Fish, Dutch Tour 1999
Oosterpoort, Groningen, September 11th
Vredenburg, Utrecht, September 12th
013, Tilburg, September 13th

By Remco Schoenmakers, Ed Sander, Dirk Rombauts, Dirk van den Hout,
and Bart Jan van der Vorst


Oosterpoort, Groningen, Saturday 11 September 1999
By Bart Jan van der Vorst with additional notes by Remco Schoenmakers

The first gig of the tour, and it showed. At 8.30 sharp the gig started (quite unique, a gig starting on time) with Faithhealer. The selists hadn't changed since Haddington, apart from the medley, which had been dropped from the set after so many negative comments on the Freaks-mailinglist. I can't say I missed it.
Remco: Personally, I like concerts opening with a nice driving song in order to start up the crowd and a crowd in Groningen always needs that (they are considered to be people who don't believe something's good unless it is proven to them).

Although the band had played together in Haddington already, they still seemed a bit uncomfortable. Especially Tony made quite a few hick-ups, and John Wesley didn't play as tight as in Haddington either - even a bit sloppy at times.
Remco: I found it a bit like mumbling on a guitar.

Where the setlist had been pretty effective in Haddington, it didn't seem to work in Groningen. After the uptempo opening of Faithhealer and Lucky (with terrible sound) it sort of fell apart during Brother 52. During this song the crew was adjusting the sound, resulting in many changes of volume with Fish's vocals and Tony's Hammond was completely inaudible.
Remco: Also, by then Fish had hardly spoken yet, and a bit of an introduction to this song could be in order.

The whole thing collapsed with the two ballads, Just good friends and Incomplete. A ballad in the set is fine, but two in a row, when the show is already a bit unstable just doesn't work. There was a lot of chatter from the audience and - despite the improved sound - the band just failed to impress. This was a world apart from Haddington.
Remco: Personally, I thought Just good friends was beautifully sung by both Fish and Elisabeth Antwi. Incomplete is a song that just doesn't work live, it quickly becomes messy.

Fortunately it changed for the better with the Clutching-trilogy, which came just in time to save the show. Although it wasn't played as tight as it should be, at least it changed the atmosphere and the audience went crazy singing along: "WARM - WET - CIRCLES!!!"
Remco: Again, I disagree with BJ. The whole trilogy completely lacked clarity, which is very important in these pieces, thus making it messy and unenjoyable. But it was good to heard the old Marillion songs again with the original vocalist.

Even before the last tones of That time of the Night had finished Tony started the piano-intro of Tumbledown. A nice crossover only destroyed by a slip of Tony fingers, resulting in a disturbing yelling and whistling from the crowd. The uptempo part of Tumbledown saved the show from further deterioration.
Remco: It was played far quicker than the version on the album, giving it a bit of a rushed feeling.

Unfortunately with Goldfish and Clowns the show slowed down again. - Remco: So I could get some beer ;-).

Fish didn't seem to be affected by the mediocre show. His chatter was hilarious as usual, especially when he came to describe the statue "Peerd van Ome Loeks" which is a statue of a horse which arse is pointing towards the road as if it is about to shit on the passing cars.
Remco: Fish suggested to put a flame-thrower in so it would light up dark winter nights when it farted.

The heckling was a bit awkward, as Fish could barely hear the audience onstage, and when someone offered him a homevideo recorded at Haddington, Fish seemed totally indifferent about it - I don't think he actually understood what it was.
Nonetheless Fish had enough jokes to tell, especially when introducing Plague of Ghosts. He masked his inability to remember the lyrics pretty well by introducing "The Book of Rubbish" from which he read the lyrics to Digging Deep (Remco: fundamentally difficult lyrics ;-) and Chocolate Frogs.

Plague of Ghosts was definitely the best performance of the evening, although the middle-part is a bit long and maybe too boring for most people. Half the audience didnít pay too much attention during Chocolate Frogs and Waving at Stars.

The finale of Wake-up Call was just like Haddington a great success and a happy sing-a-long for the crowd. Yet the band seemed in a hurry, because they came back onstage for the encore before the crowd had even finished singing. Fish urged the crowd for silence and the slow intro of Cliché started.
Wesley messed up the solo big-time and I almost longed for Frank Usher to return. I've never been a fan of Usher's work - he only seems to know one style of playing - but his solo for Cliché is classic.

After Cliché they went straight into the last minute of Johnny Punter. --Remco: which is akward, since in this way they skip the best part of that song: the intro.-- I was still sad that they didn't play the full version. Now the medley has been dropped from the set there is no real excuse anymore for not playing the first 6 minutes. It just sounds so out of place.

The band returned for a mediocre version of Sunsets on Empire - without Steve Wilson this time. Although I quite like the song, it doesn't work as an encore - it's too mellow! It would have worked so much better in the main set.
Remco: You want to go out with a bang!, and this song ends a concert like a candle that slowly dies.

