Marillion, 26 June 1998
The Walls Restaurant, Oswestry, UK
By Bart Jan van der Vorst


An Acoustic Supper

For me this special event all started a couple of months ago when I received an e-mail from a good friend of mine, who had received a mailing from The Wall's restaurant in Oswestry. The very same restaurant where Steve Hogarth had given his try-out concert for his solo tour in February 1997. It said in this mailing that Marillion would perform an acoustic set in that restaurant during a candle-lit dinner.

For Marillion it was a way of doing something different, something special whilst mixing the new album in a studio in the same city.
This was an originally unannounced gig and my friend decided only to tell the people of whom he thought would be interested and willing to travel all the way to this outpost.

I phoned the restaurant as soon as I read this e-mail and ordered two tickets straight away, not even realising Oswestry is somewhere in the middle of nowhere, near the English-Welsh border, while I was still living in Scotland at the time.

Later on the Marillion mailing list found out about the gig, and a second gig was put in on the Thursday night. This gig was mainly for members of the Web UK. The band promised these nights would be 'very special nights to remember, for which some surprises should be expected'. I have to say that they really kept their promise. With a brilliant setlist, new songs, beautiful new arrangements of older songs and a great atmosphere.

Anyhow, last Friday morning my girlfriend and I got up at 4 in the morning, to catch the morning boat from Hook of Holland to Harwich, in order to drive to Oswestry for the show the same night. I had discovered that Oswestry was actually closer to Amsterdam than to Aberdeen!!

We arrived at about 3 o'clock in Oswestry, where we checked into our hotel for a quick nap, hoping to catch up with the lack of sleep of the previous night.
The dinner started at 7.30, so we went to the restaurant at about 7, where we met heaps of old friends and had plenty time to exchange stories and memories and to hear from lucky second night attendants how much we had missed the night before.

 

There was a merchandise stand, where I had the opportunity to buy myself one of the only 150 T-shirts (which have become a very rare collector's item by now) and the new Piston Broke live album.

At 7.45 dinner was served. Everybody had to share tables with others (in order to squeeze in as many people as possible) so one actually had to 'talk to strangers' as Marillion had written jokingly in the menu. Dinner was reasonable, not really outstanding, but the bottle of wine and numerous pints of lager made the food very tasteful :-)

 

Marillion came on stage after dinner, at about 10 o’clock. They created a very intimate atmosphere, with a minimum of stage lights and a minimum of stage equipment. The two Steves and Pete sat down on bar stools, with Pete playing an acoustic bass guitar and Steve Rothery playing his acoustic 12-string. Mark Kelly had left all his keyboards at home and played the restaurant’s grand piano, as well as a Hammond organ.

 

 

They started with Beautiful, not one of my favourite songs, and the song actually passed without my real attention, because I was trying to set up my photo-equipment.

The second song however was the first surprise of the evening: Beyond You, a song that had never been played live before. It was absolutely stunning, with shivers down my spine. The audience was dead and dead silent, enjoying every single moment of it. (And on this night about 25% of the crowd were locals who didn't even know the band!)
Steve Hogarth's voice was in very good shape this night, the best I've heard him sing in a very long time.

After this song Steve thanked us all for coming
and especially all the international fans that had travelled so far to see them. He explained very jokingly that these gigs started out as a sort of joke, in order to have free food for the fortnight while they would be mixing their album in the studio in Oswestry.
He explained about the idea of doing some songs nobody would ever expect them to do acoustically, because they are usually played so electrically. The next song was one I'd expected them to play when they announced that they would play songs they had never played live before: Afraid of Sunrise. Unfortunately the song didn’t sound as well as on the album. The next song Runaway however, had improved much from the studio version. They played it similarly to the version on the acoustic Brave promo. Beautifully!

Next one up was the first new song of the evening, She’ll Never Know, featuring Pete Trewavas on acoustic guitar and Steve Rothery playing bass. This song was absolutely stunning, demanding the full range of H’s voice. There is only one word for this song: Beautiful. Especially because of this song I am really looking forward to the new album (which is due out in September). The crowd stayed, just like they should, dead silent during the entire song.

After this beauty of a song they showed the crowd what they meant by 'surprises'. They played a reggae version of Alone Again In The Lap Of Luxury. It sounded really funny, not quite a musical wonder, but funny indeed.

