No one can accuse Marillion of failing to provide new product for their devoted fanbase to devour. Not a year goes by without some live album, DVD, boxed set, or whatever, for Freaks (or Anoraks, I’ve been out of their scene long enough that I still consider myself a Freak, being a fan from the earlier days) to enjoy.
While there’s a pile of new stuff coming out (a new double album, now officially ‘leaked’ on P2P sites, a 6-CD boxed set of Fish era live concerts), today we’re taking a look at Somewhere in London, the newest double live DVD to come from the band. It covers a pair of London shows from the tour to support Somewhere Else, the band’s most recent (and fanbase-polarising) release.
Long time fans know Marillion doesn’t sit on their laurels. The setlist for this release mirrors this; there is but a single Fish-era track performed here (and that only on the ‘bonus’ second disc); the rest of the performance draws from the 10 albums the band has recorded with ‘new’ lead singer Steve ‘h’ Hogarth. It’s no longer fair (and hasn’t been fair for a long time now) to call him the ‘new’ lead singer; his tenure in the band far outstrips that of Fish’s time with the Marillos. While fans of the ‘classic’ new wave of British prog rock (NWOBPH) sound may no longer find much in common with what Marillion is doing these days, no one can deny that each album has been different from the one previous…each album is a reaction to the one before, and has no bearing on what will follow. Somewhere Else was no exception, and I now it was a very polarising release…as much of the fanbase embraced it and called it their best ever as tossed it aside and called it dross. From that standpoint, perhaps Marillion succeeded beyond their wildest expectations…certainly an album that elicits such wide disparity in opinion has something to offer (my take, in case you were curious…it did very little for me).
Live, the material from Somewhere Else takes on a whole new life. “Most Toys,” “Faith,” and “Thankyou Whoever You Are” come across much stronger here then they did in the studio. Additionally, earlier songs such as “Fantastic Place” and “Neverland,” from the very fantastic Marbles double album are almost impossibly powerful here. Both songs cause goosebump moments for me in this live performance, and I have to admit to being driven damned close to tears on “Neverland.” Three other older tracks, the rarity “The Release,” "King" from Afraid of Sunlight (1995), and “Splintering Heart” from 1991’s Holidays In Eden, are the only tracks on the main programme in excess of a decade old…everything else comes from This Strange Engine and forward.
I’m not totally enamoured of the filming…occasionally darker than my tastes like, with more quick cuts than I like to see as well, the video is certainly less ADD-ridden than some concert videos of recent vintage, yet cut more quickly than I think is necessary. It’s nice to see crowd shots, but when the crowd takes up 2/3 of the screen with the band just a side note (and visible at the same time), I find it distracts a bit more than I like. I have no qualms about the audio mix, however…it’s nice and ‘present,’ with good instrument separation and good clarity.
The show doesn’t end with the end credits on the first DVD; Marillion has packed in a second disc filled with all kinds of extras. The first portion is called “here’s some we played earlier…” and is made of of other songs from the same pair of shows filmed for the main programme. We get our only Fish-era song (“Sugar Mice”), a solid if somewhat disappointingly average take on the epic “Ocean Cloud” (which I think ultimately comes across better in the studio), the poignant “Afraid of Sunlight” and “Estonia,” and three other London performances. See my criticisms of the main programme above for similar comments I’d otherwise just be copying and pasting here.
The second bit is subtitled ‘Racket Club Rehearsal,’ and covers a radio station contest where winners were whisked off to the band’s studio for a special private concert/rehearsal. The background to the performance is cool and helps set the stage for the show. We get alternate versions of “Estonia” and “Neverland,” both played during the main show sets, as well as three tracks from Somewhere Else. Finally, four 5.1 remixes of tracks from the Somewhere Else album round out the package.
Somewhere in London offers good evidence that the band is in as strong shape musically as they have ever been. While they have pretty much left the past behind (for better or for worse, depending on what era your fandom centers around), they remain a vital musical entity, exploring avenues that energise and exicte them.
The Other Half
No Such Thing
Thankyou Whoever You Are
A Voice from the Past
Man of a Thousand Faces
Between You and Me
HERE'S SOME WE PLAYED EARLIER
Afraid of Sunlight
RACKET CLUB REHEARSAL
The Last Century for Man
See it Like a Baby
SURROUND SOUND ALBUM MIXES
A Voice from the Past
No Such Thing