What better way to round off a multi-course musical banquet than something sweet, uplifting and not too heavy?
Everybody knows that one of the best and most enjoyable rituals of a live gig is the false ending followed by the (almost) inevitable encores, and naturally Marillion were only too happy to oblige. Being a Friars gig, there was no way they could sneak out of the building before delivering a rousing rendition of Market Square Heroes, their very first single from the dim and distant days of the early eighties. In fact, I’m pretty sure there are local bylaws compelling them to play it whenever they set foot in the smallish town where it all began. Although it’s undoubtedly the most famous song about this unlikely musical mecca, Steve Hogarth did remind us that Bowie himself also tipped his hat to the very same square in the first line of Five Years.
Maybe it was because Marillion had played a mere forty-five minutes, or maybe it was the joy of going home early that gave Steve the energy to throw himself into the air with such gusto and abandon during the shouty bits of the song that launched them. Whatever the cause, he looked and sounded like he was having as much fun as the rest of us.
Naturally we were all awaiting the finale, which most of us figured had to include a Bowie number. My money was on Starman, which kind of fitted into the whole idea of the day.
Well, we did get a Bowie number, but not the one I’d imagined. Mind you, that hardly mattered less as the first unmistakable chords of Heroes filled the theatre, the sound rising to the rafters and somehow lifting us all with it.
I never saw Bowie play live, but as all the musical contributors piled onto the stage and Charlie from David Live took the microphone, it was as though the spirit of the great man himself had returned for one final appearance. I’ll remember the way my hair stood on end for many a year to come.
Naturally, it was only fitting that both Dave and Sue Stopps were cajoled onto the stage for their own personal, and hugely deserved round of applause. After all, it was their hard work, dedication and persistence that brought us all together in the creation of the world’s first, most dramatic and easily the most memorable monument to one of this nation’s most enduring musical talents.
As the music faded and the atmosphere dissipated along with the audience, many of us stopped beside the Earthly Messenger to reflect on what the past has given us and what the future may hold. If I’m honest, I think we also lingered to drink up the last dregs of that wonderful atmosphere, in a brightly lit place where we set aside our squabbles to create something very, very special.
I like to imagine we all fell asleep feeling just a little bit heroic that night, and I like to believe we deserved it too.
Just for one day.
Images courtesy of Alan Jones