“I’m A Peter Pan with street credibility” so sang Fish on “Incommunicado” back in 1987. That it is also the last song here tonight tells you something of the nostalgia involved.
Time waits for no man, not even Peter Pan it seems, and this is the last time Fish will play these Marillion songs and his new album “Weltschmerz” will be his last.
The word means “a feeling of melancholy and world-weariness” and maybe after all these years, he’s just had enough. Whatever, he doesn’t seem best impressed at having to finish early tonight so Dappy from N’Dubz can do a DJ set, nor indeed, the fact he had to pay £14.50 for a haircut today (“I can get it for a tenner back home and I get a hot towel….” He offers.)
He is glad, though, that there is no snow. This show took place last year but the first snow of the winter put paid to that for many. It was a gig that the man himself described as a “clusterfuck” but he promised to come back – and he has, with all the ticket holders last year given free ones this time (“make sure you buy some merch, you cheap bastards…..” he jokes here.)
The idea is the same. To celebrate “Clutching At Straws” the Marillion album that was 30 years old last year, and to celebrate his own career too.
This show perhaps has a greater significance this time given that it is 30 years more or less to the week that Fish left the band he wrote it with, but as he says here: “these songs mean a lot to me.” And he delivers them with a passion and a skill. And does so on his own terms. Not for Derek Dick a linear, start to finish run through. Instead he constructs a gig that begins with “Slàinte Mhath” and two hours later ends with the aforementioned classic, but its what it does in between that so excites.
Nostalgia is all well and good – and it is brilliantly played too by the superb band Fish has with him – and indeed Fish’s voice sounds in much finer fettle than when I last saw him, on a “Misplaced Childhood” gig, but this is kept current by four brand new songs being interspersed with the “…Straws” stuff.
“Clutching At Straws” was a prog album I owned as a kid without knowing what prog was. I loved “Incommunicado” that’s all I knew. And hearing them back here, it is striking how well they’ve aged. “Hotel Hobbies”, “Warm Wet Circles” and the rest, are just superb songs, “White Russian” too and “Torch Song”.
Then, when he sits down on the stool, with the words: “this is for my aching back and legs, but also because this song should always be sung from a stool” “Sugar Mice” – which probably I never appreciated as a kid, but as you get older you understand – does what it does.
But those quartet of new songs? My goodness, they are something else. Those who want the ones they know can go home happy, but “Man With A Stick,” the brand new single, sparse and pulsing. “The C Song” – about cancer, and full of emotion, “Little Man What Now” and the incredible “Waverley Steps” are the best things here for my money (and I’d wager Fish’s too).
The encore begins with “Tux On” a song which wasn’t on the original album, but on this evidence should have been, before the closing tumult, complete with disco dancing from Fish which suggests he may be rocking with Dappy after all….
To write songs that resonate for three decades must be immensely gratifying. But how good must it be to be still able to write songs that are incredible after all this time? That’s why this was the best of both worlds, and why – if this is the beginning of the end, you simply have to catch Fish.