Marion are a band from the golden period of British indie in the 90s, whose pathway to finding greater success than they did was impeded by luck and personal issues. The authors of two classic albums in the celebrated This World and Body and the underrated Johnny Marr-produced The Program, Marion had an astute ear for a beautiful melody, and still retain a dedicated following. Twenty years after their last studio release, frontman Jamie Harding and a trusty backing band played London’s O2 Academy Islington as part of a tour to celebrate those records.
Opening the concert was London-based Desperate Journalist. Their music could be described as the dreamiest of dream pop, with beautiful lush guitars set against a tight rhythm section, however they are also not afraid to speed things up and introduce a bit of bite to their sound. Their varied sound is all tied together by the vocals of lead singer Jo Bevan, who effortlessly switched between a Dolores O’Riordan-esque wail and a high falsetto. A great choice to support Marion, Desperate Journalist were received warmly by the audience. The quintet are on a headline tour of their own soon, so by all means try and catch them.
Soon it was time for Marion themselves. Opener ‘Toys for Boys’ got things off to a dynamic start, and it was a joy to see that vocalist Jamie Harding has retained the richness and warmth of his voice. His delivery (and to a certain extent, haircut) is Robert Smith-esque, intense and emotional without being forced, and his deadpan self-deprecating humour made for entertaining pauses in-between songs.
Instrumentally, the choice to go with just one electric guitar fell somewhat short – the lone guitar treaded a bit insecurely, never quite achieving the full luscious sound that the records boast, and an additional one would have contributed massively, however it was still evident that they are gems of indie rock songwriting. The setlist ran through crowd favourites from Marion’s two albums, such as ‘Fallen Through’, ‘Miyako Hideaway’ (jokingly renamed to ‘Macclesfield Hideaway’ after the band’s birthplace) and ‘Let’s All Go Together’, the latter of which included an enthusiastic crowd singalong. The natural closer was ‘Sleep’, one of the finest singles of the 90s Britpop era, and certainly the best one that features a harmonica solo in its opening bars.
Jamie Harding’s Marion delivered a set that will satisfy the hunger of nostalgic fans for hearing those great tunes, even if circumstance meant that the concert was more of a tribute to what has been, rather than a sign of things to come.