Marillion have come a long way over the years, The band that started out derided by music fans as just a Genesis rip off went on to have a couple of excellent hit singles and now has members in demand – such as bassist Pete Trewavas, who is part of prog supergroup Transatlantic.
This live DVD records a show from London’s Royal Albert Hall that sold out in just four minutes.
There is a disc for each set: the first plays the last album F.E.A.R. straight through and the second features an augmented band playing popular pieces.
F.E.A.R. (three suites and two shorter tracks) garnered critical acclaim as one of their best albums. Thoroughly indignant, it oozes angry concern for social justice, observing how fear gathers pace and is controlled by politicians and media.
Its opening track “El Dorado,” for example, is about refugees,
“… waiting, smiling on the borders in dawn’s mist
Or lost to the world in their upturned boats…
I see myself in them, the people at the borders
Waiting to exist again
Brothers, sisters, sons and daughters
Denied our so-called golden streets
Running from demolished lives into walls
The “haves” and the “have nothings”
The accepted and rejected
We can’t keep letting them in ?
The gold stops us, the gold always did.”
While few of these works has the hooks to keep it in your brain after watching, there is a depth here that will give more with succeeding views, as the themes coalesce.
The second set sees them joined by a string quartet, flute and French horn. The strings echo Steve Rothery’s guitar lines in “Neverland” and make an already lush soundscape richer by several levels than the studio version.
They are so right for “The Great Escape,” from an album about a girl found wandering on the Severn Bridge. The song is driven by sentiment, as the girl considers jumping off the bridge. The strings heighten that emotion beautifully.
Matching the sonic richness, the visuals are a treat. A collection of stills could make a stunning coffee table book. At one point for “Go!” (pre-arranged via social media) the audience switch on the multicoloured finger lights left on their seats. They look like richly hued fireflies dancing among the lasers beaming around the hall.
Singer Steve Hogarth – imagine Eric Idle wearing a Snape wig – does charisma on behalf of the others, who simply concentrate on playing. Drummer Ian Moseley looks like he might turn around, put on his slippers and pick up a newspaper at any minute, while Rothery is stoic throughout. But by the end of tracks like “This Space,” Hogarth is totally impassioned about his singing, his face contorted into crags of emotion.
By contrast, when he is between songs, he looks relaxed and humbly delighted to be the channel for the band / fan interaction.
For all the early mockery about ripping off Genesis, Pink Floyd is a band that comes closer to mind, with Rothery drawing sustain-laden solos from his Fender Strat, and keys player Mark Kelly provides the rest of the lushness. But Marillion is its own band with its own sound, and they are captured here at their best.
This is serious music about serious issues (Hogarth sings “Easter” for “anyone anywhere in the world, just trying to bring up their kids in places where people with vested interests are tearing the place apart”). But rather than dragging you down, it exudes resistance and strength; it rides on humanity and empathy.
All one tonight? You bet they were.