Review by Paul Quinton, photos by Rob Stanley
Fish’s ‘Moveable Feast’ tour finally made its way to The Robin, the September date having been postponed due to illness in the band, and after that the European leg of the tour suffered, with Fish himself going down with a virus, resulting in several dates being cancelled, putting the UK dates in jeopardy for a while. As the man himself said, he contemplated selling plain white t-shirts at the merchandise table, complete with a set of marker pens, to fill in the dates as they happened. All of which might have been a shame, as Fish and his band had been one of the real highlights of the HRH Prog festival in March, and it would have been a pity had the various trials and tribulations affected the momentum.
Regardless of the postponements, The Robin was absolutely packed on the night; a sell out, which created a great atmosphere when the band assembled on stage almost exactly on nine o’clock, and began proceedings with two songs from his latest album, A Feast Of Consequences, including the excellent title track. Apart from a couple of minor attempts at getting the vocal level right, the first thing you noticed was that the sound was bang on, from my vantage point near the mixing desk one of the best I’ve ever heard in The Robin, it was loud, but really clear throughout the show.
Fish admitted that putting a set list together had been a problem, but with him acknowledging that he’d made fourteen studio albums, including his time with Marillion and his ten solo records, it was interesting that, apart from two Marillion songs, the set was put together from only three of those solo albums. As ever he was a very engaging and entertaining frontman, not least between songs ruefully commenting on how both he and his audience are getting older, and giving them a run through of his stage props, including a music stand with lyric sheets ‘in case the Alzheimer’s kicks in half way through the set.’
The centre piece of the show was the five song ‘High Wood’ suite, which was inspired by the experiences of his grandfathers in the First World War and which he introduced by describing his own journey to the battlefields, following the path of his grandfather. It was an inspiring and mesmerising introduction to a very affecting piece of music, and it was also good to hear that it was heard in near silence, with comparatively few interruptions from those who seem to delight in paying twenty quid to hold a conversation at the top of their voices when the band are playing.
After the passion of the ‘High Wood Suite’ he went back to the start of his solo career with a couple of songs from his first solo album Vigil In A Wilderness Of Mirrors; ‘Big Wedge’ and ‘Vigil’ itself, for part of which he climbed down from the stage and sang in the middle of the crowd, and which he introduced with another impassioned monologue, in this case about the state of the world and imploring people not to be apathetic but to be a part of change. Then it was left to his first venture into his time with Marillion, to close the main set with ‘Heart Of Lothian’, which he didn’t need to sing at all, as the crowd joined in with every word. There were two separate encores, firstly another Marillion song, ‘Incubus’, which he introduced as revisiting an old nightmare, then the band returned again for another two songs, ‘Blind to The Beautiful’, from Feast, and the ‘The Company’, from his debut solo album, which once more had the crowd in full voice, and brought a fine gig to a fitting close.
It’s interesting that just as the man himself has openly spoken of the possibility of him quitting the music business in the next couple of years, that not only has he released his strongest album for a while, but also is playing shows, even while recovering from illness, that are as atmospheric, involving and memorable as anyone around at the moment. He has a fine band, a great catalogue of music to play, and there’s no reason for him not to carry on as long as he wishes. Catch him while you can.