Sherbrooke, October 6th 1976
In the Salle O'Bready, a heavily made up clown figure is delivering some sort of monologue under a spotlight; it's the weirdest, most original performance I've ever seen. Pierre Blois of Pro-Actuel is introducing Maelstrom, a group from Québec who seem incapable of quitting. They were here last year as the support act for P.F.M. It's a half-hearted effort and a bit crappy; the sound is appalling and the group is even more derivative of Gentle Giant than the other Québecois groups, EtCaetera and Pollen. The lyrics are naive and soulless. These endless retakes on "Funny Ways" just don't cut it and in spite of the sometimes rather inventive showmanship even the most avid of the local fans are not convinced.
Then it's Van der Graaf Generator, the legend, the myth, the monster. Here they are, this famous quartet whose own support act was for quite a time their erstwhile obscure friends, Genesis, and about whom Fripp of King Crimson has touted his real admiration and occasional collaboration. So we finally get to see David Jackson, as often as not blowing two saxophones
at once, his feet deliriously moving across pedals and effects boxes to warp and metamorphose the sound. He's versatile and utterly unique. Guy Evans, rail thin and nervously drumming a style which runs the boundary where the avant-garde becomes classical, and where the classical becomes heavy, in this spectacular, superb "Gog" where everything breaks apart and flies off into space. Hugh Banton, ever-present, phlegmatic and almost spectral, hunched over the six generator organ he designed himself. Peter Hammill, manic, maniac, his voice and lyrics harrowing, his Guild guitar mordant; himself, a mime of a cursed mutant. The sound is not very good though, and some people are already leaving in a state of semi-terror while others look a little disappointed. Someone shouts out that VdGG have not yet played anything from "Pawn Hearts" so it's not exactly a promising start to the tour. Later, in the restaurant after the show, I still bother to congratulate Maelstrom; the musicians are a little cold and not a little arrogant.
Québec, October 7th 1976
It's almost a riot, the police are overwhelmed. It's heavy: 3,200 heads milling in the municipal centre and then around nine o'clock the band starts. Maelstrom are a no-show. The beginning is riveting, some wails of feedback, the performance is stomach-wrenching, and VdGG are just brilliant. They stun the surprised and delighted crowd with "Man Erg", one of their classic pieces. Then, at the insistance of one of the crowd, they plunge us into the strange and paralysing world of "Killer". VdGG have added to the set list in order to make up the time left by the missing support act. It's a world away from yesterday; the concert is super high
quality, and the versions of the songs from "Godbluff" are ten times more powerful than what you hear on record. Québec, the fan capital of VdGG, open-minded and needing no convincing, is well and truly rewarded tonight.