The big Scotsman has threatened retirement before, but now it really does seem as though his musical career has reached its twilight stages, with this year’s Weltschmerz album set to be his final studio-recorded statement.
Although the mood at Islington Assembly Hall tonight should perhaps be sombre, especially with the singer revisiting the edgy bleakness of Clutching At Straws, his swan song record with Marillion many moons ago, as the show’s focus, that really isn’t the case. Even Fish being forced to perform seated on a stool due to suffering fierce back pain fails to puncture a celebratory ambiance. “I’m the Val Doonican of prog,” he quips.
Backed by a tight band that includes the faithful Robin Boult on guitar and It Bites keyboard player John Beck, Fish also does plenty of talking, much of which is wonderfully self-mocking. Explaining a lack of promised new material, he shrugs: “Sorry, but as you can see, for the last year and a half I’ve done fuck-all except eat pies,” to roars of laughter.
Placed alongside its rather more upbeat predecessor Misplaced Childhood, Straws has tended to suffer, although Warm Wet Circles, Incommunicado, Slàinte Mhath, White Russian and a goosebump-inducing Sugar Mice are all reminders of its strength in depth.
After two encores, Fish leaves the stage, clearly in pain yet looking as happy as his followers.
The countdown starts here, regrettably.