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Van Der Graaf Generator

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Van Der Graaf Generator Real Time album cover
4.08 | 192 ratings | 15 reviews | 38% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
prog rock music collection

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Live, released in 2007

Songs / Tracks Listing

DISC ONE - 70:10
1. The Undercover Man (8:29)
2. Scorched Earth (10:05)
3. Refugees (6:01)
4. Every Bloody Emperor (7:36)
5. Lemmings (13:20)
6. (In The) Black Room (11:16)
7. Nutter Alert (6:05)
8. Darkness (7:20)

DISC TWO - 58:36
1. Masks (6:47)
2. Childlike Faith In Childhood's End (12:34)
3. The Sleepwalkers (10:44)
4. Man-Erg (11:36)
5. Killer (9:55)
6. Wondering (7:01)

Total Time: 128:46

Recorded Live at The Royal Festival Hall, London, 6th May 2005

DISC THREE - Bonus CD from 2007 Japanese edition:
1. Pilgrims (Live in Paris)
2. When She Comes (Live in Amsterdam)
3. Still Life (Live in Taormina)
4. Gibberish (Soundcheck in Amsterdam)

Line-up / Musicians

- Peter Hammill / vocals, Meurglys III & DeArmond guitars, Yamaha DX7 Mk I (w/ GEM piano module)
- Hugh Banton / Roland VR760 & VK7 (with virtual Hammond generators), Fx pedals, Leslie Speaker
- David Jackson / saxophones, flute
- Guy Evans / drums

Releases information

Artwork: Paul Ridout with Ed Clarke (photo)

2xCD Fie! Records - FIXD 01 (2007, UK)
3xCD Strange Days Records ‎- POCE-1163/5 (2007, Japan) Bonus disc w/ 4 extra tracks recorded Live at various locations throughout July 2005

Thanks to salmacis for the addition
and to Quinino for the last updates
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VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR Real Time ratings distribution

(192 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(38%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(43%)
Good, but non-essential (12%)
Collectors/fans only (5%)
Poor. Only for completionists (2%)


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Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by VanderGraafKommandöh
5 stars It was a momentous day in the history of progressive rock music, a day for fans of a certain band who had lain dormant for 27 years to re-emerge. The fans gathered outside, waiting patiently for the doors to open. It was a day that shall never be forgotten by any one present, including the band members themselves on the 6th of May in 2005 and was their finest hour (or two). This is the recording of that concert, by one of the worlds greatest progressive rock bands, Van der Graaf Generator.

The fans finally entered the Royal Festival Hall in London, took their seats and waited patiently. People were nervous, fearful even, that their beloved favourite band may not be what they once were. This was the "classic" line-up, the line-up that had made some of the finest albums in their career. How would they fair in the present day? Of course, the band had recently released their new album, aptly named Present, so fans had an idea of their current musical vision -- an amalgam of over 35 years of hard grind and nobody was even expecting them to reform. Even more poignant was the fact that at the age of 60, Peter Hammill had suffered a heart attack less than a year before in 2004.

