ORGAN THING: Van Der Graaf Generator, The Bath Forum Concert – a live album. The perfection is in that imperfection, surely as vital now as ever?

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Van Der Graaf Generator: The Bath Forum Concert (Esoteric) – “Well… Well well well”. The new Van Der Graaf Generator live album has just landed here, well the audio parts of what is actually a live box set containing both audio and visual formats of the band’s performance in Bath in the Spring of 2022. What we have here today are the twelve tracks that make up the live album part of what will surely be a treasure chest. The whole thing, this live double CD we’re reviewing here, is to be released as part of the box set.

The live tracks have just landed, right now we’re two tracks in, and by this we are already all sustained…

A new live album and DVD recorded at the final UK date of the European tour the band undertook last year – “Van Der Graaf Generator: The Bath Forum Concert” will be released as a double CD, Blue Ray & DVD Box Set (which makes it a four Disc box set)  on March 10th of this year.

In February 2022 Van der Graaf Generator embarked on a UK tour which had been rescheduled several times due to the Covid pandemic. The final show on these dates took place at The Forum in Bath on March 1st and the event was captured by a film and recording crew.  ‘The Bath Forum Concert’ is the first live CD and film fully controlled by the band and it captures Peter Hammill, Hugh Banton and Guy Evans at their finest performing vintage tracks such as ‘Masks’, ‘Childlike Faith In Childhoods End’, ‘La Rossa’, ‘Man Erg’ and ‘House With No Door’ along with newer pieces such as ‘Interference Patterns’, ‘Every Bloody Emperor’, Go’, ‘Alfa Berlina’ and ‘Room 1210’.    

Recorded live in Bath at the end of UK leg of a rather expansive tour at the start of last year then, we could just re-run the live review from the London show on that wonderful tour, as anyone who was lucky enough to see Van Der Graaf on that tour will tell you, the band were on top form, something which, considering how long in the tooth they are now, is quite remarkable. Here is that live review –  Van Der Graaf Generator being on tour, now, is a kind of miracle, not just because they started their utterly unique thing so long ago, but because they’re doing it with as much if not more vigour and honesty than ever…

So yes, let’s be brutally honest here, we had no right to expect Van Der Graaf Generator to have even be out there touring in 2022, let along to have been sounding so damn good, so damn strong, so damn committed to it all. Well we expected the commitment from one of the most powerful rock bands ever of course, one of the most vital, a rock bands and so so much more. And yes we have frothed about them many times over the years via these and other Organ pages and formats, we are fans around here and we never have hidden that fact. Live albums are mostly for committed fan rather than those casually acquainted, yes we are fans, but there is a need to be objective here.

VdGG at the London Palladium, Spring 2022

Nothing worse than some once great band milking it all when they’re clearly past their sell by date, I’ve seen way too many of my favourite bands one time more than I should have done, I am wary of encounters with much loved bands when we all should maybe know the magic is long gone. Never ever a worry with Van Der Graaf though, they may be without Jaxon now but never for a second did we think we should avoid the 2022 tour, never once did was the idea that they might be past it ever entertained      

Okay, so maybe the songs aren’t always “perfect” in terms of the execution every time but who want that kind of “perfection”? Who wants perfectly rehearsed songs and the same set every night? And yes as the tour progressed the on-line debates raged in terms of who got the best set list on which night. I had wondered if it would be anywhere the same listening to this live recording in the cold light of day as it was being there in the actual room with them last year? I had wondered if I was just going to need to be politely respectful about this live album from a band who really were at their height back in the 1970s. Would it still sound vital? Would these recordings take me with them? We might have forgiven the imperfections when we were actually there but in a recorded state? Would a live album recorded in 2022 really cut it? 

There’s so much honesty here, humanity, surely the last thing we need is “perfection”, and anyway, when were Van Der Graaf ever “perfect” live? Surely their perfection is that they never were? What we do have here is a perfect recording, a crystal clear well mixed spot on live recording – no house sellotaped together here, nothing needing to be deloused. These are excellent recordings, warm recordings, almost intimate even though the room was so big. Very much a live album, you can feel the sound travelling through the air and the fact that you can is more than satisfying.

Every Blood Emperor is so damn spot on, A Louse is Not A Home wonderful, four pieces in and they sound at ease as they take on the almost fragile power of Masks – yes, they do sound fragile, and at the same time so so strong, so bold. A band still at the height, a different height now maybe, but still up there. And yes, sure, just now and again Peter Hammill struggles to make those bits that demand everything, but he still gives it everything, he doesn’t hold back, there is no compromise here, no concession, they still need it to be a challenge to both themselves and to us and if they do stray a little then this live album is all the better for it. Hammill sounds like it still really matters, all three of them do. He’s raw, just him and his wonderful band up there, just the three of them, just his voice and his lifetime and grander things than we are, the bareness of it all, the bareness of the three of them.

