Saturday 29 November 2014

Live Review: RanestRane / Steve Rothery. Band On The Wall, Manchester, UK. 6/11/14

“I used to be a Marillion fan.”  There, I’ve said it.  I loved the early 80’s Marillion with which Steve Rothery was a founder member and with whom he is still the guitarist.  I never really got to grips with the Steve Hogarth era, preferring the cutting dynamic of the Fish led band.  But I am not here to reminisce, although I did later on.


Opening were Italian proggers RanestRane, delivering their cinematic prog-rock experience “A Space Odyssey”.  Inspired by the film “2001: A Space Odyssey”, which drummer Daniele Pomo describes as “the most important film ever made”, they proceeded over the next 45 minutes to perform this, with projections from the film, all timed to perfection.   This does give the film a new direction although I have to admit I found myself concentrating on the projection and not the music.  A consequence of which has made me want to watch the film again, probably not what RanestRane were hoping for. 


During the break the guy next to me starts talking:  “I’ve seen Marillion 12 times, they are fantastic and I don’t care what other people say.”  He obviously saw me making notes, was I wasting my time reviewing the gig?  The guy next to him says “I’ve seen them 21 times.” He is wearing a Marillion Fan Convention t-shirt.  I look around and many of the crowd are wearing similar t-shirts from different conventions.  It’s a strange crowd: Marillion-spotters and anoraks.  Fortunately the break is short.

For those who are unaware of Steve Rothery, he is hailed as a master guitarist.  Not for Yngwie/Vai speed but for the warmth and tone in his playing, in a similar vein to David Gilmour of Pink Floyd to whom he is often compared.  The first half of Rothery’s set is a performance of his first solo studio album, “The Ghosts Of Pripyat”, interestingly a crowdfunded project.  Rothery had previously been asked by record companies in the 80’s and 90’s to record one but there had always been the clash with his day job in Marillion.


These were beautifully balanced pieces of music, carefully crafted and executed.  So different to Marillion in some ways, but comfortably familiar in others.  The stand outs were “Old Man of the Sea” and the poignant “Yesterdays Hero” although there wasn’t a bad moment in this part of the set.

Another short break and the band returned for the second half of Rothery’s performance of older Marillion songs.  His choices based on his favourite guitar solos, much to the delight of most of the crowd who yearn to hear these older songs.  The band is now supplemented with singer Martin Jakubski, from tribute band StillMarillion, who uncannily sounds just like Fish.  A Marillion anoraks wet dream? Quite possibly.

I had escaped the talker and moved next to the mixing desk, having photographed the band during the first three songs.  In front of me was someone ‘dad dancing’ and showing off to his mate that he knew every word to every song.  Sing-a-long Marillion perhaps?

“Cinderella Search” started well, Jakubski handling his Fish vocals perfectly.  But, being able to adapt to the Steve Hogarth era song “Afraid Of Sunlight” was a surprise and was probably the best performance by Rothery and his band, turning it into a powerful masterpiece and ended up being my favourite song of the evening.  “Incubus” was thankfully without the embarrassing Fish polaroid introduction but the dad-dancer became visibly over excited whilst singing along “…Nursing an erection, a misplaced reaction…”.  Some people need to get out more, or was I now suffering from Marillion-fan-aphobia?   I decided to move again.

Chelsea Monday” was its usual mournful self and left me reminiscing of pre-record contract Marillion, who I saw many times, Jakubski once again nailing the vocals.  I had to pinch myself during “Fugazi”, again the vocals so Fish-like.   Rothery’s guitar remained masterful but adaptable to ensure the solos were not direct copies of the originals but still fitting in perfectly.  Although a Steve Rothery gig, the empashis was most definitely on the band as a whole to deliver these sterling performances, Rothery quietly getting on with his subtle guitar playing.

The encore of “Lavender/Heart Of Lothian” was a more relaxed yet buoyant affair, a fine way to end the gig.  I left bang on the last note in fear of an onslaught from some of the crowd, wanting to force a convention t-shirt in my direction!

Words by: Anthony Firmin