Review by Dean Pedley. Photos by Rich Ward
Saturday 13th April
The Marillion Weekend experience came into being a decade ago with a long weekend in the freezing cold chalet accommodation offered by Pontins. These days things are a lot more civilised with the UK leg (similar events now also occur in the Netherlands and Canada) finding the band taking up residence at Wolverhampton’s Civic Hall, thereby enabling those travelling any great distance to enjoy the sumptuous surroundings of establishments such as the Britannia Hotel (on second thoughts maybe Pontins wasn’t so bad after all).
A long-standing tradition of the Weekend events is ‘album night’ and this year the band have doubled up on the concept with 1998’s ‘Radiation’ being the focus of Friday night’s set. Come Saturday and Aylesbury’s finest have chosen to revisit 1994’s introspective concept album ‘Brave’, last performed in its entirety back in 2002 at the inaugural event at Brean Sands. With its dark subject matter ‘Brave’ was very much seen at the time of its release as a reaction to its predecessor, the Marillion-lite ‘Holidays In Eden’, that despite much huffing and puffing on the part of EMI failed to deliver a hit single of ‘Kayleigh’ like proportions.
The presentation of ‘Brave’ is played with the full production – back screen visuals and Steve Hogarth in full-on theatrical mode, make-up and all, during the descent into despair that is ‘Goodbye To All That’. Some of the individual songs (‘Hard as Love’, ‘Runaway’, ‘Paper Lies’) may be standard Marillion fare when taken in isolation but pull the whole thing together and this remains one of the most dramatic, powerful and beguiling concept albums there has ever been. And when it reaches the climax of ‘Brave’ and ‘The Great Escape’ the emotion from band to audience and back again provides one of those hair-on-the-back-of-the-neck moments that few others can even hope to achieve.
After what has been an energy sapping 70 odd minutes the second part of the evening finds the band in a much more relaxed mood. Selections range from rarely played deep cuts (‘Trap the Spark’, ‘Drilling Holes’) to long since retired touring regulars (‘Seasons End’, ‘The Space’). The moving tribute to speed king Donald Campbell, ‘Out of this World’, remains a stellar moment with the back screen again put to use with some moving footage of the man himself. They even roll back the clock to 1987 for the celebratory ‘Warm Wet Circles’ and ‘That Time of the Night’, Hogarth having more than stamped his own mark on the pair over the years.
Marillion are a band that will forever polarise opinion; even amongst the team here at Midlands Rocks comments have ranged from “boring” and “uninspired” to “outstanding”. Whatever your view, there is no denying that they still have a special place in the hearts of their devoted following and with performances such as this it is not hard to see why.
Living with the big lie
Goodbye to all that
Hard as love
The hollow man
Alone again in the lap of luxury
The great escape
Trap the spark
Warm wet circles
That time of the night
Out of this world
Sunday 14th April
by Rich Ward
By Sunday evening there is a distinctly relaxed atmosphere around the Civic. Over the weekend old aquaintances have been reunited, new friendships formed, the bond between the band and its’ hardcore fans reaffirmed and even records broken; Friday’s show was recorded for DVD and after just 10 hours 31 minutes was edited, manufactured and ready for sale, setting the world record for the fastest time a music DVD had been filmed and commercially released.
Marillion open the final evening with ‘Gaza’ before delving into their past with ‘Waiting To Happen’ from ‘Holidays In Eden’. Much of the rest of the evening is dedicated to showcasing new album ‘Sounds That Can’t Be Made’. ‘Lucky Man’ is an early highlight, but familiarity is king and it’s the established song that generate the best response. It’s a delight to hear ‘This Strange Engine’ and an excellent ‘King Of Sunset Town’ which is supported with a stunning light show.
The Marillion faithful lap up every minute of the show, and are rewarded with a set canons of gold ticker tape firing into the audience and turning the whole of the Civic into one giant glitterball. The crowd look truly elated.
A further encore of a bonafide classic ‘Garden Party’ sees Steve Hogarth clamber up the PA at the side of the stage and onto the balcony presidng over both band and fans. A wonderful end to a special evening and weekend.
Waiting To Happen
This Strange Engine
Pour My Love
Sounds That Can’t Be Made
King Of Sunset Town
The Sky Above The Rain
See more of Rich’s pics here;