Marillion & The Reasoning
Sunday, 9th September 2012
Great Hall, Cardiff University, Cardiff, Wales
Iíve probably seen Marillion more than any other bands over the years as they regularly made the trip over the bridge to Wales when other bands seemed reluctant.
This was the venue where I saw them for the second time at the tail end of 1984
on the Real to Reel tour so it was nice to see them here again and having not seen them for 8 years or so I was really
looking forward to the show and the return of the band to Wales.
One of my main memories of the 1984 gig was Fish being unimpressed (and telling us so!) by the bottling and derision aimed at support act Cardiacs,
a band that I have come to treasure over the years but just did not get at the time.
Tonight there was no such controversy as the support duties were filled by worthy local band The Reasoning.
I am not particularly familiar with their music despite having seen them previously, their debut gig in fact,
and have not so far had the opportunity to listen to a full album of their material, a situation that I need to rectify.
Bassist Matt Cohen and his wife Rachel will be familiar to many from their previous roles in Magenta and Karnataka respectively and here their quintet
(with additional guest guitarist on one track) put in a rousing performance of songs from their catalogue including
imminently forthcoming new album Adventures in Neverland.
To be honest, although I enjoyed what I saw of their set they were already on stage when
I got into the hall due to the delayed doors and seemingly shambolic entry regime that much of the audience had to endure and I found it
hard to settle and really get into their performance.
The material was enjoyable enough without really standing out and Rachelís voice is strong and enchanting but for my tastes the material
is possibly a little safe and lacking in dynamics.
That said I do need to listen to them in greater detail and they went down very well with deservedly warm applause.
So, with the house lights back on it was time to peruse the merch table and snap up new Marillion album Sounds That Canít Be Made
and find a spot to stake out ready for the main act.
Next to the mixing desk and just in front of the low ceiling that takes up the back of the hall seemed like a good place
and half an hour or so later the lights went down again to loud cheers and great expectation.
With an impressive lightshow the distinctive intro to Splintering Heart began ... but wait!
Lights and sound suddenly crashed to nothing; first night gremlins or the lack of a 50p for the meter perhaps?
No, just Marillionís little joke as the band leisurely strolled to their positions to, perhaps bravely (no pun intended),
start the show with Gaza, the 17 minute opening track from the new album.
I use the word Ďbravelyí as this is no ordinary crowd pleasing opener and not a choice pick from the back catalogue.
This is an intense, political, brutal and at times heartrendingly beautiful track that is unlike anything else in the bandsí
extensive catalogue and as the album was not properly released by the date of the show many in attendance would not have heard it.
As a result of spare tickets my daughter and her friend accompanied us to this gig for their first taste of Marillion.
They were slightly nervous before the show, unsure of what to expect as this is not their usual choice of music,
and by the end of Gaza their faces were a picture thus proving that this was not going to be a perfect introduction
to a band renowned for their epic melodies and emotional delivery.
The faithful however lapped it all up and gave the track a thunderous response.
As this was the first night of the tour the band looked studied and possibly apprehensive,
making sure that they got their parts right and letting Steve Hogarth loose up front as master of ceremonies.
There had obviously been much rehearsal of the new numbers in particular which were all pulled off with precision.
The lengthy running time of Gaza, which really is a hell of a track, was also useful as it allowed the sound to be tweaked
in all the right places and from where I was standing the sound was very good for the rest of the show,
keys and bass possibly slightly low but Ian Moseleyís drums cutting through beautifully and thumping
you in the chest with Steve Rotheryís beautifully pitched guitar soaring above.
I heard reports that at the back of the hall the keys were a little too high in the mix so as usual ones
perception of the sound depended on where in the hall you happened to be stood.
It seemed that they finished the opener with a slight sense of relief and continued on more familiar ground with Youíre Gone,
the first of a trio of numbers from Marbles.
Iím sure that it will take them a couple of shows to hit the heights that they expect from themselves and there were some errors
and a touch of uncertainty this evening but this did not disrupt the flow of the gig and the performances, particularly from Hogarth and Rothery, were excellent.
But before long what could have been a disaster (and probably would have been in lesser hands) occurred when Mark Kellyís
keyboards cut out entirely during the Holidays in Eden trilogy of This Town, The Rakeís Progress and 100 Nights.
Keys have, of course, always been integral to Marillionís sound and it was quite bizarre to hear them battling on without them and it goes
to show just how much Kelly adds to the sound even when he doesnít appear to be doing a lot.
