By request of J.
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!