Acoustic Strawbs - Third time in recent years that I've seen these hard touring veterans. They tour as a five piece full band and promised this version next year (with former Strawb Rick Wakeman's son replacing John Hawken). But the acoustic version is Dave Cousins and Dave Lambert on guitars and lead vocals along with bassist Chas Cronk also supplying backup vocals, 12-string and not quite acoustic foot pedal Roland effects. Even acoustic, this trio plays great, strong progressive songs from their wonderful back catalogue. Cousins has one of the finest voices anywhere and I'm always surprised at how good a singer Lambert is as well. Lambert plays excellent leads and the sound is quite full. They played Lay Down/Grave New World/Oh How She Changed (and I have gotten my money's worth at this point of the evening)/ A new song about Norway/Hangman and the Papist/Autumn. The set ended kind of early for me, but it was 45 minutes which tells me how involved I was in the songs. The Strawbs are an excellent still undiscovered band for many who still can deliver great music.
Van der Graaf Generator - A rare, rare appearance from this cult progressive band from the classic prog days. Like King Crimson, they play a hard assertive progressive music that is darker than most and was very influential amongst many different styled bands. John(ny Rotten) Lydon has always cited VDGG and Can as key influences and you can really hear that in the vocal stylings of Pete Hammill and what Lydon did. Hammill's writing and vocals are exciting and unique in any genre and he still delivered searing vocal lines tonight. He also played guitar and a Roland. He was accompanied by long time key early members Hugh Banton on Hammand/Roland and Guy Evans on drums. Early in the set, I was really missing the sax attack from David Jackson who played with them a few years back but retired. Hammill moved to guitar after three songs and there was a bit more attack which livened things up. By the end of the set (where he ultimately played 4 songs on guitar, 6 on keys), I got used to the three piece sound and felt they delivered a still credible set of strong VDGG songs (Scorched Earth and Lemmings included, although not all the "hits"). Probably the best of the set was a Pete Hammill solo album song (missed the title but I'll find it sometime) that he promised that although solo, it was still pretty extreme. It certainly was and got the best ovation from the many hardened VDGG fans in attendance. Great show.
Quote of the Night: I'll do two. Early in the set, the crowd was yelling thanks for coming and various welcomes and one guy yelled "Finally - it's been 36 years!" Hammill responded "well, forever actually."
But the annoying three guys on the metro (and I wasn't alone based on the eye contact I made with a woman just as they exited) gave all of us within earshot various highlights of their favorite company Christmas parties of years past. I'm not sure I needed this in December let alone June.