The band came on stage, Peter Hammill, Hugh Banton, Guy Evans and David Jackson, to a loud and raucous cheer. A brief introduction by Hammill and then they are away. the flute of David Jackson beginning a most spirited rendition of The Undercover Man, from the album Godbluff and though this version was little removed from the album version, it still sounds exceptional and fresh. Banton with a new keyboard setup consisting of just one keyboard, Jackson using his Soundbeam (a first for the band, I believe, besides on Present) and Hammill himself, now with grey hair and still very much The Thin Man, with a voice as powerful as ever. Guy Evans is still a strong and aspiring drummer behind his kit and it sounds as if the band never split up in the first place. The Undercover Man segues into Scorched Earth beautifully. These two tracks have always had a duality and they never seem to be played separately any longer. The Godbluff era has always been the strongest of their era to many fans, including myself, so it's a very apt way to begin a concert. In Refugees Hammill does a great job of making this live version extremely poignant. A brilliant performance indeed and a firm fan favourite. With the present climate in the world (and indeed, the climate back in May 2005 was not the best), the lyrics to Every Bloody Emperor from Present hit home. I really enjoy Banton's keyboard playing on this version and the middle section feels extended to me and seems somewhat of a jam. The band are clearly less nervous now and are revelling in it all. This is one of the stand-outs and just proves that Hammill's writing talents have never waned. It's also clear this is a band track, rather than a Hammill solo one, as it sounds like Van der Graaf Generator of old. Lemmings was one of the more difficult tracks to cover live and with Hammill having to tune-up his guitar (after having moved from the piano), the band play what seems to be an impromptu jam before the familiarity of Lemmings starts. Once more, they have no problems at all. The surprise cut of the evening was (In the) Black Room - which is actually a Peter Hammill solo number - written for an ill-fated Van der Graaf Generator album planned for release between Pawn Hearts and Godbluff, if they had not split-up. The track instead was recorded for Hammill's 1973 solo album Chameleon in the Shadow of the Night, with help from the rest of the band. The fans were very appreciative of it, as can be made evident by the cheering and it is one of those "lost" Van der Graaf Generator tracks, so this live version makes up for the poorly recorded Hammill version. For me, this was also one of the major highlights of the concerts, which just goes to show that Hammill solo material (albeit designed for the band), is just as strong as the official band material. They mixed up the different band eras for this concert, which works well and created a welcome break, as fans were most likely waiting in anticipation of another classic. Nutter Alert is yet another track from their 2005 studio album Present and because of its rather catchy lyrics and great Jackson saxophone playing, I am sure anyone who had been falling asleep would have been woken up. This is an outstanding version, which is vehement and hard-hitting and this is how the fans like Hammill to perform. This section of the concert was one of the highlights, as what follows is one of my all time favourite tracks. Darkness 11/11. Hammill continues on with his punk-stylised singing, which gives Darkness 11/11 a more desperate and awkward sound to the original. The whole band is on fire now and this might just be one of the definitive live versions of this track (although I have not heard later performances). Masks is from the album World Record, which many people underrate, so I suspect it did not make the impact that the next track Childlike Faith in Childhood's End - an existential masterpiece from the wonderful album Still Life - would make. In fact, this is the only number from Still Life performed that evening and tracks such as Pilgrims and La Rossa that were not included were also not missed. It just shows how strong their other pieces are. With just four songs to go, they could not have chosen four bigger crowd-pleasers. Each was outstanding, every one a winner and poignant in so many ways. I am pretty sure tears were shed at the concert, even from grown men! The Sleepwalkers is perhaps one of the strongest and most daring pieces the band have ever performed, especially the much maligned (or loved) Cha Cha Cha section in the middle.

The "final" track of the evening felt fitting to end the show. Man-Erg from the album Pawn Hearts has one of the most distinctive piano intros (played by Hammill) of any progressive rock number and so as soon as it began, there were many loud cheers, but these soon died down to a complete silence as the crowd once more became captivated. As soon as it starts, it ends. Twelve plus minutes of pleasure, including the ubiquitous Jackson middle section.

Then the band members walk off stage.

Of course this was not the end and the crowd knew this, so the shouts and banging of feet erupted, to indicate the fans wanted an encore... and an encore they would have.

For the encore they play Killer and the crowd erupt once more and the final stages of the concert are put into motion. How does an ensemble like Van der Graaf Generator end a comeback concert such as this, after playing Killer? I am sure the crowd were thinking this at the time also. The wonderful decision to play Wondering was perfect. It was the final tune on an album that would be the last by the classic line-up until 2005, it also ended with David Jackson playing the flute in a similar fashion to how the concert had started. They had gone full circle. They had explored every facet of their career, from old, to new and back again. Of course, I am clouded with my judgement of this album and my love of the band, but I seriously believe the 5 star rating I have given this is just. It is also likely that the band members themselves would believe that they could have performed better and perhaps they could have, but the whole nature of the concert is what it is all about. They more than justified their decision to reform and later tour.

This would not be the final concert by the band (many at the time thought it would be), but it is an historic concert and one that is likely to never occur again. I just wish I had been there to witness it for myself. I am so thankful, therefore, that the concert has been documented (albeit two years afterwards) in album format.

Van der Graaf Generator Who Am the Only One, always and forever in Still Life.

