Marbles On The Road (DVD)
Impact / MVD, 2004
REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 04/01/2011
Anyone who has followed The Daily Vault for some time knows that, of all the Marillion albums I’ve reviewed, Marbles is quite possibly my favorite disc. Also, they may remember my review of their show at the Park West in Chicago, which was singlehandedly the most amazing show I’ve been to in over 25 years of attending concerts. (An encore after the house lights came on? ‘Nuff said.)
Still, what I saw in Chicago that evening was a scaled-down version of the show that those lucky fans across the pond got to see, and what I can only experience via DVD through watching Marbles On The Road. Of all the Marillion home videos I’ve seen to date, this is undoubtedly the best out there.
Capturing two evenings at the Astoria in London, Steve Hogarth and crew plow through the entire Marbles album (including a song not part of the US single-disc release, meaning “Drilling Holes” is nowhere to be found). To the band’s credit, they stay incredibly faithful to the album, and the reaction of the audience is more than proof enough that I wasn’t the only one who thought that disc was fantastic.
While Hogarth doesn’t have the manic energy that his predecessor Fish had as frontman, he does command a powerful stage presence, even when all he is doing is standing behind the microphone. Hogarth says more in one line with a simple gesture of his hands than many frontmen running all around the stage can for an entire show. “The Invisible Man” is proof enough of this, as Hogarth nearly channels the spirits of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde as the song’s energy levels continue to increase… and, no, that’s not meant as a put-down.
Guitarist Steve Rothery often seems limited in his stage presence due to the effects he uses in a show, but he does take center stage just enough to demonstrate why he could well be one of the best unsung guitar talents in music today. Yet he doesn’t turn his solo spotlights into showpieces for himself; rather, he uses these opportunities to push the music, not himself, forward, furthering the concept I’ve had that Marillion is truly a single unit, with each musician adding something essential to the mix.
Marbles On The Road moves forward with a small collection of songs from the Hogarth-era of the band – though, surprisingly, the Fish era is left completely untouched, which I must admit is a little surprising. Still, hearing the power and energy in songs like “Between You And Me,” “The Uninvited Guest,” and “Cover My Eyes” will make the listener wish that they had been in the front row for these shows.
Rounding out this release is the inclusion of the electronic press kit for Marbles, as well as promotional videos for “You’re Gone” and “Don’t Hurt Yourself.” Of these, “You’re Gone” is a little disappointing – not because the song itself is truncated, but because the visual effects (specifically, an over-dependence on white light) tend to wash the band out of the picture. The opening scenes featuring only Hogarth singing, as well, suggests that a little more originality could have been written into the script.
If you’re fortunate enough to come across a copy (which will be hard, as this particular version is out of print), you will want to choose the two-DVD set over the single-disc release. The second disc, Lost Marbles, contains seven songs from the show that didn’t make the cut of the single-disc release… which is a damned shame. I’ll admit that watching performances of songs like “This Is The 21st Century” and “Quartz” renewed my interest in the albums they were culled from, and with the exception of “King,” I can’t think of any song that would not have made the single-disc release even better than it was.
Also on the bonus disc are early versions of four songs from Marbles, filmed at the 2003 Marillion Weekend. Stylistically, there’s not much difference between these early versions and the ones that grace Marbles, but it is interesting to hear what one could consider the birth cries of these tracks (as well as – for me, anyway – my first experience of “Ocean Cloud,” which is on the two-CD version. Guess I’ll be putting in another order at Racket Records for that one.)
So many concert albums and videos fail to really capture the excitement and the essence of the actual performance. Marbles On The Road is a rare exception to that pitfall, and is strongly recommended (even if you have to settle for the single-disc version).