Once live albums and their video equivalents were patchy; cash-in affairs with the production values of a knock-off t-shirt outside the venue. But if anyone has perfected the art of playing event gigs and turning them into studio-quality, high-definition, surround sound audio-visual experiences to be relived in the comfort of your own home, it’s Marillion.
Few will gripe about forking out for all these different formats when the product is this good.
The band played one of two bi-annual Marillion weekends in March last year at Port Zélande in the Netherlands, and instead of their usual trick of playing their latest album (2012’s Sounds That Can’t Be Made in this case) in sequence, they played each track interspersed by selected back catalogue tracks. Only last November they released a live performance of 1994 album Brave from the same weekend. This show, captured on CD and DVD, is a much more no-nonsense performance, without the props, theatrics or make-up accoutrements of that show, but it’s none the worse for that.
From the off, there’s no messing around, as Steve ‘h’ Hogarth bounds down the catwalk in a CND-sloganed shirt, and takes a seat on a keffiyeh – an Arab-style scarf – to start the no-words-minced Gaza, a 17-minute portrait of life in occupied Palestine.
Whether you’ve got the visuals to accompany it or not, the band sound as muscular as they ever have, and create a booming, sometimes positively apocalyptic pomp-rock symphony to accompany songs like Waiting To Happen and Invisible Ink. The ever Buddha-like figure of Steve Rothery produces guitar lines on that trademark black Strat that are instantly identifiable within a few quivering bars, while h is quickly dripping with sweat from wringing every ounce of emotion from the redemptive strains of_ Lucky Man_ and This Strange Engine.
So adept are Marillion at playing this material now at weekends at these venues, and recording it for that matter, that these live renditions almost sound better than the studio versions. Inevitably the broad strokes work best live and some of the subtleties are drowned out. Neverland and the set’s title track build slowly to an arms-outstretched crescendo, the latter enhanced by a gold ticker tape shower, and it’s impossible not to be moved.
Finally, a second encore of Garden Party (a rare outing for their first ever hit) ends 140 minutes of music almost like a fist-shaking call to arms. Witnessing it, you may well be screaming your approval from the sofa.