Marillion, November 23rd 1999
013, Tilburg, The Netherlands
By Hester Stasse
During the Radiation Tour in 1998 Marillion visited Holland only once when they played the Ahoy in Rotterdam. To promote their last album they had chosen to go for four smaller venues again, namely the Oosterpoort in Groningen, 013 in Tilburg, the Music Centre in Enschede and Paradiso in Amsterdam. I attended two of these concerts, namely the ones in Tilburg and Amsterdam.
There was a small cue of people waiting at the entrance of 013 when I got there around 18:30. After I had taken position at the end of the line, the group of waiting people started to grow steadily until almost the entire street in front of 013 was filled. When the doors finally opened the crowd wanted to get inside as soon as possible, but surprisingly enough there were security people at the entrance frisking everyone for cameras and recording instruments.
Okay, I DO understand why Marillion don't want their concerts to be bootlegged, I mean, they usually put out a live registration of each tour, so they might miss some income because of those bootlegs [even though the people buying bootlegs usually buy all official recordings as well...]. But photographs?? I'm sorry, but the times are over that there was a huge market for Marillion posters, calendars, patches, buttons, photobooks and whatnots, so Marillion is not very likely to miss money because of a couple of enthusiasts taking pictures at their concerts!!
The price, though, that the ENTIRE audience had to pay for this Backstreet Boys-like situation was that they were held 2 meters from the stage by a fence. In the empty space between stage and fence some official photographers were allowed to take as many pictures of H as they could during the first three or four songs... I don't know if it was because of this distance between audience and band, but the atmosphere was definitely the deadest I've ever experienced at a concert!! [More about this later...] So, what was it they said about "space around the stars" again? O yeah...
"The space around the stars is something that you know
A billion miles of darkness left you feeling low..."
The support act for the entire Dutch part of the tour was NOONe, a Dutch four-piece featuring Dinet Poortman [known from her "Kolom" in the Dutch Web Magazine and one of the "Commended" in the Karaoke Contest] on vocals. With a line-up consisting of vocals, guitar, bass and drums one doesn't really expect prog and indeed that was not what this band played. Instead, they went for pretty catchy tunes floating nicely from very heavy to very gentle and back. Very cool stuff!!
Dinet is pretty much a dark-haired Anouk [sorry for the cliché, but she has about the same way of moving around the stage and her voice has some hints of the well-known Dutch singer as well...] with some of the more "bitier" parts of Alanis Morissette and Garbage's Shirley Manson [I know, more clichés... sorry about that! ;)].
NOONe had just recorded a CD, which hadn't been released yet at the time of the concerts. For those interested, information can be obtained via firstname.lastname@example.org.
During the short break prior to Marillion's appearance, a thin white gauze screen was lowered in front of the stage. On this screen the cover picture of the latest CD and the marillion.com logo were projected while the roadies were readying the equipment. Later on, during the first two songs, other images would be projected on it, pretty much in the fashion IQ did during their Subterranea tour.
Finally, the Marillos took the stage and were of course greeted by a loud roar from the audience. The venue was very well-filled by then, if not entirely sold out. After the applause had faded a bit, Pete lashed into the first dreamy notes of Go!. The gauze screen had a pretty alienating effect during this song. Together with the fact that the musicians were illuminated from below, it made the whole scene look pretty surreal. The beautiful guitar solo added to this by the usual heart ripping quality we expect to hear from Mr. Rothery. Great track!!
Go! was followed by one of my favourite tracks from the last album, namely Under The Sun. Again the gauze screen added to the atmosphere when sun-like symbols were projected on it, while the entire stage was set aflame by bright yellow and white lights. At the end of the song the screen was dropped down and it didn't return during the rest of the concert.
Now clearly visible, H told us that there's an old French saying "Reality is something that you rise above" and that there's an American saying "We don't see things as they are; we see them as we are". More of these "sayings" followed until he told us to "get rich right now!" As most of you will probably have realised by now, all these "sayings" are lines from Rich, the catchy fourth track from marillion.com.