The band wobbled slightly as it became apparent how big an issue this was but struggled on,
going into a holding pattern as Kelly and his tech spent much time chin-stroking, staring at monitors and clicking a mouse.
Software problems seem to be much more prevalent these days than equipment meltdowns or
roadies accidentally kicking plugs out of their sockets but the situation was handled with real professionalism and finally
the signal was given that all was well and we were off again with the title track from the new album which was completed in some style.
Relaxed again, The Other Half continued the steadying of the ship.
This is a track from an album that I never particularly rated but I enjoyed it
(great piano and a blinding solo from Rothers) and made a note to check out Somewhere Else again for the first time in a long while.
In fact the album also provided A Voice From the Past in an unexpected turn to what I would regard as some of the darker
corners of their repertoire which also included A Few Words For the Dead from the much maligned Radiation album which was an unexpected
choice as first encore having only rarely been played since the tour to support that particular album.
Between the two tracks from Somewhere Else we got Neverland and the band were now flying on a wonderful groove from Trewavas and Moseley.
It may have taken a while but this was more like the band I knew after the trepidation in the first half,
Neverland was wonderful and as Marbles has become my favourite Marillion release of recent years it was great to hear some of these songs live again.
In fact other than the This Town trilogy only one other song in the main set pre-dated Marbles.
Now for a word about Steve Hogarth who despite seeming a bit short on things to say to the audience this evening
and not leaping about as much as I remember put in a simply stunning vocal performance.
What a voice and a true artist, ringing every ounce of emotion out of the songs to the point of looking physically drained.
Although overall this was not the best performance Iíve seen from Marillion Hogarth excelled and I cannot recall a time that Iíve felt he did better.
The material chosen suited him and he was almost immaculate, the best vocal performance Iíve seen in a long time.
In fact on occasion it felt like something of a solo show compared to previous gigs and this leads to my main problem with the evening;
the band seem to have lost some of their individuality.
Despite performing with strong, even iconic, front-men throughout their career they always managed to maintain an identity of their own.
Maybe it has something to do with the direction of the recent material that made up much of the set that may have more of Hogarthís stamp
on it but the rest of the band seemed slightly diminished.
It would be interesting to see how they are by the end of the tour as this could just be a result of lots of complex new material to get
over on the first night but I worry that Hogarth is almost becoming too much the focus.
I hope that this is simply me getting the wrong end of the stick as it is the individual personalities and contributions that have always
made Marillion the band they are for me.
The set, certainly eclectic and focused on some unexpected material, continued on with Power,
another thumping good track from Sounds That Canít Be Made, but for me the energy then dropped a bit with Fantastic Place
and a track that I really canít get on with, Real Tears For Sale, before coming full circle with The Sky Above the Rain,
another lengthy track from the new album, the main set concluding with a great version of The Great Escape from Brave.
Hogarth preceded this by thanking us for coming and noting that this was by no means a perfect show and that we were probably
wishing that weíd bought tickets for later in the tour!
No matter, it was a damn good show and I doubt anyone in the hall (with the exception of my daughter!) would have missed it for the world.
The band left the stage to warm applause but there was a long delay before they returned to the stage for the first encore and the enthusiasm
of the crowd seemed quite reserved compared to my usual experience at Marillion gigs but at least most of the audience
were particularly focused during the quiet bits and you could hear a pin drop.
After A Few Words for the Dead, which Iím not sure works as a stand-alone encore, we were rewarded with a second encore of the only Fish-era song of the night,
a fine rendition of Sugar Mice accompanied by plenty of singing along,
H just letting the crowd get on with it, followed by a thumping finale of Between You and Me sending everyone home happy.
So, overall a fine gig.
Not as earth shattering as they can be but Iím sure that will improve through the rest of the tour and opening nights often
prove the tightest and most rehearsed bands to be human after all so it can be a quite endearing experience.
The set list probably wonít overly please the casual listener but it was a good night out none the less and Iím really pleased
to have seen Marillion again after such a long lay-off.
The Rakes Progress
Sounds That Can't Be Made
The Other Half
A Voice from the Past
Real Tears for Sale
The Sky Above The Rain
The Great Escape
A Few Words for the Dead
Between You and Me
Marillion Official Website
DPRP's Review of "Sounds That Canít Be Made"
DPRP's Review of "Somewhere Else"
DPRP's Review of "Marbles"
Great Hall, Cardiff University