I first saw Marillion around 1984 when touring the “Fugazi” album and have to say I was enthralled with their songs and with this connection they had with the audience even then, when everyone was shouting “Giz A Bun” at them. I did think that they sounded a lot like Peter Gabriel era Genesis but tracks like `He knows You Know`, `Garden Party` and `Punch And Judy` all became firm favourites. The constant touring brought the band to breaking point and they split. The engine house of the band Steve Rothery, Mark Kelly, Pete Trewavas and Ian Mosley recruited the relatively unknown Steve Hogarth to be their singer and soon hit the road. I saw a couple of their early tours and came away thinking that they`d found a diamond with this singer. It must have been a difficult transition for Hogarth, replacing a six foot four gregarious Celt and initially he sort of had a gimmick where he wore a pair of white gloves with synthesiser triggers in the fingers. So, it was a bit of a shocker to realise that the band are out on the road with Friends from the Orchestra celebrating thirty years of Mr Hogarth joining the troupe.
It says a lot about a band when their first song of the evening comes in at a little short of twenty minutes in length. But this is what transpires with `Gaza` and it`s perhaps the most overtly political song Marillion have done since the late eighties. Its lyrics take the perspective of a boy growing up in the Israeli occupied Gaza strip. A real belter to not only ease the band in but also the six-piece orchestra. The formidable `You`re Gone` and stunning `Power` follow, making use of the backdrop screen where various visuals are presented.
The band share a segment from the last studio album “Fuck Everyone and Run (FEAR) with “The New Kings” – I. `Fuck Everyone and Run`, II. `Russia’s Locked Doors`, III. `A Scary Sky` and IV. `Why Is Nothing Ever True? ` which was inspired by an England, and a world, which increasingly functions on an “Every man for himself” philosophy.
The heart breaking `Estonia` is offered up. A song inspired after the singer met Paul Barney, who was the only British survivor of the disaster when the cruise ferry Estonia sank in The Baltic Sea killing 852 people. The French horn, violins, viola, cello and flute of the compact orchestra really add another dimension to this sensitive piece.
Mr Hogarth relates that the band like to change the set around every couple of days, so they don`t become bored and because they have some” nutters” who come to every show. Therefore. with this in mind the guys play the emotive `Beyond You`, `Seasons End` and intricate `The Sky Above the Rain` before closing out the set with the spiritual and complex `The Great Escape`
After a standing ovation the fellas return and play `Fantastic Place` a song about going to a place that you can escape real life and `The Space` a reflection from the singer on his life. They disappear again to return this time and finish with the elaborate `This Strange Engine`
It`s really difficult to sum up a Marillion gig, it`s at times more of an event that needs a couple of days to digest. The one thing that I’ve always admired is the way that this Neo progressive rock band have interacted with their fan base and have led the way in crowd funding their albums and have taken their fan conventions as far afield as Chile and Canada. For a band that has been described as “perennially unfashionable prog-rockers” that`s something to be respected. Here`s to the next thirty years.