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Review and Photo Gallery: Marillion at Arcada Theater

| February 25, 2018

Arcada Theatre, St. Charles, IL
Monday, February 19, 2018
Review by Jeff Elbel

Chicago-area fans of Marillion’s timely concept album FEAR saw the English band perform a rare victory lap on Monday at the Arcada Theatre in St. Charles. The album had been introduced to local fans at the Vic in October 2016. The material has aged well, even as the album’s anti-greed messages directed at Wall Street and the global financial system have been supplanted by anti-xenophobia sentiments couched within the same song arcs. “We can’t keep letting them in,” repeated singer Steve Hogarth during refugee tale “Demolished Lives,” the third movement of the epic “El Dorado” suite.

FEAR was developed and released prior to the current US presidency, but the content of protest songs like “Living in FEAR” seem torn from current headlines. After a chorus declaring, “We’ve decided to risk melting our guns as a show of strength,” Hogarth sang a list of man-made boundaries around the world, including the Great Wall of China, the Maginot line, and the Berlin Wall. All were deemed a waste of time and money. Nobody mentioned Trump’s wall, but the idea hung in the air like a ghost. “It would be so easy to make a speech,” said singer Hogarth. “Where are we now?”

Fans in the room seemed to support the band’s socio-political views, but the primary reason they purchased tickets was to witness Marillion’s matchless progressive rock chops. An impassioned delivery of the crystalline and atmospheric “Season’s End” drifted atop Mark Kelly’s expressive keyboards before igniting into the full flame of Steve Rothery’s pealing guitar. Different sections of the eight-minute arrangement recalled likeminded heroes and peers of progressive rock, including Pink Floyd, Rush, Talk Talk, Genesis, Radiohead and King Crimson.

Hogarth spilled pathos and emotion with one tremendous vocal performance after another. He also kept a casual attitude with fans, as if addressing old friends and fellow passengers. “Did I say hello yet?” he asked. “Did I get the name of the town right?” he added with a laugh, feigning relief that he had indeed correctly identified St. Charles. Hogarth then made a comical story of fielding a request for the swooning pop of deep track “No One Can.” Afterward, he invested all of his own theatricality into “Kayleigh,” the 1985 hit single predating his own 29 year tenure as Marillion’s frontman.

Brave tracks “Wave” and “Mad” were propelled by Ian Mosley’s intricate but thundering percussion, making pinpoint turns around shifting time signatures and thrilling dynamics. “The Leavers” described the mind-scrambling travel of a working band and its crew. “It’s also about the people who remain and don’t travel, and that’s you, said Hogarth. The song was anchored by bassist Pete Trewavas’ deep groove and decorated by Kelly’s sparkling piano. After the glorious cacophony of the song’s big finish, a few hasty fans bolted for the door assuming the show was done. “We’re not leaving; don’t go,” said Hogarth, mock-pleading. He quickly relented. “If you’re at the bar, get us a gin and tonic.”
Brave favorite “The Great Escape” was next.

Afterward, Hogarth announced the band’s final song. “I don’t believe it any more than you do,” he admitted, hinting at the generous encore to follow “King.” The song’s tribute to departed artists ranged from Elvis Presley and Marvin Gaye to David Bowie, Prince, and Chris Cornell.

The encore featured Marbles standout “The Invisible Man,” a tale of someone so bereft and alone he becomes as intangible and unseen as a specter. “I stand perfectly still in the middle of the road. I hold my nerve, but the cars don’t swerve,” sang Hogarth as the band spun a haunted and eerie mood. The character’s sense of loneliness and helplessness peaked with the forlorn and half-muttered lines, “I will try to help when you stumble. You will stumble through me.” The song recalls the voyeuristic perspective of the Police’s unlikely pop classic “Every Breath You Take” and takes it to another level, but elicits sympathy rather than revulsion.

At the top of a second encore, Trewavas took the stage for an energetic bass solo that led into “This Strange Engine.” Hogarth accompanied with an instrument built into a cricket bat. After another “how can they possibly top THIS” finish, the band returned to dedicate a track to longtime supporters Eric and Wendy in celebration of their 20th wedding anniversary. The group blew the dust off the joyful “Garden Party” from 1983 debut Script for a Jester’s Tear to conclude a stunning and satisfying two-and-a-half hour show.

Review by Jeff Elbel; Photo Gallery Ed Spinelli

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Category: IE Photo Gallery, Live Reviews

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