I do love December – my birthday is in it, for a start, and those of some of my closest friends, there is Christmas and then there is that annual fixture of enjoying Marillion in their natural element – on stage. I guess that most have realised how important this little ‘tradition’ has become to me since I got the assignment to cover the show from Get Ready to ROCK! (thanks guys).
Being fully aware that the show was going to be sold out I made my way into the spacious North London venue moments after the doors first opened and found a brilliant spot from which to enjoy both the Aylesbury-formed legends and their chosen opening act of the show – the Canterbury-based singer/songwriter Luke Jackson.
I have to admit that I had no prior knowledge of this young entertainer, but it only took a couple of songs into his forty minute set for both me and a sizeable portion of Marillion fans to realise why the neo-Prog legends decided to provide the young troubadour with this much desired opening slot.
With an acoustic guitar firmly in hand and in possession of a strong and soulful voice influenced by legends like Neil Young and Bob Dylan, Luke performed an enjoyable selection of tracks from both his 2012 debut “More Than Boys” and his latest studio release “Fumes and Faith”.
Though not the biggest fan of this style of stripped-down music, I found something compelling about this young man’s powerful deliveries, especially during “Father’s Footsteps” and “Answers Have Gone”.
It took the Marillion roadies less that fifteen minutes and minimal effort to get the stage prepared for the quintet’s grant entry, which was preceded by a short and witty speech by keyboardist Mark Kelly urging fans to refrain taking pictures and videos from the band’s show. Moments later, the pre-recorded intro from “Gazpacho” was met with an eruption of joyful screams by the band’s fans – who had pretty much filled the Forum by this stage.
Steve Hogarth is one of the most naturally gifted frontmen this land has given birth to and it is his soulful voice mixed with melodies from his portable Cricket Bat wireless MIDI Controller that give the fan-favourite “The Uninvited Guest” such an edge.
Prior to flooring us with an amazing vocal rendition and dramatic stage movements during “Power”, the fifty five year old frontman saluted the band’s London crowd and asked for the fans’ participation.
It didn’t take long for the crowd to answer Hogarth’s call as, following a beautiful Rothery solo during “No One Can”, fans old and new sang along to the song’s catchy refrain. There were many highlights in the show but the top prize goes to the respectful way with which Hogarth chose to introduce “Warm Wet Circles”, giving much praise to Mr. Derek William Dick (Fish) for writing some really inspiring songs, including that one.
A type of tribute to material from the amazing “Clutching At Straws” continued with a quality rendition of “That Time Of The Night (The Short Straw)” while “Woke Up” and “Trap The Spark” fused into a mass of beautiful riffs and sing-along melodies.
There have been occasions where Marillion have performed a live set without including “Easter” but luckily for us this was not to be one of those as Steve Rothery’s Gilmour-influenced riff was simply outstanding and blended nicely with the keyboard-led melodies of the follow up “Sounds That Can’t Be Made”. “Seasons End” and “Man Of A Thousand Faces” were performed with both passion and precision, leaving the pre-recorded themes and pompous melodies of “King” to conclude the band’s main set.
The first encore of the night found a returning Hogarth sporting a Christmas-light flashing vest and, together with his band mates, performing covers of Nat King Cole’s “The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting On An Open Fire)” and John Lennon’s “Happy Xmas (War Is Over)”, as well as a guitar laden version of “Slainte Mhath”.
Another short departure from stage was followed by a second and final encore featuring amazing renditions of “The Release” and of the timeless classic “Garden Party” – a perfect way to conclude such a great sounding and thoroughly entertaining show.
It is a well-known fact that Marillion fans are amongst the most devoted and loyal but these have been hard won. It is the quintet’s unsurpassable musical pedigree and their ability to perform such highly entertaining and interactive shows that has endeared them to thousands of fans around the globe, but on this night, it was Londoners who were offered a little piece of pre-Christmas magic.
Review by Yiannis (John) Stefanis
Photos By Iain Scott
Marillion Set List:
1. “Gazpacho” 2. “The Uninvited Guest” 3. “Power” 4. “No One Can” 5. “Warm Wet Circles” 6. “That Time Of The Night (The Short Straw)” 7. “Woke Up” 8. “Trap The Spark” 9. “Easter” 10. “Sounds That Can’t Be Made” 11. “Seasons End” 12. “Man Of A Thousand Faces” 13. “King” Encore 1. “The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting On An Open Fire) [Nat King Cole cover]”2.“Happy Xmas (War Is Over) [John Lennon cover]” 3.“Slainte Mhath” Encore 2: 1. “The Release” 2.“Garden Party”
Steve Hogarth: Book Review (and interview feature)
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Power Plays w/c 2 April 2018
TAX THE HEAT Taking The Hit (Nuclear Blast)
BLACKBERRY SMOKE Nobody Gives A Damn (Earache)
THE DEAD DAISIES Resurrected (SPV)
CATTAIL BREW Fool’s Gold (Capital City Music Factory/Cargo Records)
Featured Albums w/c 2 April (Mon-Fri)
09:00-12:00 FRONTLINE State Of Rock + 2 (AOR Heaven)
12:00-13:00 GUS G Fearless (AFM Records)
14:00-16:00 TRACK DOGS Kansas City Out Groove (Mondegreen Records)
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