Tuesday 22 February 2022

H to He

To Manchester, to experience a much postponed concert by Peter Hammill's Van der Graaf Generator. Given the fellow's age (and mine), this is one of those experiences to slot in as soon as you reasonably can. Fate, in the form of Storms Derek, Eric, and Fuckwit nearly intervened, but it was OK in the end.

The trip also took in the valedictory running of Blake's 52More Score #10, and a celebration of Terminalia 2022, both of which are detailed elsewhere.

This trio that has been playing together for ... err ... 54 years so we needn't be surprised at a very polished show. There's no doubt that the absence of a saxophone left a saxophone shaped hole where a saxophone ought to be, but they rang the changes rather well. Having been unfairly tarred with the "prog" label, they managed to dip toes in quite a range of genres, and the man's voice has lost none of its power and almost none of its range. A very few imprecisions, but hey - that's why you go to hear people live.

It tells you something that they didn't play any of Killer, Man Erg or A plague of lighthouse keepers - they have quite a songbook to choose from. For this reviewer, Scorched Earth was the standout. The setlist is at setlist.fm.

Hammill and Fripp are part of a generation - I believe they get on well together. In contrast to the lip-zipped Fripp, Hammill was happy to banter. Pausing for an interval he noted "It's quiet when it stops, isn't it?"

I think the jury is out on which of VdGG's albums is most memorable/influential/best but it's inquitous to compare stuff released in the 21st century with that from over 50 years ago. From early days, it's hard to better Pawn Hearts[1], but my introduction to all this was in Pat's back room and H to He, whereat I first met the proton-proton fusion reaction. In preparation for the gig, I chose to manufacture my own merchandise by customising a black hoodie thus

I think this all worked rather well, even if it does undermine the principle of bands selling massively overpriced garments at their pension fund boosting gigs.

[1] Pawn Hearts, wherefrom Man Erg. How well known is it that this synchronises wonderfully with Buñuel's Un Chien Andalou? Check it out.

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