2004 North American Tour Overview
September 27th, West-Hollywood, CA, USA
October 11th, Boston, MA, USA
October 12th, Montreal, Canada
Cary Coatney, Fred Hunter, Mitch Goldman and 'Greebo'
September 27th, House Of Blues, West-Hollywood
'An extremely biased review by Cary Coatney'
Rather than sitting at home getting visually mauled by presidental debates, I decided to break away from Fantasyland and attend opening night of the long much heralded return of Marillion's first U.S. Tour in SEVEN years! (and Mexico City doesn't count! Just my opinion on the tour dates listed on the back of my t-shirts) and what a perfectly flawless evening it was to be enjoyed by all; except for a few caveats concerning the venue: Poor air circulation and bathroom valets who hustle you up for a dollar, otherwise you don't get to wash and dry your hands properly after you've finished draining the dragon.
Okay enough exercising political rimshots and recycled first sentences (see my 2003 King Crimson @ the Wiltern review for details) and on with my unconditional dying love for anything Marillion.
I was hanging out with Under the Sun bass player Kurt Barabas throughout the show along with some of his friends who run the prog4you website just as John Wesley was finishing up hammering through a acoustic interpretation of Pink Floyd's Run Like Hell. And that basically was my grand entrance, after a detour of unloading of heavy objects bulging from my grey 90 percent polyester and 10 percent spandex pants pocket due to a security patdown - Time was wasting and I immediately made a dash to the souvenir table in a panic that they would already be sold out of tour t-shirts. After all, it's been seven years and my last This Strange Engine tour t-shirt is a lot faded since.
I was pondering on some thoughts of the last time when I saw Marillion and if I had remembered correctly, the place was only half full from when they went into EMI-less oblivion and were forced to go it alone as agents of independent rock
provocateurs in touring behind a fan based slush fund that enabled them to tour behind This Strange Engine. But now- look at this place! Where did all these people come from? Is the new album getting nationwide airplay on alternative stations? I mean, last time. Christine Holtz, who used to publish a prog rock newsletter called Music News Network managed to get me backstage for some hang out time- but there was no way I could smooth over those supersized combo meal security beef boys in yellow crew shirts, so I left a few copies of my newest comic book I printed with the girl behind the tour merchandise table that includes the Marbles advertisement on the back cover to give to the band after the show. Still, I was in a constant flux of perplexity of how there came to be so many people at this gig who probably looks as if they never would in a million years pick up a Marillion disc. From what I was witnessing in my immediate environment, there were a handful of estrogenic seeking men paddling in a sea of too few good looking females who wanted nothing to do with them. Hmmm, maybe they came to actually hear the music, instead of being picked up upon? I had already asked three girls if they had wanted to accompany me- but all the responses I could get from them was a resounding Marillion who?
Alright, so Monday night is not really a date night for some people and-
Uh oh, the curtain is going up....
It's time for some Marbles action!
And there they were on stage, like long lost second or third removed cousins at a family reunion. Steve Hogarth sauntered up to the microphone garbed in some Brooks Brothers casual zoot suit as the ensemble led its' way through the opening salvo of the thirteen and a half minute tongue 'n cheek Ralph Waldo Emerson inspired The Invisible Man tantalized by the use of Hogarth's mimicry got the gears rolling on this abbreviated version of the Marbles showcase portion of the show.
And it was absolutely riveting. Nothing could be more simpler than that.
I miss the narrative of hand gestured storytelling in lyrics and H's still struggles to keeps the tired old tradition in place and this probably is the only one trait that both previous singing burly man, Fish and H have in common - they act out the lyrics of the songs. Portions of the Invisible Man, along with Neverland reminded me of those long cherished Fugazi Fish days when Fish would be sitting down near Mosley's drumkit during the middle of Jigsaw and pretend that the heel of his shoe was a gun chamber in which he would be loading imaginary bullets into before getting back to the chorus and feign suicide.
In Invisible Man, H would be flaying his arms and screaming into the microphone around like a sociopath during the end of that song and spread his arms out if acting out a flying fantasy towards the end of the J.M. Barrie's homage to Neverland (not really so much as a homage to the legend of Peter Pan, but rather to the legend of the man behind Peter Pan- ironic, that a motion picture called Neverland starring Johnny Depp will be opening in cinemas soon that is based on the same subject).
