Review: Marillion, Support Antimatter, St David’s Hall, Cardiff, 17th November 2021
Reviewer: Chris O’Connor
So, my first gig in forever, and it’s to see the always astonishing Marillion! Awesome. Not so awesome is a 182mile round trip in a small underpowered car that won’t do more than 60mph (with a strong tailwind behind it!). I arrive in Cardiff already tired and uncomfortable … more on that later. I’m also anxious, as the tickets allegedly sent in the post – have simply failed to materialise. Thankfully the hall staff are helpful and sort me with replacements with no issues – and weirdly without asking for any ID or proof of purchase! Anyway, crisis averted, and Gary Clarke (my fellow traveller) and I are safely in. Once inside, almost no one is masked – which makes me nervous (I have a compromised immune system), however there’s no point worrying now.
It would be fair to say that Covid has affected ticket sales, as the hall is nowhere near full. We are up in the balcony, and all around us, there are seats going begging. Unfortunately, directly in front of us are three absolute cretins … more on them shortly. We are at the bar, which is three whole levels beneath our seats in the hall, when suddenly the intercom booms into life, ‘three minutes to show time’ – hang on! that’s barely adequate, but we just about make it in nonetheless.
Promptly at 7.30, Antimatter shuffle on to the stage. At the time I had no idea who they were, as they weren’t advertised on the bill. Anyway, researching after, I discover they were briefly ‘famous’ for having ex-Anathama man Duncan Patterson as a member about a decade ago. Tonight ‘they’ are a duo, Mick Moss on acoustic guitars and vocals, and Dave Hall on electric guitars. The audience greets them politely enough, and for the next half hour or so they ply their trade pleasantly enough. I’m going to be honest here, my scribbled notes tell me I found them ‘very earnest’ but without much stage presence. They describe their music as ‘Dark Rock’ and ‘Shoegaze’ – now maybe as a full band the music works with more drama? But here they were (for me anyway) frankly indifferent. ‘I love you’ yells a seemingly drunk woman behind us – repeatedly and annoyingly after a while. SHUT UP! I will next point out the other issue with this venue. Next to the Buxton Opera House, St David’s Hall has what must be THE most uncomfortable seats in the UK! Bloody hell.
As the houselights went down for the main event, a genuine roar went up, and the Aylesbury boys took to the stage fairly brimming with good natured energy and bonhomie, and for the next two hours, it is time to party. Frontman Steve Hogarth is like Peter Pan or Dorian Gray – he never seems to age … honestly, it’s almost unnatural! The band hits ‘Sounds That Can’t Be Made’, and the audience erupts … it’s a genuinely heartfelt reaction, and the band are clearly very gratified. Next is the epic ‘King’ and the band is now in imperious form. Hogarth dances down to the front of the stage, with bass guitarist Pete Trewavas also happily throwing shapes stage left, he’s a constant bundle of energy throughout the show.
Directly in front of us, two ginger cretins sandwich a loud woman who seems hell bent on talking all through the set. The three of them spend literally the entire concert either on Facebook or WhatsApp – I can’t help but see, as the bloody screens glare up at us. When they are not on social media, they are watching the gig through their phones, seemingly filming, then annoyingly showing each other! Look you fuckwits – you’re two feet apart, why show each other the same fucking thing! Put your fucking phones away and just watch the fucking gig! Bastards!
‘Afraid Of Sunlight’ is next, the band bathed in beautiful lights that match the emotion of this song, which is contrasted by the arrival of the drama that is ‘The Party’, which is simply wonderful. One of my personal favourites arrives in the form of ‘You’re Gone’, Steve Rothery’s shimmering guitar shining here. Mark Kelly and Ian Mosley watch over proceedings from their raised platforms, Mark surrounded by his keyboards on three sides, and Ian with his headphones firmly in place, behind his glass acoustic shield. There is lots of good-natured banter between Hogarth and the audience, he clearly delights in the interplay.
Now the stage lights dim to back, and the ghostly opening chords of ‘Bridge’ echo out, this segues immediately into the powerful ‘Living With The Big Lie’, which in turn leads in to ‘Runaway’. I’d be totally happy if they kept playing songs from the immaculate ‘Brave’ Magnum Opus, but the band have so many albums to cover, including something from the forthcoming ‘An Hour Before It’s Dark’. From this new album we are treated to the epic ‘Be Hard On Yourself’ with it’s pointed lyric, the song is greeted as if an old friend, Hogarth gleefully teases that it’s not even the best song on the new album!
Next comes a breathless take on ‘Berlin’, which is greeted with another huge roar, before the band tears into a triumphant ‘The Release’, before the set finally closes with a spellbinding rendition of ‘Neverland’. Between cheering and clapping, it’s all I can do not to neck punch the cretins in front … who are oblivious to the nuisance they are still causing on their phones. The band leaves the stage to thunderous applause, and I wonder to myself what two or so songs they might encore with … silly me!
The band return, and it’s quickly obvious it’s going to be a marathon encore set. It’s time for ‘FEAR’, and the band play all five parts of ‘The Leavers’ from this album … it’s a genuinely dazzling display both aurally and visually. Surely that HAS to be it? Yes, the band leave the stage, but are then enticed back on by a baying audience, and as a thank you, play wonderful versions of first ‘Easter’ then finally ‘Made Again’ before exiting the stage for good. This was a wonderful gig marred by inbred fuckwits who should be chemically castrated so their idiocy can’t spread any further, and by seats from hell … Lucifer himself would be proud to have such implements of suffering in his domain! Thank you Marillion – you remain flawless and peerless.