From 2002’s inaugural fan convention that began in Pontins, Somerset, the Marillion Weekends have now evolved into biennial three-day events that take place in the United Kingdom, Canada and The Netherlands.
Port Zélande on the Dutch west coast hosts the largest of the three. At each event nearly 3,000 devotees – including entire groups of families – from 52 nations assemble for set-lists covering two classic albums plus one final night that is shrouded in rumour.
It’s the first night, a Friday, and queues quickly form to snatch a spot near the front of the festival’s enormous purpose-built tent to catch support from The Steve Rothery Band. Selections from The Ghosts Of Pripyat showcase the guitarist’s effortless style and provide the perfect warm-up for the evening yet to come. Then anticipation mounts via a video intro depicting flags of every represented nation before Between You And Me heralds Anoraknophobia. The album’s concept of love provoking musical synaesthesia swells to a tangible bond tonight between artist and audience. Separated Out and Map Of The World similarly take on universal significance to self-proclaimed ‘freaks’ that identify themselves through the lyrics, while When I Meet God and Quartz eclipse their recorded counterparts emphasising what a powerful live act these veterans remain.
The epics This Strange Engine and Gaza are wish-list encores. It’s still only the first night, and it’ll certainly be hard to beat.
Saturday is devoted to Marbles, the The Invisible Man melodrama of 80s Marillion updated for this millennium. Hogarth has recently declared the song as their finest moment, and on
the strength of this live rendition, he may be right. Perennial favourites Neverland and Fantastic Place bring on the emotion while Out Of This World, backed by footage of Donald Campbell’s ill-fated Bluebird record attempt, is harrowingly poignant and a suitable point to retire for the night.
The rumour mill’s in overdrive on Sunday, no doubt fuelled by the appearance of Mark Wilkinson’s original band logo to be seen around the proscenium in the venue. Soon the rumour becomes real as Market Square Heroes opens the set, followed by Garden Party, Kayleigh, Lavender and Incommunicado. Can you guess the surprise theme yet? A much sought-after chronological selection of singles. Now it’s a party, alright, although excitement inevitably wanes halfway through as our endorphins settle down after the initial rush of hearing rarely-aired, but much loved, early material.
Power magnificently brings us up to the present day and Focus’ Hocus Pocus says vaarwel to our Dutch hosts as pockets of yodelling circle pits (yes, really) break out for one final, familial fling.