In some ways this review is easy - a high quality official live CD (Derek Dick & His Amazing Electric Bear) is available to use as reference material (link below) - while the fact that the shows happened ten year ago makes remembering visual details much harder. What does come back while playing these two discs is just how much I enjoyed the early Fish shows. The music and lyrics are exemplary and provided almost a dozen magical shows over the period of the first two albums. The Haddington Corn Exchange is, as the name suggest, an old market town hall, originally used as a place for bartering farmers. No bartering tonight though, just a rock show on the high wooden stage at the far end of the long hall. This gig was the third time I'd been in this venue, both previous times were in 1989 for the first couple of 'proper' Fish solo shows. I say 'proper' as a different version of the band had played a benefit show in Lockerbie for the families of those lost in the plane crash. Tonight is a convention for the Fish faithful, the Company (and plenty of mention was made of this group throughout the show), though the locals were allowed in to see their local rock star in his element.
It may have been cold outside but the temperature rose immediately I entered the hall, glasses steaming. A quick wander round the rear half of the hall cleared them and allowed a view of the merchandise stall and the bar. Tonight was busy, people having travelled North for the show from all over Europe. A couple of dozen (myself included - but then they were rather local to me) had even made the two previous shows in Elgin and Aviemore - all part of the Fish "cunning plan" no doubt. I'd not joined the fan club at this point (The Company) so knew nothing of the convention and football match earlier in the day. In fact I found out about the show from a friend who lived in Haddington at the time, John Stout, and we probably spent the afternoon scouring the Edinburgh record shops.
The show began slowly with no Fish onstage. The lyrics to VIGIL began and still there was no Fish onstage. Where was he? Walking from the rear of the hall, "a voice in the crowd," as noted by the lyrics. There was a cheer of recognition as he made it (if I remember correctly) to the stage before the power of the instrumental backing increased and the lyrics became a touch more 'angry'. The anger is not directed at the audience of course (this being a convention for the faithful Company members) but at the various demons that Fish seems to find at every turn. Frank Usher provided some wailing guitar to back the ending 'wilderness of mirrors' chorus before everyone raced to the close of the track, Mickey Simmonds adding some rather more obvious keyboard touches towards the finale. As the rest of the band faded in the mix the keyboards brought things right down for the final few lines of lyrics(accompanied by some dog howls from Fish or the audience).
"Haddington Corn Exchange, gee, its good to see you again" thanked Fish in the first of several false accents during the show. This initial one was a sort of mid-Atlantic drawl. He went on to note the "wild mixture" contained in the audience before explaining the various countries from which people had travelled - from Italy to Sweden, Germany to Canada. He adding "mixing with the boys from Haddington and Edinburgh and Musselburgh and Dalkeith", pausing before adding less well known local towns such as Tranent and Macmerry.
The talk eventually returned to the music and another track from the first solo album, and a song about "the questions we ask when everything is really, really down, when you start turning round, putting the hands together and staring at the sky." CREDO is the song and was due out as a single a week or two later. An interesting drum pattern introduced the track and was backed by some faint wailing guitar as Fish and the audience sang the first verse. In fact the audience provided most of the first half of the chorus before Fish reminded us that it was really his job to lead US through the lyrics. Vigil was a fairly slow track to open the show while CREDO is a track that really pumped the crowd up. It is a track that I always feel restrains itself a little too much - I'd like it to rock out a bit more. It always gets me going - and singing - even listening to this CD almost ten years later. Davey Paton and Fish alternated lines mid track before the pounding toms returned to the fore as the track wended its way to the climax. Harmony vocals were care of Davey Paton and Robin Boult.
baying emanated from the crowd before Fish explained a little about
the next track and line-up changes. "
the first single of the first
tour when we all actually stood on this stage apart from a couple
of the new boys. Mr David Paton here on the bass guitar, and Mr Kevin
Wilkinson on the drums."
number, starting with a bobbing bassline which permeated the song,
and the first solo track I'd heard by Fish a couple of years previously.
In fact it was released the day Fish played Elgin two years previously
and where the local record store had a signing session.
