I already knew that they were all first class musicians, but I had no idea just how tight and polished a band could be on stage. Anyone who bought Misplaced Childhood on vinyl back in the day will know that it's a full-blooded, unashamed prog rock creation consisting of only two tracks, side one and side two. As it was their latest release, I was understandably looking forward to hearing some album cuts performed live on stage. What I didn't expect was to witness the whole damned thing! Every last note and nuance, performed live, in sequence, with no breaks and no mistakes.
It was then I realised I wasn't just watching a kick-ass live band, I was in the presence of true musical greatness. Marillion's huge but tightly controlled energy dovetailed perfectly with the word-perfect recitals of the audience to produce a potent and mesmerising musical mix.
I'd had my first hit of the Marillion magic, and I knew had to have more…and so I did. I saw them twice more before the world came to an end when Fish left the band. After losing one of the finest lyricists this country's ever produced, the future looked bleak for the last and greatest performing proponents of prog rock's hugely demanding yet dying art.
Like many other fans from the Fish era, I wondered if it was the end of the road for Marillion. Still, after four hugely respected, often cited and much loved albums, that ain't half bad.
But then, something extraordinary happened. Some obscure, small guy from Kendal joined one of the tightest rock bands in history to retool, rebrand and relaunch.
Marillion quickly stepped out of the mainstream spotlight as new singer Steve Hogarth and the rest of the guys set about building a new kind of band, a band based more around audience access and crowd funding than courting the continued goodwill and patronage of the major labels. This was a bold and revolutionary move in the early 1990s, but one that's proved crucial to Marillion's continued success and close relationship with its fan base.
So, after watching from afar for more than a quarter of a century, I finally decided to take the plunge and see this "new" Marillion in late 2016.
To say I was blown away is something of an understatement. Time and age seem to have only improved Marillion's live performances, as focused experience has gradually replaced youthful exuberance. With a hi-tech video system, custom made movies, and the most balanced and powerful live sound you'll ever hear, Marillion introduced FEAR, their eighteenth studio album to a seemingly insatiable audience.
Marillion are one of the few bands who've manage to pull off that seemingly impossible trick of moving with the times while also standing still. As highlights from the ever lengthening Hogarth era were delivered at full power, I realised that the tracks I was hearing could've been penned at any time from the late 1980s to the present day.
After a long dry spell, I'm hooked on the M-stuff once again. Wanna try some?