- by Steve Rhodes Rating: Release Date: Label:
Marillion have forever been dogged as unfashionable throughout their existence, regularly trounced and then ignored by the music press, yet they have mined a determined path for nearly four decades, surviving the departure of their frontman and lyricist, producing a plethora of releases with the same stable line up for nearly the last 30 years. With prog no longer the musical albatross as Muse, Radiohead, Everything Everything and many others have embraced some of the technical elements of it and developed their own trajectories, Marillion have been beneficiaries of a cultural awakening and re-evaluation, partly helped by their pioneering decision to utilise their extensive fan-base in crowdfunding future albums and tours, a model which is used more and more by an increasingly malleable record industry.
Fresh from their most recent album, 2016's FEAR, and with Marillion's often shunned existence, quite aptly representing Fuck Everyone And Run, it's unsurprising that these tracks dominate the set. Opening with like all good-old prog artists with a 5-part act 'El Dorado', the stage is set straight from the off with an incredibly tight instrumentation from guitarist Steve Rothery, drummer Ian Mosley, keyboardist Mark Kelly and bassist Pete Trewavas, hardly surprising since they've been the nucleus of the band for more than 30 years, however as the set progresses it's quite clear that this is the Steve Hogarth show.
Swaggering on to a rapture of cheers from the audience the singer and frontman is an epitome of confidence and totally delivers throughout the set, with the expressive 'Power' and the equally forceful 'Quartz' showcasing Steve's vocal prowess. His eccentricities are there from the off with his posturing, 'playing' a modified cricket bat as an instrument and an almost comedic low seating and keyboard arrangement which Steve plays barely off the floor, all of which are lapped up by the wildly enthusiastic audience. Though Marillion are famous for their die-hard support you never expect the levels of adoration and intensity from the crowd as they respond to every note.
Though the last album dominates one of the highlights of the set is 'Sounds That Can't Be Made' as Steve and Mark's keyboard chords neatly synchronise in their mix of power chords and sweetened melodies, with Steve Rothery's guitar tidily harmonising over the top. A wonderfully memorable and mantric track.
The star of the main set though is epic 'The Leavers'. With more of an ambient feel from the off nodding to Royksopp, Blueneck and even Sven Vath in the keys and atmospherics, Steve Rothery delivers spacious and lightly-reverbed guitar tones, that drift into Japan territory at times and Steve Hogarth's vocals are often subtle and plaintive. A beautiful, multi-faceted track that demands full attention from end-to-end.
Perhaps saving their most 'prog' moment for last 'The Strange Engine' is an unusual choice for the first encore, but resonates greatly with the audience throughout it's near 20-minute duration, however it's the double header of the joyous 'Easter' and the Fish-era 'Garden Party' (the only track tonight from the pre-Steve Hogarth era) that sends the crowd into overload.
Having barely listened to Marillion since their 80s heyday I wasn't sure what to expect from tonight, with initial misgivings leading to a feeling like I stumbled in as an accidental guest at the start of the gig, however after just over 2 hours I left thoroughly entertained by an intriguing and far more varied set than anticipated, bolstered by a fanatical following from the audience who lapped up every second.