It’s a veritable cornucopia of delights for guitar lovers tonight. The support act Matt Stevens, of The Fierce And The Dead, has schlepped all the way from Rushden in Northamptonshire.
Prog’s best guitarist for 2014 alongside Steve Howe, Steve Hackett, Guthrie Govan and, funnily enough, Steve Rothery, Stevens looks unassuming enough in his hoodie and specs, but the sounds he coaxes from his instrument – and loop station – are amazing. He might be solo, but sounds variously like a flamenco-psych outfit in full freak-out mode, Arthur Lee and Love in Spain and/or space, and a small army of cosmic Carlos Santanas. No wonder he leans his head back with a mixture of focus and ecstasy.
Steve Rothery has a five-piece band, but of course it’s the Marillion man the audience have come to see. It’s a show of two halves: the first 40 minutes are taken up by most of The Ghosts Of Pripyat, the 2014 album he Crowdfunded; then, following a brief intermission, there is a 30th anniversary performance of Misplaced Childhood, a sort of v2.0 iteration of the 80s prog monolith that Fish has also been gigging this year.
The Ghosts… tracks are as soothing and atmospheric as you could want from instrumental progressive rock. Morpheus features tasteful bluesy guitar and washes of keyboards. Rothery is enjoying himself, lost in eyes-closed reverie. For Kendris, the audience clap along with the gently intense, slow-building pyrotechnics, a pleasant alternative, Rothery jokes, to being stuck outside in the freezing cold, watching fireworks. Old Man Of The Sea is an 11-minute epic, although several points are docked for not featuring, as per the album, Steves Hackett or Wilson – especially the latter, who only lives up the road.
“So, 30 years ago, eh?” muses Rothery, prefacing Marillion’s meisterwerk (“One of the cheapest albums we ever made, the most fun and far and away the most successful”) as they launch into Pseudo Silk Kimono, with Martin Jakubski assuming Fish’s role. Kayleigh elicits cheers and Lavender gets everyone in the audience clapping along.
They encore with Cinderella Search, Sugar Mice, Incubus and Grendel. It is some measure of the album that its guitarist can sell out a reasonably sized venue to play it three decades after the release without any other of the original players involved. It’s a reminder, too, of how meaningful Marillion remain to prog fans, as they kept the genre’s flame burning when the music was at its least fashionable. There is allegiance here that cannot be underestimated.