Fish, Islington 02 Academy, 29th May 2013

Fish at Bilston Robin 2

It’s now several years since Fish has embarked on proper tour with an electric band. Since the end of the lengthy “Clutching at Stars” tour in 2008, he’d toured extensively with an acoustic trio, followed by a handful of full-band gigs at festivals, and rather strange co-headliners with Glenn Hughes.

Fish had originally planned to have the new album “Feast of Consequences” in the can by now. But the writing of the album too longer than anticipated, so the first leg of the “Moveable Feast” tour became an extended road-test of the new material, with the band heading into the studio at the end of the tour to record it. The five-piece band has a couple of lineup changes since the last time Fish toured, with Steve Vantsis returning on bass, and Robin Boult, who’d been a part of Fish’s band in the early years replacing Frank Usher on guitar.

Support was the duo of vocalist Lu Cozma accompanied by Steve Askew on acoustic guitar and rhythm loops. Acoustic acts can sometimes be a bit hit-and-miss, but this duo came over very well through a combination of Lu Cozma’s strong vocals and some memorable material, with a great cover of Jefferson Airplane’s “White Rabbit” thrown in for good measure.

Fish opened with two brand-new songs, the dark, brooding “Perfumed River” followed by the more rocky title track of “Feast of Consequences”, before going right back in time with a really intense version of “Script for a Jester’s Tear”. That set the tone for the rest of the set, previously unheard new songs mixed with crowd-pleasing oldies, all delivered with a huge amount of energy.

The new material came over very strongly, with the three-song excerpt from the extended “High Wood Suite” an obvious highlight. Another strong one was the Rolling Stones style rocker “All Loved Up”, its lyrics a blast aimed at the whole X-factor fame game. He instroduced stripped-down acoustic “Blind to the Beautiful” with the words “If you’re on anti-depressants, take then now”, making him a sort of prog Leonard Cohen. The older songs encompassed both the Marillion songbook and his early solo albums, with songs such as “Family Business”, “He Knows You Know”, and an extended medley comprising “Assassing”, “Credo”, “Tongues” and the closing section of “Fugazi”.

It’s always taking a chance in playing so much unknown material live, but such was the quality of the new songs that the risk paid off. You could hear a pin drop during the new songs, while old favourites were rapturously received.

Fish was on superb form, with no trace of the vocal problems that had plagued him on earlier tours. True, he doesn’t have the upper register of twenty years ago, and a few of the older songs needed to be reworked. He remains an enormously charismatic frontman, interspersing songs with the stories behind them, ranging his day job at the DSS introducing “He Knows You Know” to the harrowing stories from World War One introducing the songs from the High Wood Suite. Even the predictable shout from the crowd for “Grendel” turned into a sales opportunity for his convention DVD on which said epic appears. This had to be one the best gigs I’ve seen him do for something like twenty years.

The album is planned for release in late summer, after which Fish hits the road again, a couple of UK dates preceding a two-month tour of the continent with a final end-of-tour party at The Assembly in Leamington Spa.

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