Nürnberg, The City of Light

by Marga in the Netherlands:

My strategic moves in the Nürnberg-Cologne express were reminiscent of a game of chess because I hadn't booked for an actual seat, whereasall sensible travellers, which were indeed all the others had.

The train was crammed, German holidays had started. Serious fun. Two bright eyed nuns in soiled habits sat left of me, they smiled friendly. How did they know I was thinking of the song? and, oh how embarrassing, two overstrung fellow countrymen were swearing! and running nervously up and down the corridor while gesticulating wildly to nobody in particular, and yelling that their seats had been taken.

"What about the 40 DM extra money they'd payed for a reservation". Oh dear, how pathetic. And I'm sure they were overcharged too, can't be that expensive.

And the train from Cologne to Utrecht initially refused to pull into Dusseldorf - the city was on fire. Well, come to think of, it was rather hot, but I blamed the airco system which seemed to operate in the first class compartments exclusively, and ofcourse I travelled with second class tickets in my pocket.

After a 30 minute delay the train continued its journey. Not a false alarm entirely, it was probably just 'that Institute' burning. I didn't care much about all this... I was still on a PHH (post Hammill high).

Some people have asked me to write a review about the shows, but I'm afraid this time I've been victim of an overdose of moods and impressions of 4 days in crazy Nürnberg - a city where 'bier gartens' occur in every street at intervals of a few yards by the way- that it seems next to impossible to recall every individual song and detail.

Well first there was that endless trainjourney home on Monday, secondly there was a lot of work to catch up with at the lab. Before you realize it the taste and reality have drained away into ordinary life and all you have left is a setlist, a set of words and some photographs, but, thirdly there was computertime at last... so here's an attempt to do that report before amnesia strikes completely.

I arrived in N-berg on Thursday late afternoon with Jaap, who had to continue his journey by train to meet some friends first. Since I happened to be alone and had nothing better to do I decided to have a preliminary investigation on the venue. Turned out that the notorious St.Katharina monastery had transformed into an Irish pub! Typical. Haha, how very apposite. I might as well stay and have a beer then. While I was still trying to finish that huge glass of Kilkenny - half a pint is a concept Bavaria has never been introduced to - I stumbled upon (no I wasn't drunk but that's how the expression goes) one of the 'mad? Belgians'. We spent some time talking and dining... well I had finished most of my not highly recommendable fish & chips already.... and then went back to our respective hotels.

The Friday show was to start at 7 pm, many aficionados had already gathered early within the churches precinct... beyond the treacherous gates which security men threatened to close every time a too dense concentration of visitors was imminent on the St. Katharina courtyard.

There was a soundcheck going on with lots of reverberating "ooohohohoooos", which funnily enough made some unsuspecting souls decide to escape in time to comfortably settle some stage else, near a safer band.

Church doors opened at 6.30 and we all speeded to the altar to secure front stage "seats". The ruin was very Gothic, a magical place too, as inside was also outside! High, solid, ancient, windowed walls, and no roof just as I'd expected. The perfect ambiance for "The Lie"! We've been betting on either 'The Lie' or 'Fed to the Wolves' neither of which was played tonight. My general impression of the show was: a really strong start on piano - oh and "Vision"! my favourite, was included here once again, he did an intense rendition which had the audience vibrate with his emotion -, followed by a very powerful guitarset... setlist on Jim's site.. all songs were terrific.

"I'm not used to playing in daylight" - well but you pleaded 'let there be light' the first night, remember? - is an utterance I must have heard at least three times this weekend... (isn't he humanoid after all???).. whatever PH wanted to express by repeating that, the intensity of the shows didn't suffer from the light as far as I'm concerned. From the flashlights perhaps, and the photographers. During the first guitar set one of these guys with the conspicuous 'photopass' dangling around his neck got a bit too forward , causing PH to abruptly break off his song (Comfortable, was it? Jochen, you can surely verify), to give him one of those fixed stares, and say: "Excuse me... But.....!" Cute, and very effective... the cameraman slunk off - we haven't seen him since - and Peter started again and was totally wrapped up in the songs.

The second piano set however commenced with a rather unsettled Autumn - perhaps it was the wrong time of the year.. the song didn't stand a chance in that summer heat - , but ameliorated gradually with "A Way Out". Shiver! Shiver! The encore came as a pleasant surprise: an awe inspiring "Afterwards"! I believe it was the first time I heard it played live.

PH was inhabiting new, oversized, blue trousers with huge pockets, and wearing one of his traditional short sleeved blouses, with modest check patterns incorporated in it, and one of those remarkable pairs of two different coloured socks... well and then there's the shoes ofcourse. Sorry, I know this is not supposed to become a fashion show report but, weird as it may seem, people have proven to be interested.

On people's enquiries about one 'World premiere' of the new album he said it would be "a bit hairy". The audience was a very diverse one. He couldn't make any promises yet, but.. as always, you never can predict what will happen during his shows. After the ritual of autographing CD's had been performed we had a post concert assembly including dinner at the pizzeria with the group of people with a Hammill fixation. My idea. Sorry about the Calamaria-of-inferior-quality, guys.

Their capuccino had been quite good the day before, and I hadn't heard Jan complain about his mushroomed spaghetti.

