Sunsets on Empire DVD

Released February 2003

DVD, catalogue number VPDVD2

Disc 1 - In Concert
01. Perception of Johnny Punter (Dick, Wilson)
02. What Colour is God? (Dick, Wilson)
03. Goldfish and Clowns (Dick, Wilson)
04. Mr. 1470 (Dick, Patterson, Boult)
05. Brother 52 (Dick, Wilson)
06. Jungle Ride (Dick, Boult)
07. Medley:
  (i) Assassing (Dick, Rothery, Kelly, Trewavas, Mosley)
  (ii) Credo (Dick, Simmonds, Boult, Usher)
  (iii) Tongues (Dick, Simmonds, Boult, Usher)
  (iv) Fugazi (Dick, Rothery, Kelly, Trewavas, Mosley)
  (v) White Feather (Dick, Rothery, Kelly, Trewavas, Mosley)
08. Family Business (Dick, Simmonds, Lindes)
09. Cliché (Dick, Simmonds, Lindes)
10. Lucky (Dick, Simmonds, Boult)
11. Internal Exile (Dick, Simmonds, Boult)
12. The Company (Dick, Simmonds)
13. A Gentleman's Excuse Me (Dick, Simmonds)
14. Lavender (Dick, Rothery, Kelly, Trewavas, Mosley)

All tracks published by Fishy Music Ltd./Hit and Run (music)/EMI Music Publishing Ltd. except track 7 parts (i), (iv) and (v) published by Charisma Music Publishing Ltd/EMI Music Publishing Ltd.
Filmed by TV Poland October 10th in Przemysl Poland.
Copyright in this film footage and all sound recordings Derek W Dick 1999

Extras: Artwork Gallery

Approximate running time: 105 minutes.

Disc 2 - Extras
'A Badger's Day'
Filmed backstage Nov 20th 1997 in Koln, Germany by Joerg Buschka and Sascha Koeth for Bewegtbild und Kommunikation
Copyright in this film footage Bewegtbild und Kommunikation 1998.
Licenced exclusively to Derek W Dick 2002
Approximate running time: 30 minutes

Interview: Reflections on Sunsets
Filmed Sept 17th 2002 at The Studio, Haddington by Patrick Cleasby for Serendipity
Approximate running time: 52 minutes

Cover illustration and design: Mark Wilkinson at L-Space Design
DVD authoring by Patrick Cleasby at Serendipity
16:9 Anamorphic Widescreen
Available in PAL and NTSC

Now this is what I call a concert video - professionally shot, excellently edited, a great vibe, superb performance and a killer setlist.

The show was filmed by TV Poland on October 10th 1997, in Przemysl, Poland, during the Sunsets On Empire Tour. Fish acquired the rights for this recording in 1999 and already released it on VHS. However, it has now been re-released on this double DVD, with the second DVD providing great bonus material in the form of a behind-the-scenes film and an interview with Fish.

In hindsight, the Sunsets On Empire world tour was the last big tour Fish would do. Various problems plagued the entire tour as the band went through three guitar players, pretty much every member of the band and crew got ill, injured or hospitalised at one point in the tour, Fish had voice problems on numerous occasions and the 120+ date tour was a financial gamble. Nonetheless Fish' backing band for this tour, consisting of Robin Boult on guitar, Mickey Simmonds on keyboards, Steve Vantsis on bass and Dave 'Squeaky' Stewart on drums, was probably the best he ever had (tied with the 1991 Internal Exile tour) and it shows on this DVD.

The concert was an open air gig and rain was pouring down on the night (what do you expect on a Polish autumn night?). I feel sorry for the people bravely defying the bad weather, but boy does it add to the atmosphere. Raindrops spark beautifully in the light beams and seeing the big crowd dancing in the rain in front of the stage is just a wonderful sight. Just too bad Fish wouldn't sing about 'Raingods' until his next album...
At one point Fish does start a spontaneous rendition of Singing In The Rain though!

As this tour was supporting the Sunsets On Empire album the emphasis of the set lies on that album. However, this doesn't bother for a bit as it only proves what an exceptionally strong album this is, with particular strong songs like The Perception Of Johnny Punter, What Colour is God? and Goldfish And Clowns.

The centrepiece of the set is the twenty-minute medley. Medleys are often a bit of an obligatory blast of the past, and feature some snippets of songs, completely out of their context. However, the Fish medley is so cleverly crafted that it becomes a great song in itself. It gets my vote as "best prog medley ever". Yes, better than the Old Medley Genesis played on their 1992 tour, as Fish's medley effortlessly blends both Marillion and early solo material, reaching climax after climax. The medley starts with a great transition from Jungle Ride into the opening of Assassing. After two verses of Assassing it turns to Credo which in its turn morphs into Tongues. Then it's back to the mid-section of Assassing (following a great keyboard part by Mickey Simmonds) all the way to the end of the track. But then the band is just warming up. Dave 'Squeaky' Stewart breaks into a powerful drum solo which fires up the end-section of Fugazi ('where are the prophets...'). And just when you think that it's over the band plays the whole of White Feather straight after that. At the end of White Feather follows an extended jam which revisits Credo and Fugazi while still playing White Feather. If you take into account that the medley is tied with Jungle Ride, you get 27 minutes of non-stop music.

After this fantastic medley the band revisits Fish' first two albums with Family Business, Cliché and the ending of The Company off Vigil and Lucky and the title track off Internal Exile. The second encore is a beautiful rendition of A Gentleman's Excuse Me, featuring just Fish and Mickey Simmonds on piano. The song beautifully morphs into Lavender, which sees the full band return after the first verse for a killer version of this old Marillion track. As said, the band is on top form, boasting fine performances by all. Fish' voice is in remarkable good shape. Some minor glitches aside, this is a great performance all over.

The image is presented in 16:9 widescreen and the picture quality is pretty good. Lighting is rather dark and the image would have benefited from a spotlight on Fish and soloing musicians (especially Robin Boult is constantly in the dark). Colouring is OK, as it is shot on Betacam (not digital) you get some blur when there are a lot of reds or blues, but on the whole it's certainly not bad. Sound quality is fine. The gig is presented in Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo. (Unfortunately no 5.1 on this DVD). Considering this is a TV-shoot (which are usually done by crews who don't have a clue about the music), the editing is excellent although there are some minor flaws. For example, when Mickey Simmonds turns into the great (keyboard) violin solo in Brother 52, the director of the program opts for long close-ups of a tree and we only see a few minor glimpses of Simmonds' fingers literally flying over the keys. A pity. Also most in-between song banter has been edited out, but this is barely noticeable.

The second DVD boasts two interesting extras. First is a 30-minute Behind-the-scenes documentary which shows one full day on the road during the Sunsets On Empire tour in Germany. It features short interviews by all band and crew members and an honest conversation with Fish talking about life on the road, being away from friends and family for so long.

Second extra is an extensive 50-minute interview with Fish in which he reflects on the Sunsets On Empire album and the tour and the Poland gig in particular. As always it's a lot of fun listening to Fish' animated accounts of the tour and watching his vivid expressions. The interview is shot from multiple camera positions, making it a bit more fun to watch than the interviews on the Fool's Company DVD. If you're only ever going to buy one Fish DVD, this is the one to buy. Excellent stuff. 8.5 out of 10
Bart Jan van der Vorst (DPRP), December 2003

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