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h natural – daddy took a raincheck

11 June 2006, Kinoteatr “Bajka”

My name is Maciej, 30, and I am … a Marillion fan. Maybe it sounds a little bit like a confession on a first AA meeting but I am OK with that.

In mid 80s, in national TV I saw a very short live performance of a strange rock band. I thought “Oh my God, what the hell is this, who the hell is that huge guy”. It was quite repellent. Few years later I saw “Cover my Eyes” and “No One Can” videos with new singer Steve Hogarth aka h. I liked those songs and even bought a cassette of “Holidays in Eden”. “Sympathy” made me buy “Singles Collections” cassette. I didn’t like all the songs. I didn’t consider myself as a Marillion fan then. Madonna, Bon Jovi, The Cure, Depeche Mode were the artists of my admiration that time.

“Heading for the great escape, heading for the rave …” made me buy “Brave”, my first Marillion CD, my forth CD in my life. Next I forgot about the band. Nevertheless I was a regular listener of the Polish most famous chart aired in national Radio Programme 3. Every Marillion single was in top 50 or top 30 for a decent period of time. Suddenly “Beautiful” entered top 10. I just liked the song but I didn’t feel like buying the whole album. I remembered “Deserve”. It ended up in the chart only in top 50 (didn’t make it to top 30) so I couldn’t record the whole song. This is the jolliest song. The music is eminently optimistic for me. So I was quite aware who Marillion was but without any madness or t-shirts wearing. Just a band among many.

I began my real journey with Marillion in 2000 when I got my first job in Warsaw in French chain of hypermarkets. I was a manager responsible for selling music, films and books. My boss was French. After 3 months trial period in Warsaw the whole staff moved to Białystok to open a new store. We were wearing casual clothes before the great opening. And my boss was wearing quite unique t-shirt. I asked him what it was and he said “marillion.com t-shirt”. I said something about Fish (first lead singer, that huge guy) leaving the band. In general I behaved like a common ignorant. He smiled and said that those were two different bands you couldn’t compare to. The next day he lent me “marillion.com” CD in a regular box-CD. He couldn’t give me that album in an original cover because there was a picture of him among other fans and it was too precious to him.

And it began.

Everyday he was lending me different “h era” Marillion’s CDs. I loved the music. Hence I slowly started to purchase them on my own.

As a regular concert goer I decided to trace the band and Fish. First it was Fish’s gig. I loved the show. I remembered only “daddy took a rain check” as I didn’t know well all Fish’s and Marillion’s songs then. Later that year it was Marillion playing in Poland. I believed I had heard “daddy took a rain check” again. In the meantime they played “daddy took a rain check” on the radio. It happened to be the DJ’s most favourite Marillion’s song. I called my boss and asked him “What was the title of that “daddy took a rain check” song”. “Sugar mice” – he shouted proudly. Eventually I purchased “Clutching at Straws”.

I switched a job, my boss and his wife moved to France (now they are in Moscow). But my love to Marillion stayed solid.

In April 2006 I got a very short email from my former chief. It was something like “11 June there is a mr. h’s gig in Warsaw. You need to see that”. I asked what kind of songs he would be performing. Covers, own songs or Marillion songs? “Everything. Even “Imagine”” – he replied promptly. So like a submissive ex-employee I went to Kinoteatr “Bajka”. I wanted to buy the ticket as soon as possible because I was simply afraid of canceling the show due to little tickets selling. I made sure at a box office if the tickets were still available. They were. People were only booking them not buying. “I better keep my receipt with me. Just in case” – I deemed wisely. I remember Shirley Horn tickets. First the gig was postponed due to her illness and than cancel (R.I.P. Ms Horn).

11 June 2006. I was visiting my parents in my home town Białystok (185 km East from Warsaw). It was just a weekend visit. At 10 am I was in the train on my way back home to Warsaw. I felt really bad. My throat was aching. I was even considering seriously giving up that show and staying in my bed instead.

Eventually I went to that gig. I was quite surprised with the number of people. I sat in 4th row and waited for a divine performance to happen. H entered the stage, said “hello” and started doing something with his laptop. I wasn’t expecting anything. I had no clue what the show would be like. The piano, the candles made an impression.

I really don’t remember the whole setlist right now but there were some pearls, highlights, ups and only one down. I didn’t enjoy “You’re Gone”. It sounded quite strange (not to say pathetic). As far as I am concerned that song sounds perfect only with the whole band behind h on one stage. But I forgot about it as fast as he played the next song. I remembered the story (or explanation if you like) to “this strange engine” lyrics. H in general was very talkative. And we, the audience, loved that! He was talking and singing, singing and talking. What else could we want? And with every song I was telling myself “Awesome. He is like an angel”. I could be misled because he was dressed in white and did look like an angel. And that angelic voice! With every song it was more and more awesome, gorgeous and divine. When he sang “Cloud Busting” I felt like I was on the cloud number 9. There was one moment h really took me by surprise. He did “Easter”. I didn’t know why but I always had thought that it would be impossible to sing it live. Anything is possible. Even “Cover my Eyes” and “80 days” sounded surprisingly well and powerful. “The whole of the moon” blew me away.

Unfortunately none of my friends liked Marillion so I didn’t have anybody to share this special moment with me. I felt “alone again in the lap of luxury”. Nevertheless the audience was outstanding so I didn’t feel really abandoned.

Then I wished that I had brought my recorder and camera with me. Maybe it was meant  to be like that. Maybe it was the moment that shouldn’t be recorded. Just to be captured and treasured in my mind.

While performing “Afraid of sunlight” and “Fantastic Place” he really did take us to the fantastic place and did take our lives away.

We were clapping our hands whenever h wanted to or not. We gave him standing ovation 3 times. We were lucky, we had 2 encores!!! Finally h bowed for the last time and evaporated.

I took a taxi and went home.

I liked the shoes h was wearing. He really looked like a character from a fairytale or heaven.

And of course the next week I spent in my bed with flu.

So, maybe it is a good possibility to thank somebody. If I hadn’t met that guy I would have never experienced that kind of music, art, emotion. Jean Francois merci beacoup pour Marillion!

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