Last time I saw Steve Hogarth and his solo band perform was during the mini-tour that supported his solo album, nearly five years ago. An obvious thought that springs to mind is "isn't it time for a new album?" A good answer would be "not really" as Hogarth and his part-time band are more than happy to delve into the more obscure sections of sixties and seventies rock to find suitable additions to the repertoire.
Each time the H-band tours it seems to grow larger, as with the addition of Stephanie Sobey Jones on Cello and Dalbir Singh on Tabla, it now features eight people on stage (especially the latter proved to be a very interesting addition to the music).
The rest of the band consisted of Aziz Ibrahim (Stone Roses, Ian Brown) and David Gregory (XTC) on guitars, Richard Barbieri (Japan, Porcupine Tree) on synthesisers, Andy Gangadeen (Massive Attack) on drums and a guy with the illustrious name of 'Jingles' on bass. Hogarth himself played keyboard, bits of percussion and the usual theatrics and eccentric clothing.
The support act for the evening was The Urbane, the second band of Arena's guitarplayer John Mitchell. The Urbane's brit-pop was a nice warm-up for the main act and it took me a while to figure out who it was on stage here. Once I had figured it all out, I couldn't suppress thinking about the irony of having the guitarist of Arena as a support act to the singer of Marillion. Nevertheless The Urbane has nothing to do with Arena, apart from sharing a guitarist, just like Steve Hogarth solo is something completely different from Marillion. And as said, their music was a good warm-up for the evening. I've seen far worse support acts.
Hogarth's set featured an excellent mix of own work and covers. And even though I didn't know most of the obscure covers the band played, I thoroughly enjoyed them.
Highlights of the evening were the fantastic rendition of David Bowie's Life On Mars, which sent shivers down my spine, and the Marillion track Estonia, for which Pete Trewavas joined the band on stage with an acoustic guitar.
Other bands covered included Fleetwood Mac (with two tracks, Green Manalashi, and Man of the World), Jeff Buckley (Dream Brother), Jethro Tull (Life is a Long Song), The Psychadelic Furs (Alice's House) and Pink Floyd, from the time "when they were still a lovely band, before they became all dark and spooky" to quote Steve H.
Furthermore the band played a track from guitarist Dave Gregory's previous band XTC (The Loving) and Xen and Now, a composition by Aziz Ibrahim, which is a fantastic rock piece with many eastern influences.
Not entirely surprising, yet nonetheless quite sad, it was the weakest composition of the evening got the loudest applause of the whole night. The Marillion track 80 Days resulted in a cheer that nearly took the roof off the building. I can't see what that was all about, really. In my opinion it's one of the worst songs Marillion has ever done, but I guess the recognition alone is enough to please the average Marillion fan.
A much more interesting choice was the song India, by H's previous band How We Live. I never understood why H never played more of his pre-Marillion songs. It proved to stand up well enough among the rest of H's solo material the covers.
Most of the songs from Hogarth's solo album Ice Cream Genius were played differently than on the album, which is not entirely surprising seeing that only two of the musicians present played on the original. But the addition of the other musicians, with all such a different musical background, has resulted in such a fresh and original sound, that I can't wait for the live double album, which should be released soon.
A preview of the live album was already on sale at the gig, in the form of a limited edition EP. The EP features the song Cage in all its live glory (mixed by none other Dave Meegan) as well as nice demos of Until You Fall and Urban Spaceman (Neil Innes) and a "bootleg" recording of Pink Floyd's See Emily Play.
Due to the fact that the Paradiso turns into a nightclub on Friday nights, there was an 11.00 curfew, which inevitably meant that the initial setlist had to be shortened a bit. So we had to do without Deep Water and Until You Fall, both H compositions, and the covers Old Wild Man and All Things Must Pass. However, it's just a minor complaint that the concert lasted a 'mere' two hours...