Cambridge Corn Exchange

“You may not have heard of Marillion…” starts their show’s publicity.  Even I, who would not claim to be a progressive rock aficionado, have heard of Marillion.  They have been playing their own unique brand of progressive, melodic rock for over thirty years – come on folks, you must remember ‘Kayleigh’?

From my point of view as a press photographer limited to shooting the first three numbers, this would be a treat.  Marillion do not play three minute pop numbers, oh no, there would be plenty of time to frame and focus – most of their set running to eight minutes or more.

Opening with the five piece El Dorado the band eased their way into their set with Hogarth’s hand gestures acting as the conductor to his lyrics.  His impish grin and humour a contrast to the deep lyrics: “The people at the borders, waiting to exist again”.

It was easy to see the appeal of this band to their fans.  Top class musicianship combined with politically loaded lyrics wrapped in melody and a stage show that looked just gorgeous – what’s not to like?   All five band members were relaxed on stage, they were among friends, their loyal fans.  I had heard one fan complain to security that this was an all seated gig – there would be no crowd surfing tonight!

Marillions’ sound is unique.  This show, while not quite a greatest hits collection, was certainly a very good sampler.  As they are all too often compared to another well-known 80s prog rock band, by those who must categorise and file neatly, their appeal is understandable.

This, of course, is Marillion’s second incarnation, so one would not expect to hear much from the pre-Hogarth era, but coming back on stage for their second encore they would treat us to ‘Garden Party’

The first member of the Marillion team on stage was not a musician but their sound engineer.  He explained that the band and he went to a lot of trouble to get their show just right and that as an audience, we should respect that and allow the people behind to see the show without a mobile phone getting in the way.  All he asked was for a little respect.  I liked that.

Most of the band’s remaining six tour dates in the UK are, unsurprisingly, sold out.  In June they tour The Netherlands and again, most of those dates are sell outs.  On the evidence of their show in Cambridge tonight, that is not surprising.

Footnote: It was serendipity that I should meet Dave Roberts of Cambridge Rock Festival in the audience tonight, for it was at Cambridge Rock that I last saw Marillion play some years back.