickly found Van Halen I and Rainbow's Down To Earth, and he was well on the way to being rescued from Top 40 radio hell!   Over the ensuing years, he's enjoyed the Classic Rock music of Rush, Blue Oyster Cult, and Deep Purple; the AOR of Journey and Foreigner; the Pomp of Styx and Kansas; the Progressive Metal of Dream Theater, Queensrÿche, and Symphony X; the Goth Metal of Nightwish, Within Temptation, and Epica, and a whole host of other great bands that are too numerous to mention. When he's not listening to music, he watches Sunderland lose more football (soccer) matches than they win, and occasionally, if he has to, he goes to work as a property lawyer.

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