Tag Archives: Fish

HRH Prog in Pictures – Saturday

September Code at HRH Prog

The consequence of having a photo pass for a three-day rock festival is you end up taking an awful lot of photos; indeed I took over 900 on the Saturday. I’ve used a few to illustrate my review, and here are a few more, all from Saturday. Here’s Dim Koskinas of September Code, the opening band of the day.

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HRH Prog 2

Crimson Sky's Jane Setter at HRH ProgJane Setter of Crimson Sky

HRH Prog 2 is a residential rock festival held in this year the former Butlins holiday camp at Hafan-Y-Mor just outside Pwllheli in north Wales, following on from the successful first festival held in Rotherham a year ago.

It’s certainly a long way from anywhere, at the end of miles and miles of single-carriageway roads winding through the Welsh hills, or an equally winding single-track railway line, and it certainly wasn’t the organisers’ fault that part of the train journey was by replacement bus because the tracks had been washed away in a storm. There were complaints from some quarters that it was an inconvenient location. But it was an equal opportunity inconvenience; it takes just as long wherever you’re coming from. Continue reading

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Gigs of the Year – 2013 Edition

Panic Room at Sound Control in Manchester

I went to so many gigs in 2013 I ended up losing count; everything from local cover bands in pubs to rock monsters in enormodomes, and everything in between. There have been a few gigs outside my usual comfort zone, such as The Damned and The Orb; I even went to see Iron Maiden at the O2 Arena, a band I last saw in 1982.  I even went to see a Fleetwood Mac tribute band…

Picking a best-of list out of all those gigs is a hard one, but these six stand out as ones to remember for all the right reasons.

Marillion – UK Convention Saturday

Marillion’s fan conventions are always amazing experiences, with a hall full of hardcore fans and three sets with completely different setlists over the three nights. The end result is an electric atmosphere that few regular gigs can approach. All three nights in Wolverhampton were amazing experiences, but for me the best of the three was Saturday, with the dark, intense concept album “Brave” played in its entirety.

Fish – Islington O2 Academy

I got to see Fish four times this year, twice in his spring tour before the band went into the studio to record the album, and twice in the autumn on the tour to promote the album. All were great shows, with the big man on superb form, the London gig in May was a real standout.

Steve Hackett – Hammersmith Apollo

I wasn’t entirely convinced by Steve Hackett’s restatement of his Genesis legacy in the studio; the re-recorded versions seemed to add little to the much-loved favourites. But live it was a completely different experience; a triumphant and uplifting celebration of the magnificent music that deservedly won many standing ovations.  The Guardian completely missed the point.

Panic Room + Morpheus Rising – Manchester Sound Control

Panic Room have had a few ups and downs this year, forced to regroup following the departure of lead guitarist and founder member Paul Davies. Their tour in early summer featured Morpheus Rising’s Pete Harwood standing in guitar doing double duty with both the headliners and his own band. The tour ended with two superb shows in Bilston and Manchester demonstrating the band’s ability to triumph over adversity, with great support from Morpheus Rising, themselves premiering a lot of new material.

Mostly Autumn + Chantel McGregor, Islington O2 Academy

Mostly Autumn have been a bit hit-and-miss as live band during 2013, with fluctuating lineups from gig to gig due to various members’ other commitments. But the stars aligned when they came to London in Ocober. Chantel McGregor’s incendiary opening set gave the whole show the feel of a co-headliner, and Mostly Autumn’s barnstorming set had to be one of the best shows they’ve done in the past two or three years.

Steven Wilson, Royal Albert Hall

Steve Wilson came to London’s most prestigious major venue with his band including Theo Travis, Guthie Govan, Nick Beggs and Zappa alumnus Chad Wakerman, with the combined virtuosity you’d expect from a top-flight jazz ensemble rather than typical rock band. They proceed to delivere a mesmerising set drawn almost entirely from Steve Wilson’s three recent solo work, reinventing 70s Mellotron-drenched progressive rock to make it relevant to the 21st century. There are still people missing Porcupine Tree, but on the strength of shows like this, his new band are very good trade.

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2013 Albums of the Year – Part Three

We’re into the home stretch now, with three of the top four albums of the year. Again, their just arranged alphabetically, since they’re so different from each other it’s impossible to rank them in order. Well, that’s my excuse anyway…

FishFeast of Consequences

Feast of Consequences CoverFish’s first album for six years is an ambitious, raw and passionate record that combines many of the best elements of his later work. Lyrically it takes us from the trenches of World War One to the intensely personal, and yet again demonstrates Fish is one of the most underrated lyricists in rock. Musically it’s goes from celtic atmospherics and acoustic balladry to out-and-out rock’n'roll, with a stripped-down production that manages to capture the energy of a live performance. This is the best thing he’s done for a long, long time.

