Had it wrapped up after the band played Steve Rothery’s new solo project The Ghosts Of Pripyat in full, this would have been a very fine gig anyway, showcasing the man’s exquisite guitar playing and beautifully gauged and structured instrumentals.
Yet when they return for a second set of old, rarely played Marillion numbers, the audience think Christmas has come early. All go apeshit as Fugazi and Lavender fill the hall, punching the air and singing along in incredulous waves of joy. Afterwards, those in Marillion T-shirts (ie nearly everybody) look dazed, babbling stuff like, “What a moment! Highlight of the year!”
One hopes the elegance of what went before wasn’t forgotten in their understandable delight. Rothery’s album is a real success, growing more compelling with each listen. Tonight they play it in order, from the drama of Morpheus, through the 12 minutes of twists and turns of Old Man Of The Sea, on to the delicate Yesterday’s Hero (dedicated tonight to Remembrance Day) and Summer’s End.
Earlier, Italian support band RanestRane had impressed with their A Space Odyssey – Part One – Monolith album excerpts, before their keyboardist Riccardo Romano throws himself into ‘second job’ duties with Rothery’s band. Rhythm section Yatim Halimi and Leon Parr drive and drop intelligently, while co-writer/guitarist Dave Foster dovetails his fretwork expertly with the big man’s virtuosity.
Not only is Rothery an extraordinary guitarist, but he’s also a genial onstage host. He divides his ‘patter’ between modest quips, digs at a malfunctioning guitar (musicians rarely realise that nobody in the crowd notices that the E-string is a mite off), and explanations of his desire to make an album of meaningful soundscapes, crossing emotionally significant areas of the globe. If this feels like music for a film yet to be made, someone should hurry up and make it.
So after the title track’s last chord resonates, there’s a short break before the outfit return, with bulky Scottish vocalist Martin Jakubski of StillMarillion (“The Fish-era Marillion tribute band”) taking the microphone. Cinderella Search welcomes us “back to the circus” before Afraid Of Sunlight homages a later era. “And now it’s 1984 again,” says Rothery as a powerful Incubus surges out. Then it’s Chelsea Monday: “One of my favourite songs, which doesn’t get played much any more.”
Jakubski is convincing in demanding ‘Where are the prophets?’ on Fugazi, though the audience chant every word with equal gusto. The climax is sheer Marillion fan fantasy time, as a lovely Lavender segues into Heart Of Lothian, and everyone relives their misplaced early adulthood.
Rothery might be “doing a Hackett” by embracing and honouring his band’s younger days, but the quality of his solo material means tonight transcends mere nostalgia and reaches twin peaks.