Friday, 4 December 2015

Fish - Bristol Review

With retirement looming sometime in the next few years, Scottish singer Fish has decided to take the album Misplaced Childhood, the third album he wrote and recorded with his former band Marillion, out on tour to celebrate the album's 30th Anniversary. Fish has been in fine form recently. He released the excellent A Feast of Consequences back in 2013, and has been on tour for the majority of the time since playing a large amount of that album live. This current tour, dubbed 'Farewell to Childhood', seems to be the right move for Fish after the lengthy and successful 'Moveable Feast' tour. To his credit, Fish rarely indulges in nostalgia, instead letting his current material dictate tour setlists, which has led to much variation over the years. Marillion's Misplaced Childhood is one of my favourite albums, so when this tour was announced I jumped at the chance to hear the album performed in full live. Although Fish's voice is much lower than it was in 1985, his recent interpretations of classic Marillion material have been great, and the songs are now played in a key to suit his current vocal range. This tour sees Fish visiting bigger venues than he usually would in the UK. Bristol's O2 Academy boasts a 1600 capacity on a plague outside, and the show was advertised as sold out, so you have to assume there was somewhere near that number crammed into the venue. It was great to see such an amazing turnout, but it does make you realise just how many fair weather Fish/Marillion fans there are out there who probably only bought a ticket to hear Misplaced Childhood played live. The atmosphere was excellent however due to the large crowd, and it made for a special night. No Fish tour seems to go without a hiccup, and this one is no exception. A few days ago, keyboardist John Beck fell over outside the band's hotel and broke him arm, which has left him unable to play keyboards for the foreseeable future. Luckily for Fish, former keyboardist Tony Turrell was free and able to learn the whole set in a few days. On his first gig with Fish for quite some time, Turrell did amazingly, and the band were as tight as they have been recently.

Support came from a great set by French progressive rock band Lazuli, who really wowed the gathering crowd throughout their 40 minute set. With an interesting and original mix of sounds, the five-piece band were one of the most impressive unknown support bands that I have seen for a while. The only other band I can really think to compare them to soundwise is the Israeli metal band Orphaned Land, but that comparison does not do Lazuli justice. The fact that all of their lyrics are in French only made them more interesting, and it is rare for me that I connect with a band that does not sing in English. With a sound that mixed guitars, keyboards, French horn, marimba, and the self-made instrument the léode, the band's atmospheric progressive rock was huge and still pretty melodic. While they rocked out in places with some heavier riffs, for the most part the music was quite floaty, letting the atmospherics do the talking, while Dominique Leonetti's (vocals/guitar) unique voice dominated the sound. I get the impression that the entire crowd warmed to them throughout their set, and the merch desk seemed busy after their set finished - which I would visit myself later on! Incidentally, the set finished with all five members huddled around the marimba to play in sync, which was really impressive to see.

While Fish's set was really all about the Misplaced Childhood performance, he still managed to throw in a diverse selection of solo tracks to start the evening off. The rocking Pipeline from 1994's Suits got things going, and this was the only song of the evening that I was not familiar with. It impressed me though, with some good riffing from Robin Boult (guitar) and a great keyboard solo from Turrell which shows how well he has fit back into Fish's band. Three out of the four opening solo songs were hard rocking numbers, with newbie A Feast of Consequences and the lengthy and politically poignant The Perception of Johnny Punter whipping up a storm, with the creepy ballad Family Business thrown in for good measure. Unfortunately, this early part of the show was ruined slightly by incessant talking from so-called 'fans' around me. The crowded nature of then venue made it hard to move, so I had to put up with it. I am not sure what it is about Fish (along with bands like Marillion and Opeth) that seem to attract more obnoxious fans than anyone else? It really ruins the concert for other people, and I feel this ties into my 'fair weather' fans comment from earlier. Luckily, a few other people near me were also getting annoyed with them, and they did eventually shut up after a few choice looks and words. The performance of Misplaced Childhood was the evening's highlight though, as it was always going to be. I have never had the opportunity to hear it live before, and the performance did not disappoint. The crowd helped Fish out with the lyrics throughout the performance, which made for a fantastic and unprecedented atmosphere. Obviously hit single Kayleigh was a highlight, but for me the best moment of the album was Bitter Suite which has always contained some of my favourite Fish lyrics. The artwork that was projected onto the wall behind the band changed with each song, and really complimented the lyrics perfectly. The lengthy Blind Curve was also another highlight, which again features some excellent lyrics, and Boult did a really good job to play those iconic guitar leads. An extended sing-a-long version of White Feather saw the main set come to a close, and the roar from the crowd was almost deafening, and ensured we would get more. Marillion's first single Market Square Heroes was the first encore, which provided a suitable challenge for Turrell with those bouncy keyboard leads. Steve Vantsis (bass guitar/vocals) and Gavin Griffiths (drums) locked in well for that classic Marillion-style rhythm, and the whole band were on fire throughout. The show came to a final close with Fish oldie The Company which saw possibly the loudest singing of the night, as Fish took a triumphant bow, the smile plastered across his face. The setlist was:

A Feast of Consequences
Family Business
The Perception of Johnny Punter
Pseudo Silk Kimono [Marillion material]
Kayleigh [Marillion material]
Lavender [Marillion material]
Bitter Suite [Marillion material]
Heart of Lothian [Marillion material]
Waterhole (Expresso Bongo) [Marillion material]
Lords of the Backstage [Marillion material]
Blind Curve [Marillion material]
Childhoods End? [Marillion material]
White Feather [Marillion material]
Market Square Heroes [Marillion material]
The Company

Overall, this was probably the best performance that I have ever seen from Fish, and the large crowd and atmosphere certainly helped that. He seemed very happy to be performing Misplaced Childhood again, and that came through in the performance of the whole band. I hope the rest of the tour is a success for him, and goes without anymore hiccups! I bought a copy of Lazuli's Tant Que L'herbe est Grasse, the band's latest album, at the merch desk after the show and got it signed by all five band members, which was a great end to the evening!

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