Fish

Venue : The Peel, Kingston-upon-Thames , London
Date : Monday 16 August 2010
Date of writing this review : 3 September 2010


This really was back to the 80s for me – Twelfth Night on the Saturday and now Fish on the Monday, both at The Peel, the venue I consider to be the modern-day Marquee.  And The Peel was packed on a Monday night – if we can just get those people to come and see some of the new bands appearing down there at the moment we might actually have yet another vibrant live Prog scene…  This was one in a series of scaled down acoustic gigs for Fish, in smaller venues, featuring just himself, Frank Usher on guitar and Foss Peterson on keyboards not a bad little trio !  Apparently, if you were listening very closely, Twang was playing a pre-release copy of The Big Red Spark, the forthcoming new album from Tinyfish, before the gig started – if, like me, you managed not to hear it as the venue filled, then you can now hear it on The European Perspective, and it is well worth a listen.

Fish comes on with a “good evening, Kingston-upon-Thames” and sings alone through the middle part of Plague Of Ghosts (III) Chocolate Frogs, giving a completely different feel to the sound from the version on Raingods With Zippos, a much more raw sound, deeper, his accent thicker, accentuated, full of emotion, and it builds to a huge finish, and Frank and Foss come on.  If you have read one of my gig reviews before then you will know I try to detail the between song banter, but I have to admit defeat with this one – Fish just talks too much and on too many different topics between songs, showing that regardless of setting or type of gig some things never change – and may that always be the case with him !  So, in general, at this point he talked about conspiracy theories and we finally got to State Of Mind, the first of four tracks in the set from his debut solo album, Vigil In A Wilderness Of Mirrors, a full, rounded piano sound from the keyboards as the guitar circles melodic, and Fish sings in and it sways along with flourishes from Frank, who is sitting on a stool for the performance.  It is a wonderful sound they are producing, the real core of the song as it shuffles along and becomes a little discordant, adding a harder feel as the vocals become more direct, before pausing into high, pointed piano, with a guitar part which fourishes and then flows through, and it fades to a close.  An excellent tone has been set for the evening and this is clearly going to be a lot of fun.  Fish seems very relaxed and is obviously enjoying himself, saying “only worry when I start drinking directly from the bottle” before he tells us that his ex, Katie, lives close to this venue, prompting a shout from the audience, “is it the block of flats which has been burned down”.  She is in the business of property development and when they saw on the sat-nav that the location of The Peel is KT1 he thought ‘she’s bought an entire postal code !’  They continue with Somebody Special, the first of three tracks in the set from Suits, the guitar circling fast as the piano ripples through and then moves into big, deep chords.  It shuffles along with the guitar strumming hard, driving on uptempo, the piano sound jazzy and pointed, rattling into some Americana guitar rolling fast, rising into a huge sound, which then dies down and holds as the vocals ease through, before a rounded sound pushes off again, running into high piano and the vocals to fade out.  Hows the bees ?  Feck em !  They continue with Jumpsuit City, another from Suits, and the keyboards roll in deep against the staccato guitar before it eases along with tumbling piano, a drifting sound with an edge, before Fish forgets the words but the music continues with bluesy piano, and Fish cannot find the correct songsheet and is throwing some others away to the back of the stage in his frantic search, before he joins back in with the drifting, bluesy sound, then has another look and finds the correct sheet.  The guitar shuffles through fast as Frank picks hard, and it pushes on with high keyboard notes, the guitar strumming through, picking hard again as the sound flows high, piercing out before it fades down to deep vocals and comes to a close.

