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Van Der Graaf Generator - Real Time CD (album) cover


Van Der Graaf Generator


Eclectic Prog

4.09 | 182 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
3 stars After the band's unexpected return from the dust, a reunion tour and live album were pretty much inevitable. This is a recording of the band's first concert after its long break, and it shows that Jackson, Evans and Banton (not to mention Hammill and his guitar parts) were just as effective in producing a fascinating brand of unholy noise as they'd ever been. The song selection is good, too: it's a little weird that the two representatives of World Record are "Masks" and "Wondering," but there are three Godbluff tracks (all but "Arrow"), the two best tracks of Least We Can Do ("Refugees" and "Darkness"), a couple of tracks from Present ("Every Bloody Emperor," "Nutter Alert"), the first half of Pawn Hearts, "Childlike Faith in Childhood's End" and even a spirited rendition of "Killer." There's also a rousing version of "In the Black Room," a fascinating track in the Pawn Hearts vein (but that beats the absolute snot out of "Lemmings" and "Man- Erg," thanks to superior hooks and more fascinating atmospherics) that was originally recorded by the band but ended up on the Hammill solo album Chameleon in the Shadow of Night. In terms of track listing, and instrumental performance, this should be a perfectly solid live album.

There's just one major problem. Hammill's vocals at this concert are absolutely, unremittingly bad. Yeah, I know that he had throat surgery a couple of years prior to this concert, and of course there was the natural passage of time, but even accounting for those factors, Hammill comes close to ruining what's otherwise a perfectly good performance. I can understand taking an aggressive approach to singing things like "Darkness" or the aggressive parts of "Lemmings" and "Man-Erg," but yelling tunelessly during "Refugees" and "Childlike Faith in Childhood's End" (which is DESTROYED by Hammill) and pretty much every track on here is something else entirely. Lots of the time he doesn't even approximate singing, instead choosing to growl out his lines like a rabid dog. I mean, I knew from others' accounts that live VDGG performances were very noisy back in the day, but I still didn't expect that the singing here would pretty much ruin everything.

The end result is that, despite good performances otherwise, I don't really want to hear anything from this album again. The band is enthusiastic and happy to be together, and I'm sure this was a hoot to see in person, but it's torture. Recommended only for completists.

PS: I am rather amused by the way Peter directly shatters the illusion that song requests from the audience would even be considered, as he says early on that they'd already decided what they would play and would not deviate.

tarkus1980 | 3/5 |


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