At this belated London date after his pre-Christmas shows elsewhere in the UK and Europe, Steve Hogarth’s affectionate relationship with his audience is a tangible blessing.
This has been called the Family Tree tour since, he reasoned inarguably, the audience are family, and there was a tree. Both elements are still intact as the calendar reaches February.
‘H’ has laudably spent the majority of his career as a steadfast band man, in early days with the Europeans and How We Live and, these last 27 years, as frontman with Marillion. Time for solo endeavours such as these gigs, dubbed H Natural, has been at a premium, and they’ve been shoehorned between responsibilities in co-creating the next Marillion album.
As he walks to the stage of a well-filled 100 Club, Hogarth is palpably in the loving care of long‑time fans, eager to hear those distinctive vocal tones and searingly plaintive melodies. His only accoutrements are a piano, a Mac, the aforementioned and rather threadbare tree and a bottle of tequila.
To pin-drop attentiveness, this is the perfect setting for a mixture of meaningful covers and deconstructed reappraisals of career landmarks. First priority, as for so many in the first few weeks of the year, is a tug of the artistic forelock to David Bowie, with a version of Heroes. More than two hours later, it’s the last priority too, as he ends with Life On Mars?.
It’s a broad vocabulary that takes in everyone from Nine Inch Nails to Al Stewart, as ‘H’ does with heartfelt readings of Hurt and Road To Moscow respectively. Stewart’s account of the German assault on the USSR capital during WWII represents a substantial challenge for Hogarth. “I’ve been meaning to do it for years, but it’s got a lot of words,” he admits. “If I get it right, I’ll have entertained myself immensely.”
The slightest smile of satisfaction afterwards suggests he has, and not just himself.
Hogarth is in the loving care of long‑time fans, eager to hear those distinctive vocal tones and searingly plaintive melodies.
Other pages from his musical education include Here Comes The Flood, Ruby Tuesday and Like A Rolling Stone. But in such an extensive set list, and with bandmate Mark Kelly watching on at the back, there’s ample room for a good 10 Marillion numbers, including Real Tears For Sale and The Hollow Man. An encore also offers a gentle Dry Land, the How We Live song that he took to his later band, and Afraid Of Sunlight.
By then, Hogarth has magnanimously risked a stage crush by dispensing many a shot of tequila to eager observers. On such a congenial evening, it was (100) proof that the artist and fan base that drink together stay together.