After a very spirited rendition of this song, it was time for a song from the first Marillion album that featured H on vocals. Uninvited Guest isn't my favourite from Seasons End, to be honest, but around me I noted some relieved faces. I guess they probably belonged to people who aren't that happy with the constantly changing musical style the Marillos themselves are so proud of. And indeed, when the first notes from the first track from marillion.com - A Legacy - sounded, those faces showed quite some aversion once more...
"A song very rarely played live" announced H and indeed, Afraid Of Sunrise is a song that isn't very often found on a Marillion setlist. Special though this may be, I don't think it's a great song to play at a rock concert. It doesn't really build to a climax; it just kind of murmurs on...
The band proceeded in the acoustic setting with The Space. Incidentally, this version can also be found on the Unplugged At The Walls album. I think that the acoustic set-up worked wonders in the small and intimate setting they had during those special concerts [I mean, Unplugged at the Walls is a very nice, though "different" album!!], but here in the pretty large 013 venue it didn't really convince me.
Luckily the next part of the gig was played at full electric power!! The, in my opinion, most intense part of Brave, namely Wave, Mad and The Opium Den, was played next. Two airvents were used to make two white plastic tube things dance on either side of H while the singer was living out the emotional lyrics to Mad. Great touch!! [And this was one of the moments I deeply regretted not having been into Marillion when Brave came out!! O, how I wished I could've attended one of those concerts!! :/]
Afraid Of Sunlight is probably my favourite song from the album with the same name... I just love the way it builds to the part where Rothers' guitar swoops in and brings the song to a climax before it ends in an almost tender way. However, due to the bad sound [I mean, it was surprisingly "un-loud" for once [no earplugs needed!], but the mixing seemed to turn the entire sound into a big fat "mash" in which no single instrument really stood out...:(] it was very hard to really get into the song. Real shame!!
Time for another track from the new album. Just like Rich, Deserve is a pretty catchy tune. There have been rumours that this song would become a single. Well, maybe it would have a chance of becoming a [small] hit without the label "Marillion" attached to it, but since that's very unlikely to happen, I don't quite think it would "do" anything in the charts... [would be a nice experiment, though!!] Because the band aren't as rich [;)] as they'd probably want to be, they didn't take a saxophone player along on this tour. The sax solo and later on the trumpet part were therefor both samples from the CD and got "played" by H on cricket bat.
Then H started to tell the audience about more than ten years ago when he wrote the first song together with Marillion. Before he had finished his first sentence though, someone in the audience screamed "Easter!!" at the top of his voice. H smiled and resumed telling the story, but every few words he got interrupted by the guy in the audience yelling "Easter!!" again. In the end H decided to give up and the familiar acoustic guitar sound of the intro of Easter filled the air.
Obviously the Marillos were very pleased with the acoustic arrangements they had made for their concerts at The Walls. The Answering Machine was yet another song which had been submitted to the unplugging treatment. Personally, I once again preferred the electric version, even though this acoustic rendition wasn't bad at all.
Next up was Memory Of Water in its notorious Big [;)] Beat Mix version, in other words, the version to be found on the These Chains CD single. I guess that here the very "mashy" mix of the sound was most prominent. In my opinion a big beat mix just HAS to have very heavy drumming AND a bass that really shakes one's guts [as featured in for instance Breathe by The Prodigy...]!!! Well, the drumming was okay, but the bass notes weren't throbbing at all!! And that's why it didn't work as well for me as it did last year in the Ahoy in Rotterdam [of all places...].
As on many concerts before, King was the last song from the main set again. This song really ends how the reign of many kings ends: on a high point. During this in a way apocalyptic ending the instruments go louder and louder, higher and higher while the lights are getting ever brighter until H's silhouette is burnt on everyone's retinae where it stays for quite some time after lights and music have suddenly died down and the musicians have left the stage unnoticed...
The first set of encores consisted of two more songs from Brave. Both Brave and the Falling From The Moon part from The Great Escape received an almost tender treatment. Beautiful!! On top of that The Last Of You was of very high goose bump quality; H truly letting his heart sing the highly emotional lyrics!! Absolutely great!!
