The long-awaited DVD of Fish at Nearfest could be ordered just before Christmas, but due to postal issues I didn't receive it until well into the New Year. The novelty had worn off by then, so I just had to look at it all by myself instead of sharing my feelings with other fans at Facebook. But when I finally did, I couldn’t understand why I ever adored any other band or artist than Fish. He is just the best! It is wrapped up in a two-disc package, with beautiful artwork of Mark Wilkinson. The first disc is the whole concert recorded at Nearfest in the USA, where he toured again in 2008 after 20 years' absence. The second disc contains an interview. A long one, Fishy-style,
The interview is very interesting stuff. Apart from a few scenes of the other American gigs, it is mostly Fish sitting in his office. A wedding picture on the desk and several portraits of him at the wall. Nicely decorated, probably by his new wife Katie. He talks about the American tour, about all the hassles before and during, from Steve Vantsis’s accident and his sore fingers, to doing the laundry, which can be a major issue whilst touring. It was great to see some American fans. It made me realise that the world is big, and yet, in terms of Fishfans, so small.
On the first disc, the band opens with Slainte Mhath. Very powerful. But what strikes me immediately is the poor visual aspect of the recording. Apparently people from the venue recorded this, but I’m used to better images and light-shows. Never mind, it’s about the music and the man. You can say what you want but Fish has still got that charisma. Also when I close my eyes, not being distracted, only hearing his voice … there‘s just something about him. I can hear that he can’t reach all the notes anymore, but his voice has that certain raw and musical touch, which is what makes early Marillion and Fish-solo so special.
After Slainte, the set continues with tracks from 13th Star. The strange thing is, when I heard it again, I loved it. I didn’t like it when Fish sang the whole album during his convention at Leamington Spa last year. I guess I hoped for other albums and I had seen the 13th Star -tour so many times. But now, after a while, it had that old attraction again. 13th Star is not really prog in my opinion, but it’s great, it rocks and yet it has that sensitive feel.
Fish sings a long time, without intervals. Only after the song Open Water, he asked the audience if he can talk. Of course he may ;-) He makes a joke about the f***ing Boerderij, which I don’t quite understand. Then he starts a long monologue about all kinds of things, in the way only Fish can. Partly it’s funny, partly it’s very serious and cynical. But it’s intriguing, always! He ends this verbal interlude with the question, How many people like the rock, just rock … or the prog, just prog? Strange question to ask a prog-audience, which it was. Anyway, it was the intro for So Fellini, and it must be said, Fish is right. This ain’t prog, this is so Fellini :-)
During the introduction to Manchmal, Fish’s ideas about love and relationships were revealed. I find it all very entertaining and I think other people do too. Fish is not loved only by his music, also his lyrics are so appealing. Very autobiographic and poetic. Almost everybody knows the story behind 13th Star. That makes it all very personal and people like to hear him talk. After all, he is the man with the gift of words.
After this, it was back to the music, and goosebumps. Hotel Hobbies/Warm Wet Circles/That Time Of The Night. Need I say more? As convincing as it ever was! It was beautiful to see that in the crowd, a few men couldn’t help themselves anymore, and got up to their feet. Apparently at Nearfest, there are only seating-places. It seems very frustrating to me with this kind of music! But Fish wouldn’t be Fish if he couldn’t get everybody on their feet. Before the song Faithhealer, he kindly, yet firmly, requested everybody to stand up! During this song he got into the crowd, and laid his hand upon a few people in the audience. For me this was the highlight on the DVD, Fish at his best, the charisma of the man to the fore. The people at Nearfest also got very excited, judging by the looks in their faces. I think they will remember this concert for a long time!
Last but not least, White Russian. Fish explains in the interview, on the bonus disc, that he chose a slightly different setlist for America than he did for the European and UK-tour. Well, they deserve it, after waiting so long for him to come back. The encores were nothing less than incredible, Cliche and Incommunicado being the usual, and Sugar Mice and Last Straw being perfect, just perfect.
The other members of the band deserve a lot of the credit as well. They played very well and concentrated. But they stay at the background, like always. Only guitarist Frank Usher comes into the spotlight, when he’s playing his solo in Cliche. I guess that’s why they call it ‘The Fish’ :-)
**** Janke Rijpkema
Where to buy?
All Rights Reserved Background Magazine 2013