||MARILLION: CHALLENGING AND ENGAGING AND STILL WITH AN EDGE
Marillion: The Forum, London
Sunday 4th December 2016
Words: Liz Medhurst, Pictures: Robert Sutton
Steve Hogarth is agitated this evening. The Marillion frontman is as welcomingly intense and theatrical as ever, but we are missing a good chunk of the genial bonhomie often displayed at gigs.
There's no apparent explanation for this, and it adds a further dramatic edge to this sold out London date, the final one of the UK leg of the 'F.E.A.R' tour.
Marillion have such a huge back catalogue now that a live setlist can take on many themes. Tonight is all about the epic song, very much in keeping with the new album, which although a scant six tracks, fills up the CD with stonking soundscapes.
We start with 2004 classic 'The Invisible Man' and straight away the goosebumps appear. The intro has been subtly re-worked and the giant screen behind the band kicks in with striking images to match. All the way through these projections are an integral part of the show, their best use of multimedia in a main tour since 'Happiness Is The Road', and of the highest standard yet.
As the moment comes for the first verse, where was h? Dear God, he's been filmed by a camera off stage, his face up on the massive screen in full HD, the opposite of invisible...
This is only one of several wow moments in a gig that is stuffed with them. Marillion are a band full of seeming contradictions tonight delivering a set where almost every song is around the same tempo, or divided into sections with lots of slower, quiet bits, and yet the drama is huge.
The audience is unexpected too. You're never going to get a mosh pit at a Marillion gig of course, but all the movement is towards the back of the hall, and those at the front are in the main as still as statues, like it's the opera or something. Odd for a standing gig, but something else to make it memorable.
Uniting a diverse group of people from Metalheads to people in parkas, there's plenty of common ground in those who like their art to be challenging and engaging. There's a lot of contemporary and political comment but it's neither over-earnest nor preachy.
New song 'Living In Fear' is a case in point, starting with the projections of rainbows and Ghandi, and suggesting a better way of life, while 'The New Kings' is a feast for all the senses, this material from 'F.E.A.R' (Fuck Everyone And Run) rapturously received, and sounding utterly stunning.
The sound overall is worthy of praise; all the layers can be heard well, those big powerful heavy drums, Steve Rothery's immaculate and emotional guitar playing, so many counterpoints and motifs that add up and build to a relentless wall of sound. This is quality stuff right here.
One of the shorter songs this evening, the classic 'King' does not let up on the drama. The song about those who are destroyed by rock'n'roll is accompanied by a film showing dozens of massive names from music and showbiz who have left us, mostly far too early. It's captivating, although my first thought is there is one major name missing – Lemmy. My second thought is that it was absolutely right that he was missing – he wasn't destroyed by rock'n'roll, he lived it on his own terms, exactly the way he left.
'Neverland' is as beautiful and striking as always, gets you right in the heart, but... but... where is the glitter cannon? I am distraught and that's a pint off the score right there.
The agitated mood referred to earlier becomes more apparent after the first encore of 'El Dorado', which channelled so much anger. Returning to the stage after a slightly longer than usual pause, h mentions that he's ready to go to the Netherlands now, he's had enough of this gig and the audience. Tongue in cheek? It's hard to tell. Who's upset him? From where I am in the hall people are passionate whether in stunned silence or making their feelings more vocal. Or is the heavy subject matter beginning to take its toll?
Whatever it was, during the finale of 'This Strange Engine', h clambers up on top of a speaker stack, scaring the shit out of the road crew when he nearly garottes himself on a cable, and calls for his microphone, and spends a defiant few verses up there.
The final, frantic verse sees him scream "This love, this inconvenient, blind, blood-diamond... and tries and fails and tries again... and bleeds, and dies for you, and lies, and is to blame, and is ashamed, and is not the same, and is true," and then he turns on his heel and strides off stage without a second glance, the rest of the band following at a slower pace. It's simultaneously anti-climactic and electrifying, and also gratifying to see rock stars that still have an edge.
In two-and-a-half hours, Marillion have proved that they are absolutely at the top of their game, and the abrupt note it was left on kept that emotive atmosphere just that little bit longer. Stunning.
MARILLION LIVE 2017
7th April 2017: Lodz, Poland – Wytwórnia
28th April 2017: Leicester, UK – De Montfort Hall
19th May 2017: Santiago, Chile – Teatro Coupolicán
30th June 2017: Barcelona, Spain – Be Prog! My Friend
19th July 2017: Hamburg, Germany - Grosse Freiheit 36
20th July 2017: Berlin, Germany - Huxleys
22nd July 2017: Bremen, Germany - Theater
23rd July 2017: Cologne, Germany - E-Werk
25th July 2017: Frankfurt, Germany -Neue Batschkapp
26th July 2017: Nuremberg, Germany - Löwensaal
29th July 2017: Rottenburg, Germany - Rock of Ages
13th October 2017: London, UK – The Royal Albert Hall
Tickets are available right here.
Marillion have confirmed they will play a special show at the Royal Albert Hall on Friday 13th October 2017, with tickets selling out in less than an hour when they went on sale earlier this week.
Commenting on the sold out show, the band told us: "We are delighted at the sellout of our forthcoming Royal Albert Hall show next October Friday 13th - unlucky for some, but apparently not us! It was the fastest selling gig in our thirty-seven year history. If you managed to buy tickets in the short time they were available, well done and thank you. We are looking forward to spending a very special night with you. If you've missed it, we are sorry and share your frustration. Thank you loves."
There's a new live release to look forward to in the meantime. From Friday 20th March to Sunday 22nd March 2015 the Marillion weekend took place at Center Parcs, Port Zélande, The Netherlands. Thousands of fans from all across the world came together to be part of this incredible event. Marillion devoted their Saturday evening show to their brilliant album 'Marbles' and performed all the songs and a fine selection of encore tracks.
Now, for the first time ever this impressive live show containing stunning projections and laser effects as well as the superb high definition sound will be available on 2CD, DVD and Blu-ray through earMUSIC, available on 20th January 2017.