Prove your humanity

@ Newcastle Riverside, November 21 2011

At 6ft5in, Fish is a colossus. So much so that whilst having a quiet pre-gig pint in Newcastle’s Crown Posada, he managed to whack his head off a doorframe – not that it detracted from a towering performance.

Since leaving Marillion in 1988, former frontman Fish has been a regular visitor to North East shores and he cast a typically poetic net over a captivated Newcastle audience. 

Performing an acoustic set of classic Marillion songs – alongside tracks from his ever impressive solo portfolio – this was always going to appeal to the eager Riverside masses.

Fish’s band, consisting only of Gateshead-born guitarist Frank Usher and fellow Scot Foss Patterson on keyboards, managed to create a massive sound that would have filled venues in Newcastle 10 times bigger than this tiny quayside club.

The stripped down versions of Marillion standards went down well but it was the Fish solo material that sent the die-hard Fish-Heads into raptures. Taking requests from the crowd throughout and duly performing them, he delighted the 300-strong gathering.

Throughout the 80s Marillion were constantly compared to pre-Collins Genesis and Fish, in particular, has regularly been compared to Peter Gabriel. These days, his stage performance is more Gabriel than Gabriel. The absence of a drummer gives the singer all the room he needs to spin his ample frame accompanied with extravagant hand movements.

Poetic tales of heartbreak and despair are Fish’s trademark but they’re interlaced with witty and political banter between songs. Lyrics he penned back in the early 80s are even more relevant now. Fugazi, written on a Tube journey across London in 1983 saw Fish makes social and political observations which are every bit as valid now as they were then.

After politely asking people not to talk during songs or take flash photographs, the big man wandered from the stage to perform Vigil, comfortable amongst his congregation and shaking hands with everyone he met.

Not playing your biggest tune usually causes unrest among the audience and Fish has probably dreamt of the day when he doesn’t have to perform Marillion’s almost-number-one hit single Kayleigh. Here, because of the sheer power of his performance, its absence was barely noticed.

The only catch was that the show was way too short. ‘Leave them wanting more’ is the old adage, and as Fish finally departed the quayside, the audience were left to pick the bones out of another colossal performance.

Dave Mitcheson