During the heyday of Britpop, Marion epitomised intense emotion and their songs were bursting with complexity, depicting inner turmoil, sadness and melancholy on a scale only ever matched, or superseded, by The Smiths.
They reinvented rock and roll history by creating a space where romanticism encountered stark realism. The dark, gothic element of their music made Melody Maker suggest they were ‘a Joy Division for the 90s’.
On the one hand they were seen as the north of England’s answer to Suede, and they were taken seriously, but their northern identity and authenticity made them far more interesting than any association with their London counterparts. Attracting an obsessive following from the word go, Morrissey declared himself a fan and Johnny Marr would later produce their second album.
Phil Cunningham and Anthony Grantham invented an original guitar sound of raw, exquisitely melodic quality. But while things seemed promising, depression, drug dependency, serious illness, imprisonment and poverty would overshadow the career of one of the most captivating guitar bands of their time.
This evening (November 24th), frontman Jaime Harding is all dressed in black, wearing a parka, skinny jeans, ankle boots and a hat, and he shows that he still the rock and roll singer who really can sing, his power and charisma there still. If his vocal range has dropped slightly, his renewed strength is that it’s probably a closer match to his raw and personal style.
‘Ready when you are’, he proclaims confidently before opening the set with Toys For Boys followed by Fallen Through, an effective sonic display highlighting just how accomplished Blair Murray, Andrew Tarling and Andy Mckerlie are as musicians.
Harding talks more in-between the songs than he used to, but it’s with an ironic and self-deprecating humour and there’s an apparent urge to surprise and shock. Keeping things conversational, he teases the crowd, ‘I was gonna do a bit of an acapella’, right before launching into The Collector, a song with an overwhelming rock vibe which couldn’t be further detached from the ancient music tradition.
His decision to share some banter with the crowd comes across as timely and well-placed; ‘Did you know that I’m the only one in Marion who wasn’t born in Macclesfield?’, he discloses before revealing that he was in fact born in Rusholme’s St Mary’s Hospital. Whilst jokingly renaming Miyake Hideaway, Macclesfield Hideaway, he illustrates his point and the crowd warms to it. He repeats the manoeuvre when All Of These Days, for the duration of the set, becomes All Of These Uncomfortable Silences.
Experiencing Marion’s return with a new line-up is clearly remarkable, but seeing Jaime smile and enjoy playing live again is rewarding, the prospect of what the future could hold for the band exciting to say the least.