“Lighthouse-keepers”, then….

First of all, just to be clear, I have to say that the opinions and observations herer are my personal ones, rather than any kind of VdGG policy statement!

Those of you who follow http://www.sofasound.com (or indeed, any of the other information portals relating to VdGG) will by now be aware that we’ll be touring again in June, in Europe, and that a feature of these shows will be performances of “A Plague of Lighthouse-Keepers”, the side-long piece from the 1971 album “Pawn Hearts”. This has only been played live a couple of times in the past; our early efforts to include it in our then set were fairly swiftly abandoned (as being, frankly, too difficult to pull off) but a version was captured for posterity by a Belgian TV show which more or less insisted we play it. We managed it, by recording the piece in two halves.

For every tour of the modern band, including the 2005 reunion version, we’ve been keen to put together sets which balance obvious choices with unexpected additions as well as brand new material. This was, we felt and feel, one way in which we could avoid falling into the trap of becoming in some way our own tribute band.

This particular ante was very much upped once we found ourselves as a trio in 2006. We established pretty quickly that we were capable of performing anything from the previous setlists, if in particularly wonky trio ways; also that our new identity would be best served by pressing forward at an increased rate. Paradoxically some of this onward motion was served by going back to, for example, “Meurglys III” and “Gog”. In my view the trio versions of these pieces have been as definitive as things get. We also immediately began the process of bedding in new material – at that time still unrecorded – and dropping old songs. So far, so VdGG.

The tours which followed the release of “Trisector” and “A Grounding in Numbers” saw the introduction of several pieces from these albums, as the composition of sets swung more and more towards present day work, though stuff from the past continued  to prove challenging and satisfying to play as well.

It’s been a feature of these new recordings that the songs have been pretty snappy – only “Over the Hill” comes in around the ten minute mark. When we came to consider what to play in our North American tour of 2012 – and we wanted to have *some* difference in repertoire from our previous visit – we decided that a version of the old PH/K group piece “Flight” would be an interesting prospect. As a long-form, with some fairly fiendish passages, it seemed a natural fit for the trio line-up, as well as a proper challenge. Once again, I feel we’ve come up with some kind of benchmark performance here, to stand alongside the original recording, the K group efforts and, indeed, one somewhat bizarre duo performance which Brain and I rendered as a grand piano/percussion duo at an early WOMAD. Crucially, we did not announce in advance that we’d be doing “Flight”, although naturally the word went out almost as soon as the first notes had gone out in public. The rest of the sets continued in the usual random rotation, but it’s important to note that having a long piece at the heart of a show does produce a somewhat different architecture.

I don’t recall who first broached the idea of “Lighthouse-keepers” being in the frame for future work, but at some point during our touring in 2012 it became clear that the germ of the idea of attempting another -this – long-form was with us. At the tail end of last year, when we met to discuss what might be our future, in both broad and specific terms, we agreed that this would probably be the best way to go forward.

And so we find ourselves committed to the piece. Significantly, half of all the shows will be taken up by “Lighthouse-keepers” and “Flight” (the latter, of course, will be being played for the first time to European audiences.) This will certainly produce a different dynamic to any previous shows, which have always hadsomething of the same spiky shape whatever material we chose to play. It’s as well that audiences should know this in advance. It’s also, of course, a matter of some interest (we imagine) to the bulk of the audience that we should be attempting such an important and rarely performed piece from our past.

Of course, the fact that we’ve announced it means that we now *have* to give it a go….

We haven’t yet worked out exactly how we’re going to deal with the various speed bumps and chicanes which await us; but we’re confident that one way or another we’ll come through with a genuine, new, trio version.

It’s important to stress that we will *not* be attempting to emulate or recreate the exact sonics from the record; that would be both a fruitless and an impossible task. But there are some cracking tunes in there and I’m really looking forward to getting to grips with them.

Roll on June….


32 Comments on ““Lighthouse-keepers”, then….”

  1. Bob's Aural Delights says:

    Tickets acquired for Manchester RNCM….looking forward to hearing both pieces

  2. Steve / USA says:

    “Plague” is not just a fine piece, in all it’s density; its density is defining, in its theme of grief /chaos/ falling and rising again. It’s not just a listen. It’s a place to go. The nautical images run affectively.

    Always thought that it would too complex to be performed. But it’s certainly welcomed. A studio version is not expected.

    So bring it on (come back) to Buffalo / USA! Don’t forget the candles…or…maybe electric ones. Maybe all things really are a part.

  3. Olafur in Iceland says:

    I´ve seen Peter alone twice (I like his music more than VdGG ,just a little.) .Now it´s time for VdGG in Amsterdam.Can´t wait.

  4. Peter Sunesen says:

    What exciting news!
    Contemplating strongly going to Prague in June to hear this legendary piece of ‘classical music’ For me the single most important piece of (rock) music ever made.

    A few days ago I attended a concert with The Musical Box (Canadian tribute band playing Genesis from the Peter Gabriel era) They played brilliantly, but nevertheless blew it completely.

    The volume was unbearably loud, and even after moving back from the 9’th row to the very back of the hall, I still had to hold my ears during most songs. The originality and dynamics (they performed The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway) were thus largely destroyed, and distortion often marred the otherwise suberb clarity of the instrumentation.

