Few bands have engendered the love and support that Marillion have, the devotion of their fans sustaining them throughout the years and this relationship between artist and audience a symbiotic one.
Modelling the crowdfunding method to produce albums before anyone else, the band has seen direct input into their work by the thousands of supporters. This sense of ownership has made those bonds deeper.
Marillion – Light At The End Of The Tunnel
Hammersmith Eventim Apollo – 27 November 2021
Words: Paul Monkhouse
Photography: Robert Sutton
With the financial risks of putting on tours now, where one COVID-19 infected member can spell potential ruin, the fans stepped in again, covering the cost of insurance, meaning that this latest UK jaunt could actually go ahead in the first place.
It was then, into this atmosphere, that the final date of the Light At The End Of The Tunnel tour became so much more a celebration than purely a gig, the sense of one big family an overwhelming one. The fans had gone over and above what was expected of them, and Marillion more than compensated them with a show that will surely go down in their history as one of the greats.
What made this an even more special night was that the set was being livestreamed across the world, the faithful able to join in the atmosphere from their own homes globally.
Opening with Sounds That Can’t Be Made, the band immediately filled the legendary venue with soaring melodies full of heart and longing, Steve Hogarth’s emotive vocals matched by some beautiful guitar from Steve Rothery, Mark Kelly’s keys sounding like something from the soundtrack to Bladerunner. His guitar aloft under the spotlights, Steve H looked like Arthur holding Excalibur high, the band breaking into the ringing opening of King, the drama building to a crescendo as Rothery’s solo swoops and divebombs the crowd.
Following the tumult, Easter provided a beautiful and very welcome dip back to the early days of Hogarth’s tenure with the band. Still as gorgeous as ever, the lilting atmosphere carried along a sublime feeling of bright sunshine burning through an early morning mist, the solo as perfect as could be. It wasn’t just the music that thrilled, and the sight of the mirror ball above the stage firing shards of light all through the auditorium as the audience were bathed in waves of blue during This Train Is My Life was a captivating sight.
The trio of Brave tracks Bridge, Living With The Big Lie, and Runaway unfolded like a mini-opera, the emotional power undiminished as the sense of dread rose from the opening notes and carried through this part of the story. A tantalizing chunk of the whole story, this duo made perfect sense in the context of the larger set and displayed that the band have always embraced broader canvasses in which to work on than just four-minute songs.
The sound of Mark Kelly’s keys was enough to fill a cathedral and the whole an immersive experience, the five musicians almost melting into the ether as the atmosphere took over.
Be Hard On Yourself from the forthcoming An Hour Before It’s Dark sounds huge and bodes well for the new album, its choral keys and anthemic themes already capturing the hearts and minds of the faithful, marking it as a staple for sets for years to come.
If ever an indication was needed that they’ve grown way beyond their earliest roots where they were accused of being Genesis copyists, this is it as they build their own sleekly modern but still soulful take on progressive rock, embodying the true sense of the term.
Another Seasons End track came in the shape of Berlin, its emotional heft unbowed by the years and the fall of the wall that is at its core. The joyous take on The Release was a juxtaposition of moods that they are adept at, the bass of Pete Trewavas and Ian Mosely’s drums firing the engines as the lights and audience dance.
The set closes with a version of Neverland that is literally showstopping in every sense of the phrase, the incredible tumult that washes like a tsunami across the audience as both Steves put on jaw-dropping performances, Hogarth’s distinctive vocals ringing out, and Rothery’s fretwork transcendent.
The whole was electrifying and worth the admission price alone, confirming their place in the upper echelon of bands who have worked hard and deserve all the praise received, not just from the devoted there to absorb every note as if it was manna.
A playful pairing of Splintered Heart and Made Again were fun, the band joking around at the start of the latter before heading into its delicate and beautiful heart, the rafters ringing with the sound of five thousand voices singing and ten thousand hands clapping in unison as the celebration reached its height.
With a second encore of the epic and multi-layered The Leavers proving that Marillion can go from a danceable groove to haunting without breaking a sweat, Hogarth’s final, happy declaration that “we’re all one, together” couldn’t have been truer as confetti rained down on the delirious audience.
The perfect end to a perfect evening. The sense of community is stronger than ever, and the celebration one to be remembered for a very long time to come. We are family.