Instant Live

REVIEW: Marillion – Live at the Forum – Christmas Tour 2014

MARILLION – Live at the Forum – Christmas Tour 2014 – 11 December 2014 (Abbey Road “instant live” CD set)

This CD was unusual in that it wasn’t a fanclub-only release.  It was an “instant live” released by Abbey Road, from Marillion’s 2014 Christmas tour — a double live album.  And unlike the official 2014 fanclub release, this one has (some) actual Christmas music on it!

“Gazpacho” is an apt way to start a celebration, which was the goal according to Steve Hogarth.  The lyrics might not be all bright and gleeful (“They say the King is losing his grip again”) but the music certainly is.  One of Steve Rothery’s catchiest riffs is coupled with Hogarth’s unmistakable voice.

“The Uninvited Guest”, an early single about HIV, is second in the setlist and one several looks back at the fondly-remembered early days.  It’s a bit loose and sluggish but the fans always sing along when prompted.  The newer “Power” follows, ominous and powerful, pun intended.  Chalk it among Marillion’s most memorable choruses.

Hits follow in quick succession:  “No One Can” and an extended “Warm Wet Circles”.   The laid back vibe continues as Marillion comfortably play for the dedicated.  They ping-pong back and forth between old and new, as the next two songs “Woke Up” and “Trap the Spark” are from 2008’s double album Happiness is the Road.  That atmospheric record has been a hard one to absorb over the years.  The songs are not immediate.  Fortunately it’s “Easter” next, a song that never fails to get the masses singing along.

“Sounds That Can’t Be Made” from the album of the same title still pleases, thanks in no small part to Hogarth’s passionate vocal.  Things start to feel seasonal, however, on “Seasons End” which sometimes (like this time!) opens with “O Come O Come Emmanuel” as only Hogarth can do it.  The song is as poignant today as folks like Greta Thunberg try to deliver the same message that Marillion had in 1989.

So watch the old world melt away,
A loss regrets could never mend,
You never miss it till it’s gone,
So say, goodbye.

Didn’t Hogarth say this concert was a celebration?  Well, Marillion have always been dark.  It’s been said that their early music with Fish was all about alcohol, and the later music with Hogarth about “death and water”.  There is a nugget of truth for that.

“Man of 1000 Faces”, from their “acoustic period” feels a bit more like a singalong.  If you can master the tricky words, that is!

I’m the man of a thousand ages,
You see my face in the stones of the Parthenon,
You hear my song in the babble of Babylon.
I’m the man of a thousand riches,
Be my guest at the feast of Satyricon,
You spend the money that my logo’s printed on.

But the whole thing coalesces into an absolutely massive mountain of music at the end, perfect for the crowd to chant alone.  It’s made for audience participation.  Then, the progressive rock epic “King” is jokingly dedicated to Harry Styles.  It’s a dubious honour, since the song was inspired by tragic figures such as Elvis and Kurt.

After a brief pause, it’s time for some Christmas music.  It’s “The Christmas Song” but not the same “Christmas Song” from the very first Marillion Christmas CD.  It’s the “real” one.  “Chestnuts roasting on an open fire…”  Apparently it didn’t go over well in Glasgow or Manchester.  “Fucking Northerners”, says Hogarth.  They bravely tried it again in London where it seemed to be better received.  “Above average!” shouts an audience member.  They top that with John Lennon’s “Happy Xmas (War is Over)”.

The show is ended with a bunch of oldies: “Sláinte Mhath”, “The Release”, and from the first album, “Garden Party”!  “The Release” is interesting because it’s a B-side, albeit a very popular one, due to its soaring chorus and everyman lyric.  Hogarth always does well on “Sláinte” though it is quintessentially a Fish song.  As for “Garden Party”, it might be Marillion’s only real party song, quaint as it is.  “I’m rucking, I’m fucking!” but Steve lets the crowd finish for him.  It’s excellent fun on a CD that is often too serious for your house Christmas party.

You can hear just why this band has such a rabid fanbase on just about any of their live albums, but this one is particularly warm and inviting.  Have a listen.

4/5 stars

 

REVIEW: KISS – Alive 35: Live at Credit Union Centre, Saskatoon SK, Nov 10 2009

ALIVE 35_0001KISS – Alive 35: Live at Credit Union Centre, Saskatoon SK, Nov 10 2009 (Concert Online)

I would buy any “instant live” type CD by Kiss — that’s a given. The sheer quantity available means I will never own a complete collection of them. What I chose to do was buy a handful, selectively. I was most interested in Canadian shows, and of course concerts where new songs from Sonic Boom were performed.

Kiss’ concert in Saskatoon on November 10 2009 fit the bill perfectly.* Something about Paul Stanley shouting, “SASKATOON!” The new songs performed that night were “Modern Day Delilah” and “Say Yeah”, both personal favourites. As a bonus to me, there’s also a version of “Shock Me” with Tommy Thayer singing. Some Kiss fans have taken exception to Tommy singing this song in addition to wearing Ace’s costume. I’m not going to get into that. All I will say on the matter is that I would rather hear “Shock Me” live than not.

