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Royal Oak, Michigan (February 16th, 2018) – In the United States, Marillion may have never had the same kind of commercial success as other prog-rock bands like Yes, Genesis or King Crimson, but that didn’t stop diehard fans from scooping up tickets to their recent stop in Royal Oak Music Theatre in Royal Oak, Michigan, just outside of Detroit.
Most of the fans I talked to before the show had seen Marillion several times before, some following the band throughout the tour. As one of the first mainstream acts to recognize the potential benefits of commercial musicians interacting with their fans via the internet, launching marillion.com back in 1996, and widely acknowledged as pioneering the development of crowdfunding and fan-funded music with their 2001 album Anoraknophobia, it is no surprise that Marillion’s fans are so devoted and regarded as part of the family.
With a discography spanning four decades and 18 studio albums, Marillion has plenty to choose from when building their setlist. On this winter evening, the band pulled songs from seven of those albums, featuring their 1985 hit “Kayleigh”, as well as four songs from their latest release, FEAR (F**k Everyone And Run), clearly demonstrating their staying power in the music industry.
Driven by a strong, steady rhythm section featuring Ian Mosley on drums and Pete Trewavas on bass, Marillion crafted the beautiful melodies the band is known for, fronted by Steve “h” Hogarth’s emotionally charged vocals. Keyboardist Mark Kelly wove his sounds into the tapestry to give a richness not often seen in rock shows but is a staple for Marillion. Soaring, passionate guitar stylings from Steve Rothery punctuated the songs as he appeared to effortlessly produce some of the most stirring solos this journalist has heard.
“Seasons End”, from the album of the same name, led into a singalong during the crowd favorite torch song “Kayleigh”. A pair of cuts from 1994’s Brave kept the show moving forward and the crowd on their feet. Next, during “Afraid of Sunlight”, there appeared to be some problems with Trewavas’ bass; however, an impromptu change to the setlist gave us “Hollow Man” with Hogarth on piano, while the guitar techs worked with Trewavas. “The Leavers”, another multi-part song from FEAR, got the band back on track, along with “The Great Escape”. The set closer, “King”, from 1995’s Afraid of Sunlight, is a tribute to Elvis Presley, Kurt Cobain, Michael Jackson and curse of success.
The crowd roared for more and after another delay with guitar techs again working hard on the darkened stage, Marillion returned to give us two encores, “The Invisible Man” and “This Strange Engine”. Despite a few technical glitches, the genre-bending Marillion gave a performance to be remembered. The band continues the tour with stops in Grand Rapids, MI, St. Charles, IL and Dallas TX, followed by a European leg starting in April.
Photojournalist: Kate Sumbler