REVIEW: Marillion – Sounds Live (2012)

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MARILLION – Sounds Live (2012 Racket Records/Abbey Road LiveHereNow/EMI)

This is one of those “Instant Live” type discs.  While the discs have art pre-printed on them, they are CDRs.  There is no track list on the case, probably because the setlist wasn’t set in stone!  (I have a Slash “Instant Live” style disc with the setlist printed on the back, which was completely wrong, as the singer had a sore throat and they had to change up the set!)  The label is Racket Records/Abbey Road LiveHereNow, licensed to EMI, but even though Racket has their name on it, you can’t buy it from them.  You can buy it from Abbey Road Live, however.

The show was recorded on 16 September 2012 at the Forum in London, on the Sounds that Can’t Be Made tour.  The sound quality is excellent!

Marillion bravely opened the show with “Gaza”, the powerful, swirling, 17 minute new song from Sounds that Can’t Be Made.  I don’t know how many new fans were in the audience that night, but if there were any, they must have been in utter confusion and shock.  Hogarth delivers the song with all the passion he can muster.

Not letting up for a moment, Marillion follow this monster with another 10 minute epic:  “This Town/100 Nights”.  Incredible.  And once again, H imbues the song with so much emotion it literally leaks out of the speakers.

“This next song is a strange song,” says H, regarding track 3.  “‘Cause everybody claps along at the beginning and by verse one, they think ‘Shit, you can’t clap to this, it’s far too sad and tragic!”  And that is how H introduces the Marbles top ten (#7!) single, “You’re Gone”.  An upbeat pop-prog track with a drum program accompanying Ian Mosely, this was probably a good selection to follow two epics in a row!

My favourite of the new songs follows:  the title track from Sounds that Can’t Be Made, a simply great catchy Marillion track.  My only beef here is that I can hear pre-recorded Hogarth backing vocals.

And then…another 10 minute track?  The incredible “Neverland” from Marbles is up next, a personal favourite, and seemingly a crowd favourite too.  This one defines the word “epic” as far as I’m concerned.  Powerful, too.

From the 2007 Somewhere Else album comes “A Voice From the Past”, not one of my personal favourites (also not one of my favourite albums).  This is followed by “Power” from the new album.  “Power” is one of the better songs from an album I just haven’t wrapped my head around yet.  In live form, the chorus soars.

Disc 2 begins with yet another Marbles classic:  the soft and uplifting “Fantastic Place”, a personal favourite.  Steve Rothery’s solo is sublime.  Another personal favourite follows, the incredible “Real Tears For Sale” from the very dense Happiness is the Road album.  It’s an album I’ve never fully absorbed, but this song is incredibly powerful and at times is even reminiscent of older works like Brave or even Script in parts (listen to the flute-like keys).

Another new song, “The Sky Above the Rain”, is one that is really starting to grow on me.  This is the last of the new songs played at the London gig.  It’s 11 minute long, and it begins lullaby-like before H’s passionate, melodic vocals begin.  There’s a sadness, but also a brightness to the music; truly the blue sky above the rain.

It’s into the classics now!  “The Great Escape” is an undeniable fan favourite, and I never tire of hearing it.  What did surprise me was the resurrection of the lengthy “A Few Words for the Dead” from the underappreciated Radiation album.  I’ve always been fond of Radiation (it was the first Hogarth-era album I heard)  but this track is absolutely a challenge.  Over 10 minutes long, it builds very, very slowly.  As the closing track on a challenging album, it was perfect.  As an encore at a Marillion concert, it’s extremely brave and mind-blowing.  This is one of the best live versions I’ve heard.

The only Fish-era song played is “Sugar Mice”, but it is one that H seems comfortable with.  I will never tire of this classic, even though H lets the audience sing the first half of the song for him!  Rothery’s anthemic solo is the centerpiece of the affair.

The final surprise is that the show closes with the morose “Estonia”, from This Strange Engine.  H dedicates the song to the family of Neil Armstrong.  I’ve never been particularly fond of this dour song, although it has been played in concert many, many times over the last 15 years.  Obviously, many fans “get it” and love it.  I’m not one of them, so for me, Sounds Live ends with a thump rather than a celebration.  I would have preferred something like “Garden Party” or “Easter”, but I’m not complaining.

Speaking of “Easter”:  Conspicuous by its absence is any music at all from Seasons End.  You can’t fit ’em all in, and tour after tour, Marillion have always changed up their setlists.  You will never see the same Marillion concert two tours in a row.

While Marillion have dozens of live albums (especially when you include the 43 Front Row Club releases), this one is a valuable inclusion in the canon as the first physical live release of Sounds that Can’t Be Made songs.   I don’t know how frequently I will return to it, given the amount of live stuff I have, but I did enjoy it.

