In the music spotlight: Marillion

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Marillion scored their lone U.S. hit with “Kayleigh” from 1985’s “Misplaced Childhood” album. The veteran British art-rock band endures, however, thanks to undiminished creative drive and sustenance from a devoted cult that has provided the crowdfunding pioneers’ principal support since 2001. “We have the holy grail,” says singer Steve “h” Hogarth. “We’re not millionaires, but we make a good living, and we’re totally free to do what the hell we want. Everyone knows we’re probably going to drop something different into their laps, but hopefully if they listen to it, it’ll open itself to them like a flower.”

The band’s trajectory has risen slowly but steadily since their early spike, with highlights along the way including 1994’s “Brave” album and 2004’s “Marbles.” The band’s 18th release “FEAR” – its title is an unflinching acronym for “F— Everyone and Run” – has arrived to unanimously strong reviews. The unapologetic work is a mournful assessment of greed that drives those in power, and the dim hope of returning to a system that values all people equally. Further, lyrics like those for “Demolished Lives” allude to xenophobia that drives people apart. “I haven’t written these words and made this record to preach to anyone,” says Hogarth. “You don’t have to agree with it, but it’s a little window into my head. It’s a reflection of my own sense of foreboding.”

Steve Hogarth of the band Marillion | PHOTO BY FREDDY BILLQVIS

Steve Hogarth of the band Marillion | PHOTO BY FREDDY BILLQVIS

“I was born in the late fifties, so I was around during the summer of love,” says Hogarth. “There have been a few moments when it’s been really hopeful that we’re all going to change the world for the better. You can’t paint everything too black, because there are still amazing people and organizations working hard to make the world fairer and cleaner and nicer to live in, but I think we’re on a bad wave at the moment.”

Although the thematic tone is harrowing, the music of “FEAR” is beautiful and grand, with orchestral scope suitable for fans of Pink Floyd, Talk Talk and Queen. Bassist Pete Trewavas drives “White Paper.” Keyboardist Mark Kelly weaves pocket symphonies throughout the “The Leavers.” Guitarist Steve Rothery provides stratospheric peaks to “The New Kings” with lyrical solos. Ian Mosley’s inventive and thrilling percussion guides the twists of “El Dorado.”

Hogarth’s virtuosic performance features the cinematic lyrics and theatrically-informed style that have defined Marillion’s music since he joined the band 27 years ago. Despite images of theft and loss, “The Grandchildren of Apes” concludes with a hopeful note about rising to our better natures. “We are unique in the flora and fauna of this planet in having a conscience, and having a good idea of the consequences of our actions,” says Hogarth. “That’s the only cause for hope – that we really ought to know better than to act how we’re acting.”

“I do think that all of us have it within ourselves to make everything better and different,” says Hogarth. “If everyone’s nice to someone at a bus stop, the world starts to change, because everyone’s individual levels of fear start to go down. They go, ‘Maybe that guy I stood next to this morning, with the bone through his nose and the long hair, who I thought might be a murderer, is actually a really nice person.’ That can change the way you look at everything.”

* Marillion, with John Wesley, 8 p.m. Oct. 27-28, The Vic Theatre, 3145 N. Sheffield, $59 (ages 18+over);

Jeff Elbel is a local freelance writer. Email:

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