Like many fans of their original line-up, I abandoned Marillion after their first singer Fish left. I bought their first album, 'Season's End', in 1989 with Fish's replacement, Steve Hogarth, which begrudgingly I quite liked, and then their second, 'Holidays in Eden' in 1991, which I didn't. Things, however, weren't the same and by the time Hogarth's third album with Marillion, 'Brave', came out in 1994 I had long lost interest.

Another six albums down the line from that, and, when a promo copy of Marillion's fourteenth and latest album 'Somewhere Else' turns up, I feel obliged to give it a spin. I am immediately captivated, ironically because things haven't remained the same and Marillion have moved on a lot. A record of great heart, 'Somewhere Else' finds the band far removed from their prog roots, and, with its sweeping, stirring arrangements and post-rock sound, having more in common these days with Coldplay and Talk Talk rather than Peter Gabriel-era Genesis or Yes. Hogarth's vocals are meanwhile a revelation and, sometimes eerie, sometimes more ethereal, create incredible poignancy, whether describing his marriage break-up and fear that he might mess things up again with his new girlfriend on the title track, or angrily lambasting consumer greed on 'Most Toys' and American and British foreign policy on 'The Last Century of Man'.

Nearly 20 years on after I last saw them in the Christmas of 1987 at the Edinburgh Playhouse in what would turn out to be one of the Scots-born Fish's last home town gigs with Marillion, I find myself back from self-imposed exile at the Glasgow ABC to see them again and for the first time with Hogarth.

Perhaps what is most surprising is how much of a family and cross-generational affair a Marillion show is these days. There are, as might have been expected, in the 1500 full-to-capacity crowd people with washed-too-many-times 'Clutching at Straws' T-shirts, faded relics of Fish's days with the band. For nearly every one of these, however, there is a younger person too, someone who would have been a babe in arms or not even born at the time Fish was in the group and has got into them subsequently, possibly after hearing their parents' records or Muse or Radiohead citing them as an influence. Beside me a dad and his son bounce up and down enthusiastically together throughout the two hour set, and elsewhere in the audience there are other fathers and sons, mothers and daughters.

The group, as might have been expected in the two decades since I last saw them, have all aged. Guitarist Steve Rothery and drummer Ian Mosley are both much wider-girthed. Pint-sized bassist Pete Trewavas, who I have interviewed earlier that evening about 'Somewhere Else', has had his hair cut to a much more appropriate length for a middle-aged father of two, and Irish keyboardist Mark Kelly who previously had his hair down to his shoulders now has his head completely shaved. Yet between them, unlike many other bands of 25 years standing, there is no sense of tired sluggishness, and they are able to work up a real sense of energy and genuine enthusiasm for their craft on stage.

Hogarth, in contrast to many of his contemporaries, obviously also understands well the prolonged adolesence and essential ridiculousness of being a rock star. When he joins the band on stage halfway through their first number, 'Splintered Heart' from 'Holidays in Eden', a roadie chucks to him a cricket bat and he passes the remainder of the lengthy opening track pulling extorted faces and mugging along playing air guitar with it as he sings. A lot of the rest of the evening he spends with a lurid pink guitar strapped to him.

It is not all laughs. however. 'Faith', the last track of the new album, is thrown early into the set and, finding Trewavas switching to acoustic guitar, is a tender cry for hope. 'Somewhere Else', for which Hogarth shifts to piano, is meanwhile the highlight of the evening, starting softly, almost fading away, and then surging up in its last quarter into heartbreaking and grand epicness.

As the set draws to its conclusion, the balance between comedy and poignancy almost teeters into chaos, when during 'King', from 1995's 'Afraid of Sunlight' and the last number of the main set, Hogarth, flailing his guitar at the front of the stage, tips over it and into the crowd. There is a brief hushed silence in the audience. The band all grin, having obviously seen him in similar scrapes before. The pink guitar is pushed back onto stage, and a few seconds later Hogarth smirking sheepishly staggers back up out of the crowd and continues from where he left off.

This has been an enthralling experience.

Over the last 20 years I have missed out on a lot.











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Commenting On: ABC, Glasgow, 5/6/2007 - Marillion








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