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Marbles in the Park
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  • This live set was recorded at the Marillion Weekend at Center Parcs, Port Zelande, Netherlands on March 21, 2015. The event happens every couple of years, and over its three evenings, the group plays at least one -- if not two -- of its studio albums in full. For instance, while this date features the entire Marbles album (its complete double-disc version), Marillion performed the entire Anoraknophobia recording on the evening before. The last, Singles Night, featured performances of singles from the Fish era to the present. Marbles in the Park is available as a double disc and a double DVD/Blu-ray. It is the only one of these three concerts available from commercial retail outlets; the other two can be purchased solely from the band's website. Musically, Marbles is one of Marillion's most discussed recordings and might be considered an odd choice for a retrospective concert. It's moodier and decidedly more laid-back than the albums surrounding it, the aforementioned Anoraknophobia from 2001 and 2007's Somewhere Else. While the visuals available on the video discs certainly add to the power of Marbles in the Park, the stellar sound quality and the band's inspired performance (which clearly feeds off the audience's devotion) combine to deliver a magnificent live album. This is Marillion showcasing the most accessible side of their progressive sound. Vocalist Steve Hogarth is in excellent form delivering the poetic lyrics in "Fantastic Place," "Ocean Cloud," and "Neverland," with commitment and enough authority to get them across as anything but pretentious. On 14-minute opener "The Invisible Man,' his falsetto is gently urged forward by Steve Rothery's startling guitar playing and Mark Kelly's illustrative, painterly keyboards. The rhythm section of bassist Pete Trewavas and drummer Ian Mosley are among the very best in rock -- progressive or otherwise. As a unit, they provide much more than a foundation; they are Marillion's engine. On "You're Gone," amid loops, live drum layers, warm slide guitars, and swirling synths, Hogarth ratchets up the passion in every verse, as the band's backing vocal chorus touches on gospel as well as the Anglican hymn tradition. Trewavas' bassline is songlike throughout; he comes to the fore and shines along with Hogarth at the very end. The encores on disc two include readings of "Out of This World" and "King" from Afraid of Sunlight, and the title track from the 2014's Sounds That Can't Be Made. This may be a document intended for the Marillion faithful -- who are a hardcore as well as critically discerning lot -- but its attraction quotient should appeal to a wide variety of rock fans. In this live presentation, Marbles reaches further than its studio origins to become a nearly transcendent listening experience. ~ Thom Jurek
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