Will Smith: Misplaced Childhood

Note: This review is from 2005

Review by Steve Bennett

Will Smith takes his love of Marillion very seriously indeed. But then he takes everything, no matter how inconsequential, very seriously, such is his emotionally stunted, anally retentive persona.

In a stirring opening montage, he makes the claim that the band’s seminal 1985 album after which this shows is named, has changed the world in the past 20 years – two decades in which he’s found time for 17 Fish concerts, but only four sexual  partners.

This is, in part, a portrait of his compulsive-obsessive devotion to the band, tracking down Fish under the guise of conducing an  interview only to gush like the awestruck fan he is, seriously testing his hero’s patience.

But to say this is the extent of the show would be like saying Animal Farm is a pig-rearing manual.

No, what this is really about is the amateur band scene on Jersey in the late Eighties, a world in which a young Smith had a key role - at least in his eyes. And this is full of more rivalries, unrequited love (guess whose?) and passion than the most epic and Proustian of Marillion tracks.

Smith uses his time on stage now to settle a few scores from those formative times. And, believe me, he is a petty,  petty man. Beneath his fogeyish exterior, a range has smouldered these past 15 or so years as he was too uptight and well, English, to have ever confronted them at the time.

This is the joy of Smith’s accomplished, multi-layered follow-up to last year’s thematically similar Ten Arguments I Should Have Won: the exposing of his own failings under the disguise of belated point-scoring. Even today, he comes out the loser.

How much of this tale is true is a moot point, but it hardly matters. It’s constructed to at least be plausible, and with a talent for creating a story that exposes increasingly more of his personality as it unfurls, tying up all the strands into a satisfying conclusion. He’s also demonstrated a knack for being able to create pretentious Eighties-style rock videos, although he may be 20 years too late for that to be of any use to him.

A couple of the elements of the tale are overplayed, though it’s an achievement that this is not a substantially bigger problem, since we have to care about the minor feuds of schoolboy rock wannbes for this show to even work at all.

And one more thing we learn – that whatever your preconceptions, Fish’s lyrics aren’t half bad. Could this be the cataylst for a  long overdue Marillion reappraisal?

Of course not. But you can’t blame Smith for trying.

Review date: 1 Jan 2005
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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