Posts Tagged ‘Steve Hogarth’s notional sex appeal’

Gig Review: Marillion, Leeds Met 13 Nov 2008

Sunday, November 16th, 2008

I don’t go to a lot of gigs these days, for a number of reasons. The ever present credit crunch notwithstanding, it’s mostly the fact that I generally hate people. However I do always go to see Marillion when they’re on tour. It’s a very blokey thing to do, follow a particular band through thick and thin. In Chuck Klosterman’s excellent Fargo Rock City he talks about the fact that he buys every Motley Crue album even though he knows, these days at least, they’ll invariably be rubbish. It’s the same impulse that drives men to support crap football teams I suppose. Marillion’s fans are so devoted that they actually pay for the albums before the things are recorded.

That’s not to say I’m joylessly following a hopeless band, as Marillion have been going through a particularly rich creative spell for a number of years now, and the new album Happiness Is The Road is superb, melodic, mature and inventive. Not sexy, fashionable terms I’ll grant you, but it’s a bunch of guys who have been playing music since the late 70s, not some bunch of 19 year old haircuts from East Twattington.

Weirdly enough though, back when he first joined the band Q Magazine described vocalist Steve Hogarth as a “leather jacketed sex bomb”, and mentioned his “shaggy dreamboat good looks”. He’s a bit more grizzled these days. In fact he seems like a weird eccentric little dude who should be running a second hand shop in a sitcom with limited appeal on BBC2. Mind you, I’m sure he makes women of a certain age wet.

I’ve actually lost track of the amount of times I’ve seen Marillion live now, and with their best songs, not to mention their musical abilities they don’t have any problems putting on a great show.

Marillion, honest

Some brilliant photography by me

They could do with varying their setlist a bit though. They’ve been playing emotional, stirring versions of songs like The Great Escape and Afraid of Sunlight for so long that they could do it in their sleep, but I would rather they give those songs a rest and play something a little more surprising. The highlight for me was The Invisible Man from 2004’s Marbles album, a performance so dramatic and atmospheric that I think my mouth was hanging open like a particularly stupid whale shark for the duration.

Whatever. The probelm with writing about stuff you genuinely like is that you tend to come off sounding like a bit of a dickhead. It’s far easier (and more fun) to slag stuff off, or be sarcastic. And so to Razorlight.

One suspects that if the record company support dried up, Johnny Borrell’s boys wouldn’t be able to rely on a fanbase as committed as Marillion’s. They’d have to get proper jobs. Professional gits, probably.

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Young Man Blues

Thursday, July 9th, 2009

I have come to the realisation that all of my favourite music is immature. Prog, metal, glam and folk all have an inexorable appeal to dopey fourteen year old boys.

Prog is all explosive time signature changes and wonky surrealism, songs about cyborg armadillos and severed heads on croquet lawns. Metal is men with long hair and spiky guitars shrieking angrily about the devil, war, and psychopaths (or preferably all three). Glam rock falls broadly into blokes in make up being all weird and arty, blokes in makeup being intentionally daft (both of which are British bands in the 70s), and blokes in makeup singing about shagging strippers while riding Harleys up Sunset Boulevard (American bands in the 80s). Folk music aficionados will object that it’s a genre characterised by a will to continue an important cultural tradition, and its lack of pretension and image, therefore being sufficiently “grown up”, but  I only listen to folk music because 85% of it is songs about witches.

Even indieish types, hailed as brilliant songwriters, like Jarvis Cocker and Ben Folds have written a lot of songs about not growing up and feeling awkward in the face of responsibility.

We live in a world where it’s perfectly acceptable for a grown man to buy himself toys (uh… collectables) and video games (er… they’re a rapidly developing media), and that’s fine by me (although I don’t really think my Dad would understand or approve), and gigs and music festivals the world over are crammed with people in their 30s and 40s who are desperate to prove they are still “down” with Little Boots and Black Kids (delete/replace with more current talking point as applicable).*

So what is “mature” music? Leonard Cohen and Bob Dylan? I could never get into either of them. I actually think the most mature music I listen to is Marillion. Now say that name to most people and they’ll just look at you blankly or assume you are trying to say “Marilyn Manson” with a cleft palate). But those that remember them will no doubt sneer, scoff and guffaw, pointing out that they are the most emotionally retarded of bands, with their album covers featuring sad jesters, clunkier version of the standard prog rock widdly widdly instrumental style,  ridiculously verbose lyrics and murky concepts (1982’s Grendel was an 18 minute epic that would at least have found favour with Otto the bus driver, as it was from the monster’s point of view).

However, there’s the rub. Most people haven’t heard (or heard of) the If My Heart Were A Ball It Would Roll Uphill hitmakers since the 80s. Their more recent stuff rejects the histrionic and is sombre, melodic and heart on sleeve emotional. To me it sounds, I dunno, mature.

* I originally wrote Bat For Lashes, but I have checked wikipedia and deemed her not contemporary enough. Not only was she born in the 70s, but her first record was released in 2006! I might as well namecheck Status Quo!

Bat For Lashes and Black Kids
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