Review by Zyllah Moranne-Brown and photography by Ken Harrison

It’s Christmas! Well indeed the lights are festively shining and the punters in town for the German Market, so it must be Christmas in Birmingham. And temptingly we walk past the food and alcohol to make it to the Town Hall, resisting the temptations, as tonight we’re in the sold out performance of one Derek William Dick aka Fish, with his Last Return to Childhood tour.

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So as we take our seats – Fish takes to the stage to introduce the “best support he’s ever had…” – Lazuli. The set starts off with a sitar sounding electrical vertical guitar – this French outfit are rock prog rock and are rocking on down. And just to point out their lyrics are all in French too.

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“We are small French men…” they live in the south of France and they need our warmth (‘cos it’s bloody freezing outside). A cross between a funky Levellers meets System of a Down, smatterings of Tool, Yes, Rush. They are impressive, this rag-tail multi-instrumentalists. Fish to them is “like Gandalf to us – he calls us the hobbits.”

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Set completed with ‘9 hands around the Marimba’ as all 5 of them take to an electronic glockenspiel. This is worth watching – check it out on You Tube. Merci beaucoup. Let’s hope they are back on Blighty’s shores again soon – check them out. As they say on their website: “Thanks you Mr FISH !!!!!!!!!!!!! Five Lazuli’s guys happy :-) :-) :-) :-) :-)” Standing ovation tonight.

Anyway – after that surprise back to the main man. Let’s talk about ‘Misplaced Childhood’. For then modern day prog rockers Marillion with Fish as their lead singer, this was they biggest album, reaching platinum status, straight in at #1 in the UK charts, 41 weeks in the actual charts themselves. It gave us ‘Lavender’ and ‘Kayleigh’ and inspired a million parents to name their children after it. While it may have has two hits, it’s a concept album – except in ’85 – this required turning over that circular black vinyl you’d purchased. And it was part of that package of purchasing vinyl, like previous Marillion albums in gatefold format with beautiful illustrations (the main drummer boy character along with the jester) by Mark Wilkinson.

And the story after Misplaced Childhood – Marillion with Fish recorded one more album ‘Clutching At Straws’ before parting company. Marilyn found a path of their own, and since ’89 have continued with Steve Hogarth on vocals. They regular your and play and are currently in the studio recording their 18th studio album slated for release in 2016. Fish went his own way. with his first two solo efforts doing well. He continues to record today – the last outing ‘A Feast of Consequences’ the title track featuring in tonight’s set.

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And so here he comes, akin in scarf around his neck. Fish with his band. We have a few of his solo outings first – intermixed with him chatting away. ‘Pipeline’ from album ‘Suits, followed by ‘Feast of Consequences.’

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“Thank you! Good evening – salubrious surroundings – all sitting down like old farts.…” as the discussion goes into the fact that no-one he is a spring chicken and even he has water on stage. He’s witty and comedic. A story of a young 4 year old boy, with a blackened eye – asked who did it – “Did your step father do that to you?” Before a song from ‘Virgil in Wilderness of Mirrors’ – ‘Family Business.’

He’s been to Morocco recently. Morocco was shite. Drink was watered down. But while he was there, he heard of the massacre on the Tunisian beach. 38 people lost their lives, including 30 Britons. It’s about causing fear. The first night of this tour in London,120 people didn’t turn up. Because of the horror that happened at the Bataclan in Paris. One of his fans who came, he heard, wore black so she could hide, should anything terrible happen. We should be together as civilians. This next track was born in Bosnia in 96 – during the civil, war atrocities there: ‘The Perception of Johnny Punter.’

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And not to less serious matters, what we are all here for. House lights up, he sees we’re all sitting down… “well it’s not a One Direction show.…” The observation -“It’s strange that I’ve been in all your bedrooms and I don’t know about it….”

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“You think you’ve brought a ticket to a gig. You’ve not.” We’re rolling back time he tells us. 30 years to be precise.  “This is the last time it’s be played in it’s entirety because it’s supposed to be played in its entirety – last performance live, in this city ever, of Misplaced Childhood.” And so to a 50 minute solid set of this album. No stopping. And as Fish warms up as do the crowd, on our feet, everyone singing. From the start ‘Pseudo Silk Komono’, via ‘Kayleigh’, ‘Lavender’, ‘Heart of Lothian’ completed by ‘White Feather.’ To a huge cheer.

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A quick break – treat from ‘Script for a Jesters Tear’ – ‘Market Square Heroes’ and set completed by ‘The Company’ from ‘Virgil in a Wilderness of Mirrors.’

Set complete. And thoroughly enjoyable – and also great to see an album in it’s entirety that is SUPPOSED to be and album delivered in it’s entirety. For the last time in town. And goodbyw too, to a friend of ours from Twon HAll / Symphony Hall who’s moving on to pastures new and has been so helpful over the years. Meanwhile Fish tells us got a couple of years left in him, so he’ll be back, and I’ll leave the final words of this review to him.

“My name is Derek. And I am, for the next two years, a Fish.”

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Setlist:

Pipeline (Fish – Suits)
Feast of Consequences (Fish – Feast of Consequences)
Family Business (Fish – Virgil in a Wilderness of Mirrors)
The Perception of Johnny Punter (Fish – Sunsets on Empire)

Misplaced Childhood (Marillion) in it’s entirety:
Pseudo Silk Komono
Kayleigh
Lavender
Bitter Suite
Heart of Lothian
Waterhole (Express Bongo)
Lords of the Backstage
Blind Curve
Childhood’s End?
White Feather

Encore:
Market Square Heroes (Marillion – Script for a Jesters Tear)
The Company (Fish – Virgil in a Wilderness of Mirrors)

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Postscript: check out Fish’s Facebook post about the concert in Birmingham. Struggling with vocal problems and ending up in A and E in Sheffield the following day for treatment…..

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