Fish – Manchester, O2 Ritz – 9 December 2017 Print E-mail
Written by DJ Astrocreep   
Friday, 22 December 2017 04:20

Having recently popped my Marillion cherry, it seemed only fitting to do the same with Fish when he also came visiting Manchester. Since he split with Marillion in 1988, one album and a couple of years after their biggest chart success to date in ‘Misplaced Childhood’, he has enjoyed a successful solo career, creating ten studio albums of his own.


 Fish tour header


Unsure at first if there is a support or not, as a date a couple of days earlier does not have one, I arrive quite early at the venue, to discover that one of his backing singers, London's Doris Brendel, is playing with her own band as support to him. After some initial difficulty in getting access to the venue, I got in a couple of songs into her set. Whilst waiting in reception, I could hear her music quite clearly, greeted with a sound quite akin to some Curved Air tracks: female fronted, almost prog like at times and quite likeable.


When I eventually gained access to the arena, I was greeted by the sight of Doris and her band being bedecked in steampunk regalia, which was quite unexpected from the sound of her music. This said, it was a pleasant aesthetic, providing something of interest to look at, when the band themselves are not overly active on the stage, so a nice distraction. Their set continued for 35 minutes, with their music pleasant and easy to follow and enjoy. A decent warm-up act who made a few attempts to engage with the crowd and prepare them for the headline act.


After a short break, Fish takes to the stage, with a mammoth almost two-hour set for our aural delectation. Taking to the stage with a few of his solo tracks, he is greeted with loud applause and cheers, which he accepts with a smile and a bow. From the off, Fish keeps a close eye on the band, at times almost conducting them, clearly knowing their bands equally as well as his own. Fish is clearly enjoying the music as much as the crowd are, as he dances along himself to the instrumental parts. After the first three tracks are performed with minimal respite between, Fish gives the band a chance to retune and the like as he starts with his own patter, at first discussing football in his broad Scottish brogue. He then launches into ‘State of Mind’, before engaging in more repartee with hecklers, showing consummate ease in dealing with them in a manner that does not alienate either them or anyone else, a mark of the years he has spent performing in the industry.


Now though, it is time for the performance of ‘Clutching At Straws’ in its entirety. This was Fish's last album with Marillion, which was celebrating its 30th year of existence, so a fairly apt time for doing so. Fish sits on a tall stool in front of the drums for the start of the opening track, ‘Hotel Hobbies’, singing the first couple of lines before taking back to his feet. He remarks after it that tonight sees the first time some of these tracks are ever being played live in Manchester, indeed some never having been before the start of the tour he is embarked upon. A large screen behind the band occasionally displays the lyrics, for if people wish to sing along, which plenty of those gathered choose to do, with gusto. There is an incredible sense of belonging, similar to that of the Marillion gig a few weeks earlier; though, with the capacity being only around 60 per cent of that in Manchester Academy, it's understandable that maybe it is not quite as loud as there.



Fish moves and interacts a considerable amount with his lead guitarist throughout the album performance, showing quite how comfortable he is around him, with some interaction with the rest of the band showing his ease with them all, at various points. By the time ‘The Last Straw’ is performed, a beaming Fish accepts the lavish applause and cheers that accompany the final song of the album and conclusion of the main part of the set.


After briefly leaving the stage, to be beckoned back on by loud shouts for more by the crowd, he comes back on to ‘Tux On’, a B side from the album, which is both unexpected and a welcome surprise. Continuing on with the second half of the track, ‘Perfume River’, he wanders off the stage again, before retaking it one last time, to perform ‘The Great Unravelling’, from his own last album, ‘A Feast Of Consequences’. Drawing to a close on isolated keys and vocals, it's a fitting conclusion to a professional performance.


Lastly, a massive personal thank you to Fish's tour manager. As security were not allowing bags in the main hall without a special pass, his help in obtaining me one so I could keep vital medication to hand was of massive help, and was very much appreciated.


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