FISH - ISLINGTON, ASSEMBLY ROOMS 16/12/17
Aylesbury Civic Centre 27th December 1986, Marillion gave to the world, the first chance to hear songs from their fourth album, Clutching At Straws. As the five members of the band stood on the stage in front of their own fan club members, Fish looked at them unsure if the new material was going to work. They started to play…….
30 years later, Fish walked onto a stage in Islington to showcase the full Clutching album for the last time, accompanied by his band Robin Boult on guitar, Steve Vantsis on bass guitar, John Beck on keyboards and Gavin Griffiths on drums with Doris Brendel on backing vocals. 30 years on, was this going to work? I was as unsure on this night as Marillion were back in 1986.
Originally advertised to include tracks from his final solo album Weltschmerz, but dropped because he ‘hadn’t done anything with it yet’, the set opened with The Voyeur (I Like To Watch), the B-side of Fish’s first single. The physical movements from the Vigil tour has gone. No ramps to slide down, no khaki trousers or wooly hat is worn on stage, but the voice still has the energy. The ability to draw you in. Moving through tracks The Emperors Song, Circle Line and the song that radios wouldn’t play, State Of Mind, Fish took the audience down memory lane. And the sold out crowd lapped it up.The album was introduced from the comforts of a chair. There was no disappearing off stage to change into fur collared costumes on this tour. The first time I heard Hotel Hobbies live, was in Loreley 1987. The last time I would probably hear it was, London 2017. The 11 tracks were played, not necessarily in the right order, but did it matter?
Not really, although I’m not sure why it was moved around. It still worked!
A special mention to Going Under and Just For The Record. Neither of these had been played live before. I remember the jukebox in my local pub had Incommunicado on it, but I was always drawn to the B-side as the pints flowed and the words slurred. “Something about seals." Sugar Mice took the award for biggest applause of the night, before finishing with White Russian and The Last Straw. A smile crept over my face. Whatever happened to that suit made from a pair of curtains? Worn in the summer of ’87, they never made it to the winter dates in the UK. I couldnt help, but wonder why!
The first encore gave us another first, Tux On and wrapped up the Straws period before moving onto Perfume River. As the crowd cheered once more, Fish left the stage for the second time before returning to perform The Great Unravelling.
It had been a happy ending after all. A big task to take the crowd back to his final Marillion album without losing the magic of what many consider to be better than the infamous Misplaced Childhood. Fish had pulled it off. His voice had shown very little sign of struggle, despite the rumours of illness in the travelling party. The audience participation had been strong. They had loved it. As the big man left the stage for the final time, with a huge smile on his face, so it seems, had he.