A crash course in Ayreon: from solo project to epic rock opera experience

In the 1970s, Arjen Lucassen found himself in the world of bands, while the 1980s brought him to the traveling musician life. But in 1995, in the midst of the Grunge era, he decided to take a radically different direction and create a rock opera called "The Final Experiment. This choice, initially considered absurd, led to the birth of Ayreon, an ambitious musical project that has since become an epic experience for fans around the world. We spoke with Arjen and Joost for a little pre-fun.

For those who don't know you. Who are you guys?

Arjen: "I'm Arjen Lucassen, the founder of Ayreon."

Joost: "My name is Joost van den Broek, lead producer and keyboardist in the band."

Arjen: "Joost has really become a friend of mine. He is the brains behind all the shows. Without him, this really wouldn't happen."

What is Ayreon?

Arjen: "At the time, Ayreon was the title of my solo project. By now it's been ten rock operas with guest musicians and guest singers from all over the world."

To paint a time picture: 

Arjen: "In 2000 I went on a European tour with my Star One project. From there, Joost hooked up. In 2015, my then manager organized the theater production 'The Theater Equation' in Luxor Theater Rotterdam. Joost then arranged all the musicians and the show sold out quickly, even though we actually thought it was a bummer ourselves. We then decided to set up the next live performance better." 

Joost: "And that happened. In 2017, we performed for the first time in 013 with The Ayreon Universe. Again, the show sold out quickly. One thing led to another and now we are several Ayreon projects down the road."

Why Tilburg? 

Arjen: "When I was still playing in a band, I very often played at the Noorderligt (Now 013). Those were always my favorite shows! The venue and the atmosphere is good and the people are nice to work with. So when we started playing the Ayreon shows, 013 was my first choice. Fortunately, when I presented it to 013, they were immediately enthusiastic."

Joost: "The facilities and crew working there are super. We have regular meetings with the director. Well, he really doesn't do that with every band. We get a lot of special attention."

Arjen: "That's also one of the reasons why we do it there. Everyone asks why we don't play in the Ziggodome, because we can fit a lot more people there! But no, this just works and we think this is super." 

Joost: "013 has the perfect size. It still has something personal, which is very important to us and also suits Ayreon."


Joost: "In Tilburg you are very well received. You come into a city full of fans. Tilburg is all Ayreon that weekend. In Amsterdam you would never have that atmosphere, because that's just too big." 

Arjen: "Never change a winning team."


Joost: "From the moment we think of doing another show, we start organizing it about two years in advance. Because I spend so much time on it as well as being a keyboard player in the band, it makes it extra interesting for me. I'm even more deeply involved musically, I know every detail of every song."

Previously 12,000 visitors, now 15,000 visitors from 64 different countries!

Arjen: "For me it's very exciting! There are 15,000 visitors coming from all over the world to see me, so I have to be on stage. But it's not my thing, I find it very scary. I'd rather be all alone doing what I'm good at; making rock operas. Picking singers and musicians, coming up with stories and writing songs. Yes, I'm a real control freak. On stage I find it hard to concentrate, it's just not my strong suit."

So why the choice to do it anyway? 

Arjen: "During the theater productions, I only had to show myself toward the end of the show. Then I only saw happy people. I thought that was so great! I didn't want to withhold that from people. I make a lot of people happy, that's why I do it." 

What can the Ayreonauts expect during the show? 

Arjen: "Of course we're not going to give too much away, but do you know the expression 'less is more'? Well, our expression is 'more is more'. We have many led screens, a large set, lasers, lights, smoke and surround sound with so speakers throughout the room. It will be a total experience even grander than previous times!"

Joost: "As far as I'm concerned it will be the tightest and fattest show of Ayreon so far. We have never brought together such a variety of elements in the show before."

In case you didn't get a ticket and are now fed up. Not to worry! Both ticket holders and 'behind the net fishermen' can experience the Ayreon experience in the city. 

Joost: "The visitors from those 64 countries often stay a whole week in Tilburg. That's why we also want them to discover Tilburg and give everyone a chance to experience the Ayreon experience. So fans can get together at Stadscamping013, where singer Marcela Bovio will perform on Friday afternoon, September 15 at 12:00. At LOC Brewery you can taste the specially brewed Ayreon beer, there are 2 screenings at Pathé of the previous live show 'Electric Castle live & other tales' and in cooperation with local entrepreneurs special offers have been made to explore the city even better. Finally, this year there is also an Ayreon pop-up store in 013, where you can go for four days of special acoustic performances, artwork, merchandise and more."


Ayreon x Quiet 

Together with Quiet, Ayreon is making noise for silent poverty. The pop up store will host an exhibition of 25 specially designed canvases with artwork and live footage. These will be auctioned off after the show. Proceeds from this will go to Quiet. In addition, the amount of all returned deposit cups in 013 will also be donated. 

Are you already feeling the anticipation wanting to experience the Ayreon experience? Ayreon 2023 takes place in Tilburg from September 15 to 17. The special Ayreon pop-up store is freely accessible almost all day, with and without Ayreon tickets so. The times can be found below. More information about the special offers can be found here.


Opening hours Ayreon pop up store:

9:00 to 18:00 - free entrance from outside
18:00 to 0:00 - entrance only with show ticket

Location: Small hall 013

Days: Thursday, September 14 to Sunday, September 17

Special acoustic performances:

Friday 15/9 at 10:30 - Damian Wilson
Saturday 16/9 at 10:30 - Mike Mills
Sunday 17/9 at 10:30 - Wudstik