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


It had been a couple of years since The Web Holland organized a fan club convention with Marillion headlining. As many others I was anxious to hear the material from the forthcoming album Radiation. Not being completely satisfied with their last album, I hoped the band had reconsidered the direction of their musical style. In a way .... they had ...

Tivoli was very dark when I entered. The organization of the convention wanted to create the right mood for previewing the album and had therefore turned the light down and used purple and blue hues, combined with patterns of two Golden Scan light projectors and a smoke machine. Quite nice, although I found the relative darkness a bit annoying.

Before the first band got on stage, the first couple of songs from Radiation were played. The new CD starts with a weird little tune called Costa del Slough which must have been an attempt at humour. As far as I'm concerned not a very good way to introduce the new material. The track which followed, Under the Sun was a lot better; a real rocker. The third track, Answering Machine, was very unlike Marillion, and I can't say I liked it very much. It was very loud and missed the subtile melody and tempo changes Marillion used to play. Besides the fact that it was very unlike Marillion, the song itself didn't appeal to me at all. During the day more tracks from Radiation were played and I'm afraid I have some mixed feelings about them. There were some pretty good songs but there were also some which completely left me cold. I remember a rather uninteresting acoustic ballad and a bad attempt at playing blues. I love blues, but this just did not work for me.

The first band which performed was Gandillion, which I first feared to be a cover band playing Gandalf and Marillion material. It turned out to be a progressive metal band in the vein of The Gathering with a female vocalist who did not always sing flawless and also played some bad violin. Sorry, I wasn't impressed.

Fifteen minutes late Marillion appeared on stage to do an interview. First this seemed to become a complete disaster because nobody asked any questions, but when the band was just about to leave the stage, suddenly lots of people wanted to ask something. In the end it turned into a semi-serious Q&A thing. Most interesting were the answers to the following questions:

Q : Why are you playing in Ahoy in November ?

A : Because it's big and we need the money.

(Which clearly shows the financial position the band is in.)

Q : What will the next tour be like ?

A : We dropped some of the quiet songs and will try to hit you again and again and again. The setlist of tonight will form the basis of the shows.

After the band left the stage Landmarq performed a set of almost 90 minutes. The band made their comeback with new material and Tracy Hitchings on vocals. Although I never was very much into the music of Landmarq and their new album is not my cup of tea, I did enjoy their performance. The vocal qualities of Tracy are stunning and the band played very tight (and she's cute as well). Especially the medley of old instrumental bits was very impressive. As far as I could see, their performance was well received. Oh, and DPRP likes to apologize for that obscure team member who was jumpin' around like Roger Rabbit during the encore. ;-)

When Landmarq left, the crews started to set up the equipment for Marillion. This took a bit longer than planned and in the end the band ended up doing a soundcheck in front of an audience of 700 people. Steve Hogarth made the best of it with hilarious jokes and songs.

Finally, almost half an hour late, Marillion began their show. After the silly opening tune Costa del Slough with Hogarth on megaphone - I still can't figure out what's the deal with this track - the band played a good version of Under the Sun, followed by the (in my opinion) awful Answering Machine. I was getting a rather uncomfortable feeling about the whole evening when they went into a remake of Cannibal Surf Babe, hardly one of my favourite Marillion tracks. Half of the crowd seemed to be unimpressed while the other half loved it.

The whole crowd sang along to the first half of Man of a Thousand Faces which suddenly went into a chunk of Brave; Wave, Mad, The Opium Den and The Slide from Goodbye To All That. For me this was the highlight of the evening. Although the band did not play as tight as on the Brave tour, Hogarth did 'live' the lyrics and his theatrics were very spooky to say the least.

After a nice new tune, Three Minute Boy, with an acoustic beginning and a great roaring guitar solo in the end, the band went into the demo version of Splintering Heart as it was recorded at the Moles Club and released as a B-side. On one hand I really liked to hear this version live, as I always thought it was just as good as (if not better than) the album version. On the other hand, the set had been pretty 'loud and heavy' so far, so I wouldn't have minded the quiet version. What's more, some of the tempo changes just didn't seem to work the way they should.

