REVIEW: Marillion – A Monstrously Festive(al) Christmas (2015)

Glad tidings and joy! It’s the final day of the least popular series in the history of this site. Yes, the daily hits took a nosedive, but we have succeeded in reviewing every single Marillion Christmas CD. You’ll find a directory below. Thanks for reading if you did! Back to our regularly scheduled program next time.

MARILLION A Monstrously Festive(al) Christmas (2015 Racket Records)

The very last Marillion Christmas CD to date is another double live album. It’s actually a summer Festival gig (July 2015) with a shorter set, and two Christmas songs from December 2014 added at the end. Most of these tracks have appeared on other Christmas albums, all but “The Invisible Man”. It’s notable for focusing on long-bombers and only a couple of “hits”.

Not sure what’s up with the cover though, the band dressed as mad scientists, all but Pete Trewavas. It’s a suitable image I suppose, since Marillion are like the mad scientists of rock music.

17 minutes of “Gaza” opens the show, heavy as hell, one of the most intense Marillion songs of their 40 year history. It might be about the Holy land but it’s not what you’d call Christmas-y! Expect a driving ride through war-torn landscapes, with quieter respites strategically placed. Lightening the mood, “You’re Gone” kicks things up. The pop melodies and dance beats get the toes tapping.

“Oh fuck, now Pete’s gone,” says Hogarth between songs.  Fortunately the bassist returns!  “Power” from Sounds That Can’t Be Made follows, one of the better songs from the later years.  The only anomaly on this album is “Sugar Mice”, the sole oldie in the set.  “I prefer their old stuff”, Steve says to chuckles from the audience.  As usual, he absolutely nails the song, a passionate poem to the down and out.  The other Steve (Rothery’s) guitar solo is a song to itself, a beautiful complement to the perfect words.  “Man of a Thousand Faces” from Marillion’s “acoustic period” (This Strange Engine) is different from the other songs, performed with extra expression.  (“Bbbbbabble of Babylon”.)  The crowd loves it and keep singing well after the song ends.

Nothing but long bombers for the rest of the show.  “Neverland” (10:28), “King” (8:05), and “The Invisible Man” (15:13) represent some of the most epic Marillion music ever committed to tape.  Heavy, heavy moods!  Complex, driven songs, each one with mini-compositions within compositions.  “Invisible Man” in particular is like listening to a stream of songs, and live, it breathes.

The added two Christmas songs, from Germany and France respectively, are ones that have appeared on Marillion Christmas CDs before.  Lennon’s “Happy Xmas (War is Over)” is a go-to for this band.  Acoustic guitars, gentle keys and jingle bells are all it takes.  A loungey “Christmas Song” is funny for how Steve messes up the lyrics right from the start.  So it’s not the definitive Marillion version, but it’s genuine.

That’s what makes all these live performances special.  There’s no fixing.  Everything is how it went down.  There’s no point in releasing CDs of so many individual concerts if you’re going to fix them in the mix.  Whether it’s a forgotten word or a missing bassist, it’s all in.

4.5/5 stars

16 comments

  1. This is less popular than my Kix series? That’s too bad. These people either really hate Christmas music or they really don’t care about Marillion. Either way, your prediction that they would be “dropping in droves” was pretty accurate. But remember that I stuck with you this whole time! So did Harrison, but not on any of these Christmas albums. Just Virtual Lights. Virtual Christmas Lights Sleighs Over France.

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      1. Honey it’s getting close to midnight, so I’m gonna hit the sack. Actually, it’s a half hour past midnight.

        I’m flattered you check to see if I comment every article though. Gonna take a piss and then head to bed tonight. I had asparagus for dinner tonight, so it’s gonna be smelly! I heard only 1/4 of people have the gene that allows you to smell how rancid asparagus urine really is, and I’m in that 25%.

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        1. Well, with 43 you almost have enough to do one every week for a year. “Marillion Monday” or something like that

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  2. At least we went out with a bang! I enjoyed the series myself as I am not too familiar with Marillion and I think it is cool when a band does things like this for their FANS!! I do post all the time that I know are not going to be popular because I want to do them. I try not to worry too much about the traffic, but I will throw stuff out that will get lots of hits to make up for it (Hello Lists of any kind).

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  3. When I win the lottery I’ll pay for you to come on over to one of the band’s holiday camp summer weekend things where they play every evening and wander around being nice, normal people the rest of the time.

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