It is possible that the March 1, 2022 performance from VDGG may become the swan song from one of the last great progressive rock bands from the golden age of music. Thoughts may abound if Peter Hammill and his bandmates, Hugh Banton and Guy Evans, could continue to push boundaries and maintain their unique sound even as they entered the realm of elder statesmen. Considering this, fans are fortunate to have a record of their recent tour with the release of “The Bath Forum Concert,” a 2 CD + 1 DVD +1 Blu-ray clamshell box set. The region-free Blu-ray features both a 5.1 DTS HD Master Audio surround and 2.0 stereo mix by the talented Stephen W. Tayler, who had previously worked on VDGG album reissues, and this recording certainly captures the lively essence of the band.
While there has been much talk about the "classic" era of VDGG, which has been revitalized through remastering and 5.1 surround sound remixes, the live experience proves that their contemporary work from this century is just as captivating. Time has not dulled the fervor of Peter Hammill; if anything, it has intensified it.
The 12-song concert kicks off with two modern pieces, "Interference Patterns" and "Every Bloody Emperor," highlighting the band's ability to tackle complex compositions with ease. Hammill's lyrical prowess shines through, especially in the politically charged "Every Bloody Emperor." The grand organ chords and hymn-like presence add to the power of the performance. It's a strong start that sets the tone for the evening.
The band then takes listeners back to the mid-1970s with "A Louse Is Not a Home" and "Masks," demonstrating their mastery of grandeur and intricate arrangements. They explore the mysteries of life in songs like "Childlike Faith in Childhood's End," evoking comparisons to prog giants like Emerson, Lake & Palmer. The first half of the show concludes with the poignant "Go," perching the audience on an exhilarating high.
The second half of the concert balances older classics with more recent compositions. Hugh Banton's organ lines take center stage, accompanied by his skillful bass pedal work. The arrangements bridge the gap between eras, with songs like "Alfa Berlina" highlighting the band's quirkier side. There's a sense of nostalgia, but VDGG is far from being a heritage act. The songs remain significant, resonating with the context of world events and the maturity of both the band and their long-term fans.
The haunting strains of "Over the Hill" mark a special moment as Hammill acknowledges the journey they've all been on. It's a chance for the band to compose themselves before launching into the final stretch of the concert. The intensity builds with each song, culminating in a stunning rendition of "Man Erg" that electrifies the crowd. The encore, "House with No Door," closes the night on a beautifully melancholic note.
Readers here are most likely interested in the concert film, available on both DVD and Blu-ray discs, which will immerse them into the experience. The sharp visuals and well-executed camerawork allow fans to appreciate the band's performance from different angles, capturing the intimate moments and the telepathic communication between the musicians.
For the best audio and video version, spin the Blu-ray which features HD video and 5.1 DTS HD Master Audio. Video quality and camera work are truly fantastic which really aid in placing fans at the theater on the night of the show. Plus, the mix is stellar, and even with just three musicians it is absolutely discrete with instruments spread out across the surround scape and vocals placed in the center. Taylor keeps it interesting without being gimmicky making it a wonderful live experience right in one’s listening room. Sure, some may find the bass tones to be a bit overpowering at times, but who doesn’t love deep lows?
The Bath Forum Concert is a superlative memento of an extraordinary tour. It not only captures the memories but also enhances them. Thankfully quality progressive rock is still very much alive.
Released March 10, 2023.
2 CD + 1 DVD + 1 Blu-ray deluxe edition, featuring DTS HD Master Audio 5.1 surround and 2.0 stereo mixes. Also available as a download and via streaming.