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A great night out with Prog Rock legends
Marillion frontman Steve Hogarth promised that the setlist for the Birmingham Symphony Hall show would include ''a broad sweep of the band's last 30 years''. But there was more. The gig began with the five-part El Dorado from latest album FEAR – and concluded with a riotous encore of the band's first single, Market Square Heroes (1982), and Garden Party, one of the stand-out tracks from debut album, Script for a Jester's Tear. Of course, it was former vocalist Fish who introduced those early tracks to the world but Hogarth, who joined Marillion in 1989, made those songs his own, with fans literally dancing in the aisles at the end.
It was a hugely impressive show; the band seemed to have thrown in everything bar the kitchen sink to ensure an unforgettable experience for all. The visuals projected onto a rear screen complemented the songs, the lighting was arena-quality, the sound impeccable and the band members were on top form. It must have been gratifying for them that the new material from FEAR – in addition to El Dorado, they played the five-part song suite The Leavers and the single Living in Fear – received such a magnificent reception. The audience was well acquainted with the tracks. As Hogarth was preparing to move on to the next song after Living in Fear, the audience continued to sing the refrain, persuading the vocalist to return to his keyboards and perform a few more bars. ''What a great Saturday night atmosphere,'' he said.
A great Saturday night: Steve Hogarth on stage in Birmingham
It is ironic, with the gig taking place 24 hours after Syria's chemical facilities were bombed, that two 'peace songs' – Living in Fear and Easter – were included. ''Melting our guns as a show of strength,'' Hogarth sang as pictures of John Lennon appeared on the big screen. ''This is a peace song,'' he sighed. ''There's no harm in trying, is there?''
Steve Hogarth may command the stage but Marillion is very much a band. The backline of drummer Ian Mosley and keyboardist Mark Kelly was solid, with Kelly's contribution particularly noticeable on El Dorado V: The Grandchildren of Apes.
Marillion: Steve Rothery, Ian Mosley (drums), Steve Hogarth, Mark Kelly
To Hogarth's left was bassist Pete Trewavas, making occasional forays centre-stage and, during Quartz, offering bass licks that could be described as some as 'funky'. Stage right was long-serving guitarist Steve Rothery. He didn't move much but Marillion wouldn't be Marillion without his soaring riffs and stylish solos. At the end, he had a huge smile on his face. He could have been recalling the standing ovation after The Leavers which includes the line ''We all come together tonight''. They'd certainly achieved that – mission accomplished.
Mission accomplished: Steve Hogarth
El Dorado: I. Long-Shadowed Sun El Dorado: II. The Gold El Dorado: III. Demolished Lives El Dorado: IV. F E A R El Dorado: V. The Grandchildren of Apes
Living in F E A R
Real Tears for Sale
The Leavers: I. Wake Up in Music
The Leavers: II. The Remainers
The Leavers: III. Vapour Trails in the Sky
The Leavers: IV. The Jumble of Days
The Leavers: V. One Tonight
Afraid of Sunlight
The Great Escape
Market Square Heroes
Venue: Symphony Hall, Birmingham
Marillion 2018 UK tour dates:
April 16: Brighton Dome;
April 17: Bristol Colston Hall;
April 19: Reading Hexagon;
April 20: Liverpool Philharmonic Hall.