In the instrumental department- I felt Peter Trewavas and Steve Rothery really stood out on their strings with the dreary jazz bits on 'Angelina'. On certain rock out points, Trewavas was acting as if he were twenty years younger now that his leg has healed. By the way he was jumping around on the stage, you wouldn' t think that he was once in a serious car accident. H introduced Mark Kelly as keyboardist and master of special effects and Ian Mosley was in fine form, even when drum machines were the domineering component in songs such as You're Gone or This is the 21st Century.
Nearly all of the domestic release of Marbles was played in the first elongated portion of the show, including all the four part self- titled bookend pieces. I think all bands should follow this mantra whenever new material is concerned. Play it! Flaunt it! But jeez, just don't drag audiences through with endless stagnatated repertoires! This is why loyalty to bands such as Yes or Moody Blues has waned because they rely so much on ancient history to comprise at least 90 percent of the show's content and discard what they might have been working on for the past two years in the studio just to appease the fifty plus demographic who tunes in a classic rock radio station. I can almost telegraph a entire Moody Blues concert from an amphitheater away, because I've seen them for three or four tours in a row and with the exception of a few new songs tossed here and there in the set- they play the same group of songs in the exact same order! But on Marillion's first tour in seven years- their setlist was a sort of catch up with the American fans. In addition to Marbles, we also got a taste of what had gone on before demonstrated by some samples of Radiation, Marillion.com, and Anaraknophobia. Three full albums of material that has never been performed live in this country before. Man, I bet I was the only guy happy in the house that they didn't do Kayleigh or Garden Party for the umpteenth time. Invisible Man, Drilling Holes, and Neverland got the best audience reception as far as the new stuff was concerned, although I've grown a better appreciation of hearing Angelina and Fantastic Place live than I do on the record. I thought Kelly's keyboards were really spot on the latter. Being towards the end of the bar, I thought it was a perfect position where I could be practically heckler-free, but wouldn't you know there would be some boisterous and belligerent drunken female yelling at the top of her raspy lungs to play some old stuff.
Please- if you need to hear classic Marillion 'oldies' - go see Fish play.
After a 3 or 4 minute change of underpants break, as H so casually refer to due to the long transatlantic flight (wait, didn't they say they had done a couple of gigs in Mexico City?) they were back on stage to dip in the Hogarth era bag and performed a cut from each album from Season's End up to Anaroknophobia. Quartz was close to bringing down the house until upstaged by the final two songs of the night, Cover My Eyes & Easter maybe because the spring chickens in the crowd who were probably out past their curfew were jammin' to the dirty white boy Limp Bizkit inspired rapping that Hogarth was firing off in the middle of Quartz.
Still, the same girl behind me was beating her war drum for the old stuff. I mean, talk about suffering from head up your ass-itis.
It was then after this second outburst that pleasant thoughts of Fox News Conservative whipping boy Bill O'Reilly popped into my head. And that doesn't really happen too often.
( SHUT UPPPPPPPP YOU (bleeping) OLD BIRD!!!)
Two encores followed. I was estatic that they played The Damage, one of my favorite songs off the Deluxe version of Marbles and up course, all the die hards cheered the loudest when the double whammy of Cover My Eyes and Easter closed out the 2 plus hour show.
Funny, I didn't hear the bitch behind me complain anymore. Must have fallen pissed behind the bar.
Anyway, Marillion - many happy returns - (to cop a phrase from an old Prisoner episode).
September 27th, House Of Blues, West-Hollywood
By Fred Hunter
Well they came back to LA again, for the first time since 1997, Marillion are in Los Angeles. John Wesley did his usual warm up, which was OK, but did contain a rather odd version of PF's Run like hell. Got to sing along there a bit.
Marillion came on to a packed house shortly after and started with the weird Invisible Man, I must admit I really like this song now and feel it actually works better live, but maybe as an opener it is a lot to digest. They stuck to their set list from the rest of the tour for the first part of the gig, playing basically the single (poppy) CD version of Marbles in its entirety. I enjoyed most of it, but the song Drilling holes does nothing for me... Steve Rothery, still to me, is the focus of the band, his guitar playing was wonderful, the tone in particular was so strong. It did seem to me that Mark Kelly did almost nothing in the first half of the gig, however. Steve Hogarth seemed to play most of the piano parts, leaving Kelly to provide the 'atmospherics' most of the time, odd really. Neverland came off really well live, a great song. The crowd obviously knew the new CD, as every song was warmly welcomed.
