REVIEW: Marillion – Barrowlands, Glasgow, Scotland. 4 December 1989. (FRC-005)

By request of J.

Scan_20160615MARILLION – Barrowlands, Glasgow, Scotland. 4 December 1989. (FRC-005 – 2002 Racket Records)

Marillion have always been an innovative band, not just musically, but also the ways they interact with their fans.  In 1992, they started offering mail-order exclusive live albums to the diehards.  The first one, Live in at the Borderline sold out quickly.  Live in Caracas took a few years to sell out; I have an original copy of that one.  The third, Live in Glasgow, also sold out quickly.  Today I own a remastered and reissued version, Barrowlands, Glasgow, Scotland, released in 2002 as part of Marillion’s Front Row Club.

The Front Row Club was a subscription service.  Sign up for a year, and Marillion would mail you a live album every two months.  Some were single discs, like Barrowlands, and some were doubles.  They were sourced from all parts of Marillion’s history.  Subscribers could choose to opt out of releases they didn’t want, for example I didn’t need a second copy of Caracas.  There were 43 Front Row Club releases in total, and I have them all (excepting the optional Caracas).  (For a review of FRC-006:  River, click here.)

In 1989, Marillion were showing off the new guy, Steve “H” Hogarth on vocals, guitars and keyboards.  If they were to get a cold reception, Scotland would have been the place.  After all, former singer Fish was a proud Scot, and replacing a singer is always dicey.  Fortunately for Marillion, fans embraced Steve H very much, and the Barrowlands show is evidence of that.

Opening with the brand new classic, “King of Sunset Town”, it sounds like Marillion had them in the palms of their hands from the first notes.  This releases was recorded from the desk onto cassette tape, and it sounds remarkably good considering!  “Sunset Town” has the instrumental adventures that fans expect, but with a passionate vocal very unlike Fish.  Singing along, the fans were already familiar with the new material.  The drums sound amazing in the Barrowlands, and Steve Rothery’s solo had the fans screaming.

There are only eight tracks from Barrowlands — apparently, somebody forgot to flip the tape as the band played.  Instead, two songs from a show in Bradford were added to the end.

“Slàinte Mhath” (or “Slange” as it is spelled phonetically on the back cover) is a beloved fan favourite. It was one of the songs that H felt more comfortable singing.  The crowd grew quiet.  This was an important song to get right.  No worries there.  “And you listen, with a tear in your eye, to their hopes and betrayals, and your only reply is slàinte mhath.”  (Cheers, good health.)  The line is greeted with a few excited screams.  While he was nothing like Fish, H managed to raise the hair on my arms.

“Good evening Glasgow!  It’s very nice to meet you.  We waited a long time for this!”  It must have been a tremendous relief for H to be accepted in Glasgow.  Two new singles follow “Slàinte”: “Uninvited Guest” and the ballad “Easter”. These are songs that remained in the setlist for tour after tour, and they do not vary much from other live takes. It is interesting to listen to these fresh versions, new to the band as they were to the crowd. “Easter” is youthful and beautiful.

Hogarth seemed drawn towards the Clutching at Straws material. “Warm Wet Circles”/”That Time of the Night” were performed for a few tours after, and Steve did them very well.  It’s a 10 minute slab of progressive rock with labyrinthine lyrics as only Fish could write.  Hogarth nailed it.

“On promenades where drunks propose to lonely arcade mannequins,
Where ceremonies pause at the jeweller’s shop display,
Feigning casual silence in strained romantic interludes,
‘Til they commit themselves to the muted journey home.”

I mean come ON!

And that’s it for old songs.  More were played that night, but the tape didn’t get them.  Too bad, because they included “Market Square Heroes”, “Incommunicado”, “Kayleigh” and lots more.  Barrowlands goes on with “Holloway Girl”, which boils with a dark intensity.  Marillion and Mark Kelly are very good at using keyboards for texture, and this is a good example.  Also dark and powerful is “Seasons End”, introduced by the Christmas carol “Oh Come Emmanuel”.  This early warning about global warming is a reminder that this is not some new theory.  We’ve known about global warming for decades.  Marillion turned that into a pretty epic quality track.

That’s it for the Barrowlands tracks.  “Berlin” and “The Space” are added to make it an even 10.  There’s a shift in sound quality as it gets a little clearer, but it’s not obtrusive.  “The Space” is a very apt way to end a CD.

Rating something like this…it’s almost “What’s the point?”  There are 43 of these bloody Front Row Club albums.  You can’t get them anymore.  You have to look at this as a good but incomplete set of some of the earliest live Marillion with Hogarth.  When we’re talking about a band with probably 100 live albums or more, it all becomes a little hard to see the forest for the trees!

3.5/5 stars?

Scan_20160615 (2)


  1. Barrowlands! Yas! My favourite venue (even The Kaiser Chiefs sounded great at the Barrowlands – that’s a testament to its awesomeness!). Anyhoo, this sounds smashin. I actually like the fact it was 8 songs long and the story behind why. Shame they threw the bonus cuts on, huh?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Kinda yeah. Like, I would rather have an entire show from Bradford on a separate release, and Barrowlands as a release of its own. Also worth noting — maybe bootleggers have complete copies of this show?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. It’s very possible. There used to be a place within the Barrowlands Market where you could pick up a cassette of a gig within days. Real shady operation, but this was before torrents and suchlike, so people would pay. I believe the police shut them down after a while.


  2. Can I delicately ask, how much live Marillion do you need?

    Don’t get me wrong I can totally understand the need to collect everything, I may have suffered from it once or twice myself (a long time ago, obvs) but are the individual differences in the gigs worthwhile/noticeable enough?

    I may be biased though because I’m not too much of a fan of live recordings.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Let’s just put it this way, Joe:

      There’s a reason I’ve only reviewed this one of 43. How many ways can I describe “Easter”? Or “King of Sunset Town”? There are not enough differences really. But there are some live ones with some neat songs dropped into the setlist, some Fish era ones and some more obscure Hogarth ones. So if you want to hear a live version of “Release” I’m pretty sure I would have it on one of these!

      Another issue is that they only did so many tours. So I might have “X” amount from the Afraid of Sunlight tour, just different cities. It’s a lot and yes it’s too much. But I went down that road and couldn’t turn back for reasons that I am now medicated for ;)

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I can totally understand the historical importance of this one too, given the first trip back to Scotland – I’ll have a look back through The Mighty Scrapbooks of Rock to see if I clipped the Kerrang! review of the show for you.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Now THAT would be neat!

          Yes the first gig in Glasgow after Fish departing, that’s significant. The band did try and release discs that were interesting for one reason or another. There are short liner notes explaining why they liked this show or remembered it.

          Liked by 1 person

        2. No, sorry Mike – I think I do remember reading a review (26 years ago?! No wonder I can never remember where I put my keys, my head is full!!) but I didn’t clip it. I took sides – I have a separate Fish scrapbook.


  3. “On promenades where drunks propose to lonely arcade mannequins,
    Where ceremonies pause at the jeweller’s shop display,
    Feigning casual silence in strained romantic interludes,
    ‘Til they commit themselves to the muted journey home.”

    Wowzers, in the wrong hands, lines like that could make a singer sound like a pretentious twit!


  4. Man, I really dig the idea of that subscription service. I am impressed that you have them all!

    I Have to ask – did anyone play the maracas on the Caracas release? If they didn’t, that would be a real missed opportunity.

    Also, 100 live releases? JEEBUS!

    Thanks for shining a light on this, Dude. I’m a Marillion noob, relatively speaking, but I’m liking what I’m hearing so far.


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