Chicoutimi, October 11th 1976
So hitching to Chicoutimi on a Monday with only two dollars to my name is a bit risky, but so what. The park is completely snowed under and the scene is just a little fantastic with snowmen in front of all the houses. We meet up with the group before the show. Guy Evans is very nice and he keeps things moving. Later, the show is the best of the tour so far, with maybe Trois-Rivières or Québec a close second it's sublime, the place is full and the audience shatter the walls with their applause; I'm totally knocked out by it. The show starts with an incomparable version of "Masks" from the last album, "World Record" an album that the crowd here have not seen although it came out last September in Montréal. Beautiful and penetrating, superb musicianship although maybe a little drawn out in places, these new pieces from the last album like "Wondering" which we hear tonight for the first time, are every bit as brilliant as the songs from "Godbluff" and "Still Life." At one point, Peter Hammill, speaking in remarkably good French as he has all of the nights so far, introduces a piece that VdGG have not played for a very long time, and he adds that "someone in the room will understand, someone knows, will know, we know, you know." : it's "Lemmings", one of the masterpieces from the album "Pawn Hearts" from '71, his most dense work. I know who that someone is, and I know that he cried. It's really overwhelming, the sound quality is impeccable, the musicians are on fire, the crowd is ecstatic, it couldn't possibly be better. Seated in front of the electric piano on four chairs piled one on top of the other, Peter sings "Man Erg", it's unfathomable. Jaw dropping, exhausted, we leave.
I spend the night on a floor in one of the cegep colleges. Tomorrow morning, it's off to Rimouski.
Rimouski, October 13th 1976
It wasn't easy getting here, rain, freezing, biting wind. But what the hell! I'm just happy thinking of all the people I've met these past days: hitching 1,700 miles all over Québec, all of the different places each with their own feeling, their own trip. I've seen all of the concerts; it's probably not very objective, but you have to say it is complete.
So it's Rimouski, where the last English group to come through was Gentle Giant at the beginning of '72, and the crowd is getting bigger and restless. It's very hot. The show starts with "Arrow" a dark, overpowering, and abrasive piece. The crowd is delighted, and starts to applaud even before it's over. The sound is very loud but it's dulled by the civic center walls, the sound is stiff, and you can feel that the musicians are not at ease. Then at the start of "Man Erg" the local freaks throw this huge Québec flag onto the stage, the symbol of triumph and of love for the people; everyone claps like crazy and shouts of "bravo" go up everywhere; Peter and Guy unfurl the flag, and the fleur-de-lys overwhelms the audience. The concert is fantastic, impressive and really solid; everyone is deeply moved by it. "But soon the dream is ended.." so, it's over.
Afterwards, I speak with David about the fascists and communists in Italy and about how the band are no longer allowed to play there, about dope and Holland, and also about the chance of another VdGG tour here next April. We ply the manager with champagne, and Peter, very drunk, says very little and smiles; his smile is distilled and he reminds me of Van Gogh. We fold up the Québec flag which Guy jokingly says he will wear in Toronto, the last concert before New York.
We say our goodbyes, tinged with so much emotion, and then leave as it rains and the leaves fall and the wind sweeps through the rue de la Cathedrale. I'm a human being, I am not a journalist.
with help on the way from Fernando and Maryse,
and a big thank you to Scott and Pierre.