Mägo de Oz

Madrid las Ventas [DVD]

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Mägo de Oz (Wizard of Oz) is considered Spain's "hardest working band." Picture Iron Maiden theatrics crossed with the unholiest of marriages: Jethro Tull meets Loreena McKennitt -- aka Celtic heavy metal with solid showmanship. This is the DVD version of Madrid las Ventas, an audio set that splits the 97 minutes found here between two CDs. The players succeed at the "Captain Morgan" look that a Boston band, Michaels Messina (the discovery of Rolling Stones producer Jimmy Miller), promoted but failed to break back in the mid-'80s. The concept was solid -- and Mägo de Oz re-create it to perfection. Vocalist José Andrëa may not be Journey's Steve Perry -- indeed, his voice sounds strained on much of this -- but he's a performer par excellence. The dialogue prior to "Fiesta Pagana" is all in Spanish, of course, with the players decked out in a wardrobe no doubt inspired by Black Sabbath guitarist Tony Iommi. The show is festive and makes up in cultural curiosity what it lacks in imagination. The music is an interesting mix but, despite the merging of genres, if you've checked out progressive rockers, headbangers, and the Ian Anderson catalog, you get a handle on what they are doing pretty quickly. With the language barrier there's the added difficulty of figuring out the message, and this is a group that has one. Mägo de Oz rock operas tackle historical topics -- from Don Quixote to Christ -- and they know how to put on a show. Fernando Ponce de León's bagpipes and flutes work nicely alongside Mohamed's violin, and help fend off the repetition of the clichéd guitar riffs. "El Pacto" begins like a modern-day Quicksilver Messenger Service (though not for long), hinting that these musicians may have studied the classics. The enthusiasm, stunning sets, and approach to having some fun could break things up for those getting bored with the typical bands on Ozzy Osbourne's Ozzfest tours. The thousands of fans seem energized enough, and the strip show by two sets of models -- male and female -- during "El Arbol de la Noche Triste" adds a bit of European flair. You've heard it all before, but these chaps somehow act as if you haven't, and that makes Mägo de Oz a very charming ensemble.

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