ALIVE 35_0003The concert opens with four 1974 Kiss classics in a row: “Deuce”, “Strutter”, “Let Me Go Rock ‘N’ Roll” and “Hotter Than Hell”. “Let Me Go” seems to fall apart, giving the show a raucous flavour.  It doesn’t get any more retro than that.  That’s four of my favourite Kiss songs in a row; four songs I never tire of. Paul’s voice is sore, cracking in several places.  The job still gets done with the backing vocals of Eric Singer, Gene Simmons and Tommy Thayer. Eric definitely pulls a lot of weight vocally. As much as I wanted to hear new songs, “Say Yeah” suffers a bit vocally.

Highlight: Undoubtedly, a 16 minute version of “100,000 Years”. Eric Singer does his drum thing, and then Paul and Tommy both pick up their guitars and do a call-and-response jam, throwing in a few Zeppelin licks.  You don’t think of Kiss as the kind of band that executes 16 minute extended jams, but it works in a primitive, primordial way.

Paul Stanley’s stage raps are absolutely classic. Paul knows Canada. He knows that all he has to do is say “Montreal” and he gets the crowd going. Just before “Rock all Roll all Nite”, Paul informs the crowd that Shannon Tweed is in the house! The fellow Canadian is greeted warmly by the people of Saskatoon. However my favourite rap is this:

“There’s so much trouble in the world. If you came here tonight to hear some band tell you how to end global warming…if you came here tonight to hear some band tell you how to end world hunger…you are in the wrooong place tonight! I’ll tell you something, we all came here tonight to escape from the world! Tomorrow morning when we get up it’ll be just as screwed up as it is today. We might as well have a little fun! And you know if somebody says to you…’You outta be a little more socially conscious, you outta be doing what you can to help save the world.’ You say to them, ‘Listen to me. Tonight’s my night off and I wanna Rock and Roll all Nite and party every day!'”

Hard to argue with that, Paul!

4/5 stars

 *I still want a CD from a European show where they performed “I’m An Animal”, however.

Pre-Ordered: KISS 40 (Japanese with bonus track)

CLICK HERE FOR FULL REVIEW AND DETAILS.
KISS40

You had to know Kiss were going to come out with another Greatest Hits set to celebrate their 40th anniversary. This is in addition to the massive, beautiful Kissteria vinyl box set. I’m looking forward to KISS 40, since it will include some live recordings previously only available on Kiss’ Instant Live discs. It will also include “Reputation”, an early Kiss demo previously unreleased.

In addition, the Japanese will get their own exclusive bonus track, so I have pre-ordered that version from the fine folks over at CDJapan. I have been a satisfied customer there since 2008.

Complete KISS 40 tracklist is below:

    1. ‘Nothin To Lose’
    2. ‘Let Me Go, Rock ‘N’ Roll’
    3. ‘C’mon and Love Me’
    4. ‘Rock And Roll All Nite’ (Live)
    5. ‘God Of Thunder’ (Demo)
    6. ‘Beth’
    7. ‘Hard Luck Woman’
    8. ‘Reputation’ (Demo) – Previously Unreleased
    9. ‘Christine Sixteen’
    10. ‘Shout It Out Loud’ (Live)
    11. ‘Strutter ‘78′
    12. ‘You Matter To Me’ (Peter Criss)
    13. ‘Radioactive’ (Gene Simmons)
    14. ‘New York Groove’ (Ace Frehley)
    15. ‘Hold Me, Touch Me’ (Paul Stanley)
    16. ‘I Was Made For Lovin’ You’ (Single Edit)
    17. ‘Shandi’
    18. ‘A World Without Heroes’
    19. ‘I Love It Loud’
    20. ‘Down On Your Knees’
    21. ‘Lick It Up’
    22. ‘Heaven’s On Fire’
    23. ‘Tears Are Falling’
    24. ‘Reason To Live’
    25. ‘Let’s Put The X In Sex’
    26. ‘Forever’ (Remix)
    27. ‘God Gave Rock ‘N’ Roll To You II’
    28. ‘Unholy’ (Live)
    29. ‘Do You Love Me?’ (MTV Unplugged)
    30. ‘Room Service’ (Live)
    31. ‘Jungle’ (Radio Edit)
    32. ‘Psycho Circus’
    33. ‘Nothing Can Keep Me From You’ (Detroit Rock City soundtrack)
    34. ‘Detroit Rock City’ (Live)
    35. ‘Deuce’ (Live 2004) – Unreleased commercially
    36. ‘Firehouse’ (Live – 1999/2000)
    37. ‘Modern Day Delilah’
    38. ‘Cold Gin’ (Live 2009) – Unreleased commercially
    39. ‘Crazy Crazy Nights’ (Live 2010) – Unreleased commercially
    40. ‘Hell or Hallelujah’
    41. ‘Hell or Hallelujah’ (Live in Japan 2013) – Japanese bonus track

Good enough for me. KISS 40 comes out May 27 2014.

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”