Gig review: MARILLION – Manchester Academy, 8 November 2013

Marillion - Manchester Academy, 8 November 2013

In September 2012 Marillion brought their Sounds That Can’t Be Made tour to the Academy on a dismal Manchester evening.  Some things don’t change and the weather was equally inclement as they chose to open a short pre-Christmas ‘Sounds Live 2013′ tour here again – one of only two UK dates and seven in total across the UK, Netherlands, France and Germany.  Whatever it is that attracts the band back to the North West it certainly isn’t the weather.

It was a welcome return for one of the few bands whose artistic integrity remains unquestionably untainted by the dismal current state of the music industry.  13 albums into the Hogarth era, that’s quite an achievement.

One that’s firmly underpinned by a civil partnership between the band and fans, and one that that is so much more than a marriage of convenience.  Crowd funding – a potential the band grasped long before the masses – may be the equivalent of a pre-nuptial declaration of trust, but make no mistake, it’s love:love relationship.

As the band themselves acknowledge, when they come together and start pushing the boundaries, magic happens.  Not always, but sufficiently regularly for them to want to continue the journey.

H joked(?) that this pre-Xmas tour was to ensure their Xmas stockings were sufficiently well stocked and is timed to coincide with the release of an expanded Sounds That Can’t Be Made, bolstered by a bonus disc featuring three tracks recorded for radio, a special demo arrangement of Lucky Man, and two tracks taken from a forthcoming Sounds That Can’t Be Made live DVD due out in 2014.

Marillion - Manchester Academy, 8 November 2013

But the set list this evening was one perhaps more suited to a Marillion Weekend – a fairly bombastic collection containing just four numbers from their latest long player, and exploring some of the less commercial corners of the band’s songbook spanning Marbles, Afraid Of Sunlight, Somewhere Else, This Strange Engine and Brave.

You certainly couldn’t knock the performance – a great light show, Hogarth engaging and animated as always, Rothery still looking pleased as punch from guesting with Steve Hackett, a rock solid performance from Messrs Trewavas and Mosley, and Mark Kelly the unsung hero.  Although the decision to break the flow and move to encores at the half way point seemed a little strange.

Marillion - Manchester Academy, 8 November 2013

The audience lapped it up.  What never fails to amaze me is the number of Marillion fans who sing along with each and every word as if it was their dying breath – not the easiest of feats given the band’s tendency to alight butterfly like on almost any point of their vast repertoire, and the fact that H’s singing enunciation can be a challenge at times.

It certainly presented no difficulty to the chap behind me with the paunch and Freddie Mercury ‘tash’ that was a little too cultured to be a Movember sprouting.  He gave it everything, and in truth wasn’t a bad singer.  Although the air guitar and chest beating that accompanied Sugar Mice took things a tad too far.

Personally, I would have preferred to absorb the spectacle in more cultured surroundings, but then I suppose Manchester and Aylesbury are miles apart in many senses.  And with only two UK gigs this one will have pulled the faithful in from far and wide.  While they went home thinking Christmas had come early, the more casual observer will probably have wondered what all the fuss was about.

Setlist: 1. The Invisible Man 2. Beautiful  3. Sounds That Can’t Be Made 4. Somewhere Else  5. An Accidental Man  6. Power  7. This Strange Engine
Encore: 8. Mad  9. Neverland  Encore 2: 10. Gaza  11. The Sky Above the Rain  12. Sugar Mice

Review by Pete Whalley
Photos by David Randall

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