Marillion, originally Silmarillion after the JRR Tolkein book, have been a going concern since the very early eighties and were one of the forerunners in the 'new wave of prog' of that time, alongside such bands as Pendragon, IQ and Pallas. Since 1989, when Steve Hogarth replaced the departed Fish, the band's line-up has remained stable and consists of the aforementioned vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Hogarth, guitarist Steve Rothery, Mark Kelly on keys and the rhythm section of bassist Pete Trewavas (also of Transatlantic and Kino in his spare time!) and drummer Ian Mosley.
This 2 CD set was recorded on the 22nd March 2009, the third and final night of the Marillion weekend at Center Parcs, Port Zelande in the Netherlands. Marillion Weekends have become something of an institution for both band and fans since their inception in 2002. A 'weekend' consists of 3 nights of music at the same venue, each with a different set list. They occur bi-annually and, in their current incarnation, take place in the UK, the Netherlands and Canada. The title of this release alludes to the fact that all of the songs, or sets of songs in a couple of instances, in the set have a length of at least nine minutes and sometimes considerably longer.
The set opener, 'A Few Words For The Dead' is taken from the 1998 release ‘Radiation’, arguably not one of the band's most popular releases. Perhaps an unconventional choice for an opening track, given its slow and even paced feel, it gives way upon completion to the triple salvo of 'This Town’, 'The Rake's Progress' and '100 Nights', all taken from 1991's ‘Holidays in Eden’, the 2nd album to feature Hogarth, which saw the band take a more commercial approach to their songwriting in a bid to crack the charts and thus broaden their appeal. The songs are up tempo and feature some quite rocky moments, fuelled by Rothery's guitar.
Next up is 'This Is The 21st Century', a track from 2001's ‘Anoraknophobia’. Another fairly mid paced song, it tells of the triumph of science over magic and the cynical nature of modern life. 'Ocean Cloud' follows, a sprawling composition, 17 minutes in length and taken from the 2 disc version of 2004's ‘Marbles’, with numerous twists and turns and instrumental passages that tells the tale of Don Allum, the only person to row across the Atlantic in both directions.
The first disc closes with 'If My Heart Were A Ball It Would Roll Uphill', again taken from ‘Anoraknophobia’, and another mid paced effort with a slightly funky vibe, showcasing some excellent bass work from Trewavas.
The second CD opens with 'Interior Lulu', a song from 1999's ‘Marillion.com’. Over the course of its 15 minutes, it tells the tale of Lulu, a creation of playwright Frank Wedekind who describes her as "the personification of primitive sexuality who inspires evil unaware" and also illustrates Hogarth's irritation with technology and the internet and the fact that we spend our lives staring at screens, "What a waste of lips...what a waste of eyes".
Next up is the trilogy of 'Kayleigh', 'Lavender' and 'Heart of Lothian’, all hit singles and lifted from 1985's ‘Misplaced Childhood’, the band's most commercially successful release. The audience singing during the performance of the songs is word perfect and Hogarth is pretty much redundant for most of it, letting the crowd take centre stage.
'The Invisible Man’, again from ‘Marbles’ follows. One of my favourite Marillion tracks, it explains what it feels like to be conscious of other people's lives without actually being there and without being able to intervene or help. It builds from a slow, pulsing start to a crescendo before falling away and rebuilding to a second crescendo and the final words of Hogarth, intense frustration evident at not being able to communicate, "Talk to me, acknowledge me, confide in me, confess to me ... or leave me be, leave me be."
'This Strange Engine', the title track from the 1997 release, is the penultimate song, and another lengthy piece, coming in at 17 minutes. It, again, has many musical twists and turns, changes of tempo and superb instrumental passages, some of them quite heavy and Rothery is able to demonstrate his consummate skills. The lyrics are autobiographical in nature, Hogarth recounting his childhood while acknowledging the sacrifices his father made for him.
The final song, again taken from ‘Marbles’, is 'Neverland', another one of my favourite tracks. It's essentially a love song, but an unconventional one as it's about the power and strength that you feel when someone loves you. It's a slow burning composition with some amazing guitar work that builds to a stunning crescendo and provides a fitting end to a supreme performance of just over 2 hours.
This 2 CD set captures, as much as is possible without actually being there, the emotion, passion and intensity of a Marillion gig. The song selection is eclectic and covers the many facets, moods and styles that the band are capable of delivering, whilst maintaining excellent sound quality. The audience reaction is palpable and plays its part in what comes across as an amazing atmosphere. If you've never been to a Marillion gig, this release gives an authentic taste of what the experience is like, but, as with anything else, there's nothing quite like the real thing!
Review by Dave Uphill
57:29 & 66:54
19th January 2018
DISC ONE: 1) A Few Words for the Dead; 2) This Town / The Rake's Progress / 100 Nights; 3) This is the 21st Century; 4) Ocean Cloud; 5) If My Heart Were a Ball It Would Roll Uphill
DISC TWO:1) Interior Lulu; 2) Kayleigh; 3) The Invisible Man; 4) This Strange Engine; 5) Neverland
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:
"If you've never been to a Marillion gig, this release gives an authentic taste of what the experience is like, but, as with anything else, there's nothing quite like the real thing!"