Van Der Graaf Generator live 1971 to 1977

Van Der Graaf Generator live 1971 to 1977
vdggI always found Van Der Graaf Generator to be a tricky and complex band. They come from the dark and deep side of prog which they inhabit with King Crimson. I totally loved some of their songs, but found others too dark, strange, jerky and lengthy for my liking. My favourites were, and remain, “Killer”, “Refugees” and “Darkness”. “Killer” is an epic prog classic, which was played again and again at my local Locarno ballroom in the early ’70s. Its narrative tells the story of a lonely killer whale: “So you live in the bottom of the sea, and you kill all that come near you ….but you are very lonely, because all the other fish, fear you …..”. I would group “Refugees” and “Darkness”‘ together; both are beautiful, slow ballads. “Refugees” tells a poignant story of hope, and of Mike and Susie who are “refugees, walking away from the life that we’ve known and loved”; they “walked alone, sometimes hand in hand……smiling very peacefully” and ends “Now we are alone….” “Darkness”, as its title suggests is a moody, fascinating piece: “Day dawns dark, it now numbers infinity. Life crawls from the past, watching in wonder. I trace its patterns in me. Tomorrow’s tomorrow is birth again.” Deep, heavy stuff. VDGG live were equally dark, complex and intense. I found their performances fascinating, uplifting, yet also frustrating and troubling; sometimes even slightly scary. The focus was always the intense and passionate performance of Peter Hammill, swirling organ, and lengthy (sometimes too lengthy in my view) sax solos. The classic line-up, which I saw twice in the period between 1971 and 1972 was Peter Hammill (vocals, piano), Hugh Banton (organ), Guy Evans (drums) and David Jackson (sax, flute). The first time I saw VDGG was at a concert at Newcastle City Hall, where they were supported by Lindisfarne and Genesis (a great triple bill 🙂 ). It was a Charisma package tour, and the tickets were all of 30p, but we had vouchers from Northern Arts which entitled us to half price entry. That was a great evening, and a bargain at 15p! I blogged of that concert some time ago. I next saw them at Sunderland Locarno on 3rd March 1972. Another great gig. The band then split for a period, reforming a couple of years later. I remember going to one of the shows on their “comeback” tour at Newcastle Polytechnic on 24th October 1975. I saw them again the following year at the Reading Festival on 28th August 1976, where they played a short festival set of Masks, Childlike Faith in Childhood’s End, Still Life, The Sleepwalkers and closed with Killer. By 1977 the line-up had changed. David Jackson and Hugh Banton had left and Nic Potter had joined on bass, along with Graham Smith, formerly of the excellent String Driven Thing on violin (check out String Driven Thing’s great song “Its a Game” which was covered by none other than the Bay City Rollers). I saw that line-up at a gig at Redcar Coatham Bowl on 30th October 1977. VDGG reformed a few years ago, and I have blogged on a performance I attended in Manchester a couple of years ago.
Van Der Graaf Generator are, without question, one of the most important and influential bands to come out of the prog rock genre.

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