With nearly as many lineup changes as one of their influences, Yes, Arena was one of the dominant neo-prog groups of the 1990s. A supergroup of sorts, Arena has featured former members of Marillion, Pendragon, IQ, and Shadowland.
Arena was formed in 1994 by Mick Pointer, the former drummer of Marillion, and Clive Nolan, the former keyboardist of Pendragon. The group was rounded out by the addition of Cliff Orsi (bass), John Carson (vocals), and Keith More (guitars). Their first album, Songs From the Lions Cage (1995), was a strong neo-prog debut with aggressive playing that brought comparisons to Fish-era Marillion and contained lengthy tracks with long guitar and moog solos. Carson was even compared by many to Fish. However, a planned tour was scratched after Carson left the group. He was promptly replaced by Paul Wrightson. More lineup changes followed as Orsi left the band and was replaced by the former bassist of IQ, John Jowitt. Both Jowitt and Wrightson appeared on the group's next album, Pride (1996), which built upon the sound the band had begun on their first album and saw them develop away from some of the Marillion influences. The mini-compilation Edits followed later that year and was comprised of the group's singles and a new eight-minute track. Keith More then left the group and was replaced by John Mitchell, who instantly proved himself an able replacement on the 1997 mini-album, The Cry. Arena then embarked on a successful year-long tour that was captured on the live album Welcome to the Stage (1997). A concept album, The Visitor (1998), found the band shortening their songs and told the story of a person who recalls his life while suspended between life and death. Wrightson and Jowitt then left the group and were replaced by Rob Sowden and former Shadowland bassist Ian Salmon, respectively. Immortal? was released in 2000 and was a move in a darker direction for Arena. The live album Breakfast in Biarritz followed in 2001. ~ Geoff Orens