Live in Concert at Metropolis Studios
102. Nutter Alert
103. Your Time Starts Now
107. Childlike Faith
201. Mr. Sands
202. Over The Hill
203. We Are Not Here
Drums – Guy Evans
Organ – Hugh Banton
Vocals, Guitar, Piano – Peter Hammill
On the evening of December 18, 2010, 120 lucky Van Der Graaf Generator fans braved a blizzard to travel to West London's Metropolis Studios to take in a rare UK apearance by Peter Hamill, Hugh Banton and Guy Evans.
Among the most revered of the progressive rock groups to evolve in England during the late 60s and early 70s, VDGG performed songs from all stages of their career in an intimate atmosphere that was captured in a manner unlikely ever to be achieved again.
Recorded and filmed on 18.12.2010 at special event at Metropolis Studios, West London
Van der Graaf Generator's "Recorded Live in Concert at Metropolis Studios, London" is the latest live album from the wonderful eclectic prog legends, and it is everything a VDGG addict could hope for. The big three are here that have kept the dream alive for years; Peter Hammill is incredible on vocals, guitars, and keyboards, as is the indispensable darkened keyboard atmospheres of Hugh Banton, also on bass, and the incomparable drumming passion of Guy Evans seals the deal. This is a beautifully packaged 2 CD album, with stunning sound quality and an even more outstanding setlist.
It opens with a terrific highlight from "Trisector", 'Interference Patterns' that gets the crowd warmed up and they seem impressed judging from the applause afterwards. One can never be disappointed with hearing a live version of 'Nutter Alert', and Hammill absolutely belts this out with as much passion and drive as on "Present".
For the first time I was treated to a live version of a track from "A Grounding In Numbers", the passive thought provoking 'Your Time Starts Now', and it is wonderful. The live set includes some of the quintessential VDGG classics including, from the brilliant "Pawn Hearts", 'Lemmings', that clocks a mind bending 14:26.
This is followed by "Trisector"'s 'Lifetime' , a song I had forgotten but as soon as it started I was delighted with the familiar melody. 'Bunsho' from "A Grounding In Numbers" follows and breezes by quickly, preparing us for the highlight of the album. 'Childlike Faith' is the popular gem from "Still Life" clocking 12:16. The piano is everpresent and a delightful augmentation of the overall texture, that resonates between dark and light with crashes of distorted chords. The tensions are subtle, releasing various musicians to take over and then holding back enough to let the music breathe. It is never overblown or pretentious due to the sincerity of blending Hammill's alienated vocals with Banton's keyboard finesse. The instrumental section is brilliant, sliding and swooping keyboards pouncing upon plunging guitar sweeps, creating a sense of isolation and intense abandonment in the icy wasteland.
Disc Two is shorter at only 34:29, something I was not impressed with, as the whole thing only runs for about an hour and a half, but at least the concert is here to enjoy. It begins with 'Mr. Sands' from "A Grounding In Numbers". Then 'Over The Hill' running for 12:21, and 'We Are Not Here', both great tracks from "Trisector". 'Man-Erg' closes the album with an 11:50 version from the essential "Pawn Hearts" masterpiece. It is a sensational way to close the program, and the crowd offer their rapturous applause demonstrating their appreciation for a great concert experience.
On the downside there is no sax because Jackson is absent and it is really missing the old VDGG magic without those blasting duel sax layers. Another thing is the band omit some songs that I would have been waiting with baited breath for if I had been at the concert, namely 'Killer', 'Darkness (11/11)', oh, and just a little bit of 'A Plague of Lighthouse Keepers', please fellers? Also unforgivably, nothing has been lifted from the grand trilogy "H To He Who Am The Only One", "The Least We Can Do Is Wave to Each Other", or even "Godbluff". This is a mistake in my opinion as they could have easily injected another 4 or 5 songs, but I guess they are in the golden years now and not as spry as in the 70s years. One expects a decent length concert with the amount it costs to see a band these days so anything less than 2 hours is not really value for money. If this is the whole concert it feels a bit short for comfort. The other live albums were also quite short, though concerts generally were in the 70s, and we may recall that "Vital" from 1978 is about 90 minutes, "Maida Vale (BBC Sessions)" from the 70s is about 70 minutes, but "Real Time" recorded in 2007 is over 2 hours long!
In any case the CD is exceptional quality, some great songs here and any excuse to revisit these songs given a live treatment is definitely worthwhile. It could have been better certainly, but overall this is excellent prog and proves there is life in the old generator yet!