Marillion’s third live concert DVD in recent years (dating back to 2005′s Marbles On The Road) is a radical departure from both of its predecessors.
Filmed on the final night of the Less Is More tour — which took its name from Marillion’s 2009 album of the same name, and featuring stripped down recreations of previously released songs from the progressive rock band’s vast back catalog — Live From Cadogan Hall is still much more than the simple acoustic concert document you might think.
There is a whole lot more going on here than your standard two hours featuring a bunch of guys sitting on stools strumming folk guitars, and as a concert film, Live From Cadogan Hall leaves you with the inescapable feeling of having just witnessed something quite special.
The cathedral like ambiance of London’s prestigious Cadogan Hall also makes for an appropriately elegant backdrop — especially during this DVD’s many overhead shots showing a giant Christmas tree perched high above the band (the concert was filmed back in December 2009).
One of the first things you notice about this concert though, is the number of diverse, unusual instruments being played by the musicians on the stage.
These are things you wouldn’t normally associate with a rock concert at all. There are xylophones, glockenspiels, dulcimers, celestes — there is even an autoharp which keyboardist Mark Kelly at one point claims to have built himself.
All manner of percussion instruments — bells, chimes, wooden blocks and the like — are also prevalent in this concert. They are not only played by monster drummer Ian Mosley either, but rather at one point or another by all five members of Marillion.
The thing is, all of these exotic instruments serve as far more than just window dressing for this concert. Marillion make fabulous use of all of them throughout, showing off their musical chops in ways that are only hinted at in the more grandiose progressive rock recordings the band is so much better known for.
From the oriental motifs of “Interior Lulu” to the lighter shades provided by Kelly’s xylophone on “Hard As Love,” this album is above all else a showcase for Marillion as a band of fabulous musicians. Even vastly underrated bassist Pete Trewavas gets a moment to shine here, turning in a series of fabulous sounding runs on “The Space,” rumbling just underneath the tandem of Kelly’s jazzy keys and Steve Rothery’s gorgeous guitar.
Speaking of Rothery, although the guitarist is better known for the soaring, Pink Floydian heights he normally reaches with Marillion, his guitar work here is no less worthy. With the smaller arrangements heard here, Rothery is able to display a more subdued, but no less powerful and intricate side of his considerable guitar prowess. Lest anyone worry though, Rothery finally cuts loose with a ripping solo on the second disc closer “Three Minute Boy.”
The setlist on Live From Cadogan Hall is also one sure to please Marillion fans. In addition to the entire Less Is More album — including new versions of everything from their earliest songs after Steve “H” Hogarth replaced original vocalist Fish in 1989 (“The Space”) to more recent material from the group’s 2008 double-disc Happiness Is The Road (“Wrapped Up In Time”) — the second disc includes new takes on songs like “You’re Gone,” Marillion’s near hit from the 2004 prog opus Marbles.
There aren’t really any extras to speak of on this DVD, and that’s okay. The 127 minutes of exquisite music here should be plenty enough to satisfy fans of the band, and for anyone willing to gamble twenty bucks, perhaps make them a few new ones as well.
The DTS Digital Sound Mix captures every musically nuanced highlight of this great concert (and there are plenty of them). The high definition video, while shot rather simply, is tasteful and straight forward, concentrating on the musicians onstage as well it should.
Marillion’s Live From Cadogan Hall will be out on double disc DVD and Blu-ray on March 29, 2011, as well as on a double disc audio CD.