After playing the new single These Chains the crowd went beserk when the band played the 80 Days, a track I always considered to be a bit mediocre. This really convinced me that Marillion's audience has changed. During the day I had already heard remarks that there seemed to be more women around than in the past, which is probably another sign that the audience is changing. For some reason progressive rock never seemed to be as popular with the ladies, resulting in mainly male audiences. The audience must have been about 50-50 now, which (to me at least) indicates that Marillion's more accessible sound won them some new fans. Things are definitely different from ten years ago.

They even gave Gazpacho a hormone shot and turned it into more of a heavy rock song by having the guitar play the subtile bass line of the original as well. Normally I welcome re-arrangements, but this just didn't improve the song and made them sound like a bad cover band.

After another new track called Cathedral Wall, the band left the stage. After a couple of minutes they were back to do two encores. The first one was yet another performance of Cover My Eyes and the second one was King. Although I like King a lot, Marillion's new music starts to sound too much 'King-ish'. Lots of songs end with the same climax; even the ending of That Strange Engine is very similar. This seems to be the direction the band has chosen. They want to be loud. They dropped almost all of the wonderful progressive and symphonic elements and went for Radiohead-like stuff and songs with lots of guitars so Hogarth can get his awful pink guitar out in the public and pretend to be a guitarist.
Besides the awful 'Nikita solo' in 80 Days, there was hardly a solo spot for Mark Kelly and the keyboards seem to have been banned to the background.

I missed the two additional encores of Gimme Some Lovin' and Sugar Mice. I don't mind that they did not play any material from the Fish period, after all, there's enough great stuff to chose from since Hogarth joined the band. The need to be loud and 'hit again and again' just isn't what Marillion used to be for me. They used to offer a fine blend of ballads, rock songs and atmospheric moody material. I think we can forget about hearing stuff like Berlin, Season's End, Out of this World and Estonia and I don't like the thought of that.

I'll probably buy the album to give it another try, but I'll think I'll skip the concert in Ahoy.


Marillion Fan Club Convention - The Web Holland
September 5th 1998, Tivoli, Utrecht, The Netherlands

by Bart Jan van der Vorst

After a madman's drive from London to Harwich, a quiet ferry-trip to Hoek van Holland and a genuine Schumacher-impersonation in order to reach Utrecht in time we entered Tivoli at just a few minutes past five.

The first support act, Gandillion, had already started playing, but I was too busy talking to friends to pay any attention to the music onstage. I seem to remember they were quite good though, with a female vocalist.

The convention wasn't as extensive as it had been the last time, three years ago. No raffle, no autograph-session, hardly a record-fair (only two or three stands). But there was a lot of music though. Three bands, of which Gandillion played about 45 minutes and both Landmarq and Marillion had both been scheduled for a 90 minute set.

In between the performances songs from the new Marillion album, Radiation, were being played. Again, I was too busy talking to everybody to pay any attention to the songs.

Quite some time after Gandillion had finished Web Holland chairman Rene Romswinckel came onstage to announce what everybody had been waiting for: Marillion.
The band came onstage to do a short stage interview, during which the audience could ask questions. Not many interesting questions were being asked, and the band gave the most hilarious answers. One of the questions was: "Why are you playing Ahoy this year?" to which H answered: "Because it's big and we needed the money"
An honest answer, but you couldn't tell whether he was serious or not. I suspect there was some truth in it, as shows in Holland are never hard to sell out for the band, unlike in the UK or Germany, both countries in which Marillion will play 6 shows, but in smaller theatres.

Other questions dealt with the new video for the single, the H project, Ian Mosley collaborating with Steve Hackett again.
About the upcoming tour they said that it would be louder and more upbeat than previous tours. They simply got tired of all the mellow ballad-type songs they usually play. Of course this doesn't mean that they'll dig up aggressive songs like The Web or Incubus, but I think that the occasional Fish song would misfit in the set they played that night.

