Ayreon-The Theater Equation (The Unemployment Chronicles) (DVD Review)

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Reviewed: March, 2023
Released: 2016, InsideOut
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: JP

Back in March of 2020 I was laid-off because of the pandemic and I spent my free time writing a series of 50 DVD reviews called the Covideo Chronicles. It was fun and productive! What comes around goes around and in February 2023 I have been laid off again! Over the past three years I have accumulated another stack of about 25 DVDs to review. Additionally, it has long been a personal goal of mine, and Metal-Rules.com, to review every Hard Rock and Heavy Metal DVD on the planet. Over the years we have reviewed hundreds of stand-alone DVD’s, more than almost every other Metal webzine. So instead of sulking and/or wasting my time I’m going to review as many as I can in the month of February. It’s cold outside here in Canada so it beats going outside and/or looking for work! Feel free to enjoy all the reviews in this feature.

Ayreon was founded back in 1995 and oddly enough it took over twenty years before they released a home video! The TIMELINE box-set from 2008 did have a DVD but it is not the same as an official stand-alone home video.

Ayreon has always done things a bit differently and unfortunately that extends to the presentation and packaging of this DVD. IT is not in standard DVD case. Nor is it in a standard CD jewel case. This three-disc set is housed in some sort of weird shaped, eco-cardboard set. Total crap. I suspect my copy is a bootleg of some sort. The whole point of a case is to protect not only the cover art from scuffs and abrasion but house the discs inside and protect them from scuffs and abrasion, to ensure long-life and years of playability and enjoyment. This packaging does neither. Someone needs to get fired. The discs (2 CD’s and 1 DVD) are housed in a cardboard sleeve, prone to damage and it doesn’t ‘fit’ anywhere. It should have been issued as a double live album and single DVD in a proper case. Functionality aside, the package is quite well done. It is a nice three-foldout panel that also houses a full-colour 20-page booklet. The graphics consist mostly of shots from the show.

As fans of Ayreon might assume, THE THEATER EQUATION is a live concert of The HUMAN EQUATION album (2004) performed in its entirety. It seems a bit strange that it took well over a decade to realize this project but you can’t rush art and something of this scale takes time to plan and arrange!

This two-hour performance is more than ‘just’ a rock concert. It is a full stage play with multiple characters, and props and a band and a choir, a back screen and more. There is even a car on stage! If you are reading this you perhaps are an Ayreon fan and familiar with the story of THE HUMAN EQUATION. If not here is a very brief synopsis. A man has a bad car accident and goes into a coma. Each song on the double disc studio album represents part of his life as a flashback; as in, his life is flashing before the audience. This concept is played out in its entirety with actors and singers of course. It is actually a bit more complicated than that but I don’t want to ruin it for you.

The production is superb, good sound, lots of camera angles. The only thing I might suggest is that much of the time the set was quite dark. It is almost if the cameras were picking up the haze and refraction in the lights making it seem as if the colour was slightly washed out. Aside from that I can only imagine what a treat it must have been to see one of the performances. For the record it was the fourth and final show on Sunday, September 20, 2015 that was filmed for this DVD. To pull it all together really was a remarkable accomplishment; a true rock opera!

There is a bonus feature about the making of the show. It is actually not listed on the packaging so it was a nice surprise to discover. It is a 40-minute feature with brief informal interviews with some of the key performers and various band members. There is footage of auditions for the back-up choir, set design, dress rehearsal and more.  It also cones with a big full colour booklet with liner notes, an essay from Arjen and so forth.

I’m delighted that this unique and interesting event was captured for all of us to enjoy. It is a high mark in the long and illustrious career of Arjen and Ayreon.

Line Up:

Ed Warby-Drums
Arjen Anthony Lucassen-lots of stuff.

Johan van Stratum Bass
Marcel Coenen Guitar
Freek Gielen Guitar
Erik van Ittersum Keyboards
Ruben Wijga Keyboards

plus over two dozen guest vocalists.


Track Listing: 

1. Day One: Vigil
2. Day Two: Isolation
3. Day Three: Pain
4. Day Four: Misery
5. Day Five: Voices
6. Reprise Pain 1
7. Day Six: Childhood
8. Day Seven: Hope
9. Day Eight: School
10. Reprise Childhood
11. Day Nine: Playground
12. Day Ten: Memories
13. Reprise Pain 2
14. Day Eleven: Love
15. Day Twelve: Trauma
16. Day Thirteen: Sign
17. Day Fourteen: Pride
18. Reprise Vigil
19. Day Fifteen: Betrayal
20. Reprise School
21. Day Sixteen: Loser
22. Day Seventeen: Accident?
23. Reprise Pain 3
24. Day Eighteen: Realization
25. Reprise Trauma
26. Day Nineteen: Disclosure
27. Day Twenty: Confrontation
28. Dream Sequencer System Offline

Bonus features