Best. Birthday. Ever!

Kerri and I went to Montreal for the Marillion Weekend – we went two years ago [photos] and I bought tickets as soon as I heard this year’s was announced. It’s a great idea – you buy one ticket that covers the three nights’ shows. The first night was a complete album (this year it was Holidays In Eden) plus some B-sides and other tracks from that time. On Saturday they did a song for each letter of the alphabet, and then on Sunday is was down to the fans to choose: they handed out glow-sticks at the start of the evening, and then each time h read out the options we would vote for which one to play! Great idea but it meant the band had to prepare for twice as many songs as they actually played … well almost double because we convinced them to play both songs at the end 🙂

The highpoint of the weekend for me was getting up on stage, having the fans sing Happy Birthday for me and then having my photo taken with the band!


Details and some of my photos are after the cut…

We flew (with Porter Airlines) to Montreal on Thursday morning – it was really foggy so our flight was delayed a little, and the cross-wind made for a bit of turbulence. The flight was less than half full, so I had a spare seat next to me which meant I could get a couple of shots. After checking in at the hotel Kerri went to get her hair done and I took my camera for a wander, then in the evening we went for dinner at L’Auberge Saint-Gabriel (I’ll let Kerri write about that!).

On Friday we walked over to Brutopia (good brew pub!) and watched Tempus Fugit and then Sun Domingo with h guesting on one song!


Then it was time to queue up at L’Olympia; we chatted with some fans from Angola via Texas (I think it was) before the doors opened and we all streamed in, picking up our wristbands. Pete & Robin kicked off the weekend with an acoustic set; Pete broke a string part-way into the first song! They were followed by John Wesley and his band; he was great when we saw him two years ago and this was a great set too.

The crowd was pretty fired up by the time Marillion took the stage, opening with Splintering Heart [setlist]. The band were fantastic and the audience responded accordingly – the applause was huge.

I spent Saturday morning shopping for an external hard drive because I’d filled my MacBook Pro with my photos and I had to back them up, in case I needed to wipe the camera’s memory cards. (I picked up a 750Gb “My Passport Essential SE“.) Backing up my photos took a while so I missed out on John Wesley at Brutopia, but it had to be done.

The support act was Jason Hart who really didn’t get the audience warmed up, other than the amusing interaction with the people sitting in the balcony who were screaming for someone to turn off the light that was blinding them.


Marillion picked a fun theme for the second night – a track for each letter of the alphabet. It’s a good thing they’ve been around for 30 years and have plenty of material to call upon! 🙂 I won’t detail the set list here but you can find it here on setlist.fm; they teased us with the start of Grendel, we all sang Happy Birthday for Mark, and then they ended the alphabet with Zeparated Out which included snippets of Black Dog and Kashmir!

There was a special event organised for Sunday afternoon: “Swap The Band”. Actually there were three parts to this event: the first was Ask The Band – everyone had the chance to drop a question into a bucket on the previous two nights, then each of the band pulled out a question and they all answered it. The second part started with Lucy coming on stage and announcing the band would pull 5 names and those people would get their photos taken with the band. The names were called out but then Lucy said she’d heard there were a couple of birthdays that day, so they also called up myself and another person! (Kerri caught this on video.)

I snapped a couple of shots while I was in the wings, waiting to go on stage, and Kerri videoed my moment with the band.

And here’s the photo of me with the band!

(I need to remove my watermark from this shot – it’s actually © 2011 Studio M Live.)

The call for audition tapes for “Swap The Band” went out a while earlier (a year ago?) so the band had time to pick out the best … and they definitely picked some very talented people! For the first song, Kayleigh, h was replaced by Kayleigh Banks and Rothers by Gabriel Landry; on The Party, Valerie Spinner replaced Pete and Connor Jakes for Mark; on Cover My Eyes, Kyle Davies replaced Ian (sorry I couldn’t get a decent photo); and finally on Afraid Of Sunlight, h was replaced by Kali Armstrong on vocals and Rick Armstrong on guitar.

Everyone had to leave the venue after Swap The Band, so we headed back to the hotel so I could post about being on stage with the band (and make Tony jealous!), then found some dinner and headed back to L’Olympia for the final night of the concert.

The Free Press opened with an energetic set that really got the crowd moving; I found out later they’re great guys too!


Marillion really set themselves a challenge for the final night – the audience got to pick which songs they’d play! Everyone was given a glowstick and we were asked whether we wanted to hear song A or B, so they had to be ready to play twice the actual set list, which (on top of the previous two days) must have been a lot of work.

I think the final encore was just after midnight, and then we heard that all the band would be coming out to sign autographs, so we (and probably half the crowd) hung around. It was great to thank all the guys again and I was really surprised that they remembered me from the afternoon photo session – I’m sure they had a lot more to think about, especially with the “fan’s choice” set list.

Yet again it was a fantastic concert; I enjoyed it even more than two years ago, and I even tweeted at the time: I’m cancelling all my future birthdays because nothing can beat this one! 🙂

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