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(Image: © Kevin Nixon)

Marillion at Royal Albert Hall, London - live review

Something special this way comes from the Marillion lads

Friday night at the House Of Prog, and something very special is taking place. “It’s almost worth coming out,” says Steve Hogarth, as Marillion start their second set of the evening. “I missed …Bake Off and everything.”

The show that sold out in four minutes has attracted fans from all over the world, and as standing ovation follows standing ovation, it’s swiftly becoming evident that this isn’t just another night out.

The first set sees the band playing their F.E.A.R. album in its entirety. Hogarth’s state-of-the-union address might not be Marillion’s most accessible collection – these aren’t songs that nestle instantly in the memory – but the sonics possess a rare emotional velocity, and the highlights come thick and fast.

“As standing ovation follows standing ovation, it’s evident that this isn’t just another night out.”

The Leavers – IV: The Jumble Of Days gently builds to a climax, gracefully elevated by Steve Rothery’s twinkling guitar. A lovely version of White Paper somehow manages to be both epic and understated at the same time. And The New Kings – IV: Why Is Nothing Ever True? ends with Hogarth screaming wordlessly off-mic, caught up in the fury of his own composition.

It’s dramatic, goosebump-inducing stuff, but the second set raises the bar even further. Joined by Belgium’s In Praise Of Folly string quartet and French horn player Sam Morris, The Space… is inflated with enough classical gas to let it soar, while the crescendo reached on the ‘You’re holding on’ line of The Great Escape is genuinely breathtaking. Go! is both bewildering and beautiful, with lasers strafing the seats as a choreographed sea of finger torches turn the hall into a vast, magical grotto.

Perfection? Not quite. Hogarth seems a little skittish at first, nervously staring up into the gods as if troubled by the size of the room and the history it’s witnessed. But by the end he’s completely at home, lifting his arms aloft in triumph and grinning delightedly as he spots people he knows in the stalls. And the double-header of Waiting To Happen and Neverland make for a slightly anticlimactic encore, both songs gently crumbling to a close instead of raising the rafters further.

These are small quibbles – the night feels like a triumph in almost every way, for those in attendance as much as it appears to be for the band, as if they’ve all come of age together. It ends with the musicians lined up across the stage, ankle deep in confetti, taking bows and sucking in applause as the audience stand and cheer, and cheer, and cheer.

“I came here to see David Gilmour,” proclaims Hogarth. “He had a lot of shit going on… but it wasn’t like that.”

He’s right. It wasn’t. This was Marillion carving out their own chunk of history.