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The Assembly, Leamington 6-8 May 2011
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.
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'.
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).
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'.
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'.
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'.
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
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'.
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!).
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'.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
and photos by Andrew Lock
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