Monday, November 14, 2016

Marillion North America tour 2016: photos, review, an election, New Kings... and a few thoughts

Marillion tour 2016, Philadelphia
Marillion, The New Kings, Philadelphia USA
Late October-early November 2016, and I saw the opening show, and the final four shows, of Marillion's 2016 North America tour. It began at the Regency in San Francisco, and concluded on election night at Playstation Theater in New York's Times Square (more about that later), after Boston, Washington DC, and Philadelphia. They've also been to Denver, Los Angeles, Chicago, Ohio, Toronto, Montreal and Quebec. Some members of the audience had been to each and every one of the shows, touring the two countries in parallel to the band; familiar faces in the front row, along with people just discovering the band for the very first time. Others of the audience had been to four or five shows, or just the one closest to home. (You can find all the Marillion North America 2016 tour photos by Alison Toon Photographer here, and you can obtain recordings of several of the shows right here.)

Steve Hogarth, vocals, Marillion
Steve Hogarth, The Invisible Man, Marillion, New York 2016
Each of the venues, unique; Washington's was the 9:30 club, a venue that reminded me of Sacramento's Ace of Spades; Philadelphia, a dowager aunt of a genteel theatre, soft seats and no standing room; Boston, a beautiful venue that transformed not into a pumpkin, but a nightclub, at midnight; Playstation Theater, go-to venue for rock bands visiting the big apple. The size of the stage, the lighting rig, different in each. The videos playing behind the band, deepening the experience, flowing with the music, at each show of the tour.

Steve Rothery, guitar, Marillion
Steve Rothery, Marillion, in New York, 2016
Touring with Marillion's latest album, F.E.A.R., (F*** Everyone And Run) which has received perhaps the best reviews of the bands 18-studio-album career, and the new music resonates in the live setting--and current world events. It's a protest album, but it's not Bob-Dylan-protest; it's progressive rock at its finest. Steve Hogarth is perhaps the most expressive vocalist you'll ever have the chance to see ("Man of a thousand faces"); Steve Rothery's soaring, serene guitar solos are a thing of tangible beauty; Pete Trewavas' bass, Mark Kelly's keys (wait, just wait for that solo in That Strange Engine), Ian Mosley on drums... this lineup has been together for closing in on thirty years, and it works so very, very well.

Pete Trewavas, bass, Marillion
Pete Trewavas, bass, Marillion in New York, 2016
It's also clear: Marillion fans are a little special. Not only do they follow a tour around a country or two, they travel around the world to see the band. I sat on the train from Philly to Manhattan talking to a guy and his wife who were over from England to catch the east coast Marillion shows, and it turns out we grew up and went to school in English villages, a couple of miles apart. Small world, when you listen to Marillion. Big family, when you listen to Marillion. This band does that.

Ian Mosley, drums, Marillion
Ian Mosley, Marillion, in Boston, 2016
The new songs: the state of the world, the banks, the very rich (The New Kings); refugees, money, living in fear. The message is sad, but the message is enpowering, inspirational, beautiful. Take a listen. Listen again. Hear these words; feel the soul.

Final date of the tour: in New York, in Manhattan, in Times Square: November 8th, 2016. I will never forget that date, not ever. November 8th, 2016: they day America elected Donald Trump to the presidency. I spent all day walking the streets of Manhattan, up to Central Park, then down as far as Houston, along Bleeker Street, back up 6th Avenue and Broadway. Listening to music, watching the tourists and the residents and the street artists and performers; eating corn and cheese from a street vendor; hopeful for the election. Early evening, leaving my hotel for the venue, on foot, crossing 57th St., and a calvacade of black limos went by, a helicopter overhead, and I'd just seen these same cars on CNN: Hillary's crew heading for midtown. People on the street stopped, pointed, waved, smiled. And then the unforgettable show at the Playstation Theater: beautiful venue, hidden way underground, with areas for standing and comfortable, raked seats too, all with a good view, and a good lighting setup.

Fans watching Marillion, 2016, New York
Standing ovation: Marillion at the Playstation Theater, New York, 2016
Marillion opened the show with the charismatic, theatrical, emotional, Invisible Man. If you've never seen this live, find a recording. You will start to understand why Marillion's following is so very dedicated to the band, dedicated enough to have created crowdfunding to bring the band to the USA, way back, before it became a viable way for all bands to cover costs.  And then the heavy, ecstatic Power (from the previous album, Sounds that Can't be Made)... then the first new song of the night, Living in Fear, from F.E.A.R.  (Full set list here where you can obtain a download of the NY show, or here for other shows from the tour.) And so it went on... two hours or more. Beautiful. Moving. Inspiring. Happy, but the songs from F.E.A.R. especially poignant, telling, as we were starting to hear whispers of what was happening in the country upstairs and outside.

We are the new Kings 
We had the keys to Old Russia's locked doors 
We are the new Kings 
Here on the corporation's top floor

Mark Kelly, keys, Marillion
Mark Kelly, Marillion, in Philadelphia
November 8th, New York, Times Square. I had expected election night to be noisy, excited, rowdy, bustling, almost like New Year's, waiting for the ball to drop.

It wasn't.

Instead, Times Square was filled with people, all staring, wide-eyed, staring up, up at the news tickers; sombre, silent, stunned, like a spontaneous, unnatural, mannequin challenge. Even the cops, not moving, just looking up at the voting results scrolling across the face of a skyscraper, at one bleak result after another. New York, the most multicultural of multicultural cities: all those languages, all those people, all that diversity, and all that Trump in his top-floor citadel, wearing his New King crown.

Steve Hogarth, vocals, Marillion
 Steve Hogarth, Marillion, New York, 2016
It was unnerving. It was bizarre. And quite honestly, scary. We, the people of the USA, all listened to the same election propaganda and speeches and presentations and proposals and announcements, and yet half of us heard change and a return to glory, and half of us (along with the rest of the world) heard hatred, racism, misogyny, bullying and wondered what was so glorious about an often-bankrupt, orange, reality TV personality. It's not about politics: this election was never about politics or policies and plans and taxes. It was about humanity, and how you see your fellow humans.

Well do you remember a time when you thought you belonged to something more than you? 
A country that cared for you 
A national anthem you could sing without feeling used or ashamed 
You poor sods have only yourselves to blame 
On your knees, peasant 
You're living for the New King

Marillion tour 2016, Philadelphia
Marillion, F.E.A.R., Philadelphia 2016
So... it was a wonderful Marillion tour, with a very memorable ending.

I'm so very happy to have been there to photograph the shows, and to experience, once again, Marillion show after show.  And I'll finish this with another quote from F.E.A.R., because I'm questioning my desire to be part of the society that this election portends (and because, in the words of the song, I'm a Leaver, too... you'll just have to listen to F.E.A.R. : you know me, you'll understand.):

And the hurt in your eyes, I know you know that I pray 
For the phone-call that takes me away

Photo galleries with many, many more photos:

Steve Hogarth, vocals, Marillion
Marillion, New York, 2016


  1. A great review and very nice photos Alison. Very, very well done!

  2. I'm already in love with your photographs and now your writing style, great review <3
    Best of luck to all the world in these strange times, luckily there are bands like Marillion who gives us hope that this world does have something purely good and wonderful to offer!
    Sincerely Veronika

  3. This blog post is everything... Thanks a gazillion for the words and amazing picture. You are a true artist in every sense of the word. Thank you!!!!!