"Der Nürnberger" says: "Er ist Kult. Und er ist depressiv. Genau das macht wahrscheinlich den Kult aus." Why, oh why is PH still regarded as the depressed songwriter? there are many positive, uplifting songs! Besides, he seemed quite happy that night.

Saturday - 34 degrees - Dagmar and I took a day off in the country, we drove to the unusually rich city of Bayreuth - a sort of pilgrimage for me you could say, but that is another story. Beautiful sceneries, strawberries, cherries, and since I'd given away my Liszt CD the night before we had "What, now" in the CD player at full volume! Three times. :) Bliss! I even start to like the Riff in "Here come the Talkies"! I failed to find any Liszt-Kugeln :) for Bert in the museum - must be a typical Mozart (yuk) thing then? - but we had wonderful icecreams ourselves instead.

Back in Nürnberg much later that day we considered for a moment ( a very brief moment) to have real Bavarian food for fun, for a change... but naaaaahhhh... I just don't share this fascination for Bratwurste und Schweinefleisch with most Germans, and besides, many of the restaurants were so overcrowded that the waiters were simply not able to keep up with any new customers. We decided to stroll a bit through the old town, direction Katharinakloster to check out the situation near the gates there, and meanwhile do some phan-spotting and PH-spotting. Negative. Peter spotted us. He said he'd been enjoying himself and had Wienerschnitzel for diner (yuk) - we'd been trying hard to avoid such things!, but hey, he was the foreigner in town so he was supposed to eat it. OK.

After a walk along the river we arrived at the church where we all had to queue for the gates where dozens of music lovers had accumulated, but PH managed to get us in.

Sunday - 32 degrees [c]:

A day of more outdoor-cafe-sitting, 'stall-shopping' and sightseeing - we visited the old C..C..C..Castle to have a view on the city, or was that on Friday? (Must be the sunstroke.) We went to church pretty early, at about 4, because Saturday night's experience had learned that an army of pushing people was bound to be expected. 'Enduring' Hazel O'Connor wasn't a punishment. A very enthusiastic singer with the voice of Marianne Faithful, her songs were more interesting though... and more alive! After her show a Finnish band by the name of Gjallarhorn - an ensemble in the same vein as the Marie Boine Band from Lapland - hit the stage.

They were impressive. Anybody who can get hold of their CD ought to check them out.

At 8 p.m. Peter was on. With "My Room" as the opening song we felt that absolutely nothing could go wrong.

"Too many of my Yesterdays", "Easy to slip away", "Touch and Go". God, what had happened? This was superb, even better than the previous night.

Peter said: "This is going to be a completely different set, except for one song which I'm very fond of": then "Bubble" followed.

Huh, there's a woman wearing a "Star F****r" T-shirt!?? I think I prefer "Momus Eater". The guitar part was outrageously wild: we had a heaven storming onslaught of The Comet, The Course, The Tail which had everybody exchange glances of understanding We'd been counting on the possibility of thunderstorm & lightening that afternoon and were hoping for him to play this particular song. The rains failed to materialize though.

"Ophelia" and "Amnesiac" two other favourites of mine... both were rendered with stormy turbulence and the proper roars! Let's just say we caught a glimpse of the tonsils during Ophelia. Phew. Then back to the piano for the most precious moment of the entire weekend: "The Lie!" Yes, the climax of the concert. This song is still engraved on my memory. Picture PH sitting at the piano... penumbra... it must be past 9 p.m...

spotlights like sunbeams on that posture of instant grace... those first chords... whew!! I turned round, beatific smiles on the faces of the crowd behind me... then: "Genuflection - erection in church"... ahem... an audience reduced to silence, a collective gasping for breath, vibes in the air. This is the song I've been really dying to hear! At one point he is bowed over the keyboard like a vulture over its prey: "The wound of love... the lieeeeeeeeeeee". Passionate, loud and groaning. A spirit stirring fusion of poetry, passion and compelling melody.

Chilling! And very apposite "Still Life" had a 'history, reduced to the _chill_ of our names' tonight. Great execution too. PH made a reappearance with a fag between his lips. One encore.. an acapella "Again".

Funny to see that an unplugged Peter still managed to outsing the sounds and songs that tried to intrude from 'outside', even the barking dogs were overruled by his voice!

He thanked the organization for having him and was happy to have opened as well as closed the festival. He thanked the audience.. especially this audience.. for beeing a good one! Aahhhh.

Everyone of us - except for one :) - was madly enthusiastic about this concert; unanimously and without words it was agreed that this was the best show since ages. Absolutely brilliant and intense... and loud!

We had another post-gig "PHan Treffen" in the Irish pub this time, while Peter and Paul secretly disappeared to the 'Insel Schütt' (the island) for a genuine "Bardentreffen". So that is where the artists go.... after the show.

I'll finish with another quote taken from the "Der Nürnberger" Saturday edition: (free translation) ".... a singer who hammers his rage and grief about the failings of the world and his personal limitations/restrictions into the audience by means of acoustic guitar-, or piano-chords, untill ears and hearts/souls bleed" !!!



Koen V., thank you for your latest contribution. Fabulous photographes, PH in all his characteristic poses, sparkling and sharply clear too. And to think that these were taken with a camera the size of a match-box! Incredible.