Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Marillion Weekend, Night 3: The Glow Must Go On

For the third and final night of the Marillion Weekend, the band took a novel and interesting approach to putting together the set list, an approach that involved on-the-spot audience participation. Here's how things unfolded...

After we had all filed into L'Olympia, and were standing there waiting for the show to begin, glow sticks of all different colors were passed into the crowd. Everyone was told to pick a glow stick and keep it ready, as H was going to give us instructions once the band took the stage.

As for how the band took the stage, it was to "Goodbye to All That", one of the all-time great live Marillion songs. H stood there at the start, holding up a small disco ball, posing..."She had the face of the Statue of Liberty..."

The band then settled into "Hard as Love." Not the original rocking version from "Brave", but the more recent piano dominated version that was put together for the "Less is More" experiment. All in all, an excellent start...But now what about those glow sticks?

It was at that point that H explained. Periodically throughout the evening, the band would be offering the audience a choice between two songs. Whichever song received the most votes, as indicated by the collective waving of the glow sticks, would be the one to be played. It started out with this choice...

Afraid of Sunlight v. The Other Half...I really, really like "The Other Half", but "Afraid of Sunlight" is one of the most popular songs of all among the fan base. This was therefore an easy choice for the crowd. And considering that "Afraid of Sunlight" is currently Z's favorite Marillion song, this was a real family highlight of the weekend. Right, Z!?

One Fine Day v. Don't Hurt Yourself...This was, to me, a surprise outcome. "Don't Hurt Yourself" is one of Marillion's more well known songs of recent vintage, while "One Fine Day" is a somewhat obscure song from fourteen years ago. Yet this audience of hard core fans went with the excellent "One Fine Day", a song that I presume many in the crowd (including us) had never heard performed live.

Beyond You v. Hope for the Future...We had a family split on this one, with Desi waving her glow stick for "Beyond You" and me waving mine for "Hope for the Future". Actually, Julie, Desi, and Z were a bit confused on this one, thinking that the title for "Hope for the Future" was actually "Carrying a Message" (given the latter phrase's prominent place in song's refrain). In other words, they didn't realize just what song they were voting against! No matter, "Beyond You" was another first-time treat for the four of us. For their part, the band seemed somewhat surprised that "Hope for the Future" received any votes at all, with H looking and calling off stage to manager Lucy Jordache in jest.

Brave v. Faith...Despite really liking "Faith", we all waved for "Brave" on this one. And the band did not disappoint, with H going off stage and reemerging with a full robe and bouquet of flowers that he proceeded to slowly tear apart as the song progressed in all of its anguish. Just beautiful...

Go! v. Afraid of Sunrise...We are all really fond of "Go!", although I actually waved for "Afraid of Sunrise", again giving Z some love and acknowledging his current listening habits.

Between You and Me v. Most Toys..."Between You and Me" is an absolute hard charger in concert. Even though "Most Toys" is similarly rocking, it stood no chance in this particular contest.

Estonia v. Out of This World...A real interesting choice, as both songs are about death on the water. "Estonia" is a song inspired by the freighter Estonia that sank, in the North Sea, I believe. "Out of the World" is about the boat Bluebird that was designed to break the over-water speed record and had to eventually be pulled from the bottom of the lake where it sank. Resisting calls for "Both!", the band delivered a lovely "Estonia."

Happiness is the Road v. House...Another easy choice for the crowd, with a recent fan favorite pitted against one of the least well known Marillion songs ever recorded. "Happiness is the Road", indeed!

For the first encore, the band came out and delivered the always wonderful "Neverland." The set list to this point had been outstanding. Little did we know what was about to come in the second encore...

Ocean Cloud v. This Strange Engine...Oh, boy...Here comes an impossible choice. A choice between two 15-20 epics. Having never seen "Ocean Cloud" performed live, the four of us chose this amazing song about ocean rowing and life in general. And "Ocean Cloud" it was...spectacular!

The Great Escape v. Easter...An even more impossible choice! Probably the two greatest Marillion songs of all. How do you cast one to the side? With the crowd screaming for both, Mark Kelly said something like, "How can we play both at the same time? How about if we play them sequentially?" That set the place into a frenzy, with "The Great Escape" and "Easter" played back to back.

Well, that had to be the end of things, right? How do you beat an ending like that? The answer...

This Strange Engine...The band came back out one last time, and delivered the epic that we had earlier passed over in our glow stick vote. What a way to end Marillion Weekend Montreal 2011!

Well done, los Marillos! Can we do this again some time!? Real soon!?

~Steve

PS: Take a look at the location we were able to secure up front for the show. The pictures are again courtesy of the official Marillion Weekend photographers.

Monday, May 02, 2011

Marillion Weekend, Day 3: Swap The Band

On the third day of the Marillion Weekend, there was a special concert in the afternoon. They called it "Swap the Band". We all assumed that "Swap the Band" meant that they would be swapping out members of the band for people in the audience. That is just what happened.

There had been auditions beforehand, and a select few were chosen to sing or play an instrument on stage. Along with the "Swap the Band", there were several other events. The concert began with the drawing of a raffle. The money went towards fighting cancer. The prize for the winner was a signed poster of all the band members. The first number that was chosen was 203197. Our raffle ticket number...203198. With each number, Julie and I got more excited, only to feel dejected after the last number was called. Oh, well...

Afterwards, the band members drew names from a hat. If your name was drawn, you were called on stage to have your picture taken with the band. Many names were called, but about half of the people called were not there. There were, of course, the few wise crackers who shouted that they were the person called. After a long period of anticipation and excitement, the last name was called. (Not us, again...)

Following the picture draw, there was a Q&A session. The night before, there was a station set up for people to write their questions and put them into a bin. During the Q&A, H picked a question that a little girl wrote. It turned out that she was in the second row, so he called her on stage. She wanted to know how to make her singing career become a reality.

After Q&A, "Swap the Band" began. The first person swapped out was H for a teenage girl. They also swapped out Rothers for a guy who looked like he was in his thirties. These two sang and played guitar on "Kayleigh".

Next, the band swapped out Pete and Mark Kelly. The two substitutes played bass and keyboard on "The Party". Next, Ian was swapped out and a guy played drums for "Cover My Eyes", one of my favorite Marillion songs.

At this point, we knew that the "Swap the Band" concert was almost over, so I went outside to hold our place in line for the night concert. What I found funny was that there were already people in line who had stood outside for the entire "Swap the Band" so that they could get good spots for the night concert. After I got outside and had been on line for several minutes, Mom and Julie came running out to tell me that one of my favorite songs by Marillion, "Afraid of Sunlight", was being played. We traded places and I went back inside to watch. For this song, the band swapped out H for a female singer and Rothers was supplemented by a guy who played a second guitar. The woman who sang was amazing! She sang the song as if she were a professional! At the end of the song, there was a mad rush to get on line outside. For many people, there was no point in rushing because the line was already backed up around the corner.

Thus began our multi-hour wait for the last concert...

~Z