15 April 2018
Review: Marillion, Symphony Hall in B’ham 14th April 2018
Could I just start by thanking the guy who came out front at the start of Marillion’s set for asking, very politley, for people to consider other audience members if using mobile phones to film etc – needless to say I did not see one throughout the entire set, it was very refreshing and should be made a steadfast rule !!
A good front man !!! The success or failure of ANY band, regardless of genre, is a damn good front man. I think it’s safe to say, when you attend a gig you take it as read that the band can play their instruments and the lead vocals are in tune (in saying that, I have been somewhat disappointed to say the least at the occasional gig – without going into details LOL).
From their formation in 1979, the band went thru a number of line-up changes including several drummers (the ghost of Spinal Tap has yet to be laid to rest) before settling on the current line-up in 1989. Since then, the band have released 14 albums, many of which have been crowd-funded by their dedicated and loyal fanbase. Regularly holding “Marillion Weekends” it is easy to understand why they have developed a mighty fanbase around the World, their success is testament to the personal connection they have forged, in many ways, enviable. I recommend other bands look at the Marillion success story and if possible, watch the amazing behind-the-scenes documentary “Unconventional” and be moved – seriously !!!
Anyway, enough of the background, how did the boys perform. This was the third time I’ve seen the band and they simply go from strength to strength. After a short set from the support – Steve Rothery’s daughter Jenny plus Riccardo Romano (from the Steve Rothery Band), the band took to the stage shortly after 8.30pm and played a 2 1/4 hour set without a break….
With a selection of tracks from the latest album F.E.A.R. (they opened with the lengthy “El Dorado”) and pretty much a track from every album prior with two encores starting with their time-honoured classic “Easter” and culminating with two tracks from the “Fish-era” band – Garden Party” and “Market Square Heroes”, where I think everyone in the audience was upstanding, clapping along and freaking out like mad.
So, music aside, how was the performance….
Sound was amazing, as you’d expect at this incredible venue (that seems to be the prog venue of choice for anyone visiting the Midlands these days, way more personal than ANY of the local arenas) and as for the light show – wow, just WOW, absolutely awesome. From a viewers standpoint, we had a superb view of the stage and unless you’re up in “the gods” it’s hard to get a bad view here. Mark Kelly and Ian Moseley were well settled on their respective plinths, Steve Rothery pretty much well grounded on the left of the stage, Pete Trewavas was all over the place and prowled around behind Hogarth like a predator. As for Steve Hogarth (or “H” as he’s affectionately known), at 58 years of age, he could give a few of the younger bands a few tips on how to front a band and handle an audience, he dominates the stage to the point where it’s difficult to take your eyes off him, such is his presence – with a voice that hasn’t aged, he can handle any of songs you wanna throw at him with gusto. A very expressive face and totally animated, he shifts between front man at the mike, low mounted keyboard and guitar, an amazing all-rounder without hesitation or deliberation.
I must admit, I did notice a few times, it was almost as if he was lost in the music when he suddenly realised he needed to jump onto the keyboard or get to the mike stand, but all done with impeccable timing, a true professional as are the rest of the band. An effortless performance from everyone concerned. with two crowd-pleasing encores (these guys know what the fans want !!) it almost became a communal Marillion-Karaoke session with the massed vocal chords of the assembled masses banging out the words to Easter, Garden Party and Market Square Heroes, it was awe inspiring stuff to say the least, an emotional climax to a memorable evening and yet another resounding success for one of the UK’s leading lights in the Prog World, long may they reign…
Many of their remaining gigs on the current tour have already sold out, but check out their website for details and availability – https://www.marillion.com/tour
Many thanks to Mark Busby Burrows for the pix….