Moving back to the Vigil era and a song that was "probably one of the first major social lyrics I like decided to have a crack at." (John Stout: It was a great gig though. Fish was really fired up because of hassles with the tour promoter (ie the tour nearly folded at the last minute), so there was real, venom as he sang Tongues. I thought he was so apoplectic by the end of the song that he'd explode in pieces all over the stage.).
FAMILY BUSINESS is based around "the drink and the domestic violence and the hearing of the noises on the other side of the door - and the decisions on whether to move through to take care of what is happening on the other side of the door." After a loud cheer for a favourite off the Vigil album the choir joined in a few words after Fish as the keyboards and guitar gently began, deepening moodily as the track progressed, the bass adding to the general feeling of menace later in the track. The crowd quietened as the tempo increased, joining in again with the final few quiet lines before loudly clapping and cheering their appreciation. Before Fish could begin introducing the next number "What's with the headphones" was shouted by one of the crowd. Fish bantered a bit about what he's listening to (Kylie Mynogue. As an aside, it's sad to note that in 1991 Kylie was a bit of a joke, having come out of an Australian soap opera to become a pop star. Now, in 2001 as I write this, she is still up in the charts selling millions of records while Fish is slightly further down the sales scale (oops - sorry). Sad, but unfortunately true.) He also joked that "I'm listening to Jute City tonight you know!" (a TV series Fish had a part in at that time) before finally admitting that he'd "had a lot of problems with monitors on the last tour" before explaining that "I can hear what I'm singing all the time Now I know which ones are the bum ones!" to laughs from the audience. "It's depressing" he added to more laughs and another shout from 'the crowd' "Have you ever fired yourself?" A high level of banter tonight between artist and band - [part of the fun of a Fish show. Fish replied, "Derek could fire Fish but you know that's getting into heavy psychology" to more laughs, before moving back to the Hammeresque Germanic accent for the song introduction. "We're going to take a little journey back into the graveyard," to cheers from the crowd, recognition, perhaps, for what was coming next from those who had been at one or other of the previous shows).
Continuing with the story Fish amplified the tale with some rather 'worn' sound effects. To "and we open up the coffin" he added a creaking sound effect care of his throat. Hi jinx from the audience continued after "inside the coffin are lots of" when one of the audience shouted "Mark Ellen!" I'm sure Mark had recently carried out a bit of a p!ss-take interview with Fish on a TV show - Rock Steady possibly so this knocked Fish off kilter, laughing, before composing himself and holding back "no, no, let's not get into that one" before continuing the tale of what lay within the coffin, "we find a lot of Polaroid photographs and Fiesta magazines, our Wives columns, (evil laugh) and the bones of very old creature back from 1983, and the creature goes by the name of ze INCUBUS." Six tracks in and the first of the 'old band' - Marillion - songs. It really got the, by now pumped up, crowd joining in, word perfectly of course, with the lyrics. They silenced briefly for the gentle mid-song keyboard link before providing more vocal backing to Fish as he wove towards the end of the track. On the CD the guitar seems low in the mix while the keyboards seem rather prominent. I'm sure it was the other way at the gig - or does the memory lie?.
By now Fish had loosened up and was enjoying himself - though a cough prompted another heckle from someone in the crowd, something about giving up smoking. Fish's reply is, "I know, Benson and Hedges" before sharply correcting himself (aware of being on the radio) "Oh sorry, that wasn't an advert". There followed some hard to follow banter with the crowd before admitting, "what a way to get some exercise, that's about half a kilo gone tonight!" in reference to the heat generated by band and audience. Time for more music though and "a song off the Internal Exile album, out now and available on Polydor records opening track, side one, SHADOWPLAY." The keyboards introduction featured some crowd laughter to something off-mike. At this point Fish was either standing in front of, or behind, the backlit shadow sheet at this point - the rabbit comment made either meaning he was creating shadow creatures or someone was wiggling two fingers behind the Fish pate in an ear-like motion. The rest of the bands instruments wailed for a few seconds before fading for the initial few lines of lyrics. They throbbed back for the main verse powering through until the end where, after a quick "Thank You" the first CD fades rapidly.
