Richard Bellis

Review: War of the Worlds 40th anniversary

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Thanks @motorpointarenacardiff, you were a blast last night! Back again today for Round 2! Photo credit: Roy Smiljanic

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Its been 40 years since Jeff Wayne’s iconic version of War of the Worlds came out and wowed listeners with its new take on the H. G. Wells tale of a Martian invasion and occupation of Earth.

The album remains a bestseller to this day, having sold millions of records around the world; by 2009 it was the 40th bestselling album of all time in the UK with sales of 2,561,286. Since then it has had a re-release, with new voice-overs (called the ‘New Generation’) including Liam Neeson taking over the main role from the late Richard Burton.

Now 40 years on, Jeff Wayne is taking the show on tour once again, drawing in huge crowds. With a mix of onstage performers and some screens in the background featuring videos and images to help tell the story in a visual way.

The stage show features an all-star cast, including Jason Donovan playing Pastor Nathaniel and Carrie Hope Fletcher as his wife Beth. The show also featured Jeff Wayne himself returning to the podium to conduct the 9–piece Black Smoke Band and 36–piece ULLAdubULLA Strings, while Liam Neeson retains his role in 3D holography as The Journalist as well as appearing on the visuals.

British singer–songwriter Newton Faulkner performed ‘Forever Autumn’, previously performed by Justin Hayward and Gary Barlow. Unfortunately, Faulkner’s performance was not as solid: at times I thought he seemed a bit nervous and not singing at his full potential, however this is understandable as he had big shoes to fill.

Actor and theatre star Adam Garcia played The Artilleryman, and put in a great performance: he was capable of hitting the high notes in the song ‘Brave New World’ and really got the audience behind him in his role.

Inglorious frontman Nathan James put in a great performance during ‘Thunderchild’; it was a shame he did not appear again until the finale because I thought he was giving it his all.

Anna–Marie Wayne reprises her role as Carrie, The Journalist’s Fiancée. She was featured in the background video as well as on stage and it was good to see her given a stage presence instead of making her a background character.

They were accompanied by a Martian tripod which was lowered from the ceiling, landing on the stage and terrorising the audience with some impressive visuals.  The jets of flame fired from the heat ray were stunning, setting the stage alight. When the Martian was fired upon by the canons, sparks flew from the Martian as it moved to fire again. It also had a smoke machine to cover the stage in thick black dust and smoke during the eventual Martian defeat.

Overall the performance was amazing and it was certainly one of the most spectacular things I have seen in a long time. On top of this, I have not been able to stop listening to the album since the performance, which is a good thing as it is a timeless classic.