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MARILLION Weekend
The Assembly, Leamington 6-8 May 2011

Marillion, photo by Andrew Lock

Leamington was invaded for this weekend of gigs by the Marillion army with almost a thousand fans travelling from Canada, Holland, Italy and many other countries as well as from all over the UK. The band have already held convention's this year in both Holland and Canada and this year have added a third event here in the UK, while not a full on convention weekend with day time activities, they are playing the three convention sets with support artists.

FRIDAY

As expected The Assembly was a sell out for the weekend, and to kick things off a support slot by Robin and Pete, Pete being Marillion's very own bass wizard Pete Trewavas, including performances of Pete's compositions 'Beck' (written for Jeff Beck) and 'Time' we also had the first appearance of Steve Hogarth for an excellent cover of The Kinks classic 'Waterloo Sunset'.

Marillion, photo by Andrew Lock

As is the norm at these events the main body of the opening nights Marillion set is a track by track run through of one of the band's back catalogue albums and this time that album is the underated Holidays In Eden, not universally adored by the Marillion family as has a light pop feel at times (one of my favourites though).

Holiday time and to start the trip one of the bands best ever set openers and also the opening track of Holidays in Eden, the intense brooding 'Splintering Heart' heralded the arrival of the band on stage for a run through the 1990 released album, full of beautiful pop tunes 'No One Can' (my guilty pleasure Marillion number), 'Dry Land' and 'Cover My Eyes' and also meatier material like the epic 'This Town' trilogy and the haunting 'Waiting To Happen'.

After the album performance the band left the stage briefly and returned to play two of the album singles B-sides, 'How Can It Hurt' and the story of obsession that is 'A Collection'.

Three blinding numbers for the encores starting with a sublime 'Beautiful', followed by the complex 'Man of a Thousand Faces' and to end the evening in pounding style the big beat remix version of 'Memory of Water' and finally an intense 'The Invisible Man'.

Marillion, photo by Andrew Lock

SATURDAY

Support for the middle day of the convention, four piece melancholic rock band Antimatter led by the charismatic Mick Moss delivering a down beat but well played and confident set.

Tipped as a long Marillion set this one, it certainly was that with an A - Z run through of Marillion tracks (with a little improvisation for X and Z), a set of varying musical styles and dipping into many of the bands albums.

The marathon started bang up to date with 'Asylum Satellite' from the latest Happiness is the Road album, followed by the rarely played blues of 'Born To Run', in great contrast to the C choice the darkly humorous surf rock of 'Cannibal Surf Babe'.

Marillion, photo by Andrew Lock

So this epic set continued and contained many surprise choices along with long standing fan favourites, the many surprises included the light and breezy 'Half the World' from their latest work, one of their rockiest moments 'Under the Sun' from the 1998 album Radiation and keeping the old school fans happy 'Pseudo Silk Kimono', 'Sugar Mice' and a beautiful instrumental rendition of 'Jigsaw' with Mr Hogarth taking a break and leaving the audience to sing the words (most of the front row even had lyric sheets, so maybe not that much of a surprise this one!).

All time live classics in the set included two crackers from the Afraid of Sunlight album 'Gazpacho' and the pure power of 'King', along with a contention for greatest ever Marillion number 'Fantastic Place' from the masterpiece album that is Marbles.

On to the improvisation part of the evening and for letter X they introduced XTC guitarist David Gregory to the stage for a version of that band's huge pop hit 'Senses Working Overtime' with of course fabulous 12 string guitar by Mr Gregory, for Z the band sandwiched a manic 'Separated Out' between parts of Led Zeppelin classics 'Black Dog' and 'Kashmir'.

Towards the end of Saturday’s set, and now a bit of a tradition at special gigs we also had the introduction of a mass of orange pumpkin balloons from the crowd.

Marillion, photo by Andrew Lock

SUNDAY

Talented Irish singer/songwriter Lisa Cuthbert was the support for the final day, performing on vocals and keyboards with an accompanying guitarist, she has an exceptional voice and plenty of stage presence, a section of the Marillion number 'Cover My Eyes' was used during one track in her set bringing applause from the floor.

Again a very different type of set for Sunday and after an explosive version of 'Mad' from Brave and then from the same album, a slowed down version of 'Hard as Love', we found out what the 2000 glow sticks given out before the set were for.

The majority of the rest of the set was run on a vote system with a choice of two tracks and the one with the most waving of glow sticks and accompanying noise was played.

Marillion, photo by Andrew Lock

Some choices more difficult than others and winners included one of my personal favourites the always moving 'Afraid of Sunlight', a real rarity in 'One Fine Day', the gentle and uplifting 'Go', a rocking 'Between You and Me' and the always wonderful crowd pleaser/sing-a-long 'Easter' with of course one of Steve Rothery's finest solos.

The reaction to both the bands majestic tribute to Donald Campbell 'Out of this World' and the sad but also uplifting 'Estonia' (along with the many chants of "both") led to both of these tracks being performed and the two track sequence was the most atmospheric part of the weekend, the latter number was movingly dedicated to two recently passed away friends of the band.

Unfortunately we did have a touch of vote rigging to contend with, the band was put in the position of possibly having to perform, shall we say one of their least favourite numbers ‘Hope for the Future’ but they blatantly ignored the crowds vote and played the other track, but H admitted that they had not even rehearsed the offending tune, tut-tut.

From this point on the voting for the night was over and the bands usual and unbeatable set closer 'Neverland' finished the main set, surely another of the band's finest moments this track, lyrically clever, full of power and passion and again with a stunning guitar solo.

Three encores to finish the weekend but all fairly lengthy, the (you can almost feel the sea spray) magic of the epic ‘Ocean Cloud', Steve Hogarth's autobiographical masterpiece 'This Strange Engine' and to see us off into the night 'Happiness Is The Road' complete with confetti cannons, as usual the audience continued to sing the chorus long after the band had left the stage.

Not bad for a weekend, nearly eight hours of material, selections from many stages of the band's career, the band as always making it look easy, assisted by a spectacular light show, excellent sound and all in front of a full house of Marillion family members.

Review and photos by Andrew Lock

 


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