There are few bands for which success has been a curse as much as Marillion. In 1985 a little, rather cheesy love song was ripped from the concept album Misplaced Childhood and released as a single: Kayleigh. If you're being served by a waitress in her mid-30s somewhere in the English countryside, that's probably the name on her badge.
The song became a worldwide hit, and format radio still sings it to this day. The band played in sold-out stadiums for a while, but couldn't (and didn't want to) land a second super hit, fell out, changed the singer, has been writing one great album after the next for four decades - and is always laughed at as the troupe that wrote the tearjerker "Kayleigh."
Of course, the song is not on the set list in Berlin's Tempodrom. It has only been played sporadically and as a gag for years. Nobody expects it either. The spectators of the hit parade years in the 80's are long gone - instead the fans who have followed Marillion loyally and devotedly for many years, some following the band throughout the tour. In Berlin you could hear a lot of Dutch, Polish and Scandinavian.
The connection between Marillion and her fans is phenomenal. When the band lost their EMI contract, the next album was financed by crowdfunding, and many more actions of this kind were to follow. The fans also advanced the money for a US tour, when the insurance premiums became unaffordable because of Corona, the band sold a kind of bond to absorb any tour cancellations.
The beginning is Berlin is unusual: Marillion play their current album "An Hour Before It's Dark" completely from start to finish, so the first of the two concert hours is already booked. The retro fittings on the stage are also new: no more projections, only the impressive but conventional light show, so full concentration on the five musicians. After almost 33 years together, a powerful, perfectly attuned team, a band in the literal sense, in which everyone leaves a lot of space for the other - although singer Steve Hogarth is naturally in the foreground. He is 66 years old and yet has retained the mocking boyish charm with which he once won over the fans who, after the departure of the Scottish giant Fish, were initially irritated by the newcomer: a lanky sonny boy who, during the songs, sometimes on the Climbing box towers or doing gymnastics in the light rig.
He doesn't, but his presence is still impressive: Hogarth is the perfect singer for the band's darkly melancholic music, interwoven and intricate melodies, with robust outbursts of anger every now and then. This works both in the longer songs and in the shorter ones, of which at least “Murder Machines” would have hit potential again. The first highlight, as expected, was the Corona epic "Care" with its hymn-like thank you finale for helpers: "The angels of this world are not in the walls of churches", but in hospitals and old people's homes.
In between, something can go wrong, which breaks the pathos quite pleasantly: When guitarist Pete Trewavas' monitor system fails, Hogarth sings the Pekip group classic "The Wheels on the Bus", and the hall joins in. In any case, they have always loved to sing, the Marillion fans. So much so that even the guitar solos of the exceptional musician Steve Rothery and the keyboard runs of Mark Kelly are hummed along, while drummer Ian Mosley's punches are slapped on the thighs. Every fan has their own little Marillion band. This creates a happy and loud atmosphere, although the entire hall is unfortunately full of chairs - a bad habit that is becoming more and more widespread.
The remainder of the set consists of a gratifying amount of tracks from the masterpiece Brave, the album that finally emancipated Marillion from label expectations, and replacing radio songs with a two-disc concept track about a confused girl on a Welsh pier from the studio came. The beginning of the end for the major label EMI, but the beginning of the modern Marillion style, in which the neo-progressive rock of the first four albums is only found as a distant echo. Marillion has left behind the old genre role models such as Genesis and King Crimson much more clearly than Steven Wilson, for example. Today you are in a class of your own.
As usual, deviating from the standard set list in the capital, there is always the song "Berlin", a powerful post-reunification epic. The band has also been fighting against the cliché of singing about hobbits, orcs and trolls practically since it was founded. They never did, but have always been a political band that wanted their albums to be understood as commentaries on current affairs. At the very end "Sugar Mice", the only track of the evening from the era with Fish. You haven't missed him for a long time. And neither does Kayleigh.
The band will be touring in Germany until next week. In July next year the first German (besides editions in Canada, Holland, Italy and the UK) "Marillion-Weekend" will take place, in which the band will perform two to four evenings in a row and perform a large part of the repertoire. Location: Berlin, Tempodrom.