After a short break, they began the 2nd half with the opening duo from Brave, another odd choice I felt, as I never thought they were anywhere near the strongest songs on that album, were good to hear though. Quartz was up next, I have always loved the guitar and dynamics of this song. Pete's bass work was perfect on this, holding down that constant tune, great song.
Rich was next, decent pop song, nothing more. After the wonderful Three Minute Boy they curiously chose to end the set with Between You And Me, I have never liked this song, so I'm afraid it did zero for me.
The first encore was the ethereal This is the 21st Century, a fantastic song, that worked better live than I imagined. Then another odd choice; The Damage. Not one of the strongest songs on Marbles, very strange to hear it in this part of the gig as I thought they had played more than enough of the new material already!
The band came back and did Cover My Eyes (which had a female fan to the left of us crying and screaming..odd) which was more of what I expect in an encore, energy and nostalgia! Easter followed which cannot ever be faulted, good end to a good but not great gig. I thought the band played well, the audience was noisy and enthusiastic, but I thought the choice of songs was abysmal. I don't think the first set of new stuff worked so well, simply because so much of the new CD is mellow, it felt like the gig didn't kick into top gear until Cover My Eyes! Then to ignore Fish era songs and fill the rest of the set with average tunes like Between You And Me, Rich and The Damage seems very weird to me.
Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed the gig, but I have seen the band MANY times since 1983 and this was by far the least enjoyable time I have seen them and I put it entirely down to songs choices and set list order. I do hope to see them again, but I do hope they realize that they have many fans that have liked them since 1982! I don't expect to hear Grendel, but how about something from that period? Especially since it was their most successful!
October 11th, Paradise, Boston
Bt Mitch Goldman
After a decade of being a fan, this was my first real chance to see Marillion.
They never came closer than SF when I lived in Seattle, and this was their
first US tour since 97's Strange Engine tour (they've made four albums
since then!). Yeah, I should've been into them in the 80s, but unlike some
fans, I like them a lot better with Steve H. than with Fish. (don't get me
wrong, I adore the Fish era a lot.) I like the mature band they've become
rather than the derivative (but excellent) band they started out as.
The major revelation for me last night was just how fucking amazing H
is. I've known his voice for years but to see him perform in an intimate
setting was incredible. He's charming, funny, charismatic, animated (the
way he illustrates vocals with gestures is very cool... He never seems to
be overdramatic but rather enhances the songs). The way he, and the
band, started out at one level and built and built and built over the course
of nearly three hours to higher and higher levels of intensity was organic
and epic. The entire band is amazing; Pete's bass playing truly belongs in
that rare class of virtuouso players (not uncommon to prog, I guess); Rothery's
guitar playing is tasteful, versatile and often explosive (Steve himself looks
HUGE to me... the guy has a nearly Garcia-like body, but that doesn't
undercut his incredible tone and control). Ian Mosley's drumming was
sharp and strong all night; and Mark Kelly's keyboard approach runs
the gamut from proggy-complexity to hiphop type sampling to Floydian
ambience. a truly remarkable musical machine.
After getting lost in boston and finally parking at the Westin I cabbed
over to the Paradise, my first time in this legendary boston club. and it's TINY.
holds 600, very small stage. it's like a third the size of irving plaza or something...
kind of the size of CBs, but a totally different set up. Not great sight lines but
I found a great spot in the balcony on Pete's side of the stage; the balcony
was just above and only 15 feet back from the stage. The mix was perfect
and so was the view, like looking down on the band from just above them.
an extremely intimate experience.
Porcupine Tree's extra guitarist and buddy John Wesley opened with an acoustic set.
I missed most of it, but caught his set ending cover of Floyd's Run Like Hell.