Good news at the interview was that the band had brought along about 700 copies of their new single, which isn't due out till the 14th of September. The announcement of the new single cause a massive rush towards the merchandise stand, and thanks to an ingenious plan to send one person to buy 5 singles, the remaining 4 of us managed to move a couple of metres closer to the stage.

After the interview, which had lasted some 20 minutes it was time for the second band: Landmarq. I had really been looking forward to seeing them, because I quite like their music (the few songs I know). Nevertheless I was a bit disappointed with their performance. Maybe it was because I was completely knackered after three exhausting days, or because they played mostly songs from the new album, which I didn't know.

Tracy Hitchings, who had replaced Damian Wilson on lead vocals, didn't seem to feel comfortable with the older material, as she only sung *one* song that wasn't on the new album. The band did treat the fans with a medley of some older songs though.
The only old song Tracy sung, was the Landmarq song I know best, my favourite: Solitary Witness, and she managed to screw it up completely. What a waste!

The band's main set finished with Overlook the epic from their latest album, which again showed that Tracy is much more confident with her own work, that with that of the previous era of the band. Somehow this fitted perfectly with the Marillion-philosophy, because Marillion didn't plan on playing any pre-Hogarth songs either.

Landmarq did one encore, the crazy Summer Madness which got the crowd moving and singing along.

The stage was cleared and Marillion's gear was set up. The drumkit of Landmarq's drummer had to be altered from left-handed to right-handed, so this took a while.
Rene Romswinckel came back onstage and told us that in order for the band to play a decent gig they needed a soundcheck. So if we could bare a little more patience, while the band did their soundcheck. I think this was the first time the band did their soundcheck in front an audience of 1200 people…

The soundcheck was made really enjoyable by Steve Hogarth who kept on singing the weirdest songs. The band really seemed to be enjoying themselves, as they kept on making jokes all the time. When one of the sound-engineers asked Pete to play some bass, he happily shouted: "Bass-solo? Yeah, sure!" And under a loud cheer of the crowd he gave away a 30 second bass-solo.

When the sound-check was finally over the band needed another 30 minutes to prepare themselves for the gig.

At about 10 o'clock they finally started. They started with the short intro Costa Del Slough, a funny piece, sung through a megaphone, which immediately flows into Under the Sun.
I had already heard the band play Under the Sun at their acoustic gigs in Oswestry and I really like this song. The electric version is a lot louder though, almost hard-rock.

Next one up was another new song, which I had already heard in Oswestry: Answering Machine. I didn't really like this song in Oswestry, as it was too muck 80 Days-alike, but the electric version is something completely different. I still don't know what to think of it though, I'll have to hear it on the new album.

Their next song was an older one, which doesn't get played a lot: Cannibal Surf Babe. Many people don't like this song, I think it's quite funny and it's definitely a good live song. They had slightly re-arranged the song, a bit more like they had played it in Oswestry.

Man of a 1000 faces followed, which flew into Wave, just before the climax. A large chunk of the 12-minute piece Goodbye to all that followed. They played the parts Wave through to The Slide. This was the best part of the whole gig. H had dug up his theatrics and mimics from the Brave tour, pulling the spookiest faces you can image (who ever said he looked cute??)
At the end of The Slide H sat down behind his keyboard and started to sing while playing the piano. Instead of singing Standing in the Swing he sang the lyrics to yet another new song Three Minute Boy.
The band has always declared that they don't like medleys, but I wonder if they realise that this was exactly what they just played - and I liked it!!

Three Minute Boy was a very Beatles-esque song, which shows that the band has clearly been listening to the current Britpop scene. I just hope that their "new" style is really theirs rather than a poor attempt of a UK-breakthrough, following the successes of bands like The Verve, Radiohead and Beatles-coverband Oasis.

