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Steve Rothery - LIVE: ABC 2, Glasgow 2017

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Ghosts & Garden Parties Tour
January 11 (20:20 - 21:05 / 21:15 - 22:30)
Capacity 350

On a cold miserable wintry night Marillion guitarist Steve Rothery brought his own band to the ABC2 in Glasgow. The set was split into two parts, the first comprised of tracks from his excellent The Ghosts of Pripyat CD, and the second as he himself described it, "party time," meaning a set of old Marillion songs very rarely played live anymore.

He and his band came onstage with no fanfare, just picked up their instruments and started playing. Which is not a problem when you are as skilled as he and his band are. The music easily doing all the talking - or maybe it's simply the way he plays guitar. The crowd were very quiet and focused immediately, very respectful, allowing all the subtle nuances of these beautifully crafted tunes to be heard and appreciated.

What is very evident from opening track Morpheus is that this is not a one man show. Both second guitarist Dave Foster and keyboardist Riccardo Romano are allowed plenty of room to shine and show of their skills, and the way the piece builds up into some lovely guitar work between both guitarists (on the album it is Steve Hackett who trades guitar parts, a hard act to follow) is wonderful. After the first piece Steve starts chatting and explaining how the night is going to go. He also said that the great thing about this tour is that it's just him out on the road with some good mates having fun. As the night progressed that became even more obvious. Old Man of The Sea - which he said was his personal favourite track from the album - showed off some breathtaking soloing after opening with very atmospheric keyboards and sound effects, before the guitars gently come in. The study of concentration, of being lost in the music is telling. The latter part of the track is as heavy as it gets in the first half of the evening, and before White Pass he explained that the song was about the frozen wastes of Alaska, or possibly a January night in Sauchiehall Street (where the venue is located). With an insistent riff and a particularly impressive solo, this was a great track to include.

After a short break he came back on to introduce Martin Jakubski from the Stillmarillion tribute band (and also an Maiden Scotland, which he referenced by starting with "scream for me Glasgow, oops, wrong band", prompting laughter and heckles) as vocalist for the tour. He covers the Fish-era material very well indeed and has a nice line of humour to go with it. Opening with the wonderful Cinderella Search, he explained it was recorded when the band were trying hard to really find their own identity - with Wham in the next studio - and as the night went on he explained his choices, mostly because he could pick his personal favourite guitar solos to play.

Chelsea Monday sounded as haunting and dramatic as ever. It didn't take long for someone to call for Grendel, to which he responded they might play another b-side from the Market Square Heroes EP instead, i.e. Three Boats Down From The Candy. Next though was Incubus, and the look of amazement on the face of Foster during Rothery's solo was brilliant. When a very good guitarist looks at another in awe at a solo, that's a true sign of just how good that solo is.

Both Fugazi and White Russian sounded as strong and poignant now as when they were written back in the 1980s - hard hitting social commentary with serious bite and still angry sounding - and Martin hammers all the lyrics with belief and intensity they require. The first encore went back to debut album Script For A Jesters Tear for Garden Party, which allowed everyone to not only sing with gusto, but attempt to clap along to some bamboozingly tricky rhythm which only progressive rock accommodates, and Market Square Heroes allowed that to continue. For many shiny headed old rockers this was really reliving the past as much as any other moment in the set, when they used to bounce around furiously. They're maybe a little more restrained now, but were still having a ball.

The end of the gig was strange, as Steve put it - "some of you may hate it, some may love it, but our guitarist is crazy about it" - at which point they blasted out a mad version of the old Bob Seger song Hollywood Nights. From the reaction, most seemed to approve. In the end, it was a very healthy crowd which showed up on a shocker of an evening, to enjoy a first class night of music, with two contrasting but equally enjoyable sets showing off the variety of styles that both Rothery and his band can play.

Setlist: Morpheus / Kendris / Old Man of The Sea / White Pass / Summer's End // Cinderella Search / Chelsea Monday / Incubus / Fugazi / Sugar Mice / Three Boats Down From The Candy / White Russian // Garden Party / Market Square Heroes // Hollywood Nights

Written by Tom Cornell
More: 2017, Gigs, Progressive,

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