doesn't work on acoustic solo guitar. ;-)
At 9:24 Marillion hit the stage and opened the Marbles set. (set one
is all of the single disc version of the new cd) H came on last, in a jacket, tie,
and wire rimmed glasses, looking like a demented college prof. Perfect
for the slow build of Invisible Man, and as the song progressed through
its 14 minutes, the sound got louder and richer, H took off his glasses
and his demeanor became more and more unhinged as he acted out
the frustrations of the title character. He took off his tie after sitting
at the piano for the first Marbles interlude. During You're Gone he kept
pointing up at something above his head; turns out the excellent
AC in the club was blowing "a force ten icy gale at my head". Angelina
is my least favorite song on the album, but live...very cool. H left
the stage, and Rothery and Mark did a guitar/organ blues intro that
sounded almost like vintage-era Santana. H came back on wearing
a full length beige anorak with the hood up! Perfect for this crowd
and very funny considering his issue with the AC. After the second
Marble interlude they played the big UK single Don't Hurt Yourself,
the first really uptempo song in the set. Before Fantastic Place H
said hello, told the crowd "we're doing a bunch of new stuff...and
I'll tell you what we'll do later on later on..." He was very funny with
the crowd; he kept trying to shush them and discourage them
from "hooping and hollering" while he spoke. (for the entire show
the band was in a great mood, laughing with each other and
the audience... multiple times during the show H cracked up
between verses. They transformed even the most dark musical
moments into triumphs through their infectious spirit.)
Drilling Holes was a real highlight, a trippy, intense, silly
slice of psychedelia. The Neverland set climax was incredible;
H down to his buttoned down white shirt, unbuttoned sleeves
flapping, vocals soaring while the band pushed and pushed the song
higher. It's an emotional climax on the album; live it was a thing
to behold. H said "we're going to break for THREE minutes (he held
up FIVE fingers) to take some... um medication...and we'll be
back to play a whole lot of new music. um, I mean OLD music!"
The setbreak was short, seven minutes. They came back on to
the foghorn intro to Bridge from Brave which segued into
Living the Big Lie. very powerful, and they can play as much
of Brave as they want to as far as i'm concerned. Next up was
Quartz from Anoraknophobia, perhaps my favorite Marillion
cd. extremely intense, with H running around the small stage
like a lunatic and winding down like a clockwork toy at the
end of the song. Very cool white strobes during the "you're only
happy when you're oiled and jeweled!" lines. (The whole song
is a really interesting metaphor.) Another Anorak song
followed, the long 21st Century, which like many of the show's
numbers built very organically. At the piano H began Three
Minute Boy but instead of doing all of it, it ended at
the first singalong part (the crowd sang along with
most of the songs...a very impressive cadre of hardcore
fans) and then segued into The Party from Holidays In Eden.
this has only been played once on the US tour, the night
before in New Haven. it was a real treat, and the audience
sang along throughout and did the final lines themselves.
apparently it was much better played than in New Haven.
Between You and Me was a high energy blowout ending
to set 2.
They came back and H said they were doing something they
hadn't done in a while "because it's rather soft, so go with
us on this one" and they Beyond You from Afraid Of Sunlight
(another album they can play ALL of in my opinion!). It was
incredible...on record this is a mono recording done in a
Phil Spector wall of sound motif, and live it still worked really
well...H's tambourine and shakers added the perfect Spectorish
touch. very moving. Next came Great Escape from Brave.
H's vocals at the end were extremely powerful.
For encore 2 Rothery had on his double neck. H said "Steve is
using that staple of progressive music, the double neck guitar.
We're still saving up for the big backdrop of castles and puffy clouds".
They went into Beautiful, and I don't mind saying I had tears
in my eyes during the choruses. Gorgeous moment and H somehow,
as he did all night, straddled the line between sincere emotion
and humor without going too far in either direction. Next up
was supposed to be Cover My Eyes which has been played at
every show. Mark started the beat sample, Pete started clapping...
and then Rothery had a problem. (phew...the one Marillion song
i really didnt' wanna hear them do.) Rothery said something to
H who said "tell THEM!" and Rothery went to H's mic and said "if
you were at the last two shows, you noticed my guitar cut out
a few times. well, today we fiddled with all the equipment and changed
bits so now everything works better. but the end result is
that I can't play the next tune. I really can't!" apparently he lost
the setting for Cover My Eyes and they couldn't do it! H said
"how about a bass solo?" and Pete started playing furiously, and
H sang along...it was a totally impromptu bass/vocal version
of The Bell in the Sea (the Season's End b side). VERY COOL!.
They then went into Easter, which has ended a bunch of shows
on this tour. Again, very intense, moving, gorgeous, with
the crowd singing along. H thanked the crowd for making the final
US show great and said "I don't know why we stayed away so long!"
And that was the end. I hopped a cab back to the Westin where
Geri was waiting for me in the upstairs bar and hit the road and
got home around 2:30.
