Marillion at The Academy, Manchester

Support: John Wesley
November 28, 2016 at The Academy, Manchester

On the back of a the hugely successful pledge campaign for their latest, and widely acclaimed, album F.E.A.R., Marillion arrived arrived at a sold out Manchester Academy at one of the highest points in the band’s career. Unfortunately, due to traffic, I missed the support act which was Porcupine Tree frontman John Wesley, but got there just in time for the main show to begin, and what a show it was.

As a series of vector images slowly came together on the backdrop behind the band, the band members started appearing on the stage, barely noticed as everyone watched the impressive images in the background. Soon they started playing and as the introduction to ‘The Invisible Man’ started, vocalist Steve Hogarth appeared. Not on stage, but on the screen behind, his face taking up the whole height of the stage, appearing to look around at what was going on around him. The image broke up occasionally as he was signing, but soon came back together as if it were being broadcast whilst under attack. Soon enough, Hogarth emerged onstage to a huge reception rom the packed crowd. From that moment on, for the best part of two and a half hours, I was part of an atmosphere the like of which is rarely seen at a show.

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The band had played through a couple of tracks before I noticed that at the end of every song, the crowd were keeping the tune going, until eventually the band seemed to give in and accompanied the noise. This only added to the atmosphere and it was obvious that the bond between this particular band and their fans was something very special. The new songs sounded amazing live, especially the ‘New Kings…’ series of songs. Accompanied by different images depending on the theme of the songs, from corruption and money during ‘The New Kings’, to a celebration of a whole host of artists who had died before their time, from Heath Ledger to Ian Curtis, from John Belushi to Dimebag Darrell during a very solemn and haunting rendition of ‘King’. They dedicated a stirring rendition of ‘Easter’ to the Manchester crowd and egged them on to keep the energy going, with Hogarth asking everyone to “keep that soufflé rising”.

I’d dipped in and out of Marillion’s work over the last 3 decades since I had first become aware of them (yes, it was THAT single). It was more curiosity that interested me in this show, after seeing such complimentary things that had been said about the album. At first I had enjoyed the album, but it hadn’t really clicked, but seeing those songs performed live, (using an entire encore to play through all of the ‘El Dorado’ songs) and being in that atmosphere, the album has taken on a whole new life to me. So much so that I am now building up a collection of albums that I feel bad for not checking out earlier. Easily one of the best live performances I have seen, and even some of the diehard fans I saw on social media in the days afterwards were saying the same thing.

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Setlist:

‘The Invisible Man’ – ‘Power’ – ‘Sounds That Can’t Be Made’ – ‘Living In FEAR’ – ‘Sugar Mice’ – ‘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?’ – ‘Easter’ – ‘Man Of A Thousand Faces’ – ‘King’ – ‘Neverland’ – ‘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’.

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