13.04.2012 - London O2 Academy Islington Live Reviews
If you have a review of any of the gigs on the current tour, please send them to firstname.lastname@example.org. Pictures? Check out welovemarion.blogspot.co.uk
First - a good review of the London gig over at NME.com.
And here's another one!
Marion, O2 Academy Islington, London
Thursday 12th April 2012
by Jevron McCrory
If there was ever a defining moment in music history of a singular band not being appreciated in their own time, Marion would surely be the forerunners for that accolade.
Exploding on to the media-created-sub-culture 'Britpop' scene in the early nineties, Marion brought with them edgy riffs, an infectious energy and an undeniable charm that saw them become, by mere word of mouth, the most blistering live act around. They won fans the pure way, through amazing performances. I was lucky enough to be exposed to Marion the first time supporting Radiohead at The Kentish Town Forum in London in May of 1995 and they blew me away. This was before I became a musician myself and that night, Marion truly taught me the power of live performance. They blew Radiohead off the stage that night. No mean feat.
So I was overjoyed to hear that they had reformed. After two albums (one graciously received, the other virtually unnoticed at the time), a handful of B-sides and even fewer rare acoustic recordings, I was eager to expand my Marion collection. It also seemed the perfect time to return, modern music clearly needed a suitable kick up the posterior. I booked my tickets, grabbed one for a friend who had no idea who Marion were, and shot down to the O2 Academy in Islington, London, hoping desperately the youthful, energetic band from my impressionable youth still retained that mule-like kick.
I needn't have worried. Marion took the stage with that iconic swagger I remembered fondly from back in the day. My fears of having dragged my mate down to see a band who may only be able to briefly imitate their earlier spirit dispersed immediately as Fallen Through kicked in. If there's a better gig opener, I don't want to hear it.
They were back. Older, hopefully wiser, it was the Marion I remembered. All charm and punch, all passion and vigour with zero filler. My mate turned to me after one song and nodded. It was a rave review from him, and it hadn't even been hard earned.
Jaime Harding, decked out in red shirt and black suit, seemed more like he was welcoming old friends into his living room than playing a comeback gig. If he was nervous, it didn't show. His vocals still soared and his cheeky wit hadn't diminished with time. Flanked on both sides by original members Anthony 'Beard' Grantham and Phil Cunningham, Jaime allowed his demons to soar away with every euphoric note he sang. Far away from the much publicised battle with heroin, here was a singer in his natural habitat, on stage where he belonged, alcoholic beverage front and centre in one hand.
He could afford to play it cool. With Grantham and Cunningham, he had two guitarists so in tune with each other, they barely needed to think about it. (Check out the intro to The Biggest Painkiller Of All for an example). I was especially charmed by how they had so effortlessly switched roles, Cunningham now taking certain specific leads that had so exclusively belonged to Grantham, and Grantham taking on rhythm. It was a subtle trick I hadn't expected. I doubt many hardcore Marion devotees even noticed! Cunningham, now on Epiphone (what happened to the Telecasters, Phil?) had calmed down somewhat since the heady days when he would spin like a dervish, yet he still seemed unable to hold back his extrovert personalities, especially at the apex of the E-minor middle eight section of I Stopped Dancing where a jump always proved essential. By contrast, Grantham's live-on-stage demeanour seemed to have livened. The bearded, long haired one would usually stand stock still and occasionally flick his mane out of his face as he laid down solid flourishes and lead intricacies. Here, we saw him moving, dancing and generally having the time of his life, playing and hitting his guitar with all manner of inventive hand styles, ripping every available sound out of his instrument. It's Grantham's leads that give Marion's sound it's depth in my opinion.
Behind this whirl-a-gig of fun and confidence came the two newest members of Marion, Julian Phillips and Jack Mitchell, bass and drums respectively. Phillips reminded me of the quintessential bassist, rock solid and dependable. With a musical knowledge and experience that led to him having produced and mixed the most recent live album, Alive In Manchester, you'd have to look hard to find a bassist more steady, more accomplished than Phillips, and he did it all with a smirk on his face, as if he knew a joke you didn't. A brilliant addition. (Phillips, please include the bass roll flourish of seven notes from the intro to Fallen Through that was on the album? I think you would rock it! It was a lovely fill). I admit I was apprehensive about Marion's new drummer. Their original member, Murad Mousa, had been an absolute powerhouse on the drums, capable of rolls and fill ins Oasis wouldn't know what to do with, yet Jack Mitchell quickly did away with my concerns with the very first song. Fallen Through needed to kick, and kick it did. I think he actually hits the snare harder than Mousa, for this we should all be grateful.
Taking old material and blending it gracefully with the new, Marion put together a thoughtful and cohesive set list for their come back. Starting strong with two stompers, they quickly displayed new song Oh Lord, alongside lesser known gem Sparkle, before raising the bar again with classic, Time. Only a truly great band could have the balls to finish a set with three new songs before finally, obviously, closing their set with their biggest hit to date, Sleep. It paid off dividends, succeeding in making the crowd their most animated the whole night. It was a glorious finish to a glorious come back performance that was long over due.
Me personally, I felt vindicated. I had told my friend how awesome Marion were and he had shown reluctance to believe me. My fears of time having dampened the songs' power felt stupid in the light of such a triumphant return to the stage. I lost my cool a few times in my excitement and had to shout out a few things to the band, 'Good to have you back, Marion!' (which nicely got a roar of approval) and a cheeky request for Chance, my favourite Marion B-side. Forgive me, boys, I figured you would humour me!
In closing, it was a pleasure to have witnessed a band that still retain so much of their unique appeal and it's been a pleasure to write this review. They say good art is effortless. If Marion are guilty of any crime, it's that they seem to have too much fun doing what other bands would have to work hard to achieve. Marion, welcome back! We've missed you!