    I attended a concert with Genesis performing the same work back in 1975 and the sound was superb, as it ironically was when I heard The Musical Box performing “Selling England by the Pound ” some years ago. Exquisitely dynamic and NEVER too loud.

    My companion opinioned that it “was a sign of the present time” that this fine group went ‘heavy’, and this leads to:

    Have Van Der Graaf Generator nowadays cranked up the volume as well?

    In 2005 I tremendously enjoyed your efforts in the Bridgewater Hall in Manchester – the only time I have seen V.D.G.G., except for a festival show way back in 1976 (rainy Reading, it was)
    The sound at both events was perfect, so hopefully my newly hatched worries are totally unfounded and irrelevant, in which case I hope you’ll bear with me:-)

  5. Andrew Jackson says:

    First time I saw VdGG you played ‘Lighthouse-keepers’. Oundle: June 1972, it would have been. I was 16. The gig was a blinder. Nothing wrong with L-K at all. What kept you so long?
    Once more to the Barbican…

  6. donald says:

    Yo, Pedro! Choice of repertoire is excellent. My ticket is booked for Glasgow’s ABC. I have made my views clear regarding “Alt” and the extended “Piano, Guitar & Vox”. This could be your redemption in my eyes, tho’ not in a musical sense. More an ethical concern. Musically, there has never been a problem. If you are accosted by a lithe, handsome Scot with stunningly blue eyes, fear not, it is not me. If some beardy git places himself before you spitting venom, then you are facing the “Donald”. Why are all the posts on this site so cringingly fawning? I’m sure I’ll love it, bit if not… be afraid….be very afraid!!!!!!

  7. Since you mention the Belgian televised performance, I seem to remember the way the band played was good, but creatively rough, at the edges. Given the travels of the footage since then and legal/financial headaches that came with its travels, I wonder if would you like the performance more if technically it had been filmed more adeptly than it actually was?

    Anyway it will be good to put the episode of the Belgian film behind you, with this new live version of ‘A Plague Of Lighthouse Keepers’, Peter…..

  8. Maurice Lynn says:

    A dream to come true! This is just fantastic news, Peter!

  9. Anonymous says:

    Such a wonderful news! I had the chance to see you a couple of times, but I’d love to see VDGG playing Lighthouse-keepers here in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Just in case, do not forget you have a devoted group of fans in Latin America.

  10. pureambient says:

    Thanks for taking on the challenge of ‘A Plague Of Lighthouse Keepers’, we fully expect it to be perfected, trio-style, by the time you reach Glasgow 🙂

  11. Agustín Mendilaharzu says:

    Me and a few -not so few- more would live one of the most intense moments of our lives if Peter, Guy and Hugh brought this concert to Buenos Aires. Any chance this happens?

  12. Marc Roberts says:

    A very pleasant surprise to hear about his…you are good at surprises! See you at The Robin and The Barbican…thanks all!

  13. Frank says:

    Fantastic!.. any chance of dropping by Sydney Australia for a repeat performance?

  14. Graham Meigh says:

    Looking forward to the gig at The Robin, Bilston. A Plague of Lighthouse Keepers has always been my favourite track. No pressure then…

  15. Alme Mogni says:

    I hope you consider submitting this dynamic in a future tour of Latin America. I would love to see you playing “Lighthouse-keepers” here in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
    I have to add that this composition is my favorite and I’m eager to know the version you are preparing, the renovation of a classic of this magnitude!
    My fervor of teenager of 16 years makes me say, by way of farewell, I LOVE YOU!

  16. Chad says:

    I am extremely anxious to hear how that transpires! Please consider releasing a live recording of the new European tour!

  17. David Scott says:

    David Scott.

    Looking forward to the London show. A bit disconcerted about the choice of venue however. Will the barbican staff let me in with my faded denim jacket and Hawkwind patch????????? (I shan’t mention the Motorhead badge…)

  18. Kevin M Flaherty says:

    Here’s to hoping VdGg play the USA in 13. Although it is good to know that VdGg is actually a working unit is a pleasant aspect unto it self. Cheers mates All the best

  19. I like to think that this is all just a cover-story and bluff to hide the *real* amazing surprize, namely that for the encore, Hugh will strap on his bass and you’ll do “Nadir’s Big Chance” 😀

  20. Pierre says:

    Before flying to Europe, we would like to know if you’ll be touring in North America… maybe the Montréal Jazz Festival again this year ?

  21. John. says:

    excellent news. I was fortunate enough to see VDGG at the Barbican last time as a venue I think it is suited to their sound and therefore would be a decent platform for lighthouse keepers.

  22. Alejandro Torres says:

    When will you come to Mexico City to play again, Peter?

  23. Anonymous says:

    exciting and scary for the band …… for the audience too!!Can’t wait.

  24. Anonymous says:

    exciting and scary for the band ……… for the audience too!!! can’t wait

  25. Nigel says:

    Going to Manchester and £25 for tickests is very reasonable, you could have charged £35, bearing in mind what will be performed. Worth it just for Flight, never mind Plague.

  26. Anonymous says:

    Going to Manchester, tickets only £25, you should have charged a tenner more, would still be reasonable. Worth it just for Flight.

  27. Mike says:

    Have tickets for the Barbican. Looking forward to POLK immensely


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