IQ & The Lens, 20th Anniversary Gig
15th December 2001, Mean Fiddler, London, UK
By Ed Sander
2001 was a very special year for IQ. Although they didn't do anything really significant this year (as a band that is), it was 20 years since the band was founded back in 1981. It's amazing that the band has managed to survive all this time, and is still alive and kicking, in a part-time sort of way.
To celebrate this special occasion the band had announced to play a special anniversary show in London's Mean Fiddler (formerly Astoria II) in December, after having played two 'warm up' gigs in the Manchester area in November.
The Mean Fiddler is a bit of a weird place. In front of the stage there's an elevated platform
of about 20 cm high. During the soundcheck it seemed like a nice feature but when the doors opened
and I was still having a cold one at the bar and walked in to find that full platform packed with
people, it turned out to be a bit of a bummer after all. For the smaller people who had not
conquered a place in front of the stage on the platform, it was almost impossible to catch a glimpse
of the stage. An alternative was to go to the seats on the balcony but the rather low openings through which the band could be seen make the atmosphere far from perfect over there, as far as I'm concerned.
The average crowd of the Mean Fiddler must be quite mean because the mixing desk was surrounded by a large cage. However, when I asked one of the crew members 'Why is Rob in a cage today ?', the answer
was 'Shouldn't he always be ?'. ;-)
As always with IQ the preparations for the gig seemed to proceed painfully slow, resulting in the band still having to so a sound check 15 minutes before the doors opened. Nevertheless it always amazes me how
band and crew seem to get it right after all, in such a short time span. Seemingly stress gets out the best in everybody.
When the lights went out at 18:40 Peter Nichols walked on stage and told the crowd that they had found a
band that had been an enormous influence on IQ in their early years willing to perform as their
support act: The Lens. Those of you who are familiar with IQ's history will know that
The Lens is actually a band that existed prior to IQ and included Mike Holmes and Martin Orford. As a
matter of fact, when The Lens broke up in 1981, Mike and Martin formed a new band called IQ. Some of
the material of The Lens has been rerecorded by IQ (e.g. About Like Five, Through The Corridors, the end section of Widow's Peak, Dans Le Parc du Chateau Noir), while bits
and pieces of Lens compositions still keep popping up in new IQ material.
Last year Mike and Martin went into the studio to record some of the old Lens material, which resulted
in the brand new (mainly instrumental) album A Word in Your Eye.
When Peter walked off stage four shady figures passed him. Of course this was actually IQ without Pete on vocals. Mike and John were both wearing psychedelic shirts, big afro wigs and long Mexican moustaches, while Martin was wearing his infamous pyjama top and a wig of long black hair (remember Neil the Hippy of The Young Ones ?). Unfortunately I didn't really catch a glimpse of Paul Cook (who also plays on the Lens
CD), but I assume he was suitably dressed for the occasion as well.
The band played three songs in their 20 minute set. After playing Sleep Until You Wake we were treated to the nice and bouncy Choosing a Farmer (part 3) which features the piece of music that later
became the end of Widow's Peak, prompting Jowitt to say 'We wrote it first !' in a weird little
chipmunk-like voice (the microphones had obviously been tinkered with by sound man Rob Aubrey).
Of Tide and Change closed this nice hippy trippy journey down memory lane.
After a couple of minutes the lights went out again and an intro movie started playing on the screen.
'IQ20, 20 years of Prog Nonsense', proclaimed the screen, followed by a collection of some of the funniest pictures and words from 20 years of IQ history ('egg dicky dicky', 'two looves' and such). This
promised to become a fun evening indeed. In itself this collage of footage was very enjoyable to begin with, let's hope it becomes available on the Official IQ site as well.
The band came on stage and kicked off with Awake and Nervous, always one of their favourite live
tunes and a good energetic opener. Pete had turned up wearing his make-up as he did in the early
eighties. Taking this and the fact that they started with an early IQ tune into consideration, I was
hoping that they would run through their material in chronological order and Pete would undergo some
major costume changes. Unfortunately this turned out not to be the case; Pete did change an occasional shirt or coat but the make-up stayed on and the setlist was far from chronological.
It took me a while to recognise the next song, which turned out to be 1000 Days in a very uptempo
rocky version. I have to admit that I like this version a lot better than the original and I hope it
will remain in the set for a while or is even released in this form one day. The tune flowed seamlessly into Magic Roundabout, a song that hasn't been played in its full electric version for a while.
After the atmospheric Erosion Pete walked of stage to let the band play the marvellous State of Mine which flowed into the closing solos of Leap of Faith followed by Came Down, a splendid song which as far as I'm concerned might well be one of the most underrated IQ compositions.
