Saturday, May 16, 2015

The Invisible Man-of-a-Thousand-Faces' Diaries... a review

Steve Hogarth, Marillion, The Invisible Man, Marbles, Port Zelande 2015
(This is a merged review: The Invisible Man Diaries, part one and part two, (and part one now out on Kindle); the three Marillion 2015 weekends; Marbles, the album; live video recordings of The Invisible Man, for example this one... and more. As with many of my reviews, warning, this may ramble a little. Or a lot.)

I read, or try to read, quite a few musicians and performers' (auto)biographies. Examples: Keith Richard's "Life" (hard, but good, read); Jeremy Spencer's "Death Punch'd" (un-put-down-able, even the cringe moments were readable), being a couple of recent, memorable examples. Neil Young's book, I threw away after half a chapter (impossible to read), same with Nikki Sixx's Heroin Diaries; my daughter gave me Ministry: The Lost Gospels According To Al Jourgensen, but I am finding it  really hard going, it's so much like a conversation with an addict still hiding in lies and self-persuasion... I will persevere with that one, because there's supposed to be some redemption later, but... All these, to a lesser or greater degree (at least, the ones I managed to read more than half a chapter of), are all about the "rock'n'roll lifestyle", sex, drugs, drink, debauchery, and life thereafter, if the author/subject survives to the point of "after".

Mr. H., vocals, Marillion, PZ 2015, Sunday
Steve Hogarth, Marillion, The Invisible Man, Marbles, Port Zelande 2015
The Invisible Man Diaries are nothing like that.

Steve Hogarth, Marillion, Wolves, 2015, Saturday
Steve Hogarth, Marillion, The Invisible Man, Marbles, Wolverhampton 2015
Prompted to start keeping a diary by his father after a video-shoot on a glacier on a mountain in Iceland, Steve Hogarth's diaries are a day-by-day, month-by-month account of life on the road, in the air, on the train, with a band who tours almost non-stop. Reading them, you'll soon know his daily routine: how often he goes to the hairdresser, which airline he prefers (British Airways, my favourite too), favourite drinks; his routine before a show, doing the laundry when on tour, all the ordinary and often tedious parts of being a rock star; technical challenges to be worked through, the sound quality of empty venues, trying to sleep in random hotel rooms, on bunks in a tour bus, and going back home again.

Losing and forgetting things: socks, passport, jeans... The stress on family life, the love of the fans, the singer's own expectations versus the audience's appreciation of the show. An intense drive for perfection, and the respect for people who have achieved something special. And a burning need to set the world, or part of it, right.

Steve Hogarth, Marillion, Wolves, 2015, Saturday
Steve Hogarth, Marillion, The Invisible Man, Marbles, Wolverhampton 2015
At times, the diaries are utterly, utterly lonely. And that's not the same as alone.

You're not going to find a lot of raw-and-bleeding emotion on the pages of the Diaries--for that, you have to hear H's lyrics, watch a live performance (The Invisible Man comes to mind). There's no gossip on these pages, nor deep personal secrets, and nothing scandalous--not even a huge amount about H's interaction with the other band members (there's some, but that's not what the diaries are about).

Instead, there's an intimate glimpse into the thoughts of the man behind the words to the majority of Marillion's songs.

Steve Hogarth, vocals, Marillion, Montreal, 2015, Saturday
Steve Hogarth, Marillion, The Invisible Man, Marbles, Montreal 2015
There are parts of these diaries that really hit a chord.

"Lay awake most of the night, (again!) and at some point, something inside me gave up. All I want out of life is to live happily with my wife and my children, but I have long-since broken that particular dream. We've been trying to fix it for around ten years now and tonight, for the first time, I realise it's over. I'm too tired to do it any more." Paris, 2005.

Heartbreaking... the moment when you know, no matter what you do, no matter how hard you try, you can't mend a relationship. It might truly be the end, or you might keep fighting to save it for days, weeks, years longer even... but this is the moment you knew it was over. It's not blame: it's knowing.

There's another quote in there, somewhere, about feeling guilty about leaving the family again, yet also happy to be heading out on the road... and then guilty all over again for that happiness. I can't find the exact quote but that one... it rang so very true to me.

And then there are lighter notes, and funny stories, like the breakfast in Poland, and a nice surprise when drinking the coffee (I can confirm that yes, it is as described in the Diaries, and no, you really, really, really don't want to drink the dregs):

"The coffee, on the other hand, seemed to have been made with some kind of mud that had been dredged from the bottom of the Ganges." Warszawa, 1995

All said: the Invisible Man Diaries are insightful, entertaining, and a peep-hole into the often tedious and exhausting life on the road. A must-read for all Marillion and music fans... and many business travellers will identify with it, too. We're all hanging out in another hotel room after yet-another crowded plane... but our business "performance" is unlikely to match that of this singer!

Steve Hogarth, vocals, Marillion, Montreal, 2015, Saturday
Steve Hogarth, Marillion, "I am perfectly sane!", The Invisible Man, Marbles, Montreal 2015
Steve Hogarth is the most expressive and emotional vocalist you are likely to be lucky enough to hear ("Man of a Thousand Faces" really does sum it up!). Look out for news about Marillion's 2016 North America tour, "H Natural" shows in Europe and the UK, and more. And--if you were not able to be at one of the recent Marillion weekends in Port Zelande, Wolverhampton or Montreal--look out for news of a DVD covering tthe Port Zelande shows. The combination of Marillion's music, H's personification of the Invisible Man, and a wonderful light-and-video show are an absolute treat. All details on

Buy the diaries through, or find the Kindle version through Amazon.

Thank you for the music, Mr. H!

Steve Hogarth, vocals, Marillion, Montreal, 2015, Saturday
H, Marillion, Montreal 2015

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