Disc two begins
with the crowds' appreciation of the last track before Fish begins
"Ladies and gentlemen I'd like to introduce you to something new" Interestingly spoken over shouts from the audience for something rather older, Grendel!. Fish continued with a long spiel over the introductory guitar riff, " I want to show you the light..." spoken, fittingly, in the manner of an American evangelist as this was the rocking BIG WEDGE where the band finally got to rock out.
"The Fish must have water..." cried a heavily perspiring Derek while the crowed echoed with a different call, "beer". Watered and cooled fish continued with mention of his 'frontmans handbook' where it supposedly said "you are don't mention football " before he breaks the rule and chatted some football talk, mainly about Hibs, the Fish team of choice. My CD seems to have some Sensational Alex Harvey Band track playing behind this intro. I wonder if this is also on the official release? Eventually the footie chat moved on to introduce another early Marillion tune, FUGAZI: "all screwed up, all f@*£ed up, in the dictionary!" The song began with a large proportion of the crowd chanting the "FU-GA-ZI" mantra before the quiet vocals of Fish began. The crowd returned to the fray before the drums pounded in and the rest of the band picked up the pace for the aggressive main assault of the track. The crowd led the "Where are the prophets" section until Fish joined in a few lines later though still leaving space for the enthusiastic crowd.
"This is where we say goodbye and this is where I'd like to see all the hands right to the back" adding "you're in the place now" in reference to the fact that the crowd were indeed standing in the HEART OF LOTHIAN. Another Marillion song with a special meaning to the big man and a fair percentage of the crowd present. A rather hoarse Fish thanked the crowd, "Haddington Corn Exchange, thank you, you've been brilliant" as the band left the stage to rapturous applause which turned to a reprise of the Gie's A Bun chorus until the boys returned.
"Thank you, this is the best tonic I could possibly get" as Fish finally explained the reason for the recently (48 hours ago) partially cancelled tour. He went on to, rather sadly, admit that the Radio team had beaten the band at football earlier in the day. "What I'd like to do is for all the Company members to shake hands with the non company members." Though a nice sentiment I found this a bit too schmaltzy and was the point I'd had enough of the 'Company' talk so beloved by Fish. A brief namecheck for the band (Robin Boult (guitar & backing vocals), Mickey Simmonds (keyboards and backing vocals), Frank Usher (guitar), David Paton (bass guitar and backing vocals) and Kevin Wilkinson (drums, percussion)) was followed by, what else, THE COMPANY. Davy Paton played some unusually high pitched bass during this track while Fish let the audience sing the words following "so why don't you" line to avoid getting himself into trouble with the broadcasters. It was at this show I thought of the alternate comprehension of the lyrics to this track but this is not the place to go into that.
A bit of radio retuning onstage, rather than on radio Forth, rolled the music into another Marillion track, FORGOTTEN SONS. There were plenty of cries of "friend" from the audience before Fish concluded the track. "Haddington, good night to you, areverderchi, Auf Weidersehen, ..." continued as my CD faded. That was not the end of the show however (nor, I believe the end of the official CD) , and the band returned for a second encore. Before the music thought Fish and one of the Radio Forth DJ's took time to present a cheque to H.A.C.E.R. (The Highgate Club which provides a lot of leisure activities for local handicapped children) which the audience had contributed towards by donations throughout the night. Proper introductions for the band preceded the audience being prompted by Fish to help create a radio ID by shouting something along the lines of "Hi, we're the Company and you're listening to Radio Forth". The music then continued with the initial single (and title track) off the latest LP, "This is a song of hope and a song dedicated to my country", INTERNAL EXILE which ran into MARKET SQUARE HEROES. A triumphant hometown show and one that Kerrang! magazine liked too.
Actually, the version I have of the CD is not the official one mentioned above. I bought 3 of the two-disc sets at a record fair (£10 each) - a bargain I thought until I later realised they were bootleg copies. It does mean that I'm missing the sleeve notes to this show, which is a shame, as I'm sure they would have made this review easier.
official CD of this show is available again from the Fish