The next song was an even bigger surprise to hear acoustically: The Space !! This time the entire song was restructured. It started with the piano part (The space around the stars, is something that you know) which flew into a mellow, reggae version of the first set of lyrics. They did not play the finale of the song. This song had been done so originally and sounded so completely different and fresh. Brilliant.

Next they played a cover song I didn't know: Fake Plastic Trees, from Radiohead. Although I quite liked the song, but it didn't really move me in the way most of the other songs did.
After this song they picked up the Marillion trail again and played Holloway Girl, which I had never heard live before. Again, this song was superb, much better than the version which is the B’side of the Dry Land single.
Time for yet another surprise: King! What on earth made them think they could play that song in an acoustic setting? I don’t know, but I’m glad they did, as it was absolutely stunning! The entire song was carried by H’s voice and the music was as powerful as the original.

Next one up was the second new song of the evening: Answering Machine. The song couldn’t really bother me at all, too much 80 Days alike for my taste, however later on I heard that the studio version is much more powerful and electrical than this acoustic version.

The next song the played was a completely re-arranged version of Gazpacho, based around a guitar-riff that was reminiscent to the guitar riff of Space Oddity. Again this new version sounded so fresh and original (Gazpacho is not really a favourite of mine).

'We’d like to leave you with this song', H announced a la Made Again and they played yet another song from Afraid of Sunlight, which they don’t play live very often: Cannibal Surf Babe. And again the song had turned into a very groovy tune.

The first encore consisted of two cover songs. First only Pete and H came back on stage to play the Beatles song Black Bird, which featured Pete plucking the strings of an acoustic guitar. For the second song the first electrical instrument was introduced: An electrical guitar which looked like a Gibson to me (although I hardly know anything about guitars, so I could be completely wrong here). They played a roaring, shivers down the spine song by Marvin Gaye called Abraham, Martin & John. I had never heard this song before, but I had heard it was a beautiful song which they had played twice during the Strange Engine Tour last year.

 

The band left the stage again, to come back a second time. This time they played a *very* bluesy version of
Hooks In You. Absolutely brilliant. It sounded so completely different and funny. I think this (in a tie with Beyond You and She’ll Never Know) was the highlight of the show. Who would ever have thought I’d ever call Hooks in You the highlight of a Marillion show! :-)

They finished off with a song dedicated to all the fans in the world: 80 Days, played quite similarly to the album version.

Just when we thought it was all over the band came on stage for yet another encore. Steve R was carrying the electrical guitar again and the played another new song from the upcoming album: Under The Sun.
Again this was a beautiful song which really makes me counting the days until the release of the new album in September.

Then it was really over. The band left the stage and the crowd started moving towards the exit of the restaurant. Web UK frontman Rob Crossland however came onstage to call everyone back with the announcement that Marillion would come out again later on, for an autograph session and to personally thank each and every one of us for coming.

My girlfriend and I shook hands with the band, had pictures taken with them, our menus autographed and we met heaps and heaps of new friends from all over Europe. It was well after midnight before the tiredness of the day dragged us away from the restaurant back towards the hotel.

Altogether this happening was unbelievably special, which I would not have wanted to miss for anything in the world. The only two minor points about the gig were the length, only a short hour and a half and the fact that they didn’t play any songs from Holidays In Eden. Playing almost the entire Afraid Of Sunlight album however, made up for that last point, although I would have loved to hear a song like Holidays In Eden, or Dry Land, receiving a similar treatment as Gazpacho and Hooks In You had been given.

Now it’s only counting the days until September, when the new album comes out and Marillion is likely to play a fanclub convention for The Web Holland.

Band:

Steve Hogarth - Vocals, Tambourine
Steve Rothery - Acoustic Guitar, Electric Guitar, Bass
Pete Trewavas - Bass, Acoustic Guitar
Mark Kelly - Grand Piano, Hammond Organ
Ian Mosley - Drums

Setlist:

Beautiful
Beyond You
Afraid Of Sunrise
Runaway
She’ll Never Know
Alone Again In The Lap Of Luxury
The Space
Fake Plastic Trees
Holloway Girl
King
Answering Machine
Gazpacho
Cannibal Surf Babe

Black Bird
Abraham, Martin & John

Hooks In You
80 Days

Under The Sun


(All photos © Bart Jan van der Vorst)

 

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