Wednesday, June 06, 2007


I saw Marillion in concert at the ABC in Glasgow last night. Disappointing.

Once upon a time Marillion were a neo-progressive rock band fronted by a charismatic Scottish front-man named 'Fish'. Fish and the rest of the band parted company in 1988; he went on to have a reasonably productive solo career and they got a new singer, Steve 'h' Hogarth, and have subsequently recorded ten albums. Most of their albums have been pretty good, but their most recent album, 'Somewhere Else' is pretty lacklustre. See my review of it here. But I haven't seen them live since their first tour with 'h' on vocals way back in December 1989 (Glasgow Barrowlands), so I got a ticket for last night's show.

Two things combined to make this concert not very good. The first is that Marillion are simply not a great band to look at. They sound good, even live on stage, but they're not particularly good to watch. The second was the selection of songs.

Steve Hogarth is basically an old bloke with bad hair who screws up his face when he sings. This does not make for a visually good front-man. Sure, he still hits most of the notes, but you'd enjoy the experience all the more with your eyes shut. Also, he doesn't seem to have got over the 'what does the singer do during the instrumental breaks?' dilemma - he clearly feels the need to be pretending to play an instrument when there are no vocals to be sung, so he straps on a guitar sometimes and proceeds to play only two chords, or borrows the bass guitar during 'faith' and only plays three notes. Or squats down beside a keyboard at the front of the stage, even though Mark Kelly at the back is more than capable of playing all the keyboard parts. On one song he even appeared to be trying to play a cricket bat. It seemed to be wired up to something, but I couldn't distinguish any sounds it was producing. Inevitably, I have to compare him to Fish (who I have seen live far too many times) and there really is no comparison. Fish holds your attention during instrumental breaks without having to hide behind a guitar. Also, when Fish signals the audience to clap along, about 95% of the audience do; when h tried, only about 15% of the crowd did.

Steve Rothery hasn't aged well either. He still plays guitar well, but any stage presence he used to have has decreased as his weight has increased. For most of the gig he simply stood, fairly motionless, at the side of the stage playing the guitar. Indeed, about 6 or 7 songs into the set, he wandered over to the other side of the stage during a solo and got a round of applause for doing so. I think the crowd was amazed that he could actually move.

The rest of the band were on form. Ian Moseley hid behind his drum kit - as usual - for the entire time, so I can't really tell you what he looked like, but he played well. Pete Trewavas bounced about playing the bass and looking like somebody's dad. Mark Kelly, on the other hand, doesn't seem to have aged like the rest of them. I know he's the youngest member of the band, but only by a couple of years. To look at he could easily be ten years younger than the rest of them.

So, with your eyes shut, it could have been a great night. The band were musically on form, but then they played a pretty bad selection of songs. I'm afraid all they managed to do last night was reinforce my perception that the songs on the new album are pretty rubbish.

Many years ago I got the Delirious album 'Mezzamorphis' and was not highly impressed by it. But then I saw them play all the songs from it live in concert and 'got' it. I saw the songs in a new light after that and my opinion of the album went up. Last night's gig had quite the opposite effect on me. If anything, my opinion of some of the new songs has dropped.

The setlists on the current tour change every night, so I guess I was pretty unlucky with this one. If I had compiled a list of 'Marillion songs I want to hear played live' (which I hadn't) I would have only been able to tick one song off the list - 'Man of 1000 Faces' was, for me, the highlight of the show but only went to demonstrate just how poor some of the new songs are. Other highlights of the concert were 'Afraid of Sunlight', 'Between you and me' and 'Fantastic place'. The rest was mostly taken from the new album and Holidays in Eden - two of Marillion's poorer albums.

On the previous night of the tour (Newcastle) they played 'Ocean Cloud', a 15 minute epic which is my favourite song from the last album and 'Sugar Mice', an old classic. Nothing like that here. Sigh.

Oh well, never mind. Fish is touring again in October ;o)

By the way, if anone cares about such things, the setlist was:
  • Splintering Heart (from 'Holidays in Eden')
  • The Other Half (from 'Somewhere Else')
  • You’re Gone (from 'Marbles')
  • Faith (from 'Somewhere Else', also 'Marbles' era b-side)
  • Thankyou Whoever You Are (from 'Somewhere Else')
  • Most Toys (from 'Somewhere Else')
  • Afraid Of Sunlight (from 'Afraid of Sunlight')
  • Fantastic Place (from 'Marbles')
  • A Voice From The Past (from 'Somewhere Else')
  • Somewhere Else (from 'Somewhere Else')
  • Waiting To Happen (from 'Holidays in Eden')
  • Man of a Thousand Faces (from 'This Strange Engine')
  • Between You and Me (from 'Anoraknophobia')
  • King (from 'Afraid of Sunlight')
  • Neverland (from 'Marbles')
  • Easter (from 'Season's End')
So that's only one track from my favourite h-Marillion album, 'This Strange Engine', none from my next favourite album, 'Brave', and one from my third favourite album 'Anoraknophobia'. Sigh. And while I'm being an anorak, have a graph of my interest levels through the gig. For comparison, note that my interest level has never dropped below 'interested' at any Fish gig I can remember.

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At 4:31 pm, Blogger Ricky Carvel said...


When Marillion returned to Glasgow for the recent Christmas tour they played this set list, which is so much better than the one above I could almost cry...

Living With the Big Lie
Wave / Mad / The Opium Den
Fruit Of The Wild Rose
Out of This World
Real Tears For Sale
Somewhere Else
Seasons End
Hooks In You
Circular Ride
The Other Half
Most Toys
Cannibal Surf Babe
This Town
The Rakes Progress
100 Nights
Let It Snow

Still nothing from 'This Strange Engine' though :o(


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