With a title that neatly summarises their career over the last 20 years, Unconventional is a documentary that delves into Marillion’s 2015 convention in the Netherlands, and honestly attempts to assess what’s at the core of the band’s enduring appeal.
There are those who have snobbishly dismissed this band over the years, and may mock the idea of spending three nights surrounded by such devoted fans. Such an attitude lacks grace and understanding. Watching this engaging documentary, the palpable bond between band and audience comes across – it’s one that few acts have ever come close to matching. They remain, as keyboard player Mark Kelly points out, “a well-kept secret”, merrily performing in front of a worldwide family who congregate every two years in this quasi-religious gathering.
With the band notably relaxed, their interviews manage to achieve a rare honesty. Any irritation at their erstwhile dismissal by the mainstream as just a “Scottish heavy metal band” has been eroded, replaced by contentment and a peace with their place in the industry’s pecking order. There’s also an intriguing insight into the personalities within the band and how they interact, including entertaining segments of the fairly jovial bickering during hectic rehearsals as they debate which key or time signature a song should be in.
The bond between band and audience is palpable.
Moments of beauty intersperse those chaotic scenes though, most notably Steve Hogarth rehearsing _80 Days _in
a simple piano and vocal arrangement that gives it an elegant, Beatles-y framing. For a band who have been in circulation for close to 35 years, it’s rare for fresh angles to be revealed, yet that’s something frequently attained here.
Drummer Ian Mosley displays a dry and knowing sense of humour that makes you wish he did more interviews. Bassist Pete Trewavas comes across as cheery but also has a penchant for unnecessary post-gig self-flagellation. Steve Hogarth, seated on a regal red chair surrounded by stuffed animals and other bizarre paraphernalia, reveals that he couldn’t be trusted to manage the band’s accounts as he would have spent all their money on the “type of shit that’s
in this room”.
Admittedly, this film probably doesn’t have the general appeal of, say, the Anvil movie or Metallica’s Some Kind Of Monster, but it’s still a documentary that inspires and is equally moving. Indeed, this unique band are summed up by the sight of Trewavas in tears, recounting a tale of how people have told him Marillion’s music has helped them through awful times. Unconventional indeed.