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FISH Empire Music Hall, Belfast 6 March 2008

As the final whistle blew on the big TV screen (Spurs had just bean beaten in the UEFA cup and I was there with a Spurs fan!) in the downstairs bar at the Empire, that was our cue to head up to this eagerly anticipated event that was the big man from Marillion's glory days aka Fish aka Derek Dick to those that knew him.

10pm exactly and the giant of a man appears on the stage layden with trademark green tartan trousers and his new album logo being proudly worn on his vest (later changed to a 'Save Planet Rock' t-shirt (the radio station had went into liquidation last week)

This also gave him the opportunity to say several kind words about the late great Rock DJ - Tommy Vance who sadly passed away last year and was the founder of the station as well as Radio 1's flag bearer in the 70's & 80's (and mostly responsible for getting the Pre-Kayleigh Marillion legions of much needed airplay for a young neo prog band from London with a 6 ft 6' Scottish singer who wrote and sang in a Genesis mould - basically when no-one else was interested in them).

Slainte Mhath opened the show to an overwhelming response from the 400 or so strong crowd in this excellent venue, small but atmospheric and now a haven for todays tribute bands.

Fish was friendly, he was naturally funny and was on top form, after nearly every couple of songs he bantered with the crowd and told anecdotes of his previous visits to Belfast, mostly of being in bars and about his run ins with football supporters of another allegience, but the mixed crowd took his warm humour well.

Only once did Fish half-heartedly lash out at one member of the audience - a drunken yob who kept asking him to do Kayleigh! Fish then proceeded to tell the audience that he was not playing Kayleigh tonight to a mixed reaction. But then cheers when he called the guy a 'Fucking Asshole!'

The 2 hour set (albeit missing several Marillion classics, such as the aforementioned, Lavender & Sugar Mice along with no songs from either of the first 2 Marillion albums) was still well executed and well-thought out. The tour was named Clutching At Stars and it did what we expected - that was it concentrated mainly on the new album The Search for the 13th Star and Marillion's swan song (with Fish) Clutching At Straws.

Being a huge fan of that album, I wasn't to be dissapointed. The only other songs that got a look-in tonight were Cliché & So Fellini from Fish's early solo albums.

With the biggest cheer of the night coming an hour into the set, when they did Hotel Hobbies, Warm Wet Circles, At That Time of the Night & White Russian in succession, basically all of the first side of the Clutching At Straws Album minus the poppy Just For The Record - if you had shut your eyes you'd have sworn the old Marillion had got back together.

Give Fish credit as he had put together a serious handful of musicians for this tour, most of whom also wrote and recorded the new album with him.

Incommunicado ended the affair and every punter went away happy, of course we all had our favourites we wanted to hear, but for £17 what more do you need when we got a mini comedy routine from the big man thrown in for good measure. (And several Marillion songs that you will NEVER hear Marillion playing these days) d

Review by Alan Todd

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