Tag Archive: barbican


Van der Graaf Generator Ticket Barbican 27/03/11

Setlist
1 Interference Patterns
2 Mr. Sands
3 Your Time Starts Now
4 Mathematics
5 Lemmings
6 Lifetime
7 Bunsho
8 Over The Hill
9 Scorched Earth
10 Childlike Faith In Childhood’s End

Encore:
11 La Rossa

The last time I’d seen Van der Graaf Generator was back in 2005 when they thundered back to the realm of live performances with their now legendary comeback gig at the Royal Festival Hall. I had tickets for their previous Barbican outing in 2007, but decided not to go because I’d gotten the Missus pregnant and I thought all the noise and excitement of a VDGG concert wouldn’t be conducive to the development of the foetus.

Despite getting a little lost driving into London, we arrived late to miss the first song and caught them blistering through “Mr Sands” from the new album “A Grounding in Numbers”. And quite a bit of material tonight was from this CD and their previous released “Trisector”. But despite this, the one hour and forty-five minute set whizzed past with such speed, such was my enjoyment and involvement with the music.

It takes quite a bit of getting used to not having David Jackson’s saxophones in the mix, but I must admit I didn’t miss him with Hammill covering his lines on guitar and keyboard. This was a very different animal, much leaner, much meaner and definitely louder. The material from “A Grounding in Numbers” felt a lot stronger than the “Trisector” songs, which felt a little meandering and meek in comparison. Of course, you also want some of the old songs and there was a smattering of those to suffice: “Lemmings” which the beginning was almost unrecognisable thanks to Hammill’s lead guitar playing, “Scorched Earth” was dispatched with a raw power you come to expect, but it wasn’t until show closer “Childlike Faith In Childhood’s End” that I felt the power of the music actually suck the air from my lungs and leave me breathless. The encore of “La Rossa” continued to electrify and left me tingling as all the hairs on my neck and body suddenly stood to attention, such was the power of the music.

The band were on good form and one can forgive the “trainwrecks” (Peter Hammill’s words not mine) that happened during the show. The power and brute force of this trio still amazes me and Hammill’s unfaltering voice, which soars and screams and whispers and talks, is worth the ticket price alone. How that man can still do what he does at his age, I find totally awe-inspiring.

I must admit that I had pretty low expectations of the concert, but I feel that was the best place the start because I had a very good evening of music delivered to me. I spent a lot of the evening transfixed by the playing of drummer Guy Evans, who is the heartbeat of the band, while Hugh Banton bolstered the guitar and keyboard playing of Hammill. The only criticism, if there is to be a criticism, is that Peter Hammill is no lead guitarist and his playing was a little weak in places and sometimes you couldn’t even hear him in the mix. But it doesn’t matter because with that voice, Hammill can sing the telephone book and I’d pay to listen.

They are a pretty tight trio when they get going and, despite their collective age, make a lot of younger rock bands look like a bunch of simpering pussies. Viva le VDGG!

pengtick090211.jpg
It is hard to believe, but it has been four and a half years since my last gig. My self-imposed exile meant that I have not been able to worship at the shrine for such a long time, so it was quite apt that such a musical banquet was served up to me last night.
I had been looking forward to the concert since it was announced because it was my first chance to see the Portico Quartet who I’ve admired since hearing their first album two years ago and it was also the first proper London outing for the Penguin Café, but more about them later.

The music of the Portico Quartet is straddles genres – the use of saxophone and upright bass puts the band firmly in the jazz camp, while the utilisation of the hang drum adds a new age/world music slant to their output. The band is purely instrumental and we were treated to performances from both their debut and follow-up albums, “Knee-Deep in the North Sea” and “Isla”.

The performance was truly mesmeric. The music, for me, transporting and expansive – showcasing the unique sound of the band. Tunes played included, “Lifemask” with its strange looping beginnings, “News from Verona”, “Line” and “Clipper” – there might have been others by my memory isn’t want it was and I don’t remember their tunes by name, just by familiarity.

I was surprised just how much use of looping there was by the band with both the saxophonist and drummer preparing and triggering loops, and sending ethereal noises into the sonic backdrop. The drummer also appeared to be responsible for some live mixing on the set as he often was seen scrambling to adjust his mixer whilst playing.

I thought it was a truly superb performance and I felt old and “over the hill” seeing these young fellows being so adept at their craft. The music was so engaging that by the end of the hour-long set, I felt emotionally drained and exhausted by the performance – in a good way, of course.

pengposter_sml.jpg
After a short interlude, whilst road crew scurried around removing equipment and preparing the stage, the Penguin Café headed by Arthur Jeffes took the stage. What is the Penguin Café? It’s not the Penguin Café Orchestra, for that was a completely different beast. It is not a cover band. It’s not a reboot (although Arthur Jeffes coined that terminology during the set). It’s similar but different – like looking at the world through a new set of eyes, or listening to the Penguin’s albums with someone else’s ears.
The strength of goodwill and positive feeling washed upon the stage and it was a good night. I thought it took the band a few songs to hit their stride, but it didn’t matter, for this was a special night and a night I thought I’d never see happen. To imagine that I’d hear these songs again performed live was fantasy since the untimely death of Simon Jeffes and for his son to pick up the reins was an incredibly brave thing to do.

What to say? If you love the Penguin Café Orchesta, you will love this band. It just has to be. You will forgo the complaints that the guitar playing on “Dirt” isn’t as good, or that Arthur’s ukulele playing needs a little work and that there appears to be too many people on stage at once, because it’s not about that. It’s about celebration, for the concert was more than just a run-through of a few old songs, it felt like a celebration of the music and a way of preserving the musical legacy put-down by Simon Jeffes.
Arthur Jeffes is a personable young man with a deft line in rambling, humble stories and he does a grand job as band leader. The band itself is a sprawling mess of talent, with many of them dressed as if they’d just escaped from a Victorian lunatic asylum, which is kind of jarring when they first hit the stage. Of course, this is stage craft and very few bands these days try to attempt to engage with their audiences in this way.

All the old favourites were performed such as “Telephone and Rubber Band”, “Music for a Found Harmonium” and “Perpetuum Mobile” as well as new tracks from the freshly-released Arthur Jeffes-penned “A Matter of Life…” album.
I thought it was a truly wonderful evening of music and a rich feast for a cultural starved man as myself. It was good to be a part of it and one of the best concert experiences I’ve ever had and one I will remember for a long while.

And to be a total publicity whore, for those of you visiting via Google, feel free to check out my music at iTunes: http://itunes.apple.com/us/artist/darren-lock/id4151062