|Pop Rock Magazine 30th October 1976 (In French)|
|Sherbrooke October 6th
The Van der Graaf tour commences tonight in Sherbrooke. Many fans came up from Montreal and its surrounding area. Obviously the Salle Maurice O'Bready offers better acoustics than the Centre Paul-Sauvé.
There was an opening act: Maelstrom, a progressive band from Trois-Rivières. They are a little like (Gentle) Giant, especially the way they hop around the stage but the music is full of hidden treasures that give the group a distinct personality. Apart from the drummer (who joined the band a month ago), Maelstrom is a very tight band and each member seem to share the same inspiration. Sometimes medieval, sometimes cosmic, the musicians in Maelstrom take on with simplicity such subjects as laughter, luck and royalty. I would also like to mention that the vibraphonist / percussionist Robert Lepine literally blew me away with his performance. A gnomish, crazed talking pantomime would further add to the spectacle by haunting Maelstrom and proceed to announce the song titles in his own theatrical way.
After a moments respite, Van der Graaf finally took to the stage. Under the artificial lighting which emanated a glow much like a full moon, the band member came on stage one by one. They quietly took up their instruments, tuned them and started playing without much fanfare. Peter Hammill, all dressed in white, presented the first song which appears on their new album 'World Record' entitled 'When She Comes'. Peter presents the songs as if he were alone on stage, but now there is Van der Graaf behind him. When he stops singing to let the music soar, it's Hugh Banton that takes control and Dave Jackson emerges with his 2 saxes shouting.
Dave Jackson was a revelation for many and this in each of Van der Graaf's concerts. If Hugh Banton expressed his delirium it was thanks to his magnificent organ of his own making, but it was a cloudy and surreptitious delirium. Where as David Jackson spat out his 'delirium' as much as in the highs and as in the low pitches all in one breath and with terrifying intonations.
And when the music is purely instrumental, Peter walks, staggers all over the stage, comes back to the microphone and yells out his vertiginous poetry then leaves to the other 3 members the destiny of the song.
Most of the songs that night followed that same pattern, always with that style of mood. Van der Graaf also played "Undercover Man" and "Arrow" from Godbluff. "La Rossa", "Childlike Faith in Childhoods End" and "Still Life" from the album "Still Life". Finally, Peter announces forty minutes of music without interruption, a song from "World Record" (Meurglys III), "Gog" (from his solo album "In Camera") and ending with the splendid "Sleepwalkers", a song that contrasts with the preceding one in its colors and rhythm. Obviously there is an encore: "Pilgrims" from the album "Sill Life". Afterwards the people leave quietly, a little disappointed that they didn't play anything from "Pawn Hearts". When asked about the absence of older songs, David Jackson explained: "We decide the songs we are going to play 10 minutes before the show. We then adjust them depending on the mood. "Man-Erg" didn't correspond to the mood of this show. But we could have played it anyhow… if we felt the need." Then Dave rolls a cigarette (he only smokes 'rollies'). Peter who is exchanging his stage clothes for his old patched up jeans, explains the reason why they ignored the older material in a much radical fashion (that gave the impression they were angry) "We play what we are today, not what we were two years ago. If we rely on what the people know, it will only be during the next tour that people will know our songs. But the next tour, we wont be who we are today." This clearly shows Peter's position concerning "Pawn Hearts". Van der Graaf don't play old songs. While the subject is on the table, I continue my discussion with Dave about the album "Pawn Hearts" and he gives me a few precisions: "The house that we see on the album is the house where we practiced, wrote and recorded "Pawn Hearts". Around this house were magnificent gardens. At this time we were in quite a psychedelic period. So in the gardens, to relax, we invented a game with a ball. We had to throw the ball to each other. We brought in a photographer so he could recreate this game in pictures. But none of the pictures gave the desired result. We decided take the photo with Hugh, Peter and Guy are on the platform with me in front. The salute we are doing is inspired by a German sculpture of a soldier doing a salute to Hitler."
That night, everyone sleeps at the Holiday Inn. The next day will be the trip from Sherbrooke to Québec.