Spoilt For Choice

With the 2015 Marillion Weekends announced, the inevitable speculation has begun about which of the band’s albums will be featured. For those unaware, since the first Marillion Weekend in 2002, the band have made a habit of devoting one night of the convention weekends to playing one of their albums in full. This has been such a success that the 2013 weekends saw not one, but three albums played in full – one on Friday, one on Saturday and one on Sunday.

As the band have been doing this for over a decade now, they are starting to run out of albums to feature. Of the albums released whilst current vocalist Steve Hogarth has been in the band (he joined in early 1989), only four have now not been played in full: Marillion.com, Anoraknophobia, Somewhere Else and Happiness Is The Road. None of these albums are numbered among traditional fan favourites; but then again, neither was Radiation, which one of the featured albums at the 2013 weekends. There’s probably a grain of truth in the idea that this is one of the reasons why Brave (performed in full at the very first Marillion Weekend in 2002) was dusted off and played again last year: a huge fan favourite to offset a more controversial choice of first-night featured album. Given the albums that are left unplayed thus far, it’s tempting to think that perhaps the same thing might happen in 2015, giving fans a real treat in featuring a much-beloved fan favourite alongside an album of material that is rarely played live.

To me, it seems that Afraid Of Sunlight is the logical choice: one of the few albums that sometimes outperforms Brave in fan surveys, it’ll be celebrating its 20th anniversary next year. However, it’s not the only candidate. Marbles, the album that regularly wins fan popularity polls, celebrates its 10th anniversary this summer, so will legitimately have passed a landmark anniversary in time for the shows. I can imagine either album going down extremely well with the faithful – and given that the previous full performance of Marbles (in 2005) was not filmed, I can see another reason why the band may want to give it another airing.

But of course there’s another candidate: the one that everyone is thinking about, but which few but the foolish are likely to suggest. Misplaced Childhood, the band’s breakthrough album from 1985, will be 30 years young next year. This is a more contentious idea, in that it was recorded with Hogarth’s predecessor, Fish, at the mic – and for a band that (Marillion Weekends aside! 😉 ) has never been about nostalgia, performing it in full for the first time since 1986 would be a bold decision. There’s probably about 50% of the album that has never been performed since Hogarth’s arrival, and whilst Hogarth may or may not be willing to step up and make a grand statement by performing the whole album, the rest of the band may be less keen. Some band members have been rather outspoken about playing some of the older material, after all – it’s not just a case of “will the new frontman do it?”

That said, it’d be a real shame in my opinion if the anniversary of Misplaced Childhood was not marked in some way. It’s sobering but true nonetheless that the band are not getting any younger and the opportunities to celebrate their past successes are steadily growing fewer and fewer. Speaking as a fan who loves Marillion’s entire catalogue but who, if pressed, prefers the Hogarth-fronted albums, I’d be more than happy to see Misplaced Childhood get its moment in the sun. At the same time, this is not a black-or-white issue for me, where if the band don’t play the whole album I will feel cheated; I’d be quite happy with a few selected highlights. Frankly I’ll be happy enough whatever the band decide to play (from Misplaced Childhood or in fact from any of their albums), but it would be nice to hear something other than the usual medley of singles Kayleigh/Lavender/Heart Of Lothian

Personally, the ideal scenario for me would involve a night of Happiness Is The Road (both volumes, but especially the Essence disc, which is very dear to me indeed), with a side order of Marbles and Afraid Of Sunlight with Misplaced Childhood garnish, but frankly that is (a) a lot of work for the band and (b) leaves no time for surprises, and I do love a good surprise. The only thing for certain about the upcoming Marillion Weekends – whether we’re talking about the Dutch, UK or Canadian events – is that they’re going to be a blast for everyone fortunate enough to be along for the ride.

Can’t wait.

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