GoldfrappTales of Us

Goldfrapp - Tales of UsThis record is a thing of beauty. It’s a stripped-down acoustic record that has more in common with the likes of Odin Dragonfly than their earlier electro-glam. Arrangements made up largely of acoustic guitar and strings emphasise the beguiling melodies of the songs and beauty of Alison Goldfrapp’s voice, which reminds me strongly of Anne-Marie Helder in places. More mainstream, perhaps, than most of the other records in this list, but it’s still a great record.

Steven WilsonThe Raven That Refused To Sing

The Raven That Refused To SingSteven Wilson’s second album to feature the virtuoso band from “Grace for Drowning”, this is a far more focussed and concise record than its sprawling predecessor. It’s still the spirit of early 70s King Crimson reinvented for modern audiences, with a strong jazz flavour, plenty of Mellotron, and space for the soloists to work their magic. There are plenty of people who are still missing Porcupine Tree, but on the evidence of this record his new band is more than a fair trade.

The album of the year will follow in the next post.

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Why We Remember

PoppiesLast year I didn’t wear a Remembrance Poppy. I felt that the symbol was losing its meaning as memorial to the dead in the two World Wars, and had been taken over by jingoistic militarists, especially the racists of the far-right.

This year was different.

Back in September I went to see Fish play at the Arts Centre in Pontardawe in South Wales, on the tour promoting his new album. The centrepiece of that record is a twenty-minute song cycle entitled “The High Wood Suite”, inspired by the World War One Battle of the Somme in which both his grandfathers fought.

Fish gave a long introduction telling the inspiration behind it; his grandfather in the entrenchment division digging trenches through ground filled with the bodies torn apart by shellfire. He told the story of the Lad’s Battalions, drawn from small communities just like Pontardawe, who fought and died together, entire communities sometimes wiped out in a morning.

There was nothing heroic about this. No noble self-sacrifice for a justified cause. This, as Fish made abundantly clear, was mass murder on an industrial scale. Read this angry piece by Charlie Stross – World War One killed five percent of Britain’s adult male population, and crippled another ten percent. And French casualties were even higher.

This is what we must never forget.

I remember spending several minutes after the show staring at the war memorial right outside the venue, looking at the list of names.

I saw Fish again on the 6th of November on the final night of the tour. There were a great many poppies worn in the audience. I’lll let him have the final word: these lyrics are the closing verses of “The Leaving”, the sombre final song from The High Wood Suite.

It had to end, the armies broken
One side had lost but who had won
The ravaged land, the decimation
So hard to bear, the loss and pain

The men returned, the war was over
The bells rang out, a country cheered
Behind their eyes they stored the horrors
Behind their smiles they hid their fears

The medals and the honours were handed out
to those who served
The letters of condolences were kept
Reminding generations of the sacrifices made
The suffering and the torment
of the men most never knew,

Lest we forget

– Derek W Dick, 2013

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All Loved Up

Sometimes I wonder if the above video played a part in getting Fish’s song “All Loved Up” into the Polish singles chart. It represents exactly the sort of vacuous celebrity culture the song skewers. It epitomises the way mass-produced corporate pop is completely divorced from the world of real musicians making real music.

It’s mechanically-recovered extruded music product, featuring talent-free “artists” who are famous for being famous, whose success is based solely on the amount of money spent promoting them. There is absolutely no chance that this song will touch anyone’s soul and change their lives.

The “guitarist” is a embarrassed-looking model who looks as though she’s never seen anyone play a guitar in her life. But in words of manager Angelina Konkol. “It is better to look at beautiful models pretending to play the guitar than ugly musicians who actually play the guitar”.

What a load of cobblers.

Don’t want that. Watch this instead.

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Fish – Feast of Consequences

It’s been a long time since Fish’s last studio album. The gap since 2007′s “13th Star” approached Kate Bush or Peter Gabriel proportions, and there even were times when it seemed that the possibility of future albums hung in the balance, with vocal problems that at one point appeared to come close to terminating his career. But after spending eighteen months on the road playing as as part of an acoustic trio, he reformed an electric band for some gigs with Glenn Hughes last year, and made it clear he was still a force to be reckoned with.

