Gig review: STEVE ROTHERY BAND – Band On The Wall, Manchester, 12 January 2017

This hour special was broadcast in the first hour of David Randall’s weekly show ‘Assume The Position’ on Sunday 18 September at 22:00 GMT on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio.

Steve Rothery Band - Band On The Wall, Manchester, 12 January 2017

With an opening set provided by the Dave Foster Band (effectively SRB minus the main man, and with Dinet Poortman on vocals) the bill was one packed with quality playing.  And whilst Foster’s support set was brief, it was a rare opportunity for a live encounter with some of the highlights from his excellent 2016 Dreamless ‘solo’ album – from the unrestrained power of ‘Black Sunrise’ to the shimmering ‘pop’ of ‘New York Rain’ with its exquisite bluesy guitar lines.

Dave Foster Band - Band On The Wall, Manchester, 12 January 2017

But when Rothery sidled, unannounced, on stage to reprise his cameo performance on the smouldering ‘Ache’, the chasm between master and the apprentice was never starker.  In just a few short lines, he took the number to another level.  All the great guitarists have a signature sound, and Rothery’s distinctive warm fluid style demonstrated just why he’s deserving of a place at the ‘top table’.

Dave Foster Band - Band On The Wall, Manchester, 12 January 2017

His own set, divided in two halves – Ghosts, and Garden Parties – was an opportunity for him to step out of his Marillion straitjacket in a way that will be unfamiliar to most.  Centre stage, chatty and engaging, and with a constant wide grin – as were his band – Foster and his Panic Room bass mate Yatim Halimi, Leon Parr (drums), and Riccardo Romano (keys) – this was a different persona from that encountered at Marillion gigs.  As distinct as a day at the office, and a ‘kick about’ with the lads.

Steve Rothery Band - Band On The Wall, Manchester, 12 January 2017

And so to the Ghosts Of Pripyat set – although now two years old, the album will still be undiscovered by many, but what more is there to say?  My 2015 reviewer’s choice album on the year, and described by fellow reviewer Alan Jones as ‘perfection’ and ‘simply majestic’, it is without doubt Rothery’s finest hour.

And all the more remarkable for being an instrumental concept album (with credit, it must be added, to co-writer Foster).  Little surprise, therefore, that ‘merch’ copies had sold out the previous night.  ‘Guitar heaven’ doesn’t get much better than this.

Steve Rothery Band - Band On The Wall, Manchester, 12 January 2017

For the Garden Parties set, Foster made way for Glaswegian vocalist Martin Jakubski from Fish-era tribute band Stillmarillion and, while I have to confess to not being the greatest fan of that period Marillion, for Rothery it was ‘an opportunity to play some of my favourite guitar solos I wouldn’t otherwise get the opportunity to’.  And while true to the period nature of the material, Jakubski’s vocals/presence were much less overbearing than those of Fish, giving the musical content – and Rothery’s guitar parts – space to breathe.

Steve Rothery Band - Band On The Wall, Manchester, 12 January 2017

It was, it must be said, a peerless performance from both Rothery and the band, and one with a real ‘feel good factor’ throughout.  Cleary the formative Marillion era is still very close to Rothery’s heart (and much of the audience), but come on Steve – you’re on a roll, how about a follow up to Ghosts?

Setlist:   Morpheus / Kendris /Old Man Of The Sea / White Pass / Summer’s End / Cinderella Search / Chelsea Monday / Incubus / Fugazi / Sugar Mice / Three Boats Down From The Candy / White Russian / Encore: Garden Party

Review by Pete Whalley
Photos by David Randall

Album review (Ghosts Of Pripyat, 2014)
Album review (Dave Foster Band, Dreamless, 2016)

Steve Rothery Band - Band On The Wall, Manchester, 12 January 2017


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