This time last year Steve Hogarth told HRH Mag he was an accidental prophet after Marillion delivered the politically astute F.E.A.R.. A year down the line and the progressive rock masterpiece sounds more pertinent than ever…HRH Mag‘s Simon Rushworth caught its key moments live.

 

It is testimony to Steve Hogarth’s lyrical clout that Marillion’s latest long player remains acutely relevant 18 months after its critically acclaimed release. The politically charged F.E.A.R. continues to reflect a global society in flux and in a week when the Syrian crisis took a foreboding turn for the worse its key messages never seemed so apt.

Listening to Hogarth on F.E.A.R. is affecting enough. Watching him spit out the words with passion and conviction is on a different emotional level entirely. Often chilling in its execution, Hogarth’s was a performance that demanded the keenest of attention from start to finish – almost the detriment of those impossibly talented musicians flanking the fired-up frontman. Every phrase mattered and every key change marked a very deliberate shift in tone and emphasis.

The veteran vocalist isn’t writing some of the most perceptive material of his career because it’s fashionable: Hogarth means every word. There’s a certain gravitas underpinning immersive part works El Dorado and The Leavers and both struck a chord with a crowd revelling in an audio-visual Marillion masterclass.

Of course Hogarth did drift into the shadows from time to time, allowing a typically understated Steve Rothery to take centre stage. The occasionally awkward juxtaposition between Marillion’s unassuming founder member and the band’s eye-catching singer invariably works with the former’s brief advances into the spotlight serving to intensify the focus on his finest work. Rothery plays with the casual confidence of a musician at the very top of his game – and he is.

As far as Hogarth is concerned the considerable shadow of Fish always looms large. However, it’s fair to say that the new boy is gradually growing into his role 30 years down the line and classy renditions of Season’s End (the timeless title track from Hogarth’s 1989 Marillion debut), The Party and Quartz guaranteed the career-spanning confirmation.

Inevitable calls for Garden Party were met with uncomfortable grins (or were they grimaces?) all round but if the 35-year-old anthem really does belong in the past, at least where this vibrant line-up is concerned, then it provided the crowd-pleasing encore this richly entertaining set surely deserved.

It’s fair to say The Sage Gateshead was made for a band like Marillion – it’s accent on the acoustics providing the perfect platform for a band justifiably proud of its progressive melodies and meandering soundscapes. And with the irrepressible, irresistible and irascible Hogarth at the helm this was the sound of a band at its mind-blowing best.

Image by Alison Toon