It’s no secret I am a big fan of the band Marillion. I have followed them from their 80s Prog Rock beginnings up through their current, more straight forward rock and roll albums. In fact, I first discovered them in late 1984 when I was working at the Waldenbooks in the Meadows Mall and I had a reciprocity deal going with the guys who worked at the record store. When they needed books for school, I would strip the covers or give them my discount (this was before I knew how the author end of things worked – I would never do that today!) and in return, whenever I’d go into the record store, I’d bring a stack of LPs and a 45 to the counter and the guys would ring me up for the single (about $1.49 or so in those days) and throw the entire stack into a bag. It was a good system, really. At least for us it was. I got to try out all sorts of new bands this way and one of them was Marillion. The album was Misplaced Childhood and to say it changed my life would be silly… but it kinda did. It spoke to me in a way no music really had in the past. Ironic, because I’m tone impaired. Maybe not completely tone deaf but lord knows I couldn’t carry a tune with both hands and a bucket.
What really got me was the lyrics.
I’ve always been a word guy and so my musical tastes have always tended to be about words more than music (with the exception of David Bowie, which is an image thing and a creative soul thing). I would get into huge debates comparing the lyrics of Neil Peart of Rush with Steve Harris of Iron Maiden (this was the 80s, after all). I loved the storytellers – Billy Joel and Harry Chapin and Jim Croce. But none of them hit me the way Marillion singer and lyricist Fish did. Did I get made fun of? Yes. I mean liking Marillion was the same in Britain as liking Styx was in the US (and yes, I like Styx, too). My old Roommate JR used to laugh at me and even my poet friend Gregory took a swipe at the band in his toast at my wedding… but I’m loyal and have a pretty strong constitution and hey, I’m a fan.
When the band split in ’88 or so and Fish went solo I followed both his and the band’s careers but for me, Fish has always been where my musical heart lay. I had a chance to see him in Los Angeles in 1997 but after that, there was always an issue with touring America whenever a new album came out. Without major label support, the money just wasn’t there to support it. So I figured I was going to have to content myself with just getting the albums as they came out, picking up a filmed concert on video or DVD from time to time and just enjoy what I had.
Then I moved to Europe.
Then Fish was putting out a new album and would be touring to support it.
And that tour was going to come, for the first time, to Vilnius.
I was going to get to see him again, live. I was incredibly excited! I bought tickets 5 months in advance (yes, there were still plenty the night of the show, but that didn’t matter – in the past, I’d bought tickets for a show which they ended up giving away tickets for, because I wanted to support the band).
He was playing in a small venue called Club New York, a place reminiscent of the Troubadour in LA – a horseshoe shaped venue, stage at one end with a balcony circling the room. I had bought a ticket with a seat but ended up spending my entire time standing in the middle of the floor. I had a friend in Vilnius who decided to join me at the gig and was much frustrated with my insistence we get there on time, even though we both knew that shows never start on time. All told, by the time the show started (only about 10 minutes later than announced) there were maybe 150 people there. I made my way to the front of the crowd so I could see and sing and dance and just generally enjoy the hell out of the evening.
The Big Man himself came out and didn’t disappoint. While he’s not the same, Peter Gabriel influenced, make-up wearing theatrical performer he was back in the early 80s, that doesn’t mean he doesn’t know how to put on a good show. Am I biased? Sure, but at the same time, I know a good performance from a bad one. In this case, it was a good one, particularly since he was fighting a Lithuanian crowd. As someone who spends many hours a week in front of large groups of Lithuanians, they are not the most vociferous or boisterous of crowds at the best of times and in this case, when I was probably one of the youngest people in the crowd, it was certainly a lackluster reception. Several times during the show he pleaded with the crowd to “give me something” but it wasn’t until nearly the end of the night when they started getting into it. Which isn’t to say they didn’t enjoy it. They did. Standing around outside afterwards everyone coming out was enthusiastic and smiling broadly. But it takes a lot of energy to keep going when you feel like you’re playing to a garden of statues.
As for the gig itself… wow! He played a mix of old and new, including some of my personal favorites. He opened with a couple of songs from the new album, A Feast of Consequences, “Perfume River” and the title track. This was also a moment where you could tell the audience wasn’t sure about the new stuff since “Perfume River” is a two part piece, with a slowdown of the music in the middle – and as soon as that came, the audience applauded as if the song were over, leaving Fish to shake his head before finishing. It’s a great song no matter and I think the crowd got there eventually.
He did “Script for a Jester’s Tear” which is just amazing to hear live as is “He Knows You Know,” “MR 1470” and a medley of things like “Assassing/Credo/Fugazi/Tongues/White Feather” and one of the new ones, “Blind to the Beautiful” is such an amazing piece about what we’re doing to the planet it should be made an anthem.
By the end of the 2 hour gig, I was feeling great! I bought a tour shirt and a hat for next summer (They were out of chunky knit cap I wanted for winter) and left feeling very satisfied. It was a great night and worth the 16 year wait.
Here’s a few videos from the show:
“Blind to the Beautiful”
“He Knows You Know”
“Script for a Jester’s Tear”
“All Loved Up”