Review by BaldJean
5 stars what can I say? I was at that concert and was simply overwhelmed. such energetic versions of the songs. I will describe the feelings I had at the concert, so I'll switch to the present tense, travelling backwards in time. they start with "Undercover Man", which the fans of course immediately recognise, and blend without pause into "Scorched Earth". Hammill bungles a few lines of his lyrics, but no-one who would have heard the songs for the first time would have noticed. excellent opener for the concert, and I know by now that the Generator is on a million volts tonight. onwards, or rather backwards, to "Refugees", always a favorite with the crowd, and of course the crowd enthusiastically receives it. and then definitely onwards to "Every Bloody Emperor" from their reunion album, which blends seamlessly with the other songs, as if VdGG had never stopped playing. for the 5th song Hammill picks up the guitar, and what follows is a truly wild version of "Lemmings". the band is absolutely smoking now. song number 6 is a surprise; "(In the) Black Room" is originally from a Hammill solo album ("Chamaleon in the Shadow of the Night"), but had been intended to be a VdGG number before the band dissolved and had all of them playing on it in the studio version. I always thought that song sounded more like VdGG than Hammill solo. fantastic rendition of the song. then follows the 2nd song from their reunion album, "Nutter Alert"; in the instrumental section the band went really wild. definitely a highlight of the concert. then follows "Darkness", which has always been one of my favorites, and the band certainly don't let up. Hammill picks up the guitar again for "Masks", one of my favorites from "World Record". by now they have been through all albums they recorded in the "classic" line-up, with the exception of "H to He.." and "Still Life", and I begin hoping for "Killer". "Still Life" is covered with the next song, "Childlike Faith in Childhood's End". I need to go to the toilet, but don't want to leave in fear of missing something. and indeed there follows "Sleepwalkers", another one of my favorites. after that Hammil announces the last song of the concert, and it is "Man-Erg". real cacophony in the wild parts. they leave the stage, and the people all rise from their seats now and enthusiastically call for an encore, and after what seems like ages (actualkly only a little more than 3 minutes) they reappear and deliver a killer version of, yes, "Killer"! and then the real last number, as Hammill says, and it is W"Wondering", which was never one of my favorites; but what a fitting end for the concert, especially the way the band end it, making a full circle back to the beginning with the lonely opening flute of "Undercover Man" at the end. this album is a wonderful document of a great concert. the only (minor) complaint I have is that they cut out the 3 minutes of calling for an encore between "Man-Erg" and "Killer"; for an album named "Real Time" they should have left it in. but that doesn't alter the fact I have no choice but to give 5 stars to this masterpiece.
Review by Sean Trane
4 stars After the much-awaited studio return of the classic VDGG quartet (which turned out to be fine but not fabulous as we'd have hoped), this album is (a bit unknowingly) the second album that they will record in a few months. Indeed, this album was recorded on the opening night of their reunion tour, and does it ever show: you don't need to be watching films or videos, you can just feel the excitement and the tension of the event, just playing this CD in your living room.

Although I understand the point of recording the opening night, I am a bit perplexed as to why release it as a live album, because obviously the night was technically imperfect. Generally the quality of the acoustics and the recording are not really at stakes here, but more the quartet's shaky start. For very understandable with such fan expectations, the pressure's weight must've incredibly perturbed them for their first night in almost 30 years as VDGG. Their coordination was clearly on shaky grounds at first (even if they started with the awesome but shortened Undercover Man, one of my favourites), especially with Jaxon, and at one point, you can almost feel that they will fall apart in Scorched Earth. But by the fourth track, after the early crowd favourite Refugees (also shortened, but well played), the quartet attacks a well-rehearsed track, the opening of their new album, Every Bloody Emperor (clearly the album's best track and one of the rare that stands up to the older tracks) and this was obviously a confidence booster.

Lemmings was always a bit difficult for me, but I must say that this live version is completely baffling, but not necessarily positively: This version is utter chaos to my ears but this is where they unleash themselves, Jaxon's sax often over-saturating. Not really that familiar with Black Room, this "surprise" track makes almost the effect of a new (and superb) number that I have spun more often than the rest of this album, so far, and its dynamics are impressive. The first disc closes on an excellent (but shortened again) Darkness, where now the group has got all of its chops together and are starting to shine, Banton ruling on this one.

