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FISH, Cox's Yard, Stratford Upon Avon, 26 April 2011

Fish, photo by Andrew Lock

This gig was originally intended for last December but due to the unusually wintry conditions at the time it had to be postponed, but the big man returned and for not one but two nights due to the popularity of these stripped down acoustic shows.

Fish looked even more relaxed than for his first visit to this venue back in August last year, he mentioned last time how much he loves these small gigs with plenty of interaction with the fans, and here it was completely eye to eye contact for a lot of the room.

We had a football style yellow and red card system introduced by the ex-Marillion man for this show, for offences including talking while he was singing (one of my pet hates at shows so well said), but when asked if we could heckle he retorted "absolutely, between the songs of course", he also stated we could ask him any questions we wanted as well.

Fish, photo by Andrew Lock

After the usual set opener on these gigs 'Chocolate Frogs' he received belated birthday greetings from the audience (his birthday was the day before the gig) and he introduced his band for the evening, one of the best guitar players in the country and Fish band regular, Frank Usher, and on keyboards christened by Fish as Super Foss for the evening the charismatic as well as extremely talented Foss Paterson.

Fish, photo by Andrew Lock

The first few numbers included a powerful 'State of Mind' followed by "one for the lady's" 'Somebody Special' from the Suits album, several times during the set he asked for requests and the first track called out was the Marillion classic 'Lavender' which he duly delivered and which included a fabulous jazzy keyboard intro from Foss.

The main set also included a pumped up 'Brother 52', two absolute beauties from the Marillion back catalogue and the Fugazi album, a moving 'Jigsaw' and a rocking 'Punch & Judy', the too beautiful for words 'A Gentleman's Excuse Me' and Marillion fan favourites 'Slainte Mhath', and 'Kayleigh' the latter with a stunning guitar solo by Frank.

Fish, photo by Andrew Lock

As always the evening was full of humorous anecdotes and story's and this evenings topics included marriage in general, the Royal Wedding and the tale of his favourite mic stand, but we also had serious anecdotes including a moving piece on the Battle of the Somme during the First World War which was followed by "one for the soldiers" a touching 'The Pilgrim's Address'.

Fish, photo by Andrew Lock

We had Fish taking a walk through the audience for a magnificent 'Vigil' and the set ended in some style with the dark epic and fan favourite 'Fugazi' the crowd really joining in on this one, the gig had overrun already as the band had lost all track of time, but we still had an encore and a corker it was, sang mostly with Fish sitting on the venues bar for a glorious 'Sugar Mice'.

An excellent performance by an artist who never disappoints, playing alongside two top musicians in Frank and Foss with a set well put together with both Marillion classics and the cream of his solo material, all performed stripped down and at times reworked in the intimate surroundings of Stratford's Cox's Yard, in front of an adoring audience.

Review and photos by Andrew Lock

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