This much cited guitarist has waited a long time to release his first solo album, over thirty years in fact. Although there had been previous offers initially at the time of Misplaced Childhood (85) and later around the time of Brave (94), however, and for whatever reasons, he never took up the offers and it wasn’t until 2013 that any visible evidence emerged that this was on the cards. It is mooted that the idea for an album started to take shape when Steve was rehearsing for the 2013 annual international guitar festival in Plovdiv, Bulgaria.
The SRB line-up for the Plovdiv concert consisted of Dave Foster (guitar), Yatim Halimi (bass) and Leon Parr (drums). The band remained the same, instrumentally, for their second gig in Rome, with the addition of RanestRane’s Riccardo Romano on keyboards along with vocalists, Manuela Milanese and Alessandro Carmassi who appear on CD 2.
The material performed at both concerts forms a very sizeable section of the material available on The Ghosts Of Pripyat studio album which was released towards the end of September.
Enough of the background and onto the CD at hand. CD 1 is entirely instrumental and somewhat of a showcase for the fretboard skills of Steve Rothery. Fortunately he is a wonderfully melodic guitar player who absorbs the atmosphere, gradually releasing it back through the six tracks here. Normally I would undertake to look at each of the tracks individually and in a little detail, but as all the tracks from Live In Rome have a similar format, and that is – slowly and gradually laying down an atmospheric foundation, from which the music rises and falls, in a loose but ultimately structured fashion – then I will forego this formula.
Although Steve is the focal point we should not overlook the huge contribution from the other three guys on stage. Guitarist Dave Foster is the perfect foil, laying deft and subtle structures, occasional harmonies and power (when required), all of which neatly link between the top line and the rhythm section. Yatim Halimi and Leon Parr have also grasped the music – underpinning all the time, but adding meat and dynamic when needed.
I suppose an evening of atmospheric guitar instrumentals may have been a little too much of a good thing, so perhaps wisely the second set sees the four piece band augmented by Riccardo Romano on keyboards and vocalists Manuela Milanese and Alessandro Carmassi, performing selected tracks from the Marillion back catalogue.
CD 2 opens with Waiting To Happen from the band’s sixth studio album Holidays In Eden. Manuela Milanese turns in a powerful performance, albeit she seems a little uncomfortable and likely the melody is not quite in the right register for her, which does reflect here and there in the intonation, however there is no doubting her vocal abilities throughout this impassioned performance. She returns for Sugar Mice and again the verse melody seems a little low for her voice, but she once again acquits herself well.
Alessandro Carmassi first appears tackling the title track from the band’s eighth studio album, Afraid Of Sunlight (95), and followed by Easter from Seasons End (89) and his, at times folky delivery, offers a different slant to the tracks. Comparisons to Steve Hogarth are superfluous and on both these tracks Carmassi turns in splendid performances. Perhaps an odd choice for the evening is Cinderella Search which after a little research reveals it was the B side of the Assassing single. Here Carmassi seems a little uncomfortable, perhaps less at ease with Fish’s vocal delivery – still the track works well and also includes a brief solo for keys man Riccardo Romano.
The final two tracks come from last year’s RanestRane album A Space Odyssey – Part I: Monolith, which is the band Riccardo Romano plays keyboards with, when not recording and touring with Steve Rothery. The aforementioned album also features guest performances from Steve Rothery and Steve Hogarth. Materna Luna fits the evening set like a glove, whilst Monolith Pt 2 is slightly different to what has gone on before, but still in context. More so when Mr Rothery turns in his last splendid solo of the evening.
I thoroughly enjoyed Disc 1 and perfect music at the end of the day – headphones on, cup of coffee and relax. Although I can imagine that for those who like their guitar solos sweet and to the point then this could be an hour of pure purgatory. I’m not overly familiar with Marillion’s entire back catalogue, however almost all the songs were known to me and, fan or not, these tracks are superbly played and very enjoyable. Although personally I couldn’t listen to Sugar Mice more than a couple of times…
Oddly enough I’ve not seen a great deal of reviews for this album considering the man’s stature within the progressive community, which is a bit of a shame as this is a fine album and Steve Rothery’s solo material has been a long time in the gestation. Perhaps because all of the instrumental pieces from CD 1, with the exception of the title track, would appear on the The Ghosts of Pripyat album, scheduled for release shortly after, that this album has lost some impact. Also taking in to consideration that the Plovdiv concert was made available as a download and that The Ghosts of Pripyat (Special Edition) also includes live audio and visual performances, then Live In Rome was deemed a little superfluous? I’m not sure – all I would say is that this concert captures a live chemistry that is unlikely to transfer to the studio album, therefore as an album it stands up in its own right.
01. Morpheus (10:06)
02. Kendris (7:36)
03. The Old Man Of The Sea (12:08)
04. White Pass (11:07)
05. Yesterday’s Hero (10:08)
06. Summer’s End (11:10)
01. Waiting To Happen (6:21)
02. Afraid Of Sunlight (7:12)
03. Easter (7:21)
04. Sugar Mice (6:06)
05. Cinderella Search (6:16)
06. Materna Luna (3:50)
07. Monolith Pt 2 (7:37)
DVD: The track listing for the DVD is the same as the CD.
Total Time – 106:58
Steve Rothery – Guitars
Dave Foster – Guitars
Yatim Halimi – Bass
Leon Parr – Drums
Riccardo Romano – Keyboards
Manuela Milanese – Vocals
Alessandro Carmassi – Vocals
Record Label: Racket Records
Year Of Release: 2014