Rychard Carrington reports on Van der Graaf Generator - The Junction, Cambridge, 28 March 2011

Van der graaf Generator
Junction 1, The

This modestly-dressed trio of sexagenarians played an hour of forty minutes of their distinctive music about phenomenology and the philosophy of science to a large and appreciative audience.


There is certainly a lot of affection for this unique group, and rightly so. Their intricate, dramatic sound is faithful to the sterling values of progressive rock, while a predominant darkness creates a gothic tone.


The setlist was dominated by numbers from their two most recent albums, A Grounding In Numbers and  Trisector (All That Before, Over The Hill and We Are Not Here from the latter were highlights).  Lyrical themes now include mortality and losing one's glasses, as well as mathematics and physics. Singer and songwriter Peter Hammill's combination of erudition, control, self-effacing manner and existential intensity is almost comical, yet he carries it off, partly through utter uniqueness, partly through bravura, but mostly through sheer class. Hugh Banton's 60s/early 70s  organ sound provided melody and colour, while Guy Evan's complex yet punchy and taut drumming kept the energy vital. 


Finally devotees were rewarded with two 70s epics, Killer and The Sleepwalkers. These had an extra touch of fantasy about them, but actually they weren't that different from the recent compositions. It was an even evening, without any lows, and the highs being only marginally better than the rest. Without the powerful sax of David Jackson, who left the band five years ago, the musical texture was a little lacking in variety, but as impressive as it was distinctive. The greatly improved Junction sound system did them full justice.


If you don't know this unique band (somewhere between Nick Cave and Gabriel's Genesis?) then do check them out. This was a thoroughly good evening. Well played The Junction, well played Van der Graaf.  


Writer: Rychard Carrington