Martian marvels with Jeff Wayne

Review Jeff Wayne's Musical Version Of The War Of The Worlds Liverpool Echo Arena, Sunday, June 14

When I was about 12-years-old my parents bought me a double album for Christmas. It was Jeff Wayne's Musical Version Of War Of The Worlds.

It sat proudly in my collection, nestled alongside some other (in my opinion at the time) classics from the likes of Duran Duran, Level 42, and, a few years later, Mr Rick Astley.

It was, and still is, quite simply, the best album I have ever heard.

I remember happily drumming along to it night after night on my brother's extremely tacky leopard-skin drumkit, dreaming of one day hearing it so loud my ears would fall off.

On Sunday, I got my wish - I got to hear the album live.

Fortunately my lugs survived the experience but had they fallen off it would have been a small price to pay for a magical night of goosebump-inducing nostalgia, musical genius and technical wizadry.

From the moment the opening "No-one would have believed, in the last years of the nineteenth century" speech began, signalling the impending arrival of the first chords of the magnificent Eve Of The War, I was 12 all over again.

This year is the 30th anniversary of the fantastic double album and Jeff Wayne and a host of musicians, singers, actors and CGI experts are touring the UK and Europe with a 100ft cinema screen, which shows an exclusive CGI interpretation of events plus close-ups of all the main singers, a gigantic model of one of the martian killing machines, which scans the crowd with its heat ray (strobe light), and an amazing three dimensional holographic talking Richard Burton head.

Featuring great vocal performances from, amongst others, Justin Hayward (of The Moody Blues), Liverpool's very own Jennifer Ellison and Australian Idol runner-up Shannon Noll, plus some special anniversary ULLAdubULLA remixes, the show is an audio/visual extravaganza.

Like the album the show remains faithful to the original HG Wells story (not the remade Tom Cruise drivel out a few years ago) and is split nicely into two parts The Coming Of The Martians giving way, after a short interval, to The Earth Under The Martians.

The musicians' enthusiasm for the material is inspiring and Jeff Wayne, too, conducting the orchestra, clearly enjoys his work and it is totally refreshing to watch.

Jeff said: "The fact is we are still experimenting, still trying out new ideas, still working flat out and loving every minute of it."

If you get the chance to see the show (and you can bet on it returning next year) you won't be disappointed and the superb surroundings of the Echo Arena at The Albert Docks in Liverpool is a fantastic venue.