WORDS & PICTURE CREDIT : DAVID THROWER
Due to a long list of problems, from the traffic system employed in and around Leeds to the minor inconvenience of my forgetting to pick up the tickets prior to leaving home (really, you’d think I made a habit of having to make a forty-minute detour considering the amount of chin music coming from my better half) I managed to walk into the Beckett Street University part-way through John Wesley’s one-man support show.
Wesley has long had a foot in the Marillion door. Not only has he performed at the band’s Montreal weekend concert as guitarist with Sound of Contact but has also toured alongside Fish and co-wrote Scot’s seventh studio album ‘Fellini Days’ so I was looking forward to catching a glimpse of the American singer/songwriter. Sadly, even though his playing was spot on and the timing alongside his drum machine impeccable, there lacked sufficient bite to hold my attention though ‘Mary Will’ stood apart from the rest of the short set thanks to its haunting beauty.
Marillion have long been unfashionable – so much so that they wear the title like a badge of honour these days – but as the lights dimmed and the stereo effects panned across the packed room we cared not one jot about street popularity or chart singles or straightforward song structures that just about fill an ad break for tonight was about wallowing in beautiful excess and on that score Marillion always deliver.
As the dull strains of ‘Invisible Man’ got proceedings under way the screen at the back of the stage projected an eerie Steve Hogarth, his bespectacled and serious face looming large between his fellow band mates. Thankfully we didn’t have to wait too long before the real thing emerged on stage and began his usual mesmeric theatrical performance. Throughout the likes of ‘Power’ from previous release ‘Sounds That Can’t Be Made’ and the magnificent ‘Quartz’ from the album ‘Anoraknophobia’ Steve (or simply ‘H’) delivered lines in his dynamic thespian manor.
As for new material they included two tracks from ‘F.E.A.R. (Fuck Everyone and Run)’ that are certainly not for the faint-hearted namely The New Kings and El Dorado suites both of which clock in at nearly 17 minutes apiece. In a conversation I had with guitarist Steve Rothery prior to the release of ‘F.E.A.R.’ he informed me the band is great at writing music but terrible at writing endings with both tracks serving to underline his statement. However, it was the Fish-era ‘Sugar Mice’ that drew the biggest crowd singalong of the night.
Musically the band was, as always, spot on recreating the sounds that can be made perfectly matching those on record yet always with added passion and energy. However, as much as the music draws emotion from the crowd it’s always good to hear ‘H’ bluff and mumble his way through the spaces between songs such as when he delighted the crowd with his only memory of Leeds when, as a child, his parents purchased Play Dough from the town. Perhaps his sisters up on the balcony could have provided more information. At one point the assembled masses even began a rousing chant of ‘Yorkshire, Yorkshire’ although Steve did inform us from his position on stage that it sounded like we were shouting ‘you’re shit, you’re shit’.
Marillion will never be media darlings and for that, we are eternally thankful. Hit singles do not a progressive band make although I’m sure my not-proggy brother would have preferred they throw ‘Kayleigh’ into the set. The rest of us were grateful for its omission.
Who knows when the band may return to Leeds but be assured we did all we can that should they ever grace God’s Own Country again they should have more to recall than merely Play Dough and its myriad of colors unseen in nature.
The Invisible Man
Living in FEAR
The New Kings: I. Fuck Everyone and Run
The New Kings: II. Russia’s Locked Doors
The New Kings: III. A Scary Sky
The New Kings: IV. Why is Nothing Ever True
Goodbye to All That
Afraid of Sunlight
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
This Strange Engine