The boys in Marillion are always busy. Countless side projects leave it sometimes difficult to keep up with who has released what. Live in Rome is Guitarist Steve Rothery’s first solo live release and the first under his own name; his two previous offerings come under ‘The Wishing Tree’ banner.
There are two very distinct sides to this record which is split over two discs. The first half of the gig is all about Rothery, promoting his upcoming solo album, The Ghosts of Pripyat, (For which he is currently recording) which he has funded rather remarkably entirely though Kickstarter - raising £15, 000 within 24 hours.
Unlike The Wishing Tree records, Rothery’s solo stuff is entirely instrumental. There are some great moments, and if you are familiar at all with Marillion at all then there will be some very familiar sounds and structures to the songs, managing to coax a beautiful tone out of his guitar even in a live environment. Some high points particularly in the opening two songs Morpheus and Kendris is overshadowed a bit by what follows. Rothery is clearly enjoying what he is doing, and explains as much before each song, giving a bit of identity to each piece of music and the feelings he is trying to achieve with each one. The length of some of the songs, however, and the similar sounds contained within them without any vocals splitting it up caused my attention to wander a little. The Old Man Of The Sea particularly seemed a little meandering, albeit with some decent passages within.
Not having much original material available to him yet, early on confessing this was the bands second ever gig with the first a year previous to this, the second half of the gig is full of Marillion covers including classics Easter and Sugar Mice with guest vocals by Manuela Milanese and Alessandro Carmassi. Whilst these are well done, the chances are that if you’re interested in this record then you’re already part of the existing fierce Marillion fan base and you will have already heard countless live versions of these songs. As commendable an effort as Milanese and Carmassi put in they feel a bit empty compared to the originals emotionally.
To summerise, if you’re a big Rothery/Marillion fan then you will get this record no matter what any reviews say. Live in Rome sits comfortably in the middle of what is the standard for him, it’s a tidy record without being spectacular and I will look forward to comparing these live versions to the original tracks on Ghosts of Pripyat when I get my hands on it.