Review: Marillion, HMV Picture House

Marillion playing at the HMV Picture House. Picture: Toby Williams
Marillion playing at the HMV Picture House. Picture: Toby Williams
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When groups switch frontmen, their career trajectories tend to follow one of two paths – they either continue skyward like AC/DC did when Brian Johnson replaced the late Bon Scott, or fade into obscurity like INXS when first Jon Stevens then JD Fortune took on Michael Hutchence’s mantle.

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But since Steve Hogarth took over from Dalkeith-born Fish in the late Eighties, rockers Marillion have managed to occupy a demi-world sandwiched between those two extremes, never finding unbridled fame and fortune, yet neither suffering a devastating fall from grace.

That they’ve managed to survive this long is largely due to the unwavering support of a hardcore following, a thousand of whom provide enthusiastic vocal encouragement tonight, roaring their approval after every song.

To be fair to a band largely dismissed by the media as neo-prog dinosaurs, their style has evolved from their Fish-fronted fret frottage days (although a quick glimpse of the audience, reminiscent of a Hairy Bikers lookalike convention, might suggest otherwise), with tracks like You’re Gone and Neverland more than redolent of pop-rock acts like Keane and Coldplay.

Tunes from forthcoming album like Power and The Sky Above The Rains are decent enough, if a little flabby and self-satisfied.

It’s just ironic then that having strived to shake off those prog-rock shackles and cultivate a more radio-friendly sound, that genre is enjoying something of a mini-renaissance at the moment.

And any attempts to shed the “unfashionable” tag aren’t helped by the performance of Hogarth, either.

Variously sporting a leather jacket, a long frock coat and a billowing white smock emblazoned with the peace symbol – not to mention some suspiciously jet black hair – he’s like a prancing, pouting rock cliché, overly affected and trying too hard to be quirky as he gurns his way through sprawling, bombastic tracks like Real Tears For Sale and The Great Escape.

By the time he begins to eschew the hammy stage persona, and just focus on singing (which he’s admittedly good at), it’s all strayed beyond rescue.

Even the die-hard fans must surely sense that there’s more than a whiff of Spinal Tap about the whole she-bang.