Marillion
May 24th, 1997
at the Vredenburg venue, Utrecht, The Netherlands
By Ed Sander


This was supposed to have been a fan club concert but thanks to some screw up half of the tickets were sold to non-fan club members.

The support act was a band from Dublin. I didn't quite catch their name but I think it was something with 'Tetra' in it. They were quite nice and got the crowd going with their REM-like acoustic music. I rarely saw a band supporting Marillion who was received this well.

After a 35 minute set of those guys from Dublin the stage was prepared for Marillion. At center stage a plant-like thing was used to hang lights and decorative faces/masks on. The black backdrop sheet was decorated with 'those strange drawings' which can also be found in the CD booklet. Some of these were made with fluorescending paint which made them glow in the dark when the stage lights were turned of.
In the upper left and right corner of the backdrop two small sheets could be lowered to project slides on.

At 9.15 hours Steve Hogarth walked on stage and started singing Man of a Thousand Faces. The two projection sheets showed all kinds of faces and ancient masks during this song. I was wondering how they would handle the choir at the end of the song. As far as I could determine they did not use any tapes. Unfortunately that made the closing section of the song much less impressive than on the album.
It struck me how flat Steve was singing, like he didn't really feel like performing tonight. Fortunately this changed for the better during the evening.

Hard as Love was the second song, the first song in which Hogarth would use his pink guitar, which matched his clothes quite well. It's intersting to see how the appearance of the band is developing. Steve's clothing is getting more hippy-like with each performance. Bass player Peter Trawavas has cut off his pony tail, keyboardist Mark Kelly had slipped into a tight shirt with psychedelic design while master guitarist Steve Rothery can now compete with BB King for the title of 'best belly player', if you know what I mean. The only one who seems to be uninfected by time is drummer Ian Mosely.

Hard as Love didn't sound that well. As a matter of fact, I've seen Marillion concerts where the sound was twice as good. During the early part of the show Kelly and Rothery would often be too low in the mix, while Hogarth was omnipresent.

With a improvised intermezzo Hard as Love went straight into Gazpacho which was missing the moody closing section. After playing Afraid of Sunlight the first confrontation with the rather noisy audience occured. Steve started telling the audience (in his infamous half-asleep monotonous speaking voice) about the time he joined the band. At that point someone in the audience found it necessary to shout out:'Fish!'. First Hogarth was rather irritated and asked if anybody else felt the need to shout out for Fish. Then he started joking about it and asked the person in question to come on stage to fight it out, which the guy did! When he was taken away by roadies Hogarth said:'Hey! It's his brother!'. After which he told the audience that they would settle it outside after the show;'I've got 10 blokes with me'.
It's incredible that pathetic people like these still need to shout for Fish. If you don't like Steve's vocals don't come to the concert! I'm not a great fan of Steve's personality but I adore his singing abilities and I respect the man for that. Anyway, Hogarth handled the whole situation in the perfect, hilarious way. The story he was going to tell was spoiled though ...

After playing 80 Days Hogarth told the audience about his experiences with a survivor of the Estonia disaster. A beautiful version of Estonia followed. I actually liked the live version better than the album version because it had much more emotion put into it. I did miss the balalaika though. During one of the choruses the stage bathed in green light, which gave it a certain 'undersea' feeling. The whole song was quite moving for me because recently I also lost someone without even having the chance to get to know her .... but that's a completely different story.

The next couple of songs were Lap of Luxury during which Pete was having a great time, the great-as-ever Easter and, to my suprise, Brave. The two small projection sheets were used to show slides of the CD and movie artwork. At the end of the song two slides of candles were projected but one of them was upside down, resulting in laughter from the audience. Unfortunately that wasn't the only incident that spoiled the special mood of the song; during the first part constant whistling from the audience and even someone who felt the need to shout a Dutch translation of part of the lyrics annoyed the hell our of me.

After a nice performance of The Great Escape Hogarth introduced the band and by some way Pete Trawavas ended up playing a great bass solo while the others left the stage!
After a couple of minutes Hogarth sneaked up to him with a cricket bat which later proved to be A Stange Instrument. Peter went into the intro of This Strange Engine and the rest followed shortly after. During the first couple of minutes the live version sounded even better than the one on the album until the part with the sax solo came. It became obvious that the band had serious technical difficulties; except for a couple of notes the whole sax solo was missing and there also seemed to be problems with the keyboards. It had something to do with that weird bat which Hogarth had hung around his neck and turned out to be an instrument that did not quite work as it should (at earlier stages in the show Mark had already talked to the roadies several times).
In spite of these few problems the performance of the 15+ minute track was still quite impressive.

The first encore section started with Cover My Eyes after which Hogarth explained the cricket bat instrument to the audience and introduced the man who developed and fixed it. The bat seemed to replace the magical gloves Steve had used to play midi equipment during earlier tours.
After a strange improvisation with the thing the band went into The Uninvited Guest while moving patterns were projected on the stage floor.
Once again something went wrong, although it wasn't quite obvious what. Hogarth handled the situation quite well by using a samba stick (?) to keep the song going. The audience joined in and before long the band picked it up again.

The final encore started with an improvisation which turned into Hope for the Future. As soon as the tune became recognisable about 20 bananas were trown on stage by the audience in the arena. Very funny. While roadies started cleaning up the mess Mark walked to the front of the stage to try one of the bananas. I'm not sure if the whole band appreciated the joke though.
The band finished the song and I noticed that one of the crew members was using a drum computer to play some of the percussion, hidden behind Mark's rig.

The two hour show ended with the orgasmatic King which featured flashing lights and bright searching beams on the audience.

This certainly wasn't the best Marillion gig I've been to. It was partly spoiled by technical problems and some anti-socials in the audience. Still, even when these are considered an evening with live Marillion music is very entertaining and to be prefered to sitting at home on the couch.

The Setlist:

Man of a 1000 Faces
Hard as Love/Gazpacho
Afraid of Sunlight
80 Days
Estonia
Alone Again in the Lap of Luxury
Easter
Brave
The Great Escape/Last of You/Fallin' from the Moon
- bass solo -
This Strange Engine

Cover My Eyes
The Uninvited Guest

Hope for the Future
King

 

 

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