Review by Woody and photos by Rob Stanley
When I started writing for Midlands Rocks I decided to take the opportunity to go and see a few bands live that I wouldn’t have done before. I sort of have a bucket list of classic bands and when they hit the region I go and check them out. This has led to me seeing bands like UFO, Molly Hatchet and Nazareth, and now the leading light in British prog, Marillion. I’m not really a fan of the prog genre as a whole but Marillion are one of the bands that have caught my attention over the years so I was keen to see what they were like live.
Tonight’s support are DeeExpus and although I was at the Civic in plenty of time to catch them I did miss the first song due to the longest queue I’ve ever seen here for the bar! Obviously I could have ditched the queue and gone without, but I’d got a thirst on so it was tough titty for the band. I have a very limited knowledge of the prog genre so if I was asked if they were any good the simple answer is I really don’t know. They played to a slowly filling Civic Hall and whilst attendance was very healthy, it was the quietest I’ve ever seen the place.
DeeExpus got some polite respectful applause from those to the front so I think they were doing something right. However for me, one mid-tempo drone song just blended into the next mid-tempo drone song and I’m really sorry to say I was bored shitless. As my mind wandered, I actually thought the Midlands Rocks boss would kill me as I pondered the fact that I’d definitely come to the wrong gig, and we at Midlands Rocks pride ourselves on sending people to review bands that if they aren’t a fan of them they are at least a fan of the genre. I suspect a huge slap to the back of the head is imminent and a stern no more prog for Woody talking too (Ed: You got it!)
So were Marillion going to alter my thoughts on the genre as they took to the stage to roaring applause? Well, to be honest, no. Not that they played badly, in fact they are technically superior to many of the musicians I rave about on a daily basis. The problem lies totally in the songs; they just bore the crap out of me. The first song which actually sounded like five different ones was met be very loud applause and if it hadn’t been for this response I wouldn’t have realised it was all one song! I suppose the fact that bar their final encore, ‘Sugar Mice’, I didn’t recognise a single song didn’t help me to appreciate tonight’s show.
Vocalist Steve Hogarth held the audience in the palm of his hand for the whole of their set and they loved every minute of it. Prog fans don’t tend to get fired up or dance, that’s not what this atmospheric, multi layered, fantastical genre is about. They are more polite, always vocally appreciative and I’ve never seen a bunch of fans so passionate and loyal in their support of a band. Considering it wasn’t a full house tonight, the stomping and clapping at the encore was longer and louder than I’ve witnessed at some breathing-space-only gigs at the Civic. I think Hogarth summed up well the Marillion fans and their responses in the statement he made from the stage: “We are lucky. Some bands come on stage to complete apathy and disinterest; some come on stage to excitement; some come on stage to absolute adulation. We come on to affection”.
I’ve always been a fan of Hogarth’s vocals he has a warmth and tone that I find soothing and relaxing and in the live arena his voice is very impressive. As a performer he is very eccentric, never standing still with a very expressive performance style, which at times was mesmerising if somewhat bizarre at times to watch. It’s easy to see why this band are so well loved as they strive to put on a memorable show with plenty of dry ice, heart attack-inducing firework bangs, and a full-on light show.
Marillion crafted a fan pleasing set of atmospheric songs and technically impressive musicianship. I won’t lie to you and say that they blew me away because if truth be told, the songs just didn’t resonate with me. Judging by the excited talk leaving the venue, I think I’m totally on my own in this thinking as many seemed to be lustily looking forward to the bands next appearance in the Midlands.
The set list consisted of the following, although I could be wrong please send complaints to the usually sources and the Midlands Rocks editorial team will beat me severely with a stick on your behalf. (Ed: Again Woody, you got that right!)
Splintering Heart, Gaza, This Town, The Rakes Progress, 100 Nights, Youre Gone, The Other Half, Sounds That Can’t Be Made, Neverland, A Voice From The Past, Power, Fantastic Place, Real Tears For Sale, The Sky Above The Rain, The Great Escape, A Few Words For The Dead, Sugar Mice
And you can see Rob’s photos from the show here: