Tonight, out in a bitterly cold Birmingham, we should be in for a festive treat. In the lovely HMV Institute with a band who refuses to go away and have created their very own special independent path – Marillion as part of their handful of UK dates for their Christmas Tour 2011.
Support tonight comes from Tin Spirits, featuring former XTC guitarist Dave Gregory, who has also worked with Marillion’s Hogarth in his H-band. The set is eclectic bluesy prog rock and ends with XTC song ‘Senses Working Overtime.’ One of those moments, when you smile with nostalgia, the intro reminding you of times gone by. A friendly fan walks past and says “You liked that didn’t you…. you was singing along…”
Marillion’s career is in two parts. Formed in ’79, Marillion with the big character that was Fish on vocals, they gained cult like success with their prog rock Peter Gabriel / Genesis inspired ‘Script for a Jester’s Tear’ and follow up ‘Fugazi’. Next up ‘Misplaced Childhood’ sold in bucket loads and contained the massive single ‘Kayleigh’ which spawned a generation of children named after it. By ’88 Fish chose to go a separate way; at a time when the loss of the vocalist, could mean the end of a band. But that wasn’t going to be the end of Marillion. Steve Hogarth took over vocal duties, joining members Steve Rothey (lead guitar), Mark Kelly (keyboards), Pete Trewavas (bass) and Ian Mosely (drums) and twenty odd years on – part two are very successfully still going. This ‘new’ Marillion took a more independent rock sound, whilst taking the net revolution and interaction with their loyal fan base to the next level, years before other bands even thought of it. They pulled away from record labels and managers and crowd sourced funds to allow them to record and issue albums via their website, whilst regularly gigging. Tonight is their Christmas Party – a festive celebration for their fans…..
I ask an avid fan what they will be like tonight – “Absolutely fab” comes the reply, before they even come on. And so to a big cheer, spotlights circling the crowd, flashing red lights reflecting and dancing across the set backdrop; the crowd start double clapping and on comes Hogarth, followed by each member of the band. Set starts of with ‘Splintering Heart’ with full iconic Marillion sound. Hogarth plays a ‘cricket bat’ with sampler / keyboard embedded. He’s is truly charismatic, very engaging with the fans, his voice strong, totally complimenting the rest of the band – the days of ‘part one’ Marillion a long distant memory. “Thank you…. alright this is ‘Cover My Eyes.’” The audience clap – the sound in the Institute tonight is great – truly showing Marillion in their true musical rainbow colours.
Hogarth sits to play keyboards – “Oh that’s fucked…. slight technical hitch, that’s up the duff for the moment.…” But totally unfazed they simply switch songs, ‘Somewhere Else’ features a megaphone with a Clannad like swirling melody. Keyboard fixed we’re back on track – ‘Fantastic Place’ with a post song dedication to a fan in the audience. The set rolls on and, within the encore, a Christmas treat for fans, the usual ‘part one’ career song ‘Sugar Mice’ is replaced with that song – ‘Kayleigh.’
Marillion 2011 are a class act – truly professional, truly talented, playing songs listing towards prog rock but with no self-indulgence. They are open and very engaging with their fans – a true family beyond just of that of a band. Tonight there’s no restrictions on photos (quick thanks to Adam here!), no limitations placed on fans or those that review. Their fans are dedicated, some in festive spirit wearing Santa hats, and one woman in reindeer antlers and Christmas lights, and are a friendly bunch – great atmosphere. And a comment should go to the HMV Institute – great venue, fantastic sound system (you can clearly hear throughout the venue). Please get more bands on here. Bands – listen in – this is a great venue – go play here!!!!!
Dedicated fans know just how good Marillion are, and are truly loyal. A confession – I saw them twenty years ago, in their Fishy days and once after. And to see them in full glory, after all this time; tonight it was a joy. For those of you (who like me) may have lost touch, or who haven’t come across them, go and take a peak when they are next around. Musically very impressive, hugely enjoyable, they take you on a fantastic journey; their fans are a great bunch. Go. Enjoy. Support.
2. Cover My Eyes
4. Somewhere Else
5. Fantastic Place
6. You’re Gone
7. Man Of A Thousand Faces
8. This Strange Engine
9. Afraid Of Sunlight
10. The Invisible Man
12. Three Minute Boy
Script For A Jester’s Tear 
Misplaced Childhood 
Somewhere Else 
Less Is More