Former Marillion lead singer, Derek "Fish" Dick, once asked in the song Fugazi, off the 1984 album by the same name; "Where are the prophets, where are the visionaries, where are the poets..." To the almost exclusively middle-aged men, outfitted in Marillion and Fish tour shirts, at San Francisco's Great American Music Hall on Monday June 9th, the answer could be found on stage. "Fish" as he is commonly known, hadn't set foot in SF in little over a decade. That's a long time to wait for their Rock-n-Roll messiah, and he did not disappoint the faithful.
Touring behind the recent release of 13th Star, his ninth solo album, Fish delivered an energetic, theatrical, and engaging performance. The singer who recently turned 50, seemed truly appreciative of the warm welcome. Originally this show was slated for the Fillmore but due to poor ticket sales was relocated to the smaller, more intimate hall on O'Farrell Street.
The set drew largely from 13th Star and Fish's last record with Marillion, Clutching At Straws. The material from 13th Star is built around the singer's previous female relationships. Particularly, his recent break-up with 29-year-old Heather Findlay, singer of British band Mostly Autumn. Always a gifted lyricist, Fish is something of a Progressive Rock bard. His voice was better suited to this new material. Standouts included: Circle Line, Dark Star, and Arc of the Curve, which the singer joked was charting in South Germany.
Still a riveting stage presence even if his voice has lost a bit of punch. The diehards in the audience were treated to a suite of tunes from 1987's Clutching At Straws. Hotel Hobbies, Warm Wet Circles, and That Time of the Night had the balding, parents on reprieve in full air guitar rapture. Sonically the band delivered a nuanced performance of these Marillion compositions. Fish's touring band was one guitar player short due to visa issues but they ably stepped up to fill the void. Which was even more impressive considering they were severely jet-lagged,having just arrived in the states earlier in the evening.
What I was most struck by is how protective and loyal his fan base is to the singer. During Faithealer off 13th Star, the singer stepped down from the stage, working his way through the audience to the center of the floor. With some performers this feels orchestrated but with Fish it feels necessary. Many I spoke with felt that they were part of a community. Their numbers may pale in comparison from those surrounding a Dave Matthews or the other, more famous Phish, but they are just as devoted. These Prog-Rock devotees were warm, friendly, and excited to compare notes with one another about tours past. I was shocked to find out just how much street cred I had for having seen Fish perform with Marillion on the "legendary" Misplaced Childhood tour in 1985. I felt like I belonged, if only for the night.