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4 stars Late last year, Marillion released a live disc entitled Smoke, and it's companion Mirrors through their own Racket Records label. At the 2005 convention, the Saturday night gig was a more upbeat and rocking (Smoke), and the Sunday night gig a more reserved and mellow (Mirrors). Never really intending to release it, Marillion relented and decided to release the performances on DVD entitled Bootleg Butlins. When one watches it, the evidence is clear that this was a document for their own use and never really meant for the rest of us. Nothing bad, but there are moments of fuzziness from cameras out of focus, and shots that are out of place. That being said, it doesn't take away from the fact that it's an amazing testiment to the power and emotion Marillion has on stage.

One thing is crystal clear as I watched it, and that is the band's energy on both nights was at a fever pitch. I would say that it's some of the best performances captured on video--the boys were on top of their game these particular nights. The other positive is seeing some old gems pulled out of moth balls for the first time in years. "Holidays In Eden" probably hasn't been performed since the tour of the same name, but they sounded excellent performing it some 15 years later. Also present were classics from the Fish era that has been omitted from their regular setlists for quite some time. Still, it's good to hear "Slainte Mhath" and "Garden Party" performed at such a high level. One of the biggest highlights is "If My Heart Were A Ball, It Would Roll Uphill", which is a rocking number from Anoraknophobia that embodies emotion and intensity.

The Sunday night gig is more relaxed, but excellent nonetheless. What sticks out is the performance of "Brave" set against a great light show (the lighting from both nights was excellent, by the way). There is a big focus on the album from both nights, I've noticed. Not really a favorite of mine, and Smoke will sag a bit with "Deserve" and "Rich" bookending "The Answering Machine". I would've preferred to have other songs in there, but it's still enjoyable. The same can be said for Mirrors; however, the live version of "House" is nothing short of breathtaking. Very jazzy in an almost Steely Dan- like fashion that hardly ever gets played live, but very welcomed by these eyes and ears. Smoke winds up with gripping performances of "A Few Words For The Dead" from Radiation, and the uplifting "Made Again" from Brave. Two better songs to bring the evening to a close I cannot think of.

Again, what I noticed throughout the two performances is not only how good the band sounds, but how strong Hogarth sounds. Besides a voice crack at the beginning of "Born To Run" from the Sunday night performance, he delivers all the material in classic style. It's great to see them having fun, but doubley good to hear Hogarth just kicking arse and taking names. I can't say this is a masterpiece, but it's a great addition to my already bloated Marillion section and a MUST for all Marillion fans.

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Posted Sunday, March 11, 2007 | Review Permalink

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