THE Martians have landed! Or so it seemed last Tuesday night at Leeds Arena with the production of Jeff Wayne’s War of the Worlds. I was transported back to around 20 years ago when we regularly used to listen to the cassette version of this in the car whilst travelling to places on holiday. And it brought back great memories of these tapes with narration by Richard Burton, David Essex as The Artilleryman, Phil Lynott as the Parson and Julie Covington as Beth, all massive names in 1978 when the original album and cassette were released.

And for this, the Arena tour for the 40thanniversary of the musical, the line-up is equally spectacular with an on-stage hologram of Liam Neeson as the Journalist/Narrator, Jason Donovan as Parson Nathaniel, Newton Faulkner as the singer of the Journalist’s thoughts, Adam Garcia as The Artilleryman, Nathan James as the Voice of Humanity, Anne-Marie Wayne as Carrie the Journalist’s fiancée and Carrie Hope Fisher as Beth, the Parson’s wife.

Jeff Wayne himself is the conductor and producer of the musical and he is backed by 36-piece string orchestra and a nine-piece rock section of guitars, percussion, synthesisers and keyboards, including the fabulous Herbie Flowers on bass, most notable for his time with Blue Mink and the classical rock band Sky. It was both a spectacular and a veritable feast of live stage and musical brilliance. The special effects are absolutely amazing with a massive rear screen with images of the story being portrayed on it, alien craft descending from above onto the stage, flame-throwers and explosions. This production is on a scale like nothing I have ever seen before, and the near capacity crowd at Leeds were all entranced by the spectacle. Even the falling leaves onto the audience during the well-known song Forever Autumn (a top five hit for Justin Hayward of The Moody Blues in 1978) had the audience gasping in amazement.

For two and a half hours we thought the earth was being invaded and the massive standing ovation at the end for Jeff Wayne and his performers summed up what a brilliant night it had been.

by John Burland