‘Neverland say die’ is A strange headline but let me explain. As a teenager in South Wales in the 80’s, it was almost mandatory to be a rocker, mod, or punk. I chose the rock camp and was obsessed with Black Sabbath, but then my world collapsed as Ozzy and Sabbath parted company and Dio came in. Can you see where we’re going? (Bear with me). Both entities continued but I was fully on Ozzy boy and never gave Dio’s albums even a curious listen (however, during lockdown I finally discovered and now love them after listening without prejudice). Fast forward a year or two and I discovered prog and my headbanging days were over. The older brother of a school friend left me the script and I was trapped in the web, joined the fan club, and the first two albums soundtracked by later teen years, cue the monstrosity that was ‘Kayleigh’ and I and the band was finished. It barely even registered with me, when Fish departed, and I had hardly ever listened to Fish or Marillion until lockdown gave me the free time to rediscover albums I hadn’t heard nor been exposed to for decades.

I have worked on local radio for seventeen years and have reviewed thousands of acts over the years, even my hero Fish who I saw perform at the Point in Cardiff and though I enjoyed it the spark of those heady teenage years was absent. A week or so my colleague Dan James had an interview with Pete Trewavis, I snaffled the review tickets and would finally get to witness Marillion’s new singer in the flesh. I say new he has been in situ for 33 years and sixteen albums, in fact, I saw a T-shirt on a fan which said Mr. H Marillions new Singer for over 30 years.

My next obstacle was I checked the setlist from earlier in your and apart from the Fish era classic Garden Party and a couple of early H singles I drew a blank so I called in my own Marillion expert Dave Purkiss to assist me in recognising obscurer tracks. This was prime cheating by me as Dave has seen the guys well over a hundred times and even drummed onstage with Ian Mosley at fan conventions.

After a War and Peace prologue, you are probably thinking, enough about your musical past was the show any good. Finally, the lights go down the guys stroll on to rapturous applause from this most partisan of fan bases and kick straight into the title track of Sounds That Can’t Be Made and a double from Afraid of Sunlight (title track and King). So far pleasant enough but not really grabbing me then The Party from Holidays In Eden blew me away, lyrically as well as musically. The show continued with tracks from Marbles (You’re Gone) and the dark The Bridge (Brave). The new album is coming, and they played Be Hard On Yourself and the crowd loved it. Seasons End was revisited with Berlin and then Neverland (hang on, the explanation to headline is coming, you’d forgotten about it by now I suppose) from Marbles.

Now for the encore and this is where I thought the band really stepped up to the plate with the Leavers suite from F.E.A.R which left me speechless and open-mouthed by its brilliance then a nice lesson in British and Irish history from a very “relaxed” H and a beautiful rendition of Easter, and the last encore I was getting ready to bounce along to Garden Party like those lucky souls in Hull but then I noticed Pete strapping on an acoustic, Dave smiled and correctly predicted Made Again from Brave and the lights came and the game was over (over)

Thoughts and reflections, firstly if Steve Rothery was a skinny chap with flowing locks from California he would be lauded as a guitar great, as it is because he is a paunchy, balding Yorkshireman he never gets the credit his unique talent merits. Pete and Ian are a tremendous Rhythm section especially the bouncing effervescent Cornishman and Mark Kelly will always be the enigmatic keyboard wizard. The “new” chap is a hoot, playing up to the crowd at every opportunity, berating wags in the crowd cheekily shouting out for Grendel and Kayleigh with tuts and “kids today.” I went as a one-eyed Fish devotee but emerged converted to the church of H. I have only seen them this once and for me it was an 8 out of 10 (Garden Party would have made it a 10, but would I compare and markdown who knows) but what of Dave who likes mentioned earlier seen the guys over a hundred times, a solid 7 not bad considering everyone been not playing shows for nigh on 2 years.

So back to Neverland Say Die, when Hogarth came out in white fringed leather for the encores I thought of Ozzy in a similar jacket on never say die tour, I now realise you haven’t got to choose, Sabbath with Ozzy or Dio and Marillion with Fish or H are both very different but equally excellent bands. They got their hooks in me and I will definitely BE checking out the 16 albums I neglected.

Author: Chris Phillips (BGfm)

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