When Marillion are in this kind of mood, few bands are able to scale the heights of their sheer energy, presence and captivating virtuosity. Fresh from a triumphant evening at the Royal Albert Hall and a short two date tour of Japan, tonight they grace the stage of the refined and beautiful London Palladium, built in 1910 and which quickly became the legendary cradle of musical variety shows and The Royal Variety Performance.
The palpable sense of occasion and expectation is quickly transformed as the opening bars of Slàinte Mhath fill the theatre and the audience respond with a tide of exuberant release. From the start, Marillion own the stage. They belong there; they clearly feel naturally at home there and that sense of self-assurance and command quickly communicates itself to those watching as we relax, settle in and gradually succumb to the musical experience which overtakes us.
Hogarth is in an impish frame of mind, a consummate craftsman and expressive performer who can cover the stage like a whirling dervish one moment or stand transfixed in the depths of emotional reflection the next. His voice carries a mesmerising passion and touching wistfulness which amplifies the thrust and resonates the intent of each song. The Uninvited Guest is forceful, menacing, carrying power and threat whilst Afraid of Sunlight is moody, brooding, full of depth and dark reflection. In quick succession they deftly showcase the supreme and consummate ease with which he is able to seamlessly shift character and mood.
Rothery stands like a man lost in his own reverie, consumed with concentration, feeling his way through every note and nuance with relish and gentle satisfaction. Eyes closed, he smiles every now and again, happy with the flow of the music, anticipating the next, before finally ripping off a guitar solo which climbs to sublime heights. The reverie briefly breaks for a searing, almost frenzied rendition of Hearts of Lothian, which he greets and embraces with a spirited eagerness.
Trewavas is a blur of animated focus and movement. An early slip earns him a smiling stare from Hogarth who does not quickly relinquish eye contact, but his timing, bite and instinctive grasp of tempo and mood brings an exhilarating sophistication to the bass lines. Kelly’s keyboards this evening are slightly elevated in the mix and it is an absolute pleasure to watch him weave swelling, lavish textures and infuse elegant, compelling layers of melodies throughout the entirety of the set and El Dorado in particular.
Mosley’s drumming is beautifully refined, an understated precision delivering an irresistible rhythm and coercive pulse which carries the drive, energy and momentum of the music. The sound tonight is exceptional and it would be remiss not to lavish praise on the engineers at the mixing desk who perpetually get it so right in creating a scintillating soundscape which is perfectly balanced in the way it blends the creative musicianship of the band and presents a dynamic, exciting and engrossing listening experience. Nothing is lost; everything is crystal clear.
The Leavers exemplifies the poise, the artistry and the sheer imagination Marillion bring to their song writing, intelligent, piercing, dramatic and stirring. The interplay between them all is simply magnificent and the glorious crescendo leads to a thoroughly deserved standing ovation.
The band return to treat us to an enthralling performance of This Strange Engine, a complex, fascinating and twisting composition of shifting tempos, moods and contrasts; at the final note Hogarth’s voice hangs in the air as the energy of the band dissipates to be overtaken with vociferous appreciation. And then it’s time for some fun: the audience are on excellent form for Garden Party followed by a sea of arms punching the air and clapping wildly for a pulsating encore of Market Square Heroes.
The Palladium was built with the intention to rival and outshine both the Hippodrome and the Coliseum and its iconic status has become a focus of aspiration for many performers. On the strength of the performance this evening, Marillion prove beyond the shadow of any doubt their status as being among the very best prog has to offer.
The Uninvited Guest
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
Real Tears for Sale
Living in F E A R
Heart of Lothian
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
This Strange Engine
Market Square Heroes
Three Minute Boy
Steve Hogarth – Vocals, Guitar, Keyboards
Mark Kelly – Keyboards
Ian Mosley – Drums & Percussion
Steve Rothery – Guitar
Pete Trewavas – Bass, Backing Vocals
8 Argyll St,
London W1F 7TE
Home Page: http://www.marillion.com/
This review originally appeared for The Progressive Aspect