dvd & video review
Those who are not Marillion-freaks, at least not Hogarth´s era freaks, didn't have the chance of watching the band in action on videographic (VHS or DVD) format since “From Stoke Row to Ipanema” (1990) –of course I don´t count “Brave Movie”, re-releases of past live VHS, or DVD's just for fans released by Racket Records. If you had an insatiable thirst for visual material, you´ll be fully satisfied with the release of “Marbles on the Road”, a comprehensive DVD indispensable for fans, completers, onlookers and even renegades of Marillion´s cause.
However many talibans of Marillion religion try to convince me that the band never lowed the guard, I´m stuck to my own guns: Marillion doesn't release interesting music since “Brave”. Since “Brave”... until “Marbles”, an album that, although is not out of this world, has wonderful moments, especially the 2CD version, that includes “Ocean Cloud”, not only one of the best songs of Hogarth era, but also one of the best songs in the band´s career.
If there is a suitable moment to relaunch Marillion to the general public, the moment is now, with “Marbles”. Not only the band has hit its best shot, the fans have also done a great job promoting the album. So it´s natural that “Marbles” release was also supported by a DVD… and they have spared no expenses.
The concert has been filmed with fifteen cameras and it can be listened both in stereo and 5.1 surround system, and I must say that the sound is impeccable. The band sounds on stage as if it was a clockwork mechanism, with Hogarth proving that he´s one of the best singers on stage. The rest of the band (I suppose you already know the names) does a great job, but I´d highlight Rothery´s energy (he´s living a second youth) and the presence of keyboards.
This DVD was recorded at London´s Asturia, a show that was sold-out, something usual when a good album is released. The first part of the show is the entire “Marbles” except “Drilling Holes”. Honestly I think that the album is much better alive than in studio. In fact there are more keyboards and guitars arrangements, and Hogarth is quiet as Rothery plays his solos. It´s impossible to highlight particular tracks because all of them are better than the studio versions. Not only “The Invisible Man” is amazing.. other tracks like “You´re Gone” or “Angelina” are infinitely much more varied on stage.
The second part of the show consists of six classic tracks. The opening of Brave with “Bridge” and “Living with the Big Lie”; “The Party” with a wonderful Rothery; a tribute to “Anoraknophobia”´s modern sounds with “Between you and me”; and an epic grand finale with two classic hymns from Hogarth´s era: “The Uninvited Guest” –the 12” version, with a funny end- and “Cover my Eyes”, with the audience on the verge of a mystical ecstasy. It´s normal that the band doesn't include pre-Hogarth material, but it´s strange that they don´t include anything from “Radiation”, “Afraid of Sunlight”, “This Strange Engine”, or “Marillion.com”... I suppose the musicians know what albums are good and what aren't.
Regarding staging, there are lots of lights, a giant video screen (Hogarth had a good time with the screen during “Cover my eyes”) and the band playing 100%, like in its golden age. I´d dare to say that they have renewed energies and illusions.
The extra features are also tempting for those who want to own “Marbles” universe in its entirely. You´ll find “You´re Gone” (very professional) and “Don´t hurt yourself” (interesting and rash, but not so professional) and a documentary about “Marbles” with interviews and live footage.
As usual, everybody could ask for me. I know that it´s impossible to find material from Fish era, but “Ocean Cloud” would be a very special gift. In the same (and it´s a question of personal taste) I don´t consider Hogarth a genius or a specially charismatic guy, so sometimes I don´t like his attitude on stage. Anyway it doesn't matter because are personal opinions.
I think Marillion is in the right place and the right moment to relaunch its career and sprout past glories. I understand that the fans have been a great support during the “weak years”, but Marillion can reach bigger audiences without resorting to bizarre experiments. They proved it with “Marbles on the Road” they also prove that they still can offer good progressive rock.
Probably the DVD of this Christmas and, except for “Rush in Rio”, the best DVD released in 2004. Absolutely essential.
Remark from your webmaster:
The band released an extended edition of "Marbles on the road" (Only available at Marillion.com) which has an extra DVD with The rest of the show (This is the 21st century, Quartz, Estonia, Afraid of sunlight, The great escape, King & Easter), Marillion Weekend 2003 (Angelina, Neverland, Don't hurt yourself & Ocean cloud) and Bonus Features (alternate You're gone & Don't hurt yourself videos).