Judge Adam Arseneau remembers chalk hearts melting on a playground wall.
Live from Cadogan Hall.
Marillion may be the uncoolest band in the world. Formed in 1979 during the a British neo-progressive rock revival, the band has doggedly endured a reputation over the decades as a painfully obsolete lumbering musical dinosaur, an imitator of Peter Gabriel-era Genesis with long hair and face paint, singing songs about goblins. In actuality, the band stopped all that nonsense years ago, and got on with business releasing album after album of evolving music. Thirty years later, they continue to enjoy dominance on the U.K. music charts. Their live shows rank as some of the finest in the world. And yet, the uncool reputation persists; a chronic histamine allergy to popularity and coolness. If Rodney Dangerfield had a favorite band, it would be Marillion—they just get no respect.
Marillion: Live from Cadogan Hall captures the band during its 2009 "Less Is More" tour, playing reworked acoustic versions of past hits with singer Steve Hogarth, recorded in London, UK.
As concert DVDs go, Marillion: Live from Cadogan Hall is a slow-paced and intimate affair, a large rock band stripped down to simple acoustics in a small venue the size of a church. Aside from a few artistic lighting backdrops and close camera angles, there is little flair or finesse in the production, but none is required. One expects acoustic sets to be low-key and soft-spoken. All members of the band are multi-instrumentalists, playing everything from guitars to xylophones, zithers to samplers and everything in between.
I confess to not being familiar with Marillion prior to this DVD. Being a North American, I can be forgiven for this sin. The band has enjoyed staying power in Europe, but never made any impact on this side of the pond. It is admittedly hard to judge how well their sound translates to acoustic, having never heard their electric, but it doesn't take Lester Bangs to tell you that Marillion know how to write a beautiful song. Melodic and heartfelt lyrics meld seamlessly with gentle acoustic guitar riffs, pianos and xylophones and light drumming. If this band started out as a progressive rock outfit playing songs about goblins, nothing shows in this modern incarnation. These are pleasant songs, simplistic in structure but complex in melody—not my cup of tea, but inoffensive and pleasing to the ear.
Eagle Rock Entertainment presents Marillion: Live from Cadogan Hall in a less-than-perfect anamorphic widescreen transfer, the concert split across two discs (a DVD9 and a DVD5). The set is dimly lit, with heavy shadows that are muddled by grainy black levels that are more gray than black. Red tones bleed terribly into other colors, eating up the color spectrum. Detail is solid, but the presentation is awash with jagged edges and aliasing. Audio comes in a straightforward PCM stereo presentation and a DTS 5.1 track. Like other Eagle Rock DVDs, the DTS track is a raging beast: full bass, clear vocals, crisp guitars, and a pleasing fidelity in tone. The PCM presentation gets the job done, but lacks the sparkle and clarity of the DTS track.
As a musical outsider, it feels strange to pass a verdict on Marillion: Live from Cadogan Hall. This is an intimate presentation of an intimate band with a passionate fan base cultivated and nurtured over three decades of musical evolution. It feels like coming into the end of a movie, right before the credits roll, then being asked to review the film as a whole. It is hard to know how the Marillion in 2009 have changed from the Marillion of 1979, but judged upon its own merits, this is a solid acoustic performance from a talented and gifted group of musicians.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Eagle Rock Entertainment
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