4/5 stars

Disc 1:

  1. “Gaza”
  2. “This Town/100 Nights”
  3. “You’re Gone”
  4. “Sounds that Can’t Be Made”
  5. “Neverland”
  6. “A Voice From the Past”
  7. “Power”

Disc 2:

  1. “Fantastic Place”
  2. “Real Tears For Sale”
  3. “The Sky Above the Rain”
  4. “The Great Escape”
  5. “A Few Words For the Dead”
  6. “Sugar Mice”
  7. “Estonia”
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19 comments

  1. Nice write-up, Mike. I haven’t been blown away by a Marillion album since Marbles (2-CD edition, of course), but since they’ve been one of my favorite bands for the last 25+ years I continue to listen to every studio release and occasionally check in on a live album or video. Since a lot of the songs they’ve done in recent years are slow & midtempo, their concert recordings can occasionally drag, which is why I prefer their DVDs so at least there’s a visual component to keep things interesting during the slower sections that aren’t always as musically interesting. I have the Somewhere In London 2-DVD set and it helped me to appreciate some songs that didn’t do it for me on the studio releases. Hopefully they do something similar for the current tour. While I like much of the latest album, nothing jumped out at me the way so many Marbles tracks did. Glad you seemed to enjoy this live CD, but I’ll be skipping this one.

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    1. Marbles is incredible, and it never ceases to surprise and amaze me, even after I-don’t-know how many listens. I don’t know why they haven’t done that to me since. None of their music since is awful, just didn’t touch that part of me.

      Having said that, I’m sure they will be doing a live DVD. I’ll keep you posted, I subscribe to their newsletter.

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        1. Well, I’ve been a fan for a long time, and I was among the many fans who contributed to their fund-raising efforts for Anoraknophobia and Marbles, getting the special edition versions with my name included in the packaging. As I’m sure you know, they were at the forefront of that concept which is a music industry standard now.

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        2. That’s awesome Rich, I have my name in both those albums too! I stopped doing it for Happiness Is the Road.

          I’ll have to look for your name now, that’s cool.

          On the Marillion live album, A Piss-up In A Brewery, H introduces the song “Number One” by saying, “This is a song that might be on our new album…which you’ve already bought.”

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        3. I also stopped doing the pre-pay thing with Happiness Is The Road. It had less to do with my feelings about their music and more to do with financial considerations at the time. I was single and living in an apartment for those earlier releases, but I was married with a mortgage by the time of Happiness. I still occasionally pre-pay for certain artists, but I have to be picky. One of my favorite modern prog rock bands, Spock’s Beard, has done them. The coolest thing they did, which I didn’t participate in, was include a bonus song on the special edition that had them singing the names of all the monetary contributors over a cool musical groove. That’s how you get your fans involved.

          Looks like our names are on facing pages in the Marbles special edition. Very cool. It’s like we’ve known each other all these years. Haha.

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        4. I bought the nice deluxe of Happiness later on, but the whole point of the pre-order for me personally was getting extra music. And from Somewhere Else on, you didn’t get that. Somewhere Else came with a 3 song DVD but my main format is CD.

          I used to be a member of the Front Row Club, and also the Racket Club. I stopped doing both when they stopping issuing CD’s. Front Row Club started issuing mp3 albums, and Racket Club switched their focus to DVD. Up until those points, I have every Marillion live bootleg, and every Christmas release.

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  2. What a great write-up. Well done, sir! Your Marillion fan colours are showing. This concert sounds like it was a test for everyone – the fans, for endurance, and the band for maintaining interest and even being able to put together all of those long (surely complicated) songs! The part of my brain that loves punk music cannot fathom a show like this. But the part of my brain that digs jazz surely does. Not knowing much Marillion, myself, I can only go by what you say of the track selection being interesting and well-chosen (mostly).

    I only own one Instant Live-type disc, from the Pixies show we saw in Saskatoon. I like having a memento of the evening. And so much better to have a board-recording than to live with the memory of the drunken a-hole next to me yelling “SURFER ROSA! WOOOO!” through the whole show. We even moved where we were standing, and somehow he found us. Ugh.

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    1. Thanks man!

      I would say that even for a jazzbo, you might be stretching the limits here, because Marillion do not improvise. The songs are long but everything seems to be well plotted in advance.

      I love the Instant Live. I’d love to own the 80 or so that Kiss put out ;) I do have 3 of them.

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  3. I’m in the credits of Marbles and Happiness! But you have to know my secret identity… hehe I wasn’t a fan when Anoraknophobia came out so I missed out on that one which is a shame.

    It’s not the best set I’ve seen from them. I do like Estonia and would love to have heard them play it but last song?! No thanks.

    Not sure I’d be too bothered by the pre-recorded vocals. Depends what you mean though, they do often use samples triggered by the keyboards and cricket bat so was it maybe that? Or are we just talking tapes?

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