Marillion: Then & Now
The latest Then & Now looks at prog rockers Marillion. Xavier Russell was there right at the beginning, but has not clapped eyes on the band since March 1983. So, we sent him along to check out Marillion at the High High Voltage Festival. First off, his review from The Marquee Club, London in 1981 has been reprinted as it originally appeared in Sounds magazine, under the heading: A Return To Kaftans And Loonpants!
Venue: The Marquee, London
Date: October 20, 1981
Marillion (now there’s an original name) hail from Aylesbury and have been playing SRO (sold right out) showcase gigs at the legendary Friars boozer, which believe it or not is in Aylesbury.
Marillion recently took London by storm, and gave Aerosmith rip-off merchants Girl a bit of a scare. It’s not often a support act gets an encore at The Marquee, although to be fair to Girl, Marilllion had bought down a rather large contingent of ageing hippy ‘eadbangers. No denim and leather here mate, more like kaftans and loonpants.
A trip back to the mid-70s maybe, but at least Marillion aren’t jumping on the NWOBHM bandwagon. Instead they’re more at home borrowing licks from the old school of Genesis, Styx , Yes and Cannuck rockers Zon and, wait for it, Trillion. These are just a few names that spring to mind.
Onstage Marillion come across very bizarre, not dissimilar to Agony Bag; whatever happened to them? Lead singer Fish, a rather tall and mysterious Scot, stalks around the stage in jerky movements and at times reminded me of Gene Simmons, although Fish’s make up coulda been more outrageous.
The rest of the band look like some weird religious sect, wearing what looked like old potato sacks, each one with a bright eye coloured eye painted on the back, giving that mythical look. Perhaps the band have been reading to many Stephen King novels.
Marillion have a very tight sound. Songs like He Knows You Know, Garden Party and Charting The Single are all long workouts, well crafted, not too much guitar, and synthesizer drifting in and out. Fronting this rather complicated sound is Fish, who does have a good voice, and sings pretty off the wall lyrics. So what a surprise when they encored with an old Scottish jig classic, Loch Lomond, a real show stopper.
The sooner Marillion get signed the better. Now, if someone could tell me what the big eye on the back of those potato sacks means, I’ll join the sect.
Venue: The Prog Stage, High Voltage, London
Date: July 25, 2010
When I saw that Marillion were due to headline the Prog Stage at the first ever High Voltage Festival, I was naturally curious to see how the band had changed over the years. The last time I saw Marillion live was back in 1983, at the Civic Hall in Guildford. And the only Steve Hogarth era Marillion album I own is 2004′s Marbles, which I grew rather fond of, and even used in an episode of the TV series Silent Witness (Xavier’s day job is as a film and TV editor – Ed.).
It’ s a song from Marbles that opens their set. The Invisible Man creeps almost apologetically out of the PA, as Mark Kelly’s swirling keys fill the air, with Pete Trewavas’s thumping bass adding another layer to their complex sound. And then there’s Hogarth, dressed like he’d just come from a funeral, in black, and delivering those almost haunting lyrics in his unique style. Steve Rothery meanwhile looked like he was trying to make his guitar sound louder due to the annoying invasion of Down from the nearby Metal Hammer stage.
I decide to move to the left hand side to try and get a way from Down, although to be honest what I hear of them does actually sound quite good! As I find a spot where the sound was a lot clearer I bump into Fish! Well, stone the crows, etc, how weird.
Cover My Eyes is blaring out, and look up at Fish to see if he was Covering His Ears – he’s not. In fact, he has a large telephoto lens pointed at the stage as if the giant Scotsman is on some sort of spying mission. The Fish face betrays no hint of what he’s thinking anything. I know for a fact that Fish gets on with most members of the band, so there’s no animosity in the air.
I have to confess it’s weird watching Fish watching Marillion, But I can’t really see him wrapping his lungs around the likes of Slainte Mhath or King, which Hogarth dedicates to astronaut Neil Armstrong, ”80 today, and still going strong”.
The core of Marillion is very much the same, although the rhythm section (also featuring drummer Ian Mosley) has slowed down to an almost, dare I say it, lounge level of progginess! Hogarth, meanwhile is an aquired taste,but as the set proggressed (Double groan – Ed.) I’m sucked in by the frontman’s odd style especially so on This Strange Engine. By the time he’s sung Afraid Of Sunlight I coulda sworn I was looking at a Vampire!
I have to confess I still prefer the old Marillion with Fish, mainly because the songs are far wackier and more energectic, but having said that I would like to sse the Hogarth’s Marillion in a venue where Down will hopefully not be interfering in the mix, otherwise it will end up sounding like the Hogarth Roundabout. And Marillion don’t deserve that. Meanwhile, if you want so see Fish live he’s playing the Peel in Kingston on August 16.
Tags: Aerosmith, Agony Bag, Classic Rock Presents Prog, Fish, Gene Simmons, Genesis, Girl, High Voltage Festival, Ian Mosley, Marillion, Mark Kelly, Metal Hammer, Pete Trewavas, Steve Hogarth, Steve Rothery, Styx, Trillion, Yes, Zon