Marillion Weekend 2015. Wolverhampton Civic Hall, 10-12 April 2015.
Offering three days of music, events and more, the Marillion Weekend is a chance for the band to put on something really special for their most dedicated fans. Now in its thirteenth year, the U.K. leg of this year’s event saw the Aylesbury five-piece perform a wide selection of tracks from right across their thirty-three year career, during a trio of shows at Wolverhampton’s Civic Hall.
Photo: Alison Toon
Kicking off on Friday night, the multi-national crowd were treated to a set by Marillion guitarist Steve Rothery’s solo band. Showcasing tracks from last year’s ‘Ghosts Of Pripyat’ instrumental album, the five piece set the scene perfectly for what was to follow over the next few days. Without vocals, Rothery’s ethereal sound and style took centre stage, with the likes of the brooding 'Old Man Of The Sea’, and the epic 'White Pass' demonstrating just what tangible images the guitarist is capable of creating with his instrument. Taking his bows to loud applause, the guitarist laughed: “I’ll see you in half an hour”.
“Hello England! This is ‘Anoraknophobia’!” exclaimed an excitable Steve Hogarth as Marillion took to the stage. Opting to play the whole of their 2001 release in full, the band arrived with the explosive ball of energy of opener ‘Between You And Me’. An enthused audience lapped up what followed, singing along to key passages that at times threatened to drown out the band. During a sublime ‘Map Of The World’, with a myriad of flags raised by the crowd in unison, a delighted Hogarth proclaimed: “It’s great to see so many countries here”. Although not one of the band’s best loved albums, tonight the songs from ‘Anoraknophobia’ came alive, translating much better in the live setting than on record. Unconventionally encoring with the fifteen-minute plus ‘This Strange Engine’ meanwhile, the loudest cheer of the night was saved for Rothery’s heart-wrenching guitar solo. Closing the night with the equally expansive ‘Gaza’, the curtain come down on a fantastic evening that proved to be a bigger hit than some had predicted.
Night two however, was what most fans had been anticipating the most; the performance of 2004 double album ‘Marbles’ in full. As one of their best loved releases, Marillion pulled out all the stops to make the night even more special, with enhancing big screen projections, lights and lasers. With Hogarth wholeheartedly inhabiting his role as ‘The Invisible Man’ during the dramatic opener, the singer turned actor, turning in a truly mesmerising performance. The thunderous applause at the track’s conclusion was prolonged and uproarious, prompting an astonished Hogarth to quip: “I’m not sure we can follow that!” Follow it they could however, and as a moving ‘Fantastic Place’ gave way to album centrepiece ‘Ocean Cloud’, the band put in one of the finest performances of their career. Speaking after the show keyboardist Mark Kelly revealed that it was: “The first show in about five years where none of us had any complaints. Every single one of us agreed that it was great”. The evening finished with an airing of a brace of tracks from 1995’s ‘Afraid Of Sunlight’, including a particularly moving ‘Out Of This World’.
Heavy on emotion and filled with deep cuts, if the previous two nights had proved too much for casual or early fans, then there would be no such qualms over Sunday night’s closing show. In a set laden with hits, the band ploughed through almost all of their singles in chronological order, including their bombastic debut ‘Market Square Heroes’ which was received rapturously, and an electrifying ‘Incommunicado’. Graciously acknowledging the past, and the band’s former vocalist Fish, a sincere Hogarth stated: “I must thank Derek Dick for the words in those songs. He wrote some killers”. A set high on nostalgia and a fantastical trip down memory lane, it was the perfect way to conclude the weekend.
No longer hampered by their past, Marillion embraced all periods of their career with a set of performances that few could have been disappointed by. A holiday in Eden for freaks, the Marillion Weekend was a timely reminder, were it needed, of what an extraordinary band they really are. Do you remember?
First published on gigsandfestivals.co.uk, 14 April 2015.