Marillion Weekend Theatre L'Olympia, Montreal QC April 3 to 5

Marillion Weekend Theatre L'Olympia, Montreal QC April 3 to 5
After finding success doing European conventions bi-annually since 2001, UK rockers Marillion finally attempted to pull off a North American edition. Instead of taking over a holiday camp like back home, they instead did a three-night stand at Montreal's historic Olympia, offering up completely different sets each night.

Friday saw the band celebrate the 20th anniversary of their Season's End album by performing it (and its B-sides) in its entirety. After a short break they returned to play a handful of selections off their latest Happiness Is The Road, including a monstrous version of the moody "Asylum Satellite #1" featuring a ripping guitar solo by Steve Rothery. The night was the most average of the three; it seemed like they were only warming up, as they really hit their stride on the second night.

After strong opening sets by Rothery's side project the Wishing Tree and U.S. trio Sun Domingo, the second night was done in descending chronological order from 2008 backwards. One song from each year meant some albums received more than one selection, but each of the Steve Hogarth era albums (minus Season's End) was represented.

A number of tracks played were ones that had rarely been heard live, such as "Fantastic Place," while others were established fan favourites like "Estonia" and "Afraid Of Sunlight." The latter proved so popular that despite coming mid-set the group were given a loud, rousing standing ovation by the 1700-plus in attendance that was so passionate the band themselves were taken aback by it, not knowing what to say except to look at each other and just soak it all in.

After finishing the Hogarth albums the quintet even dipped into a few songs from the Fish-fronted era, including "Slainte Mhath" and "Garden Party" as encores. Sunday would need something extraordinary to surpass this.

For the third and final night Marillion pulled out all the stops. Announcing they were going to play their shortest set list ever, the band proceeded to play their longest songs, none of which were shorter than 12 minutes. Indeed, it was ten songs/suites in just under three hours, including the rarely performed tracks "Ocean Cloud" and "Interior Lulu" alongside most of side one from 1985's seminal Misplaced Childhood. All were unbelievable.

This festival wasn't done to win new converts, but it did ensure long-lasting memories for the diehard fans in attendance, including yours truly.
(Photo by Benoit Mahe)