And even now, all this time later, there really is no one like them. I am trying not to froth here, trying not to rave and droll, and yes, older wiser, faster, stronger. This album matters, this record. All that splendour of being there at the gigs last year is here in these recordings, in these pieces, in these epic pieces and the fact that through the years, nothing has been bogus, that is still an almost childlike faith in everything, that parts are still played, notes still reached for…

And yes it is hard not to be carried away with it all. A handful of listens now, and there’s the thing, hold it close. And yes, in times to come we will reach for this as much as I reach for previous live albums. Yes it is rather vital that this recording, that this record of 2022 should exist. And if these are the last times, these last recordings, well just how good were they. It was a privilege to see them on that tour last year, it is equally so to be standing here, standing listening to this tonight, listening for a first handful of times, to be basking in the warmth of it all, the sanctuary and nourishment.

And here comes La Rossa and the organ monkey screams, all the quack philosophy and sophistry, and the Organ grinder types and these are still their dancing days and yes…  And yes, these are damn fine recordings, these are damn fine versions, the bareness of it all, vitally Vital. And the fact that they’re never quite perfect makes for a perfect live album. An album we had no right to expect from a band who have already given us so so much.

We may only have the live recordings here right now, we might not have the footage, the DVD, but this is already enough and yes, I am being objective, I am trying to pick holes, not trying to, I am picking holes. Holes? What holes?

And if it is of interest, I could talk you through, between the devil and the deep blue sea, and would this do if you had never heard Van Der Graaf Generator before? Probably not but it isn’t just for the hardcore fans. And yes I do like that version of Alfa Berlina as we get to the end of those brackets. And thank you for your forbearance and no need to recount the history, this is still right here right now, shoulder to shoulder, stood as one and never over the hill and by time we get to the triumph of Over The Hill and here comes the bit where we…

Well this ride, what a ride, the heights of the London Palladium and here at the Forum in Bath and head on into the wind.  And then they went back to Europe and almost never came back and the worry of all that, tour cut short. And here it is, recorded, documented, perfectly imperfect and just right and no time for hesitations and lets hope there’s more and if this is really it then they gave us their best and far far more. And not just covering old ground.  Oh yes!

And then he sings of the killer living inside him, Banton and Evans coaxing it all, stroking it all and Man Erg and and here comes the stabby screechy bit and well, “that is astonishing!” and are you sure that isn’t 1976? And “Is that really the new live album!?” she shouts from over there in the gables of the roof. I tell you the truth, this is good! You may think you don’t really need this one, that you’ve got all the others, who needs another live album? But you do, you do so so need this new live album, it really is as vital.

“That really is an amazing version on Man Erg!” she shouts, “Hurray for shows, hurray for life”, he says. Hurray!

And then there’s a house with no door and is there any point in any more words here? That really is a nice organ bit there. The whole live album ends with a really really (really) warm House With No Door, a really emotional House With No Name, as fine as any House I’ve heard, a beautiful version, a perfect version and well, well well well… (sw)   

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VdGG at the London Palladium, Spring 2022

This release features the entire concert, mixed by Stephen W Tayler, and includes two CDs and a region free High-Definition Blu Ray video with 5.1 Surround Sound and an NTSC / Region Free DVD of this stunning concert film.

Track Listing:

DISC ONE – CD
1 Interference Patterns
2 Every Bloody Emperor
3 A Louse is Not a Home
4 Masks
5 Childlike Faith in Childhoods End
6 Go

DISC TWO – CD
1 La Rossa
2 Alfa Berlina
3 Over the Hill
4 Room 1210
5 Man Erg
6 House With No Door

DISC THREE – BLU RAY
1 Interference Patterns
2 Every Bloody Emperor
3 A Louse is Not a Home
4 Masks
5 Childlike Faith in Childhoods End
6 Go
7 La Rossa
8 Alfa Berlina
9 Over the Hill
10 Room 1210
11 Man Erg
12 House With No Door

DISC FOUR
1 Interference Patterns
2 Every Bloody Emperor
3 A Louse is Not a Home
4 Masks
5 Childlike Faith in Childhoods End
6 Go
7 La Rossa
8 Alfa Berlina
9 Over the Hill
10 Room 1210
11 Man Erg
12 House With No Door

Order details

Previously

ORGAN THING: Van Der Graaf Generator being on tour, now, is a kind of miracle, not just because they started their utterly unique thing so long ago, but because they’re doing it with as much if not more vigour and honesty than ever…

ORGAN THING: And then there were the other three, Van Der Graaf Generator’s Godbluff, Still Life and H To He Who Am The Only One reissued, four properly classic albums and… 

ORGAN THING: The re-issued 50th Anniversary edition of Van Der Graaf Generator’s Pawn Hearts, surely one of the finest albums ever made?

ORGAN THING: Peter Hammill’s new album In Translation reviewed – these may not be his songs, but this is classic Hammill…

ORGAN THING: Van Der Graaf Generator, The Charisma Years – I mean, catch hold of that BBC session version of Killer from..,

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One thought on “ORGAN THING: Van Der Graaf Generator, The Bath Forum Concert – a live album. The perfection is in that imperfection, surely as vital now as ever?

  1. Pingback: Other Rock Show – Sunday 22nd January 2023 – The Other Rock Show

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