Sunday, 30 June 2013

Live Review - Van Der Graaf Generator, Manchester.

Van Der Graaf Generator - cropped
Date: 28th June 2013
Venue: RNCM, Manchester
Gig Buddy : Phil

A few years ago as I was embarking on my first adventures into prog I asked my friend Phil where I should start with VDGG and his initial response was to note that I really was serious about prog then. After that I became distracted by other prog bands old and new but would still revisit VDGG occasionally so when the opportunity arose (and the hotel bill for the Cheltenham trip came to a lot less than I thought it would) I handed over my hard earned cash to Phil for a ticket to see them live.

Not a penny of that ticket money was wasted. I really enjoyed the concert. The band looked so ordinary on the stage that you could have passed them on the street and not realised but the sound they made was extraordinary. Every note was well executed and every song perfectly structured.

The undoubted highlight was A Plague Of Lighthouse Keepers which was welcomed warmly by the appreciative audience and applauded loudly when completely.

The show lasted just under 2 hours with no interval and the set list was eight songs long. However no song felt uncomfortably long and you really didn't notice the passage of time. What was strange was emerging from a gig and it still being light outside.

Thursday, 20 June 2013

Live Review: Rick Wakeman

Date: 16th and 17th June 2013
Venue: Centaur, Cheltenham
Gig Buddies: Phil (both nights), Alex (second night)

I had been looking forward to these shows as soon as I found out about them. When the first bits of information came out about them it was meant to be two different productions, but in the end it was the same show twice. I can't complain, it was great, both nights.

Previously I'd only seen Rick on a solo show so didn't really know what to expect from a bigger show. After an interesting day (see my personal blog) my gig buddy, Phil, and I got into the venue in plenty of time to hang around in the bar for a little while. Here Phil bumped into a couple of people that he had met at the Gloucester show the day before. This led to my favourite moment at prog gigs with Phil,
being introduced as being there of my own free will! I know I'm not the only female prog rock fan out there, I know a few over on twitter etc... but sometimes it is very noticeable that certain audiences are predominantly male.

Anyway, that's all by the by really. On to the show. There was an orchestra, a choir and the English Rock Ensemble on the stage. It was just big enough to house them all. The orchestra tuning elicited applause from wags in the audience on the first night, but they got the last laugh when, on the second night, the lead violin took a little bow at the end of the tuning.

The sound on the first night took a while to get properly balanced, a problem that was solved by the second half and certainly gone by the second night.   Lengthy pieces such as vast chunks of The Myths And Legends of King Arthur and The Knights of the Round Table in the first half and the same of Journey To The Centre of the Earth in the second half were neatly balanced with shorter tunes like After The Ball and Gone But Not Forgotten. The
orchestra and choir added depth to the sounds made by the rock musicians creating a fine blend of sounds.  Singer Ashley Holt contributed vocals as required. I was developing a headache by the end of the first half on the first night and this affected my enjoyment somewhat, thank goodness I was fine for the second night and able to take more of it in.

Highlights for me included a beautiful choral version of Morning Has Broken (arranged for David Croft's memorial service), the medley of Help and Eleanor Rigby arranged in the style of Saint Saens and Prokofiev respectively (the former with a plaintive vocal from Ashley Holt which adds another dimension to the song), Catherine Howard from The Six Wives of Henry VIII and the Journey and Arthur excerpts.

The music was punctuated with introductions and explanations from Rick, at least one of which I hadn't heard or read before. Not that I mind the same stories, it's all in the timing and he's a funny guy and good story teller.

Both evenings were rounded off by a version of the Yes song Starship Trooper, culminating in Wurm. Of course Starship Trooper looms large in the legend of this blog. (It's where I got its title from.)

Now I am looking forward to the opportunity to see a full production of Journey To The Centre of The Earth next year.

Huge thanks to Phil for organising all the tickets and logistics as well as getting a programme signed for me at the Wakeman with Wakeman with Wakeman and Wakeman event in Gloucester on the Saturday.

Full set of unedited photos from both nights on flickr here.

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

Elvis Costello & The Imposters - Liverpool Philhamonic Hall 10th June 2013

Elvis CostelloI don't think I've ever not enjoyed seeing Elvis Costello, and seeing him in Liverpool always makes for a special night. Last night was no exception.

The Revolver Tour involves a giant wheel with songs, jackpots and jokers listed on there. (The jackpots lead to a run of about three songs on the given theme and the jokers mean the spinner gets to pick anything on the wheel.) Audience members come on stage, spin the wheel and then remain on stage, either sat at a lounge bar or dancing in the go-go cage, for the duration of their songs. It's a great format. Everyone feels involved and there's a party atmosphere for the whole night.

The idea is that large chunks of the set list is left to random chance, but there's a heck of a lot of cheating going on, still as the man himself said "If you can't cheat in Liverpool, where can you cheat?"

A liberal smattering of hits and old favourites are usually required to keep an audience happy, and the show delivered not only these but a few other delights too.

Highlights then -
- First and foremost, if there's a theremin on stage, I'm a happy girl!
- Any song that ended with a strong vocal delivered without the aid of a microphone. This venue is amazing for sound and Elvis utilised this to great effect throughout the night.
- Girl's Talk in the middle of the "Girl" jackpot spin
Elvis Costello- Watching the Detectives ending with Elvis walking through the audience, out the back of the hall and ending up on the balcony amongst the audience up there singing Almost Blue.
- Tramp The Dirt Down (for personal reasons this made me a little over emotional, but this is not the time or place for the whys and wherefores of that.)
- The powerful finale of Pump It Up and (What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace Love And Understanding with the audience on their feet and dancing away.

I came away feeling elated and joyful, and that I had had a bloody good time. What more can you ask for?

Set list and other information here. (Elvis Costello Wiki page)
My photos from the show on flickr.

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