Mikayel Abazyan Review, Van der Graaf Generator concert, 26 October 2005, Moscow (Russia)

The text below was taken from Yahoo Group about Peter Hammill / Van der Graaf Generator. Many thanks to Mikayel for permission to use it here.

Hi everybody,

As it was promised yesterday here is my point of view of what happened within the past three or four days. I am so sorry if my review, or maybe story, may seem to You very egocentric and personal, but this is what I want to share with everybody. Special sorry for the possible mistakes or typos.

Sergey Petrushanko, who attended the St.Petersburg gig informed me immediately after the show about the setlist in the following way: the same as for RFH without two encores (i.e. Killer and Wondering), and Refugees was played as encore, so this should look like this:

The Undercover Man
Scorched Earth
Every Bloody Emperor
(In The) Black Room
Nutter Alert
Darkness (11/11)
Childlike Faith In Childhood's End
The Sleepwalkers

Encore: Refugees

PH was so talkative which was highly appreciated by the audience, the sound was very good, the full gig duration was two hours. And this is all I know about October 25.

Then we have Moscow 26. The band arrived at the venue at 16:00 where me and my wife Gaya were hiding from the wind and strong (is it a good word to describe?) snow for one hour by that time. Four days before and the day after the weather was not so cold, even good, but this day.... OK, moving forward. While passing by us we had a chance to say hello to everybody and to ask for a couple of words whenever it is suitable for them. "OK, but not right now", replied Peter with a wonderful smile. In fact, I told to security woman who was sitting there that I have to meet with the band since they asked me to come and to see them. It worked now even better when she and the Greenwave stuff eye witnessed the handshaking with each of the "Englishmen".

After they walked up we decided to wait, because what they told me before was "to come and say hello", which was already done. But... when I asked for a couple of minutes Peter told me "OK". So I decided to stay and wait. Five minutes or so passed and he came back saying "now I have some time to talk to You". It were the most exciting minutes for me and my wife: Magic was there. Before he signed our goodies (Hi LX, now when I have PH's autograph it's Your turn! ;-)) and was photographed by the pair of nutters I presented him souvenirs - the first letters of their names from Armenian alphabet. He listened to my speech attentively and then grabbed them in a fistful! I said "can You recognize them now?" "Oh, yes, of course..." and he did it without a mistake!!!

Before he left I told him that I would like to get the autographs from the rest of the band (the Present booklet was prepared for that). He gave us his wonderful smile and went up..... A couple of minutes pass and Hugh appears holding his "H" letter in his hand! A short talk, auto/photograph, handshaking - and he leaves, so gentle, so unpretentious.

A few minutes more, and then security is watching David coming down holding "D" in his hand! We talked a lot (about letters, about the distance we've made for the gig, etc.), he spoke to my wife, who accidentally overturned the plastic bottle with flowers in the water with her back. Meanwhile David was signing his page of Present booklet, and when he saw me holding my wife's bag and the wet CD case he told me to dry it up with his shirt! That was another unforgettable moment! He left soon but Guy didn't appear because it was the soundcheck time.

We thanked the grumbling security woman (who was gentle in fact) and left for a cafe right next to the Estrada Theatre. We had two hours before the concert and one before meeting our friends in front of the building.

I was told by almost everybody to not even think about passing any memory fixing devices (photographs, audio recording equipment, video cameras) into the building. Believe me, security did their best. The show started with 40-minute delay. One of the reason was the people traffic on the entrance. Every single bag was checked several times accurately than it is done in airport or shops! We were forced to leave or photocamera and to get it after the show. Fortunately, I succeeded in getting it before the gig, but I gave myself to sweat a lot for that (that's another story) but my decision not to record the gig was right. I didn't record the gig myself, neither did my wife - she only photographed by the end of the gig (we promised not to make a single shot during the show when we got our camera back).

The venue was very good choice (as for me). The only funny thing was the slogan painting high above the stage saying "Praise to the great soviet people!". It survived from the Soviet Era.

After they went on stage PH said "Good evening" in the air (not in the microphone). They prepared and started with Darkness... The blue sharp lightning spikes coming from the deep black background revealing the standing (not walking around like at SBE) Peter (who seemed to be like a commander of these spikes) nailed us back to our seats silent.... It was frightening to see it with Your eyes. It was Darkness! This is the sight I regret to not having it photoed/videoed the most! Those who tried were treated by security immediately (both here and in St.P the day before).