Funnily enough, the Generator is only pumping out one excellent track every second number: after the excellent Black Room, Darkness and the outstanding Childhood's End and later the outstanding Man-Erg (even if Jaxon's sax is again not perfect), there are tracks that I find lesser or not that well rendered on that night: Masks and Sleepwalkers (still with the hated Cha-Cha-Cha) are not pleasers for this writer (even if the latter is impeccably played), but nevermind me. The always-excellent Killer comes in to break this alternating cycle and reversing it with the night ending in a questionable Wondering. (couldn't resist that one ;-)

Again I must wonder about the choice of releasing the opening night's recordings, beyond of course the title's theme of Real Time; they give the time of start and the end of the concert as well as the exact longitude and latitude of the RFH on the booklet artwork, and Hammill's in-between songs presentations are all based on Time, as was the Present album they were promoting. But the rough start aside, this is a good testimony of VDGG's powerful presence on stage. Although one can discuss of the track list: only two (but two out of three's only excellent) tracks from Present, two from The Least (no surprises there), one only from H To He, two from Pawn Heart (but not the one I was hoping for ;-) is a good token that Hammill & Co, are now fully reconciled with their first period. However, I am a little disappointed that, with the unsurprising three tracks from Godbluff, there is only one from Still Life (but what a track it is, though), but two are from the rather average World Record (and not my choices either), but this is of relative minor importance. While the band is not really as tight as they could be (this is opening night after a 30-years holiday after all), this album is already a classic live Generator album that has its place alongside the fairly different Vital.

Review by OpethGuitarist
4 stars An entertaining evening.

VDGG brings the energy and packs the house. What can I say? This is one of my favorite live albums, and being a staunch VDGG fan helps. I would have liked to see a little different set list but this must suffice. For example, World Record should have been cut off and more credit given towards Still Life, but I digress.

There's always this strange feeling I have in VDGG live settings. Everything seems disjumbled. Everything seems out of place, in a wrong area. But for some reason, as the songs ebb and flow, it works. I don't know what it is exactly, maybe my ears don't work properly, but it makes for a very interesting experience. Apart from this, Hammill is on and sounds wonderful, if you happen to enjoy Hammill.

If you're wanting a modern production of classic prog, I can't think of a better choice than this album. No, it's not the most astounding performance ever nor does it have what I would deem "the good stuff", but it is an astounding achievement by a band that managed to stay more or less true to their roots for their whole career, and that's saying something.

Review by lor68
4 stars Finally their reunion has come to reality!! The present live witnesses a recent gig in London, where They have performed a lot of classics, as well the most complex stuff, belonging to a golden era...Branton, Hammill, Jackson and Evan are in top form here, but after all they are the authors of immortal dark progressive works such as "Pawn Hearts" or "H to He Who Am the Only One" and their skill live on stage has never been changed!! In a few circumstances Peter repeats the same verse, cause He has not been playing his own old songs from the VDGG era for a long long time (except on tracks such as "Man Erg", often played live during his solo performances in the recent gigs...), nevertheless He's still able to run all the colours of their immortal music, as from the most dark and psychedelic tones to the sweetest mood at the piano, like in a kaleidoscopic "music circuit"!! Sometimes their music is too harsh and experimental as well - and for this reason if you're not in a good mood it's better to listen to some easier tracks, but at the end their imprinting is so impressive and able to make some complex passages less harsh... it's essential for the old fans and it could be the best manner to initiate the others to their particular melancholy and dramatic style.

Review by Ricochet
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
5 stars "Get ready for the show you've waited for your whole life", could be said. It was an uplifting spectacle for everyone who attended; it remains an "audio adventure" for everyone listening to their CD copy. And either way, it's all about the music. Part of the euphoria, otherwise, has to do with one moment, in which the over-progressive rockers from Van der Graaf Generator reunited after 27 desperate years of nothingness, of individual careers, of different million other things (and, I can bet, 27 years of lost or forgotten hope for "us all"). Present, the reunion album, is courageouslyexcellent, sounding exactly like the "hard- 'n' hot-burning rejoice" of a bloody brilliant classic prog band. A bit more square-ish, but not overcome by imperfections or dour faults is the release of this live performance, that's part of the same contemporary period and promotes the same euphoria: Van der Graaf, once more on stage. On one hand, Real Time is just a glimpse (the coolest glimpse, probably: live at Royal Albert Hall, in the heart of home London) from a "relaunching tour", but more importantly, it's a third live release in this band's whole official and imposing discography, good enough to overheat expectations. It couldn't have been a better time to watch this reunion finally take place and to hear the classic, pure vintage music in a giant achieve of a new recital.

