The queue was one of the longest I have ever seen for a rock concert – down the whole side of the venue, round Soho Square and halfway down Rathbone Place in the heart of London – so it might come as a surprise that all of these people were waiting to see a band who, as recently as last year, you daren’t mention that you liked, yet alone were paying to see, through fear of being ridiculed.
Now, after a recent hit single, it seems Marillion are cool again. But the fact is that the queues would have been just as long without their recent success, as it was these same hoards of fans that catapulted You’re Gone to number seven in the first place.
And they weren’t to be disappointed as they witnessed the band in top form, performing a set split-up into two halves: An opening hour of songs from new album Marbles followed by 90 minutes of oldies.
Also in top form it seemed were the roadies, two of which engaged in combat armed with Star Wars style light sabres before the gig, much to the delight of the packed Astoria audience, many of whom were coming for second helpings after another sell-out show the night before.
Crunching chords from Mark Kelly’s keyboard, the opening notes to The Invisible Man started proceedings before singer Steve Hogarth made his way, very slowly, to the stage. It was an epic start, sounding Pink Floydy in parts, and harked back to the days when the band would have been filed under progressive rock.
In those days it was Fish who was the main man, yet Mr Derek Dick was never as much of a natural up on stage as his replacement. Hogarth appears to revel in the spotlight, telling wonderfully humorous stories that have the audience hanging on his every word. He also becomes so immersed in every song, singing with great feeling whilst adding theatre to the mix with his actions.
Less of a natural in the spotlight, but no less of a great performance, was given by Steve Rothery. He looks like the local vicar but the guitarist’s soulful notes during the haunting Angelina were one of the night’s highlights.
Another new tune that left an impression was Neverland – a ten-minute masterpiece – and new single Don’t Hurt Yourself, which, on the face of it, has more chart potential than You’re Gone ever did.
The second half of the gig showcased just what a cupboard full of strong music Hogarth-era Marillion has produced, with not a sign of Kayleigh in sight. There were epics, such as The Great Escape and a version of The Party with an extended keyboard introduction, and then there were foot-tapping catchy shorter numbers like Between You And Me. All induced much clapping-along from a bouncing audience.
Some lucky people in the front row even got a chance to play Hogarth’s famous cricket bat! Surely the strangest instrument you will ever see, with keys all along it, its main use was for the cuckoo noise at the end of crowd favourite Uninvited Guest.
In the end it seemed as though the band had to be virtually pulled off the stage as the lights went up with them still there. But make no mistake; this same army of loyal fans will all be there again next time and they don’t care if they’re considered cool or not.