Fish didn't return for a last encore, even though The Company showed on the setlist. A confused crowd left the venue silently. I waited with some friends to see if the band was coming out afterwards. (I had promised John to say hi) but they never came. Back to being the big stars then? I hope they were just tired.

In the end it was a pretty disappointing start of the tour. It is amazing how exactly the same setlist can give such a different concert when played for a different crowd. Haddington was great, this was just mediocre. I just hope it changes for the better during the rest of the tour. Maybe Fish or the band didn't have their day.

Remco: I think part of my disappointment of the concert came only afterwards, when rethinking the whole thing. During the concert, I was just pleased to see the old man live again (hadn't seen him since the Sunsets tour). If the concert would have been in the small auditorium of the venue, the atmosphere would have been much more intimate, and that's what Fish' work needs (especially the almost hypnotic Plague epic). The poor lighting didn't contribute to that either. But let's not be too negative: I had a pleasant evening with pleasant music in a pleasant crowd and just some of the details didn't work.

 


 

Muziekcentrum Vredenburg, Utrecht, Sunday 12 September 1999
By Ed Sander

Last time I saw Fish perform live was at the Effenaar venue in Eindhoven during the Sunsets on Empire tour. It had been a great night during a period when I was about to give up on the guy.
I had seen Fish various times in Vredenburg, each time with a simpler stage set-up. It started off with the atmospheric backdrop and metal plates during the Vigil Tour, later to be replaced by fishing nets and great lighting for the Songs from the Mirror tour and decoration plants for the acoustic part of the Suits tour.

Now Fish was back in Vredenburg. It felt like the right place to be at for this tour, sort of a homecoming. Walking into the concert hall, I got my first disappointment. No stage props at all whatsoever. Just a huge stage with a drum kit, couple of keyboards on an slightly elevated platform and just enough room for the other band members in front of it ?
Could this be for the support band ? No, that didn't make any sense.

At 20.15 John Wesley walked on stage. Although his music is quite pleasant to listen to, I got a sort of 'oh no, not again' feeling. The last couple of years, you can't go to a Marillion or Fish gig without Wesley showing up in the support slot.
After a couple of songs, mostly from his first solo album, Wesley announced the release of his new album in his completely incomprehensible way of speaking (he sings better than he speaks). At 20.35 Wesley left the stage.

At 20.50 the lights went down again and a tape started to play: 'No Business Like Show Business'. I can't help but feel that this was meant in a rather cynical way, considering Fish' recent rants against the showbiz stakeholders.

The band proceeded with Faithhealer, a quite nice version, although I noticed that the sound was not what I was used to at Vredenburg. The mix of the instruments seemed a bit messy and sometimes keyboards, guitar or main vocals by Fish would be hardly audible from where I was sitting. It seemed like all of the sound stayed down in the arena, instead of being spread around the hall. This did not improve much during the rest of the gig.

Next up was Lucky which immediately proved to me that Fish' current band does not come near the tight way in which previous line-ups used to play. It might still be early in the tour, but some of the older Fish songs didn't really work for me.
Especially Tony and Wesley failed to impress me at times.

Just Good Friends was a nice ballad with Elizabeth, followed by two Sunset of Empire songs: Brother 52 and Goldfish & Clowns. After Brother 52 Fish spoke to the audience for the first time, giving his opinion about the rumored plans to close down Vredenburg. This, and the intro to Plague of Ghosts which would follow later on were the only time Fish spoke to the crowd. This definitely is very unlike him. Add to that the (for Fish) relatively short duration of the full gig (not even 2 hours) either means that he's getting old and tired or just didn't feel like performing that night (although that didn't show in his enthusiasm).

Fish had already announced earlier to play an old 'trilogy', which as we expected ended up being Hotel Hobbies/Warm Wet Circles/That Time of the Night, fair versions although you could hardly hear the backing vocals. After Tumbledown followed the moment of truth.

Fish got a small stand with the lyrics for Plague of Ghost on it (on his mailing list, he had admitted not to be able to remember all of it) and started a parody of a poet/writer reciting from his own work. In this case 'The Book of Rubbish'. Fish told how he pondered his life style during the Sunsets tour and how the next piece resulted from that. An absolutely amazing live version of the 20+ minute track followed. At the end of the Wake-Up Call section Fish started introducing the band while enticing the audience to keep on singing 'We Can Make It Happen !'. Just after being introduced the musicians left the stage one by one while the rest kept on playing.
Slowly the full sound lost the bass, keyboards, guitar and drum sounds and backing vocals until only Fish was left. When he walked off the stage the crowd kept on singing until the band returned for their first encores. What an amazing feeling !! This really gave me the chills.