By the time Real Time was done & delivered, another euphoric news was circling, about Van der Graaf preparing another new studio album (now we know what it's all about: 2008's Trisector). So Real Time¸ programmed individually, was just a second surprise within a jubilating, up-to-date, new phase for the band.

Details. Royal Festival Hall is either a supremely ambitious location or a place where a skeptical performance can happen. You can either win or goof in such a high place. Van der Graaf chose carefully to succeed in doing the first thing, raising by their performance enough exclamations and even more opinions that regard their abilities, their professionalism, their pathos, their resurfaced taste for art - the Van der Graaf way. The show has suspense, eclecticism, being in the same time a more than slightly laid-back interpretation, á la pulp prog custered with different flavors. Months before the moment of this rather formal concert, there was nostalgia and amazement within the fans, who in the end filled every seat to witness a noble and trademarked band do wonders; an audience which, furthermore, was able to understand what progressive means in this situation. Upon asking without hesitation certain pieces from the band's "old-clocked" albums or broking ecstatically upon the start of every piece, Hammill even addressed to them ironically "I don't think we need to tell you the name of the pieces, no?". To such an open performance, the only opposite detail comes to be the tight-locked shelter of the Royal Albert Hall location.

Music. Two exceeded hours of concert can really shake you deeply regarding how profound, sincere, competent (in a sense of "resistance") and imaginative the band played its big share. Each piece is a reminder of old times, it sweats of symbolic emotions. But an original sound adds up to how music, instrumentality and the lyrics are approached, making the difference. In such a way, my prominent idea over Real Time is that it is a third live album by a timeless or at least slow in burning out Van der Graaf Generator. Without comparing (even close?) to the godly burn of Godbluff, or the raw, slight wounding crisp of Vital, this concert still fills dozen of minutes with ampleness, stylish power and strong expressions. So that, from wishing at first the band would actually pull off the show and try their best as far as playing the stunning classic music after 30 years, you actually admire how great everything sounds. The "Godbluff" repertoire is recreated the most, the only thing missing being Arrow: the other three pieces are played in a monodic, tight-fittingly gasping, respectively abrazive way. From Present the band plays two small "caprices", basically profound and adventurous. Sure, no foul play happening, as the band doesn't go into extreme thinking - more precisely, into the "improvs" of that double-profiled album. The far point of the recollection is when Refugees and Darkness 11/11 are invoked, these being, in principle, two pieces that blow your mind. The first is excellent and fine, while the second rings of a modern and ,mordent' taste. In contrast, given a choice from an album that's less preferred (World Record), the result is unexpectedly a bit more deceiving. Masks is a sudden cornerstone, having an interpretative coldness, feeling wrongly homogenous; and Wondering, let's be honest, is sadly a charmless encore. Mentionable is the revelation In The Black Moon, and I truly feel sorry to only find words like "special" and "superb" to describe it. It's a refined choice. The whole spectacle is from the start announced as both stylish and strictly scheduled; therefore, it is in vain that one person asks for Necromancer. But in comes the happy treat after all, as the band indulges two encores, out of which Killer is breathtaking. Personally, the first CD of Real Time, make that the first part of the show, up until Nutter Alert is impeccable.. After that, some relaxations, curiosities or pure slips do happen. The value of improvising rather than playing by the old sheet is quantified more in pieces such as Man-Erg and Childhood's End.

The band. Quite the essential element of Real Time, despite of the music (because, mark my words, the audience came that day to see Van der Graaf, while you'll be wanting to hear Van der Graaf) and totally uncompromised in everything they do. During small moments of hesitation, relaxation and imperfections, the effort still counts. Overall, how they play is amazing, even if we'd have to mention technical flaws, strangely sounding improvisations and such. The band itself sounds purified by its own performance, as much as the music is cleaned from its dust and put in a new, incredible shape of things.

Outstandingly achieved.

Review by ZowieZiggy
4 stars The great Graaf together!

Live on stage!!!

A perfect choice for my 2100th review and, I promise, the last one for 2008. I dedicate it to my friend Febus who was always teasing me for my love and passion for the Graaf and PH. He always found that I was too generous with them. But I am just found of them; that's how our conversations used to end while talking about this great band.

What an enchantment to discover this album some time ago. At least the sound recording is decent (which was scarcely the case on ''Vital''), the band is not completely stoned as they were on some previous releases, and there aren't any long and useless improvisation.