The second set of encores was kind of a surprise to me... When the Marillos had taken their places on stage once more, the all too familiar delayed intro guitar notes from... indeed: Kayleigh filled the venue!! Surely, this couldn't be what the audience had been waiting for??? Or could it??? Well, obviously it was indeed!! A huge cheer came from the crowd and all of a sudden, there were some people [other than me...;)] singing along!! The faces became even happier when Kayleigh didn't end like the single version, but flowed into Lavender just like on Misplaced Childhood. And that wasn't even the end of this rather "fishy" flash back, because the band proceeded with a nice version of Slàinte Mhath!!
My first thought when the guys disappeared from the stage once more was: "This isn't the last song of the evening, is it?!" I mean, there are songs which leave the audience crying for more and there are songs that will give the crowd enough of a satisfactory feeling to return home, and Slàinte Mhath doesn't belong to the second category, IMHO... The audience tried to pry another encore lose, but when some non-Marillion music started playing and the lights turned on it was very obvious that that was all!
But hey, hang on, wasn't there one song we'd all been waiting for?? What had happened to Interior Lulu?? For me and quite a few other people this song was definitely the best track on marillion.com and now that very track was NOT on the setlist!! Quite a few people had been calling for it during the show as well; in vain, as it turned out!! It felt as another missed opportunity, though...
So, how do I look back at this gig? To be honest, I don't think I've ever experienced an audience as unresponsive as during this concert!! I had the idea I was the only non-zombie person as far as I could see... and the only one truly enjoying the concert... Even the heavy songs didn't cause the people around me to make any more movements than some toe-tapping and a slight nodding of the head!! Almost no-one singing along... To be honest, this all did influence the way I experienced the concert quite a bit as well... in a negative way, that is...:( Not that I was doing less of the head banging 'n' singing along thing [I just cannot stand still... or keep my trap shut, for that matter... Hereby my apologies to those people who were standing in my vicinity!! ;)] but the concert didn't feel as intense as it could have, IMO... Hm... big fat shame!! :(
As probably became obvious from my words above, I also had mixed feelings about the appearance of the three Fish-era songs on the setlist. One should think that the time that these songs [Kayleigh and Lavender even more than Slàinte Mhath] were played would be kind of over by now... I mean, YES, Kayleigh, Lavender and Slàinte Mhath ARE brilliant songs, but Marillion's backcatalogue contains so many other gems... THEY DON'T NEED THESE SONGS ANYMORE!!!! [IMHO, of course...] Unless, perhaps, as was the case in Tilburg, it's the only way to awake the audience from their coma!!! So, maybe from that point of view it WAS good they played them... Well, I would have traded those three tracks for Interior Lulu without having to think twice!!!
Then a very positive note: the lighting was absolutely superb!! I believe a specialist in this field, namely "Fruit Salad" was hired again this year to take care of that. These people really manage to add a lot of atmosphere to the show!! They've also handled the lighting for Porcupine Tree and Ozric Tentacles among others and turned their concerts pretty much into mind trips. Since they often use the same projections and slides, that part gets a little bit annoying after having seen some concerts by all three bands, but still... great stuff!!
Also, both Steves, Mark, Pete and Ian were enjoying themselves massively!! H was wearing his faithful floral pants and had a T-shirt on ironically saying "Uncool as f*@k"... Pete was obviously still suffering from the heavy injuries he'd got in January '99. His usual running around the stage was more of a limping around now... He had a barstool at standby to be able to relieve his leg every now and then. Hope he'll further recover in the time to come!!
Concluding, Marillion's Tilburg gig featured amongst other things a bad sound, a somewhat strange setlist, no Interior Lulu and an unresponsive audience. These demerits were only partly compensated by the superb lighting and the huge enthusiasm from all band members. Therefore I'm sorry to say that it did not end in my top-5 of favourite concerts for 1999...
Under The Sun
Afraid Of Sunrise
The Space (acoustic version)
Wave/Mad/The Opium Den
Afraid Of Sunlight
The Answering Machine (acoustic version)
Memory Of Water (big beat mix)
The Great Escape
All photos © Hester Stasse