The banter comes round to Grendel and Fish says they have been rehearsing it before Frank moves into the opening phrase.  Fish sings in, the piano rolls on and the crowd sing along.  It is really building as it gets to signal ending tasks and then stops…I think thats as far as we got, actually.  “Feck off !  Fish is loving this close-up experience, I like seeing the pink,” and you can tell the crowd are loving it just as much as deep piano chords pushing against strumming guitar take us into Slainte Mhath, from my favourite Marillion album, Clutching At Straws.  It rolls along upbeat before Fish shouts in and it moves to a guitar part with a screeching edge as the crowd clap along with the rich, powerful sound before they also sing in with it, everyone being brought into this experience, unable to resist, if they even wanted to, with the guitar now circling sharply, slightly discordant, as the sound grows again and Fish shouts out once more, full of emotion, pushing against the guitar as Frank strums on the neck, and the deep piano notes, and it feels like they have changed the arrangement of the track so it flows from the powerful blasting part of the track to an end and huge applause.  Foss suggest the next one should be an epic.  There is a cry of “Grendel” from a voice in the crowd.  Frank circles through on the guitar as Fish talks, telling us about a memorial service he will be performing at in Edinburgh on 11 September, and how he had wondered long and hard about which track to perform, before finally deciding on the title track from his debut solo album, Vigil In A Wilderness Of Mirrors.  The piano sound tumbles through and the guitar gently picks into it, and Fish sings into the delicate sound as it eases along, very deliberate, as a deeper keyboard sound rolls through and echoes to fade.  The guitar circles in with a flourish as the vocals gradually grow, and high guitar pierces through as the vocals soar from the atmospheric sound.  It pauses, before the guitar strums through hard, repeating, the crowd clapping along and then quietening as Fish sings into the harder driving sound with deeper keyboards blasting through, and as the vocals grow the keyboards flow in with the guitar strumming hard and pushing, and a rich, rounded sound rolls out of the chorus.  The guitar slides in high and sharp with some screech through the strings, rolling with the deep keyboard sound as the vocals flow back in and the track sways along, the guitar repeating and the keyboards heavy in waves, rolling along into the chorus again.  Then Frank is strumming on the neck of the guitar as the track races away with the vocals powerful, pushing out, hitting into sudden, sharp, spitting words, before it pauses.  Then the keyboards twinkle with guitar flourishes, the vocals ease in again, and it rolls off once more before gradually easing down into silence which is greeted with clapping and cheering from the crowd, until Fish ends with “I listen to the crowd” and there is more cheering as the keyboards and guitar ripple through.  “So that’s the epic done”, and the banter leads into the statement that “Steve Rothery and Ian Mosley are facebook sluts,” with Frank again playing around on the guitar as Fish talks – it is such a relaxed atmosphere.  They continue with Zoe 25 from his most recent album, 13th Star, which was a real return to form, in my humble opinion.  The guitar circles in now alongside individual notes from the keyboard, with Fish singing on top, his words moving faster than the music below them as the piano now ripples through against the circling guitar.  The track eases along gently, gradually growing into a full, rounded, melodic sound which pushes along with the piano part really reaching out, before it eases, then grows again and rolls away, moving along with the piano rippling through and the guitar sound repeating, the vocals still on top of it all, flowing along.  A deeper piano part comes in and the guitar sound develops with it as the vocals push out harder, more emotional, driving it on hard with that full, rounded sound again, before rippling piano eases us to the end.  Frank leaves the stage with a “best of luck then,” and Fish dedicates A Gentleman’s Excuse Me “Mickey, this is for you, mate“ before he and Foss continue on, the piano easing in high.  Fish now sings along with the gently rolling piano which gradually grows, adding big chords as it moves into the chorus, then pushes on with a full, rounded, melodic sound, and the selection of tracks they are playing tonight really lend themselves to that type of wonderful sound.  It rolls into the chorus again and then soars out before easing down to a fading end.

Frank comes back on to the stage and Foss is clearly having a think about what to do next before the piano flows in high to begin Lady Let It Lie.  Frank picks out his part and works it as Fish sings in upbeat and the track flows away in waves with deeper parts rolling through from the piano.  The sound grows and pushes along before easing into rolling piano and a developing guitar sound, then Fish sings into it again as it bounces away.  The guitar is strumming through hard as the piano flows fast and jumpy, before the track settles then pushes on, rolling hard into the chorus, bouncing along with the big piano sound within the hard guitar strumming.  Then it eases into higher, twinkling piano with gentle guitar flourishes, the vocals flowing on top as it fades to an end.  “Everyone ok ?” and it is a silly question because it is perfectly apparent that everyone is far more than simply ok and very much enjoying this experience.  Fish reveals that he is a marzipan addict and the idea of a 3-tier wedding cake makes him think…”brilliant !”  They continue with Family Business, the piano rolling in as the guitar pushes through and echoes, the vocals flowing deep into that sound, and the big sound they create pushes along with flourishes from the piano as it sways.  It pauses, before a deep piano sound drives it on, the vocals growing as the guitar sound develops and it rolls into a huge, powerful sound with forceful vocals.  The guitar strums through with flowing, rich piano, the two of them developing together as the sound grows louder, and then settles as the vocals push back in, swaying along hard as it builds again, pounding on with the vocals soaring, before settling once more, the piano circling as the guitar develops with little screeches from the strings, and the vocals ease in again and it rolls on, deep vocals fading it to an end with ripples from the piano and guitar.  Fish mentions that Mark Wilkinson is in the crowd, and I am sure I also notice Ian Jones from Karnataka.  Fish continues, “I’m a Scotsman and I’ve been like that since I was a kid” as we get to Just Good Friends (Close) from Internal Exile.  A big, deep piano sound opens with the circling guitar and Fish sings into the rounded sound as it sways along with his vocals emotional.  Frank picks out a high part on the guitar as Foss rolls through another deep piano part, and the guitar develops and flows, adding little flourishes as the piano moves higher, into more pointed notes, and then the sound settles, drifts, as Fish sings into it and guitar flourishes slide through.  It builds and drives along with a rich sound as the vocals soar out, the guitar strumming hard now and the piano rolling away as the track pushes on, blasting out before easing down, fading with his voice, and then ripples of sound through the applause.