No. Nothing as such: the track list is splendid and brings you in their world of music since the early beginnings (''Refugees'') to their last studio album at the time (''Bloody Emperor'') amongst some other ones.

Peter's voice is still loaded with passion and sounds as fresh as it could be. Being during ''Scorched Earth'' or during the splendid opener ''The Undercover Man''. Maybe if you are like me, you would miss a few great songs from the band, for sure.

But if you want to see and listen to ''The Plague.'', you'll have to watch their DVD ''Godbluff Live''. And if, like me, you are orphan of ''Still Life'', you will definitely rush out to ''Maida Vail''. And there won't be any way out for the ones willing to listen to ''Pilgrims'' in a live version. Nor ''House With No Door'' nor ''Emperor In His War Room'' nor .But I guess that if I was willing to listen to each great songs of theirs, I would need to buy them for a private concert. What choice is there left? But to listen!

I wouldn't be too harsh with the Graaf, since one of the songs I will have played at my burial party is wonderfully rendered here: ''Refugees'' of course. A highlight in their career, a wonderful song, a passionate musical moment, a splendid cry to freedom, an hymn to humanity. Nothing less than that my prog friends! Even if the studio version was more intimate and honestly better, it is such a pleasure to listen to this jewel again that one can only bow. Thank you very much guys! You're so great.

Most of the versions played here are rather faithful to the original studio track, with some live passion added of course. Emotion as well, obviously.

There is one non Van Der Graaf song available on this live set. Well, not quite actually. It is one of the most Graaf number out of Peter's solo repertoire. This brings us back again in time ('73). But what a nice journey!

And the time machine is well on its way since the band is bringing us all of a sudden within their latest studio album (at the time of this live set). The second best by far IMO from ''Present'': the wonderful ''Nutter Alert''. Almost as inspired than ''Every Bloody Emperor'': it is another song of anthology. But these are not lacking on this double live CD.

The second disc is quieter but features as well some of their best songs even if ''Masks'' probably does not belong to the cream of the Graaf. Still, it was one of the good song out of ''World Record''. The second track from this album is the tranquil ''Wondering'' which is OK but definitely not of the calibre of the other imposing numbers.

Because the other four songs featured on this second CD are just phenomenal, with a special mention to ''Childlike Faith.'' and ''The Sleepwalkers''. But ''Man-Erg'' has always been a fave of mine, so I am excessively biased and moved while listening to this live set. As would have the audience, I guess.

Both encores are quite different one from another. The heavy and powerful ''Killer'' and the light and melancholic ''Wondering''.

Almost a masterpiece in terms of track list as well as performance. A pity though that the band didn't tour for long in this legendary line-up. Nine out of ten. Congratulations to James for his great review. To have witnessed this concert must have been quite an experience!

Review by tarkus1980
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.

Review by Mellotron Storm
3 stars This is a review I haven't been looking forward to which might seem strange considering i'm such a huge VDGG fan. It had been almost 30 years since the classic lineup had played to the public like this,and instead of waiting until after the "Present" tour, they would record the very first concert they did warts and all. They had just released "Present" the month before this and if there's one thing that is clear with this recording it's that the people in the audience were hanging on every note and cheering wildly after every track. Something is missing though. It's hard for me to put a finger on it. I love that "Present" album and so it's not like I think they've gone downhill or anything. It's just that these versions of the old seventies classics for the most part do not stand up well to the original studio versions. I'm sure we all wish they had released this same live album back then but they didn't. And this is a "one off" as it were because after this they would focus more on their new material and as "Trisector" then "A Grounding In Numbers" would be released we would see the band play less and less of these classics. So for that reason alone this is a special album.

It's weird but i've been listening to this all of last week on and off and it has many highlights but also many average moments. Of course when we're talking a double cd recording with almost 129 minutes of music you might expect this, but not when you look at the song titles. And it's not like this has the possibility to grow on me, I know these songs very well and in fact if anything the oposite is happening. The band i'm sure practised these songs often before this concert and they've chosen more songs off of "Godbluff" than any other album. Cool to see two tracks from "Present" which are two of my favourites on here. Only one from "H To He Who..." unfortunately. Interesting that we get a track from one of Hammill's solo albums in "(In The) Black Room" from "Chameleon In The Shadow Of The Night".

