Peter Hammill
Huntingdon Hall, Worcester, England

Thanks to Joek for this review:

I wanted to make sure I would arrive in time for this show. I hadn't seen Hammill perform for about 10 years, Utrecht '93 was the last time, & the memories weren't good on that one - it was time to set the record straight. I managed to avoid the evening rush hour at Newport, & the drive from Cardiff up to Worcester was relatively smooth.

Arriving at the Huntingdon Hall, I made my way to the cafe where I ordered a drink & sat down at a nice table. Nice place, I thought - then I heard a deep English, slightly familiar voice - Hammill, w/ Stuart Gordon & 2 others, waiting for their supper, sharing family stories & many jokes. Hammill incognito is not like the man I remembered from the stage. Funny how small people seem to be once they get off the stage. Interestingly, Huntingdon Hall is an 18th century chapel w/ excellent acoustics, terrible seats, & good views of the stage throughout (I think). The funny boxes (I was seated in one of them) didn't take away as much of the sound as, for example, the gallery seats in St George's, Bristol, do.

Overall, the show was very good humoured w/ jokes throughout, which compensates for the utter heaviness of the music. It was good to see Peter after all these years, & his voice has never been better. The noise passages are still there, whereas the subtle, quiet passages are more subtle & more quiet than they were when I used to see a lot of the man.

I didn't take notes of the setlist - only about 3 or 4 of the songs played I didn't recognize - & the order below is not necessarily the right one. Oh yes, Stuart was in good form too - he played his heart out & had an excellent rapport w/ the audience.

The 1st tune, 'The Comet, the course, the tail', was a great set opener - it warmed Hammill's voice up, & surprised me as I was expecting 'Comfortable' (which I would have loved to hear too) - a very dynamic opener, topical as well.

Then, I wasn't prepared for the beauty that is 'Shingle song' - the acapella opening silenced the hall within a few seconds. An intense love song, maybe not as upbeat as 'If I could', but definitely heartfelt . . . After this, Peter took us on a trip down memory lane - 'What's it worth', which he said he had rediscovered recently, sounded as if it was written not that long ago, although the following 'Bareknuckle trade', showed how different his recent songs are from his early work.

At that point, Peter moved to the grand piano for a 3 song, pre-interval set. 'Easy to slip away', which I regard as the twin-song to 'Refugees' (of which more later), was very moving, after which I hit my 1st unknown tune. 'A better time' sounded anthemic to me, it was very uplifting, & also unusually rhythmic, danceable even. I would like to hear more of this tune. It segued very smoothly & nicely into the opening notes of Faculty X, one of those angry, topical Hammill tunes.

Break. Before Peter & Stuart made their way back to the stage, a raffle took place for the maintenaince of the Hall. Peter had donated a few broken guitar strings, which were the 1st prize to go. An at times hilarious draw, a long wait for the artists to return, & my next 2 unknown songs. I was impressed. I have seen many concerts over the past year & often my mind has wondered off to anything happening outside the show, not so w/ these 2 maestros. Even in these unknown tunes, the 2nd of which, 'Unrehearsed', I loved, Hammill knew how to captivate my attention & show an interesting turn to his music at nearly every instant (I still down know the name of the 1st post-interval piano song). 'Vision' started off w/ overall hilarity as Peter repeated the 1st bars a few times & then admitted he couldn't remember the 1st line .

Stuart walked over, stealthily, but several members of the audience made the lyrics known to them. It was an intense love song, sparkling w/ feeling, one of those Hammill songs that should be granted wider recognition.

Back to the guitar, a _Clutch_ tune, 'Just a child' . . . Hammill has become a master at reflecting topics of the day in story-songs, direct & heart-breaking. The finale that followed was an expression of the rapport between these two musicians. First, 'Last frame', a very good choice for a string duet, had me sitting at the edge of my seat & it showed us Stuart Gordon at his most fierce - the attack on his violin left his bow in disarray. I had hoped to be treated to 'Patient', so when I heard the 1st guitar notes indicating the sweet beginning of this personal favourite, I knew the concert had been brought to a good ending.

'Patient' contains the line that I find is one of those ultimately reflective Hammill lyrics - 'rattling in the throat', rattle it did indeed. I didn't care what the encore would be - whether a drawn-out 'Still life', a poignant 'Refugees', or some little throwaway melody (although 'Again 'would have made another day for me), & it turned out to be an astonishing 'Refugees', the perfect icing on an even better cake.

As always, my immediate feelings after a Hammill show were quite ambivalent -

it is only now that I start to realize that it was quite an extraordinary performance, good music, joyfully played, a good time had by many, no doubt. Although it was very hard to judge by the audience. Only a handful of people would make their feelings known alongside stoic applause in between songs. Yes, there was some interaction between stage & audience, but overall this was almost like a rather stiff classical music audience - you'd get frowned upon if you laughed or coughed during a song.

This time I won't leave it 10 years till the next show.


The Comet
Shingle Song
What's It Worth?
Bareknuckle Trade


Easy To Slip Away
A Better Time
Faculty X
Nothing Comes


Just a Child
Last Frame





From Gaffaman:

The Gig started promptly at 8pm. Hammill and Gordon enter stage left. Hammill seats himself rather uncomfortably at the front of the stage all knees and elbows and busies himself tuning his new red Guitar, the tuning process slowly evolves into the first song "COMET" which builds momentum and takes flight onto a shimmering climax. Most artists would end with this song but Hammill always the bravest of performers throws down the gauntlet to himself and delivers a powerful and passionately executed set of songs from every stage of his career.

The first set was "from memory" Comet, Shingle Song, What's it worth, Driven, Bareknuckle trade, in the end, (most likely easy to slip..not in the end...checking)... faculty X. The highlights for me were "BareKnuckle trade" which was absolutely stunning, the interplay between the musicians was almost telepathic it's exhilarating to see musicians flying lost in the creative now.Then to crown it all peak upon peak "Faculty X" a personal favourite which totally blew me away. the first set was stunning I was spellbound they had generated such a powerful charge I never wanted it to end. But then came the raffle !

No that's not a new song they actually stopped for a raffle and Hammill generous to a fault donated his used Guitar strings unfortunately the spell was now broken and Peter and Stuart looking slightly embarrassed stumbled back onstage and proceeded to cock up the first line of "Vision" but they slowly got back into the groove and ended with a truly harrowing version of "Patient" Hammill exorcising his demons, screaming out the words I'm sure I saw his head turn 360% and Gordon matched him all the way frantically distorting the notes through his multi effects and making extreme use of his Wah Wah pedal.

I've seen Hammill live in every guise since 1976 and the first set tonight ranks as one of the best performances I've ever seen.

GAFFAMAN _____________________________________________________

And a quick message from Phil Smart about the Worcester concert:

said that "Vision" was quite good and that the encore was "Refugees"...he also sent a few photos (the others will be up later today)

Should have more news soon...

Thanks Phil