The next song was a surprise, Splintering Heart. Not that this song is so special, but the version they played was! They had gone back to playing the song in the original demo version, the way it was before producer Chris "Mike&The Mechanics" Neil laid his hands on the song. It was a brilliant firing song, which received great cheer from the crowd.

After Splintering Heart H spoke his first words to us, about 30 minutes after they had started playing. He apologised for playing so many new songs and went on announcing yet another new song, These Chains the new single. He explained something about the meaning of the song. I liked the song instantly, it sounds a bit like Radiohead, but still with some Marillion sound in it and a firing Rothery solo.
The song was followed by 80 Days. Still no favourite of mine, but the Right now's were fun to shout out loud.

80 Days was followed by Gazpacho. I have never liked this song, but the band played the version they had played in Oswestry, yet now fully electric. I really liked this version (although I got the feeling that I'm alone in this opinion) it just sounded as if they had added some salt and pepper with the soup.

The set finished with yet another new song Cathedral Wall a song about not being able to sleep. This song finishes with an astounding scream by H, followed by 5 seconds of speed-metal by the band. This song made me really look forward to the new album, I just hope that it sounds just as well on the album. Marillion albums aren't really known for it's good sound-quality.

The band left the stage, and came back for an encore of Cover My Eyes and King.
During King the samples at the intro didn't start, so the sound from the stage became dead silent. "Wow, this is something that doesn't happen everyday" mumbled H and he began singing the first line, letting the audience take over.
The audience didn't manage to make it past the third line (I must admit that I don't know the lyrics either) so H picked up singing again.

During the gig Mark had already experienced some problems with his (partly borrowed from Landmarq) keyboards. During King he missed most of the characteristic sounds, completely destroying the performance of the song.

The band left again and the crowd went mental. The lights came on and the music started playing over the PA, yet the crowd stayed and kept on screaming, clapping and shouting.
Last year it had happened twice that the band had prepared an extra encore, but that the Dutch audience called it a day and left (this happened with H's solo performance in The Melkweg and Marillion's end of tour gig in Paradiso).

The music died from the PA system and the band came back onstage, to play a song H introduced as "This is something we play when we're having fun". The cover Gimme Some Lovin' got played. I don't know who recorded the original, but I know the song from The Blues Brothers.
It was quite a rocker and it got the audience really moving.

The band left again and the lights and the music came back on, but *still* nobody left. After about 5 minutes Rene Romswinckel came onstage, followed by H and Pete who received a large cheer.
"Sorry" Rene said. "It's over, we must call it a day, the band can't play anymore."
The rest of the band came back onstage to witness the crowd clapping and screaming "We want more".
"Well…" Rene said. "If Marillion plays another song, than you'll have to wait three weeks until you can hear the last song of the album we still need to play. Well, do you want to hear that final song? Or do you want Marillion?"

1200 people went crazy, so the band look at each other and could do nothing but returning to their instruments. Mark's keyboards had already been partly taken apart, so he had to play H's keyboard. The band played a fine version of Sugar Mice, which featured mainly the audience on lead vocals.

And then it was really over, leaving 1200 people breathless. It sure wasn't the best performance the band has given in Holland, but this was certainly one of the best audiences the band has ever had in this country.

Setlist:

Landmarq:

The Vision Pit
More Flames For The Dancer
Heritage
Lighthouse
Between Sleeping And Dreaming
Medley - Killing Fields / Cutting Room / Ta'Jiang / Narovlya
Solitary Witness / Tailspin (Let Go The Line)
The Overlook

Summer Madness

Marillion

Costa del Slough
Under the Sun
Answering Machine
Cannibal Surf Babe (new version)
Man of a Thousand Faces (first half)
Wave / Mad / The Opium Den / The Slide
Three Minute Boy
Splintering Heart (Moles demo version)
These Chains
80 Days
Gazpacho (new version)
Cathedral Wall

Cover My Eyes
King

Gimme Some Lovin'

Sugar Mice

 

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