When I was down South in March I took several VDGG albums and my appreciation for them just got higher after listening to those old classics, but this experience has not had the same affect at all sadly. I hate not giving this 4 stars but 3.5 stars it is, and i'm going to come back to this in the future just to see if I still feel the same way.I'd still recommend this to VDGG fans but i've noticed around the internet that opinions are mixed.

Review by AtomicCrimsonRush
3 stars Hamill, Evans, Jackson and Banton make a formidable lineup in this lengthy concert document on the awesome Van der Graaf Generator. The live stage was custom made for such inventive genius and this Cd captures every dark moment of this performance. So many treasures are here; Killer, Scorched Earth, Lemmings, Nutter Alert, Man Erg and Darkness epitomise all that is great about VDGG. Hamill's voice suffers here though, having been scorched by the surgeons knife recently so the songs suffer. The music is wonderful as one might expect but the vocals simply infest each song. I was very disappointed that the band would release such a tarnished product. Live, the band would have sounded great I am certain and the crowd love each moment, however under the close scrutiny of a Cd earphone session it doesn't cut it. you would be far better off getting the incredible live Cd "Vital".
Review by Seyo
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars The classic VdGG quartet line-up (Banton-Evans-Hammill-Jackson) never got to release a live album during their peak in the 1970s. Instead, we got "Vital", which represented a quite different group (VdG) with different sound (exit organ and saxes, enter violin and electric guitars, especially bass). So, almost 30 years after their break-up, the quartet finally releases a live recording of their entire opening night of the tour promoting their comeback studio effort "Present". An exciting and nostalgic event for sure, the one their fans were impatiently waiting for all these years, and in the hindsight, given that the band would soon to be truncated to a trio, this was probably "the moment" in history to be preserved and cherished, perhaps never to be repeated again.

Performance is excellent, no doubt, despite the fact that they probably sounded much better later on as the tour rolled on. Yet, there is a noticeable weakness in Hammill's voice, due to recent surgery, particularly on older material such as "Refugees" and "Killer" where he struggles unsuccessfully to reach higher notes. Also, Jaxon's sax sounds as if loosing compass on the latter song and seems to improvise too much throughout the album. But, these are minor complaints. The album as a whole shows the band in a strong instrumental mood while Hammill often engaged in a emotions-filled dialogue with the audience during breaks.

The setlist includes well-known songs from their best studio albums (the focus seems to be on "Godbluff" and "Pawn Hearts") from the past, as well as two highlights taken off "Present" album - "Every Bloody Emperor" and "Nutter Alert", the former already being established as a Graaf classic song, in par with their best moments from the past. And "In the Black Room" finally gets to be recorded and released on a VdGG album, having appeared only on the 1973 Hammill's solo record "Chameleon in the Shadow of Night", but being recorded by full band (including Nic Potter on bass!) for a post-Pawn Hearts VdGG album that never was. In short, a historic recording of the "classic quartet" line-up, responsible for creating some of the best, the darkest, the wildest and the most daring music of the entire "prog" scene and beyond!

Latest members reviews

4 stars Most bands that reform and then play their 30+ year old material sound sad. However VDGG are not most bands. This set is brilliant on so many levels it is difficult to know where to start. The sound is fantastic,digital recordings reveal a power in this music that vinyl just could not capture. T ... (read more)

Report this review (#145910) | Posted by burgersoft777 | Friday, October 19, 2007 | Review Permanlink

5 stars This jumped straight to the the top of my must have list when I heard it was going to be released. VDGG were one of the true pioneers of the progressive form and this live release shows just how pioneering they were. And still are! There is no one else that makes this kind of music. VDGG took the ... (read more)

Report this review (#140289) | Posted by scarista | Monday, September 24, 2007 | Review Permanlink

4 stars VDGGS have always been a strange band: in the classic line-up there was no bass guitar,litteeletric guitar, a great organist,an exceptional saxophonist, a notable drummer and a great singer, the creative genius of Generator. I think that without one of them, they could not been the same, music ... (read more)

Report this review (#115415) | Posted by borussia | Saturday, March 17, 2007 | Review Permanlink

5 stars Me and my friend have just finished listening to this record. We agreed, that this live recording is excellent although it sounds more like a studio album than a live one. I like it more in this way. Heard the bootleg of this concert, I'm glad that they didn't change anything, e.g. additional st ... (read more)

Report this review (#114865) | Posted by TFTO | Sunday, March 11, 2007 | Review Permanlink

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