First encore was Cliche, again not as good as previous live versions. At the end of the song the band went suddenly into the closing section of Perceptions of Johnny Punter. The merge sounded very unnatural to me, as well as hearing just a fragment of the song. Nope, this didn't really work. Next up was Sunsets on Empire, which they did not play at the Effenaar during the tour from that album. Nice to finally hear it live, although it did not sound fully convincing. I also think that Elizabeth's vocals are a bit too much on the low side for some of the backing vocals for Fish. She certainly wasn't able to recreate the level of the vocals on the studio album.
After repeating the closing chant a couple of times the band left the stage, again leaving an audience which kept on chanting.

The band came back one more time to perform The Company, which featured some Irish dancing by Fish and Elizabeth.

To sum it up, I missed Fish' speeches, the concert was relatively short, the sound was not very good and the band failed to impress me during part of the set. Add to that the one of the most inefficient and unimaginative light shows I've seen in years.
Plague of Ghosts was absolutely stunning though, both musically and lighting. This part of the show basically saved the evening for me.†
Oh, and why does all the merchandise have to be so fucking expensive recent years ?

 


 

013, Tilburg, Monday 13 September 1999
By Dirk Rombauts with additional comments by Dirk van den Hout

It seems that Fish has made a radical decision to look and go forward, so he chose much material from Raingods With Zippos and Sunsets On Empire.† Only four songs from his other albums, and one Marillion piece (the Hotel Hobbies/Warm Wet Circles/That Time Of The Night-trilogy).† I think this is a logical move since Fish probably doesn't want to hang out in the past anymore, but for me, this was somewhat of a disappointment.† But then again, I'm one of those mostly living in the past :-).† Also, the concert wasn't long enough for me ... 1h50m or so, while I had expected some 2h30.† Those extra 40min would have offered time enough to add some early solo and Marillion material.

It's possible that this "new" setlist had a negative impact on the audience - I don't know.† Fact is that the audience was rather quiet troughout the whole gig (Fish commented on that "you're one of those quiet and respectfull audiences" - it was in fact a better audience or a Roger Waters concert, he would have liked us :-) ).† So there was not so much atmosphere - Andy Westmoreland (a fellow Freaks-subscriber) and I did some (seperate) efforts to get the crowd singing and shouting, but to no avail. The house never exploded, and maybe that had something to do with the lack of "rockers" like Assassing.

Something I did like, was the between song banter.† Not one or two long monologues, but several short stories and jokes between songs.† There was no beer drinking joke this time (Fish received another present this time: two small models of badgers), but Fish did mention the number 42 - greeted with loud applause by our little group.

Additional notes by Dirk van den Hout: I think this lack of enthousiasm was also due to the fact that the new band was not as tight and good as the "old" band during the Sunsets Tour. Although John wesley is a good guitar player I prefer Robin Boult because he has a more melodic and agressive sound while when I see John Wesley playing I always think he is playing electric on a classic guitar .. not agressive enough for me. I don't say he is a bad player but .. there's something missing ! Tony Turrell is a very talented keyboard player; although he was hardly to be heard during the first three songs (bad mix !) I think he improved during the concert with a very good performance during the Plague song. Squeeky and Steve Vantsis were as good as always ! And then Elisabeth Antwi .. very good singer and a very good decision to take her on tour !

Last remark: thanks to the people from the 013 venue for a very good concert sound and especially Fish' sound engineer .. I know that 013 is famous for its good acoustics but the sound during the concert was fabulous !

Dirk, who is a little disappointed that he played such a bad song as Sunsets on Empire during the encores ..

 


Band:

Fish - Vocals
Elisabeth Antwi - Backing vocals
John Wesley - Guitar
Tony Turrell - Keyboards, Backing vocals
Steve Vantsis - Bass, Backing vocals
Dave "Squeeky" Stewart - Drums, Samples

Setlists:

Groningen

Faithhealer
Lucky
Brother 52
Just Good Friends
Incomplete
Hotel Hobbies
Warm Wet Circles
That Time of the Night
Tumbledown
Goldfish and Clowns
Plague of Ghosts
(i. Old Haunts, ii. Digging Deep, iii. Chocolate Frogs, iv. Waving at Stars, v. Raingods Dancing, vi. Wake-up Call)

Cliché / The Perception of Johnny Punter

Sunsets on Empire

 

Utrecht, Tilburg, Amsterdam

Faithhealer
Lucky
Just Good Friends
Brother 52
Goldfish and Clowns
Hotel Hobbies
Warm Wet Circles
That Time of the Night
Tumbledown
Plague of Ghosts
(i. Old Haunts, ii. Digging Deep, iii. Chocolate Frogs, iv. Waving at Stars, v. Raingods Dancing, vi. Wake-up Call)

Cliché / The Perception of Johnny Punter

Sunsets on Empire

The Company

Lavender (Amsterdam only)

 

 

 

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