By Michael Popke
Over the course of three decades, Marillion has morphed into something completely different from its original form as one of the founding fathers of Britain’s neoprogressive-rock movement. That evolution culminates on “Live from Cadogan Hall,” a two-CD set meticulously recorded in London on the final night of Marillion’s 2009 tour in support of “Less Is More.”
That delicate album deconstructed select tracks from the band’s back catalog and is lushly recreated here with (among other instruments) dulcimer, autoharp, glockenspiel, xylophone and pipe organ. Singer Steve Hogarth sounds weary during his between-song banter, and these songs sleep as much as they soar.
But the second disc, featuring ten additional Marillion tracks reworked in the same musical spirit as “Less Is More,” picks up the pace slightly while suggesting the band could have made better selections for “Less Is More.” “This Train Is My Life,” “You’re Gone” and “Beautiful” sound stunning, and the eight-and-a-half-minute finale of “Three Minute Boy” will leave longtime fans drooling. In fact, if you’re in the mood to chill, this two-hour set could be your live album of the year.
Marillion, “Live from Cadogan Hall” DVD
Eagle Vision/Honker Home Video (EV303349)
Few veteran bands have been as consistently adventurous as Marillion, the Brits who once upon a time helped define neo-progressive rock. The band’s latest direction, deconstructing and reinventing its back-catalog with 2009’s acoustic “Less Is More” and a supporting tour, may have disappointed some fans. But when heard (and viewed) in the context of this live two-DVD set filmed in a former church – London’s exquisite Cadogan Hall – on the final night of that tour, there’s no denying this is still an outfit operating on a higher plane than most of its aging peers.
Witnessing the emotion with which each member of Marillion performs such songs as “Hard As Love,” “Quartz,” “Beautiful,” “This Train Is My Life,” “Easter” and “Three Minute Boy,” it’s easy to understand the decision to head in a quieter, more introspective direction. Songs take on added significance, thanks to shimmering mood lighting and vocalist Steve Hogarth, who has the charm of a British Dana Carvey character. The show crescendos in all the right places, and by the time it’s over, listeners will be inspired to explore (or rediscover, as the case may be) Marillion’s absorbing body of work.