The new album has been a long time in the making; he débuted early versions of a couple of songs at his fan convention last year before playing much of the album live on a two-week British tour this May. The band is the same as for that tour; Steve Vantsis on bass, Foss Patterson on keys, Robin Boult on guitar, and Gavin Griffiths on drums, all Fish collaborators of long standing, with guest appearances from Liz Antwi on backing vocals, violin by Aidan O’Rourke and even some string and brass sections. With Vantsis, Patterson and Boult all contributing to the writing the album is more varied than some other recent albums, and the way much of the material had been played live before they went into the studio to record it gives it a strong organic feel.

Sampled pipes herald the ten-minute opener “Perfumed River”. It starts with a brooding atmospheric opening combining electronica and spidery acoustic guitar to accompany Fish’s half-sung, half-spoken vocal, before exploding into the full-blown rock in the second half of the song. It’s an epic combining many of the best aspects of Fish’s recent music in one song, and makes a perfect opening to the album.

The next two numbers are more straightforward. “All Loved Up” is a hard rocker reminiscent of The Rolling Stones, with lyrics taking aim at the vacuity of the X-Factor celebrity culture. In contrast “Blind to the Beautiful” is a stripped-down acoustic number in the style of the unplugged trio tour from a couple of years, enhanced by some superb violin from Aidan O’Rourke.

It’s an old joke that if you play a Country and Western record backwards, you get your woman, your dog and your truck back. Not that he’s in any way a Country artist, but it wouldn’t be Fish album without at least one bitter song about a break-up, and the angrily rocking title track is one of several such numbers on the album.

But the heart of the album is the five part “High Wood Suite”, the first extended concept piece since “Plague of Ghosts” back in the 90s. It’s inspired by the World War One battle in which both his grandfathers fought. It starts with a picture of the battlefield in the present-day, with the sounds of birds and agricultural machinery, before taking us back to terrible human stories of the men who fought and died almost a century ago. The twists and turns of the music through Celtic atmospherics and angry jagged riffs reflect the initial enthusiasm of the recruits dashed against the horrors of war and the ultimate futility of it all. Both musically and lyrically it’s one of the most powerfully moving things Fish has ever done.

After the intensity of the “High Wood”, the final two songs are something of a coda, returning to the more personal heart-on-sleeve territory of the title track. The reflective ballad “The Other Half of Me” wouldn’t have sounded out of place on “13th Star”, and the closing “The Great Unravelling” makes a fitting end, with some fantastic call-and-response vocals from Liz Antwi.

As with 13th Star, the album is produced by Calum Malcolm, and his production captures the sort of intensity and energy levels more often associated with the best live albums. Robin Boult in particular plays some great raw-sounding guitar; not that much in the way of showboating solos but some powerful riffs and rhythm parts, especially on heavier parts of the High Wood suite. Guests Liz Antwi and Andy O’Rourke both leave strong marks.

Despite his much publicised vocal problems of the recent past, Fish is on fine form vocally throughout, as ought to have been obvious to anyone who’s seen him live recently. It’s true that he doesn’t have power or the upper register from his early days, but with songs arranged to fit his current range he’s still a very evocative singer. Lyrically he’s long moved on from the overcooked style of early Marillion albums, with a more direct but poetic style that deserves recognition in the wider rock world as one of British music’s finest lyricists.

It all amounts to an album that’s well worth the six year wait. Fish’s extensive post-Marillion career has seen some ups and downs, with strong albums interspersed with patchier and sometimes flawed works. “Feast of Consequences” is one of his best works for many years. In some ways it comes over as a combination of the strongest elements of his last few albums without any of those album’s weaknesses.

The album is not distributed through normal retail channels, but is only available directly, either through Fish’s website, or at his gigs.

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Fish – Feast of Consequences Promo

Fish has released a promo for his new album “Feast of Consequences”. The pre-orders should be shipping in a couple of week’s time.

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Fish to tour UK again in May 2014

Fish at Bilston Robin 2

Fish has announced another UK tour in May 2014

2 Seffield Ballroom
3 Liverpool Academy
4 Durham Gala Theatre
6 Wolves Robin 2, Bilston
8 Norwich Waterfront
9 London Islington Assembly Hall
10 Cardiff Globe
11 Bristol Fleece
13 Brighton Concorde
15 Exeter Phoenix
16 Northampton Roadmender
17 Holmfirth Picturedome
18 Glasgow ABC

This follows on from his very success UK tour this May, and his extensive European tour this Autumn.

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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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