In the midst of all these 30th anniversary Marillion festivities comes the welcome CD reissue of the band's "farewell to Fish" double live album, The Thieving Magpie. Titled after the band's choice of opening music on their 1987 Clutching at Straws tour, the set has been out of print for a number of years. It finally takes its place among the EMI Marillion Remasters, completing the project some twelve years after its start.
This is sort of a "greatest hits live" compilation, with performances from the band's 1984, 1985 and 1987 tours. Throughout, the boys from Aylesbury (and one from Dalkeith) are in magnificent form, from the opening thunder of "Slainte Mhath" to the powerful performances of Fish-era classics "He Knows You Know," "Fugazi" and of course, "Script for a Jester's Tear." Fish's tremendous stage presence bursts out of the speakers on the one-two punch of "Incommunicado". and "White Russian." The rest of the band is in excellent fettle here, with Steve Rothery's laser-like guitar and Mark Kelly's keyboard washes leading the charge over the underrated rhythm powerhouse of Pete Trewavas and Ian Mosely. And these are better performances than on the studio albums, showing that early Marillion, like most of their music, sounds better live.
The real highlight though is the second disc, a complete and definitive live recording of the band's third album, Misplaced Childhood. The presence of an odd dropped note or Fish ad-lib makes the performance even more convincing. The saga of the first side, with its sad tales of alcoholics, prostitutes and lost romance culminates in the unstoppable crescendo of "Heart of Lothian." The band digs hungrily into the lyric mysteries and rhythmic complexity of "Blind Curve"--Mosely sounds incredibly relaxed playing in 7/8! These great songsemerge here with fresh clarity, helped by audience participation on "Childhood's End?" (with an extended Rothery solo) and the climactic, martial "White Feather."