Marillion – King George’s Hall, Blackburn – 18th September 2022
A first time for a show in Blackburn for Marillion and as FOH sound man extraordinaire Phil Brown said in his pre-show ‘polite reminder’ about mobile phones, a rare chance (“not since 1981“) to say “Hello Blackburn!” Not Marillion’s first time here though as earlier this year saw them in the vicinity signing several thousand pre-ordered copies of their An Hour Before It’s Dark album.
It’s been a busy year with the release of said album, last week’s Holidays In Eden deluxe reissue; plus there have been several live outings at the world-famous Marillion weekends and while it seems ages, it’s less than a year ago they were celebrating their return to concert stages with the Light At The End Of The Tunnel tour.
But first, remember the ATB mantra – always see the support act. Luke Jackson has some history with Marillion having supported on the 2014 tour. Some history with ATB too over the years, most recently celebrating the tenth anniversary of his debut album More Than Boys (Revisited). Straight from touring Scotland and a stint in Nashville, he’s not at all phased by facing a big room with a big crowd awaiting their heroes. he’s even bold enough to take on an unaccompanied Trouble Now and outsing anyone who might dare to risk a conversation.
Switching between two acoustic guitars played with some vengeance (his new one emblazoned with the ‘one race one family’ slogan) and the thump of a bass drum, there’s the uptempo swing of Nothing But Time and tales of impressing your girlfriend with your cherry picker; the latter displaying his folk singer side. Ending with a brooding and moody Eliza Holt, the school report reads: confidently played, respectfully appreciated, a match winning combo and a few more fans on the mailing list.
We may have been in the confines of King George’s Hall, but paid a moment of respect for the new King and the late Queen as the lights dimmed, not for the start of the show, but an unannounced moment of reflection. Pretty immaculately observed, but you wouldn’t expect anything less from a Marillion crowd.
There’s the unusual sight too, of a range of percussion set up between the drum and keyboard risers for latest recruit Luis Jardim that lessens the instrumental part played by Steve Hogarth who’s missing his regular keyboard for the first time in a long while. He’s able to add a touch or two of percussion-y sprinkles to the familiar tunes crafted by the four instrumentalists and the occasional extra chords from the famous paisley pink Telecaster.
The first part of the set sees the band playing the whole of the new album. In order. Apparent at the end of the opening be Hard On Yourself with Steve Hogrth announcing the fact while remarking anyone unfamiliar might well have been a bit f**ked, not that it might apply to anyone in attendance. And so the run from Reprogam The Gene to the end of album climax of the latest Marillion landmarks, Care, begins. Much of the new monitors the events of the last couple of years, bar the “light hearted toe tapper – most unlike us” of Sierra Leone and in concert marks a noble presence, perhaps with many reflecting back to the times when we thought we may never be witnessing this coming together for live music again. Indeed, parts of Sierra Leone (“walking free, in Freetown”) and in particular, The Crow And The Nightingale (“I can’t fly…”) reach parts which are reserved for rarified moments of Marillion genius.
The recurring themes of the wrapping of arms and the use of the album title are reinforced in playing the album as a whole and not filtered down in to individual songs. The strength and the emotion reaching a peak with Care, from the ominously dark funk/thunk of Prescription Drugs to the outpouring of emotion in Angels On Earth, there needs a moment to take a breath before a second half of songs from the archives that dips into the arcives for deep and classic cuts.
Wisely, they choose a slow burner in Somewhere Else, a rare outing but with a couple of major songs in the selection that sees a visit to Brave via the wild abandon and bass pedal rumbles of Wave/Mad that segued into the piano intro to Afraid Of Sunlight. That Marillion are able to omit the likes of The Leavers, Easter and Neverland (maybe some juggling on the later dates?) they can recall songs like Estonia to strengthen the poignant moments which not only musically, but lyrically, add to the the spiritual and higher themes that roll in waves as we take in Care, the wrapping round of arms and the stab of “why did you hurt the very one that you should have protected?” of the Brave era. The other side of the coming sees a moment to let some politics breathe ahead of the stirring set closing crescendo that comes with The New Kings.
Having remained fully buttoned up (he won’t feel the benefit as they’ll tell round round these parts) Hogarth lets a bit of air in briefly while bemoaning the chance to run through some of his planned costume changes. The absence of Neveland at least spares us the fashion statement that is the white fringed jacket, but with Steve Rothery experiencing some in-ear/wireless monitoring issues which make his jacket stand out like a Victorian bustle during the encores, we’ll take substance over style. Rothers in particular makes the encores memorable in an encore that sees the Lancastrain choir in full voice for Sugar Mice, and ‘that‘ solo to die for before Hogarth had us “heading…heading…heading…heading for the great escape” and ‘that other‘ solo that reminds us that while Ashley Hutchings and Paul Ince both respond to the title of The Guv’nor, we all know who the real boss is.
Dahhhhling – it’s a triumph. Marillion continue to create a prolonged Indian Summer to remember.
Categories: Live Reviews