Next up is (I believe) a cover of Willin’, a song from Little Feat, which Fish dedicates to Richie Hayward, their founding member and drummer who died just a few days earlier.  It shuffles in with a rounded, tumbling sound, easing along with Fish singing high on top, an organ sound from the keyboards as Frank picks out a part on the guitar, developing it high and rolling it on as Fish’ voice grows into the song and becomes louder, before it settles into Frank picking out another part and piano ripples take us to the end.  “I wrote this with a guy called John Wesley,” says Fish, talking about The Pilgrim’s Address from the Fellini Days album, and he talks about how he wanted to join the army in his youth, “I wanted to be in tanks because I thought ‘fuck it, I’m not walking anywhere’.  “This is dedicated to people who have served in uniform.  This is a song I give to the army.”  The guitar strums in hard, the sound reverberating through the packed venue, and Fish sings on top of the sound which now echoes.  It gradually builds, with the vocals becoming more forceful, deep keyboards pounding in as the vocals soar out, keyboard flourishes start to push through and then it pauses to silence.  His vocals ease back in, the guitar strums hard with high, trembling piano, joined by deeper keyboard chords, and the vocals burst through.  The huge sound they have now created drives on to fade to applause, before Fish continues singing with just the guitar strumming, deep keyboards rolling in again as the vocals soar out once more, and it eases into twinkling piano to end.  Fish most definitely likes The Peel, telling us “it’s got an old Marquee vibe and it’s like a rebirth”, and he adds, “I like this format, I like this size, I like this contact”, and it is abundantly clear that the crowd feel exactly the same way.  They finish the set with one of my favourite Marillion tracks, the title track from their second album, Fugazi.  Foss plays in on piano, reading the music from a written sheet, producing sinister bass notes, treble notes on edge.  The guitar circles in and Fish sings along to the deep piano sound, and the crowd sing along to every word.  The track is stripped down, raw, moving in sharp bursts, vibrant and dynamic, and as the guitar strums through the crowd begin to clap along and the piano rolls.  Fish sings on top as we continue to clap, and the piano moves deeper, the guitar picking into it before the track pounds along uptempo.  Then it holds.  The guitar strums with the deep piano sound, some higher piano flourishes flowing through, the crowd clapping as the track holds through the spoken word part.  The guitar strums hard and melodic, piano bursts are both high and deep and are mixed with wonderfully sinister deeper notes, and as it moves along the crowd are singing every word again, keeping it going as it drifts with a huge purpose within it, treble ripples coming through from the keyboards before a sudden change of tempo and the clapping pushes it on as it rumbles away with the guitar strumming and the piano rolling.  It moves into the epic finale with the crowd chanting and clapping, adding two massive rounds of singing before the music itself ripples to an end and a roar of applause, which is sustained as they leave the stage and maintained until they come back.  And I must be getting soft in my old age – the written sheet of music was on the corner of the keyboard and I held it up so Neil could take a photo of it.  Back in my Marquee days Foss would never have seen that again – well, not until I turned up at a gig and asked him to sign it !  But here I was putting it back safely on the corner of the keyboards.

I will admit it, I just do not like Kayleigh and Lavender.  I never did much in the first place, always preferring side 2 of Misplaced Childhood, and over time any liking I did have for them has disappeared.  So I had said to some people before this evening that I hoped they would not feature in the set.  Welcome to my encore from Hell !  Frank begins Kayleigh , easing in on guitar and then strumming on before he picks a part as the keyboards shuffle in with it, and Fish sings on top.  All around me are enjoying this while I am left with my thoughts of the majesty of Fugazi.  Frank picks out the solo wonderfully as deep keyboards roll under it, and the crowd sing along to the final verse with the keyboards pushing through hard.  Of course, by now I know what is coming next.  “English summer.  The sound of willow being whacked across the backside of some young boy.”  I will admit I was not expecting that.  And Fish continues to talk as the piano repeats high until he sings into the melody of Lavender, the guitar picking gently as the crowd sing along once more.  The piano sound grows as the guitar strums through and pushes on as Fish introduces Frank, and Frank picks out a different part, and then Fish introduces Foss, and Foss rolls out a little piano flourish before taking it higher with a bassline rumbling under.  It settles and eases down into clapping from the crowd, the guitar and the piano rolling through their themes, and Fish sings into it and his singing flows with the sound from the crowd before soaring, then fading into ripples to close it out to huge applause.  They leave the stage and the crowd take up the chant of Geeza Bun.

Fish picks up a new bottle of wine from the bar as they come back on.  “I want to keep on doing this because it’s fun !”  Then “this is for you” as the guitar strums in melodically to begin Sugar Mice, with the keyboards coming in high with it.  Fish sings and everybody sings with him as it gently sways along with twinkling, treble piano notes, and Fish’ voice sounds really at home within this sound, and has sounded great all evening.  The guitar strums harder and is joined by deep piano chords as the track rumbles away, Fish singing into the racing sound.  It settles into rippling piano and strumming guitar and he sings into that sound, singing with circling guitar and piano flourishes until it moves into silence.  Then Fish is singing with a rolling piano sound and the crowd are singing along with him as the track fades into just his vocals, and then the guitar strums and the piano ripples through to bring a memorable evening to a close.  Memorable not just for us fans, as Fish says, “thanks for reminding me what this is all about,” and I am pretty sure he said something about coming back in December – the queue for tickets starts here !

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