I was filling the VdGG Live 2005 SSS-like self-made sheet with the song order during the set (hello Fred!). And here is what I've had by the end of the gig:

Darkness (11/11)
The Undercover Man
Scorched Earth
Every Bloody Emperor
Still Life
(In The) Black Room
Nutter Alert
Childlike Faith In Childhood's End
The Sleepwalkers

Encore: Killer

No need for a colourful story of how did they play this or that song and what did each of us feel then. But I will bring here my point of view for the several moments.

Overall performance - brilliant.

Overall sound - vocal is low in mix.

Audience - deserving of praise (the soviet slogan speaks the truth! :-))! I would like to thank all of them in person, but there was 1300 of them so I could have missed Hammill. Loud during climaxes and silent when PH whispered; the songs ending with silence or fade-outs were played in 100% silence. No snuff, no whisper, ears only!!! Fantastic!

The weak places (as I noticed) - somewhere in the middle of Scorched Earth (why do he sings the last verse twice, replacing the first one?).

The highlights - Every Bloody Emperor, Still Life (PH confirmed this point of view himself after the show).

The highlight of the highlights - "... toothless, haggard features of Eternity now welcome me between the sheets to couple with her withered body - my wife" WHISPERED out.

The place my wife cried - see above.

The place I was about to cry - see above.

The surprise of the day - Still Life.

Darkness - frightening one, excellent performance, brilliant lightning!

This version of Every Bloody Emperor was the best I ever heard.

Lemmings seemed to me a 25-minutes long! What a performance!!!!

Nutter Alert scream becomes less unpredictable, IMHO. The best one is still the RFH one, IMHO.

The audience applauded after Every Bloody Emperor (this one only few), Childlike Faith In Childhood's End, The Sleepwalkers, and, naturally, Man-Erg and Killer STANDING!!!

Man-Erg - sometimes it seemed like it was "Jackson+band" gig. He was in perfect harmony with the music, the instruments, the reality, the Magic. He was shining like a diamond and lifting up in the air, IMHO. Call me crazy, if You like, but it was so!

Killer - Alexey was right when he printer "Killers"! No comments.

After the gig our group gathered together near the back door inside the building, and when security tried to pull us out for the third time saying "no one will appear now, go out", the door opened and Peter came out. We laughed, said "Thanks so much!" to the security people and crowded Peter asking for the autographs. 5-10 minutes for this session. More photographs and autographs. More fans. I asked Peter if Guy is going to appear (I missed his autograph, if You remember), he said, "I am afraid - no".... I agreed and said (like Sean K. told me once): "Next time!" (Thanks You, Sean!). Peter agrees with a smile. Then he says to the people around "You're a wonderful audience". He says goodbye and disappears behind the door.

We went out waiting for them outside. Soon after David appeared. He brought the promised CDs to AK, passed them to him, gave a dozens of autographs, and went back....

After 40-50 minutes of waiting for more (I wished to shake Guy's hand once again - oh, what a mighty hand!) we noticed that the band moved in the opposite direction. But they appeared from the central door, rushed into their bus and drove out.

It was raining outside, not snowing. The Magic made snow melt.

The experience of London, where I meet a lot of old and new friends, came back in Moscow. Now I miss Sergey Petrushanko, who also came with his wife Irina, Alexey Kovalev, Nicolay Alexanyan, I-Cham, Irina Peljushenko. Forgive me if I missed anyone. Thank You all!

I don't miss George Papov, who made this wonderful trip from Yerevan to Moscow and back with us. Will raise our glasses for everybody very soon!

How I wished all of my European friends were there! Missed You all:

JF - here we had one more GPS person.... What a hard job is to be a guide in a big city!
F6T - "You can make it possible, Mik!", said You once. Thank You for this!
LX - it's Your turn to get the autograph!
AH - I put the new badge this time! ;-)
SK - I used "Next time!" phrase believing that this is the right way to do.
FT - (I missed Your jokes!)
ChH - we would discuss more on lyrics, there were many people who care
IS - sorry, I missed a chance to fix the gig myself......
P.Skinner - thanks for Your e-mail.

Sorry if I missed anyone.

Best regards and good luck


P.S. The pictures of the band will be sent to Phil Smart very soon. The rest of the pictures (fans, maybe) may also appear on Sergey Petrushanko's site www.hammill.ru. (see here.)

Mikayel Abazyan mikayelabazyan@yahoo.com

Russian Peter Hammill / Van der Graaf Generator Page
Sergey Petrushanko hammillru@mail.ru, 1998-2023