The Fishheads Club Tour 2011 hit the Ironworks on the 28th of August, and we were lucky enough to get ardent Fish fan,RM, to review it.

Nervous anticipation was the pervading mood of the seated Fish aficionados looking uncomfortably, not unlike extras in a cabaret show. While eager to see the big man again, for his first visit to sneck since the triumphant Thirteenth Star set of 2007.

There was fear that the chattering classes of Inverness would incur the ire of Fish a la the Aberdeen show the night before. Also, Fish had endured well documented vocal problems which culminated in the removal of a benign cyst from his throat. Nerves were not helped by a disappointing turn out as many Fish fans seemed not convinced of his acoustic choice of set. O ye, of little faith.

For a taster, before the main course, we  were given by the cheerful support of upcoming singer/guitarist Jo McCafferty who beguiled the crowd with her well crafted tales of love and travails of the heart. Sounded good even in Rumanian.

So, with the hall starting to gradually fill and the candle lit tables swathed in blue light , the stage was set for Fish. But it wasn’t` what you expected as gone was the bitterness and anger of 2007, as Fish danced on stage to the quirky child`s ditty Fishheads.

In this very hall Van Morission had tried to quell any chattering by locking the doors and shutting the bar. That was never going to happen at a gig of a Scot who wrote the treatise on drinking , otherwise known as Clutching at Straws. Rather a stern plea for no chatter during the quiet songs and more importantly he then proceeded to hold the crowd in the palm of his hand. Any doubts were forgotten ,as alone but not vulnerable , Fish opened with a section of the epic “Plague of Ghosts”. A brave choice which highlighted that his voice was on fine form. The growl of yester-year vanquished. As had any stray chatterers.

Rapturous applause followed as he introduced his two cohorts – Frank Usher perched on a stool with guitar to hand and the “jambo bastard”  Foss Patterson on keys. A laid back confident Fish explained despite having to get over Hibs defeat that afternoon , that they would be taking requests from the floor. But he joked not Suppers Ready or Tubular Bells. Although he was high above the seated crowd like an unlikely “angel”  this was to be a truly intimate experience as he would play whatever was shouted by the hungry crowd .

Solo material such as the upbeat wildly angry Brother 52 followed. Then the band settled into a groove and you could sense there would be no repeat of the Lemon Tree (the Aberdeen Venue). During the instrumentals you could hear a pin drop. No mean feat.

Not to say that between songs it was a docile crowd as banter threw back and forth from the floor and the high stage. And soon that divide would totally disappear.

Fish then had a young fan choose the next songs and her fellow fans baited her to choose Grendel – very much the Holy Grail of the Marillion back catalogue. Frank Usher teased the crowd with the opening notes and then with a shit eating grin Fish launched into the long lost classic which had opened their set of the Reading Rock festival this very weekend back in 1983. Stunned applause was briefly interrupted by the youngster choosing the magical hit Kayleigh. Fish Karaoke and the man himself was lapping it up.

Thanking a German for making the long trip, there was a light hearted dig at the absent Invernessian “bastards” but quick as a flash came the anguished cry of “I come from Kinmylies”. Much laughter, before the band treated us to the majestic beauty of Jigsaw. Fish now accompanied by the crowd. “Best version yet” shouted an enthusiastic fan and yeah, absolutely it was.

Brimming with confidence, Fish squeezed the emotions with the heartfelt ballad Just Good Friends before returning to his Marillion past. Where he drunk heavily from his farewell album Clutching at Straws with a brooding Torch Song and with the Scottish bravado of Slainte Mhath.

Then the highlight was his epic cold war masterpiece Vigil in the Wilderness of Mirrors as Fish slowly spat out lyrics . Here he joined the seated tables as a voice in the crowd and watched his band perform in the heavens . Even if the ladder was a little shaky when he re-joined them. At one with his audience. The stand outs continued with the political conspiracies of State of Mind as fresh and relevant as it was 22 years ago.

Finally the striking intensity of Cliché would give way to the old Marillion warhorse Fugazi as he led the crowd in the final chorus of “Where are the poets , where are the prophets , where are the visionaries ?” . A climatic end to a masterful set built on the dynamics of the emotions between the man and his company. For after two hours it was time for the sweat drenched encore of the jaunty sing along jigs of The Company itself. Then as the trio basked in the glow of the warmth of the crowd it was time for the bizarre Fishheads outro tape. What fun.

A massive thanks to RM, first time contributor , McIntosh Photography, Ironworks staff and many thanks to Fish and his management.

Keep an eye open for an interview with Fish on the site in the next week or so…