Van der Graaf Generator, Nuremberg Hirsch, 1 April 2007

Back from a trip to Nuremberg to see the debut performance by the new trio line-up (Hammill, Banton, Evans) of Van der Graaf Generator.

It was a spectacular evening. Wow, this band is loud. The venue helped, being a slightly tatty rock club in an unprepossessing part of town, in the middle of an industrial estate. This was a band that was planning to take care of business in no uncertain terms, and so they did. There was less of the quiet-loud dynamics of the 2005 reunion and more of a full-on aural assault, which was absolutely fine by me.

Clearly, they had to revisit the songs in order to fill the gaps left by the absent saxophonist. To my ears they mostly accomplished this by giving Hugh Banton a lot more to do. And he was more than up to it – his organ was utterly transcendent. The other revelation was Hammill’s guitar work. It was incredible. I wouldn’t be so bold as to suggest that he’s been practising, but there was a fluidity and an angularity to his playing that I had never heard before. I’ve never understood why he has given up the electric in favour of the acoustic in recent solo shows, but he’s more than making it up for it now. Evans, of course, was an immense presence on the drums, his playing an extraordinary mix of aggression and complexity.

This band not only rocks, it also grooves. There was an irresistible pull towards movement and swing. Devastating.

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