PH w/Stuart Gordon

Belgium 17 May 1999

Review by koen b

a bit of a rarity for me, but always nice of course to see PH in one's own country ...

i had never been in this club "spirit of '66", but that name pretty well sums it up, being specialised in all kind of retro stuff (mostly blues and prog oriented, that night they were constantly playing what i thought was early genesis material that i didn't know, but it seemed to be a group called Night Watch, who will come and visit the club on friday;

this is what Tina called a real rip-off of Genesis, and i think she's right); they've had GONG earlier this month, and were very proud to put on a PH gig tonight, "the thinking head of Van Der Graf Generator", the whole billed, for a change, as SPACE ROCK ... (though with Stuart's violin playing, it might be an accurate description ..)

it has not been said before, but i think this is the first tour in ages WITHOUT sound engineer Paul Ridout, who seems to have hurt his foot upon returning from italy ...

most local people made a perfect job out of it, the major difference being lots less echo effects, which, for me, is not necessarily a bad thing though most of the time i found the violin sound to be to much upfront, esp. as SG seems to like to fill every little space in the music they are playing (quite unlike PH himself, who, more often than before, is able to make effective use of very silent passages in the music) during other passages however, you really could hear that paul wasn't there, always having a nice but changing mix between voice and instruments, but as so often: you only hear this when it isn't there

the first half was, what i would call, a good standard/professional set, with no peaks on either side of the spectrum, though both actors seemed a bit tired, esp. stuart, whom we had seen rambling around before the gig, not really knowing where his head was (nor the stage) (a thing that surprised me, as this seems to be the first decent organised tour in ages: travelling each day in between 100 and 200 km, with even some kind of logic in the travelling process; BUT, it seemed later, and this is none of our business of course :) they had been up until dawn the other night after the luxembourg gig, where they've must have had a pretty interesting night with some other artists staying at the same hotel, amongst which Frank Black and the Catholics, Sam Browne, the keyboard player of Deep Purple (forgot his name, sorry) and the complete Verona Philharmonic ... it seemed that esp. Frank Black and PH got on quite well with one another - another cooperation in the making ??? ) siren song / too many of / tenderness / unrehearsed / comfortable / nightman / shingle song / amnesiac oh, there were about 100 to 150 people this is a nice average of what we've seen during this tour, and i truly hope it won't be going downhill any further (and as such, far away from the 400 or so people that would have come to see the man in brussels ...) all of a sudden anyway, there was a guy stepping forward and asked PH if he could do a request, upon which PH said the usual "i'm afraid the set list has been written down", the guy took no offense, and stepped backward, which in turn seemed to surprise PH, and he therefore said "OK, you can do a request" the guy: "well, could you play 'The land of the Mysteries' ?" PH, rather puzzled, looked backwards to see if there was another artist on stage who'd ever written that song, the guy going to the back row again, saying: "and yet you _have_ written it !" strange people there in verviers ! the second half became really better, and lots of the audience seemed very pleased with PH playing " Easy to slip away", which we got in a really intense version, followed by an ever good "Stranger still" and "Bubble"

SG seemed to have a slight problem with the sound of his violin, and thinking it was the batteries of his pedal, he went backstage to exchange those, a moment PH used to play "The Birds" solo on electric guitar, and a bit strange to see that SG, who arrived back on stage during the last minute of this song, didn't have the decency to let him finish this one solo, a like this combination of fragile songs played on electric guitar

unlike the other two nights, were we got only two electric guitar songs, we got no less than four tonight, with the usual "The gift of fire" (nice intro they gave to this song, though a bit short today) a splendid "Last Frame" (always one of my favourites) and the perennial closer "Primo", where PH finally did speed up the pace of the song again

no less than two encores tonight, though this was not too difficult, with an organiser refusing to switch on the lights before the audience got those two encores ...

and on top of that using one of his own microphone at the bar to amplify the sound of the applauding audience ... meanwhile filling the stage with an enormous curtain of smoke (PH had to use his towel to make himself visible again ...)

nothing comes was the first encore, a strange choice in my opinion, and a bit of a letdown after a good second half but then i think that he should never play both "tenderness" AND "nothing comes" in one and the same gig

so i was only too glad to see that there was going to be another encore, and due to the ongoing problems with SG's violin we got a sole version of "Been alone"

and that's of course ALWAYS a nice and moving ending For those of you who wonder what it means that PH has a good contact with his audience: during most of the shows i saw him, the man really took his time after the show to talk at length with whoever wanted to do so yesterday even having to go through this process of having to give several fingerprints instead of the usual signatures ...

he's a brave man, i tell you

koen b.
back to page 1