It’s been a while (over 10 years, by my reckoning, or ‘about fuckin’ time’ as one local punter eloquently put it) since Marillion last played Liverpool, and there’s something different about this leg of their ongoing FEAR tour. Seats! Giving a relatively unobstructed view for all (and let’s face it – 50% of any audience will be shorter than the rest!).
One can only think that following the speed at which the band sold out the Royal Albert Hall and the London Palladium last year, the penny dropped that there’s enough demand out there to fill these larger, more salubrious venues. Especially with the band’s currency at an, almost, all time high.
So, with Sold Out signs appearing just about everywhere they play, and on the crest of wave, Marillion arrived in town. And while this may be the third date GRTR! has caught on the FEAR tour (the earlier dates being at the sticky underfoot Manchester Academy in Novembers 2016 and 2017) the good thing about a Marillion gig is the constant tweaking of their set list.
I did wonder whether fans would abide by the seating arrangements or opt for Kop like ‘safe standing’, or whether a seated audience combined with a somewhat visually sterile (but acoustically excellent) venue might impact on the ‘terraces’ atmosphere the band invariably generate. I needn’t have ‘feared’ – the atmosphere was palpable and, but for one idiot who must have been a nightmare to sit behind, the performance respectfully, but suitably appreciatively and enthusiastically observed.
FEAR (naturally) remains the centrepiece of the current set, and tonight there was no space for ‘The New Kings’ or the lesser heard ‘White Paper’, nor for staple crowd pleasers like ‘The Invisible Man’, ‘King’, or ‘Neverland’. Instead the set was a ‘bookend’ affair of early and latter day (Hogarth era) material, with the band’s six studio albums from Radiation (1998) to Happiness Is The Road (2008) overlooked but for the inclusion of a quite magnificent rendition of ‘Quartz’ from Anoraknophobia.
And that’s the joy of a Marillion gig, you’re never quite sure what delicacies will be served. In truth, you couldn’t argue there was anything unmerited in tonight’s set list, so if you want the full gourmet experience then one of the band’s bi -annual weekend conventions is the obvious answer.
As regards the pick of the crop tonight, (and in this respect I have to agree with Dave Atkinson’s assessment (of The Royal Albert Hall DVD) that live, FEAR takes on a new dimension ) ‘El Dorado’ was an atmospheric epic with an edge not always apparent on record, and ‘The Leavers’ simply irresistible. Elsewhere, ‘Power’ was compelling and dramatic, ‘Sounds That Can’t Be Made’ sublime, Season’s End enough to bring a tear to the eye, and what more can be written about ‘Afraid Of Sunlight’, ‘Easter’ and ‘This Strange Engine’?
It’s quite remarkable how, after nigh on 30 years together, something special happens almost every time this band walks on stage. As H put it, in referring to being in Liverpool, ‘we’re in a different world now, you lovely peculiar fuckers’. How right he was, on so many different levels.
An[other] imperiously commanding, and gripping, performance.
Review by Pete Whalley
Photos by David Randall
Set list: El Dorado / Power /Quartz / The Party / Seasons End /Living in F E A R / The Leavers / Wave / Mad / Afraid of Sunlight /The Great Escape.
Encore: This Strange Engine. Encore 2: Easter / Garden Party
DVD review (Royal Albert Hall)
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