Two years after their greatest triumph, Marillion returned to the Royal Albert Hall on Monday night (18th Nov 2019), to begin a two-night stint at the iconic London venue. Billed as 'Marillion with Friends from the Orchestra', the five-piece were augmented by a string section, flute and French horn for the shows which marked the end of their two and a half week U.K. run.
Kicking off with dramatic opener 'Gaza', which saw singer Steve Hogarth emerge from the wings to join the band on stage, the track was the perfect distillation of what was to come during the evening, in a roller coaster of sound, vision, mood and tempo.
Greeted with a standing ovation that was the first of many, Hogarth quipped; "sit down, it's going to be a long night!", before taking in the stunning surroundings and admitting; "this is becoming normal, isn't it, in so much as I dream about it most nights".
Recalling their October 2017 show at the iconic Victorian landmark, the singer explained the band's decision to augment their sound, something that they'd debuted that night. "When we played here two years ago, we played with this excellent orchestra who we have behind us", he said; "and it wasn't bad, frankly".
Going on to show off the fruits of that musical union, deep cut 'Beyond You' (as featured on this years' 'Afraid of Sunlight' deluxe reissue), brought the strings to the fore, with the band coming alive as the track reached it's climatic finish. And although band and orchestra melded seamlessly throughout, it was one of the rarer occasions where the orchestra, rather than the band sat in the driving seat.
Delving deep into their catalogue to reveal some rarely aired gems, it was 1997's 'This Strange Engine' which was most plundered, with the hauntingly emotive 'Estonia', singalong 'Man of a Thousand Faces', and the epic title track proving among the many standout moments during the evening.
With material of a more recent vintage like 2015's 'The New Kings' being received just as feverishly, it was oldie 'The Space' however, which raised the atmosphere even higher, with Hogarth delivering perhaps his most impassioned vocal.
The rest of the band too had their moments in the sun, and none more so than guitarist Steve Rothery, whose stirring solo during 'This Strange Engine' raised the roof on the 148 year old venue.
Taking their bows after a stirring encore that included the electrifying 'Separated Out', complete with snippets from Led Zeppelin's 'Kashmir' , Hogarth asked knowingly "is anyone coming tomorrow night?" to a response clearly in the affirmative.
A special event for both band and fans, the shows were attended by some that had travelled from as far away as Europe and even South America, as well as contemporaries including musician and collaborator Steven Wilson, and producer Trevor Horne, both of whom were spotted in the audience.
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