Exhausting, more expensive than i'd hoped (thanks to 20 bucks
in cab fare) but worth every penny and every ounce of effort. I knew
the show would be great, but it was a major revelation: seeing H
and the band perform live really made them come alive for me
and I won't be able to listen to them ever again without my brain
conjuring amazing visuals from this experience. It's great to see
such an epic show from such an epic band in a very intimate setting.
October 12th, Spectrum, Montreal
Wow. That was one hell of a concert. I can't remember ever seeing a band perform so well. It's been 17 years since I last saw them, back on the MC tour, and I thought they were pretty phenomenal back then. But last night blew away every band I've ever seen.
Invisible Man is simply incredible live. I know you lot had all been going on about this for months, but its even better than I could have expected. At the end of it, the crowd gave what seemed like a ten minute ovation. H tried to quieten the crown down a few times, then gave up and they just basked in it, with silly grins on their faces. The whole Marbles set simply rocked. Highlights: all the people who'd brought along their own marbles to hold up to their eyes for the Marbles tracks; a gentle beautiful Angelina; You're Gone, which I always thought the weakest track really came alive - great for dancing to; and of course, Neverland sounded phenomenal, even with H's voice starting to crack.
H introduced the band at the end of the Marbles set, and thanked the crowd for letting them play a whole set of new songs (that was me shouting "play it again"!) He then negotiated with the audience for a few minutes off stage to recuperate. H made some elaborate joke about a belly dancer laid on for the backstage party, and how they'd had to put her on ice because we'd extended the show so much with all the extra clapping and cheering. H asked for five minutes but we beat him down to two, but just as we thought we had a deal, he goes "two minutes each".
H's voice was clearly giving way by the second set, and at one point it sounded like his mic was playing up, but there was such a party atmosphere nobody cared. He didn't talk much between songs, but then the crowd were so busy cheering, that they didn't give him the chance! He did practice his French a lot. Especially just before Easter, when he asked if anyone had ever heard Steve R sing, to which Steve came to the mic and merely said "There's a reason for that". H then began a riff, in French, on all the places Steve does sing (dans la bain, le douche, la voiture, a l'eglise a noel... I suspect his French pronunciation is better than my French spelling)
The second set began with Bridge, and boy did it remind me how powerful the Brave album was. Big Lie really rocked. So did Quartz. Then a quieter more mellow track with Go. H sat at his keyboards and played (solo) the first half of Hey Jude, with the crowd singing along. The band returned to the stage as it morphed into Three Minute Boy.
There seemed to be lots of mellow songs in the second set, punctuated by the occasional rocker. Let's see - Great Escape and Beyond You for the first encore - wow! I can't think of many bands who can get away with such mellow tracks for encores, but I couldn't ask for a better choice.
At the end of the second encore, the house lights came up, but of course, everyone knew the drill, and the road crew didn't even make a pretense of packing up. We'd all been shouting for Easter at the end of the second encore, but then some bright spark in the audience switched tactics, and called for The Damage. And lo and behold they played it! Well it was pretty clear we were going to get Easter too, but H's voice had almost gone completely. He explained they had one more show tomorrow night, and he needed some voice left for that, otherwise they'd be happy to stay all night. So he asked the audience to sing it for him, turned the mic around, and sat on the stage to listen, joining in occasionally.
They finally left the stage around midnight, having played for nearly 3 hours. I do hope his voice has something left for QC tonight.
- Very silly theme for the setllist on the sound desk, not suitable for repetition here.
- Did I notice part of OC playing as background music between the first two encores?
- And the remixamatosis CD playing beforehand. Hmmmm. Not sure about that one.
- Wes put on a good performance, but seemed to lack a certain spark - he did say at one point that he'd keep the talk short and just play the songs, like he was keeping to a strict time limit. It seemed a strange thing to say.
- That cricket bat. It keeps appearing for a few bars, and then gets passed off to a roadie. Hilarious.
- H's belly is not a pretty sight when he lifts his shirt. Or maybe I'm the wrong person to judge.
The Invisible Man
Don't Hurt Yourself
Living the Big Lie
Hey Jude /
Three Minute Boy
Between You And Me
This is the 21st Century
Cover My Eyes
Boston, October 11th:
The Invisible Man
Don't Hurt Yourself
Living With The Big Lie
This Is The 21st Century
Three Minute Boy /
Between You And Me
The Great Escape
The Bell In The Sea
The Invisible Man
Don't Hurt Yourself
Living with the Big Lie
Hey Jude /
Three Minute Boy
Between You and Me
The Great Escape
Cover My Eyes