After a bit of mischief including a performance of the theme from the Postman Pat kiddy TV show, the band continued with 'the first big one' of the evening, the title track of The Seventh House.
Next, a new intro of keyboard chords flowed into a shortened version of The Narrow Margin. Although it was described as 'mid' on the setlist it actually consisted of the 'told me, go the way of your heart' section combined with the closing section which is based on the same chords. Although I would loved to have heard the full thing, I like these nice little versions of classic tracks the band keep coming up with.
The next two songs, Capricorn and Human Nature have been part of the setlist of the last couple of years and this time they once again featured the wonderful playing of Tony Wright on saxophone (as you might know, Tony played on the Subterranea and The Seventh House albums, as well as the new Lens album A Word in Your Eye).
The next song was quite a surprise since nowadays it is rarely played live; Just Changing Hands. Not one of my favourite songs but nice to hear it played on stage for a change. I had to make a quick visit to the loo anyway and while making some room for a couple of more beers I heard somebody sniggering next to me. It turned out to be sound engineer Ron Aubrey. 'I left Andy Labrow [one of the roadies - Ed.] to do the sound', he said, 'It's because of all that Dutch beer ....', referring to the cans of Grolsch they were selling at the Mean Fiddler at extortionate prices. 'Yeah, fine Dutch lager !', I said proudly. 'Brewed in England', Rob said, after which he made his quick way down to the mixing desk via the Ladies.
After the third Seventh House track of the evening, Guiding Light (I really think it was a shame they didn't play the popular Wrong Side of Weird instead), we were up for another surprise. Peter welcomed IQ's original bass player Tim Esau on stage to play Headlong with the band for the very first time in history; IQ had never played it while Tim was still in the band. With his own bass, which as Tim said during the sound check 'hadn't been tuned in ages', Tim did quite well. It was obvious he was very nervous and his performance was not devoid of a couple of bum notes but the moment
was one to be cherished. It was obviously a big relief for him to get off the stage afterwards as I heard
him saying 'I think I need a whiskey right now'. Very brave man.
Probably at the expense of being stoned to death for blasphemy I dare to say that I consider the full length version of The Last Human Gateway that was played next to be a complete waste of setlist.
Don't get me wrong, I think it's a fine song and I absolutely love the way that two segments of the song are played on Forever Live. I just think that in the full length live version the song falls apart because it's too repetitive and above that, I really dislike the
arrangements of the 'break back to back' section. Instead I would rather have seen a full length version of the much more diverse Narrow Margin or the twenty minutes used for 3 or 4 other songs. Still,
most of the crowd seemed to be delighted to hear the full monster.
The first encore that was played was the version of Subterranea featuring the extended segment in which all of the band members are introduced. In the good tradition of playing some fun covers during special gigs like these, the next two tunes were nice surprises; a fantastic version of Paul McCartney's Wings' Jet (with Tony Wright on sax) and Crazy Horses by The Osmonds.
The band came back one more time with the familiar set closer The Wake. For this occasion the
bass was once again played by Tim Esau while Jowitt jumped around the stage like a chimpanzee gone
bananas, at a certain time joined by Lol Dyer who normally does the lights for the band.
That was it. The band had to get their stuff off stage immediately and the place was cleared out by the bouncers in a matter of minutes. In the hectic situation that resulted Martin's girlfriend Chris amazingly succeeded in getting everybody gathered for a couple of pictures with Tim. Eventually Phil (of the US prog rock TV show), John Jowitt, Mark Westwood and me made it down to a pub where we had another
couple of pints and ran into more familiar faces. After a hunt for a well deserved snack Phil and I shared a taxi back to our hotels and I got some night rest before getting up the next morning to do some Christmas shopping in London ......
All in all a very enjoyable night including short and longer rendez-vous with many familiar faces
(among which Mr. Gary Chandler, some IQ crew members I hadn't seen for more than a year, Sam, Paddy,
Mark, Simon, Tarquin, Phil, Dene and many others).
I spoke to quite some people after the show and they all agreed that it was a fine performance, but
that they had expected a bit more humour and surprises. I tend to agree with them. Having such legendary
gigs like the '84 Christmas gig and the Ledge Benefit in the back of my mind, I had indeed expected a bit
more tongue-in-cheek stuff and dressing-up. I would also have liked a more representative setlist covering the last
20 years; the Menel era and Ever were a bit underrepresented as far as I'm concerned. Then again, considering the band's current state in which rehearsal sessions and tours have become extremely rare I can't really blame them.
Let's just hope that some of the highlights (among which the performance of The Lens) will remain in the set for the gigs in February.
More pictures will be published on The Lush Attic soon. Some marvellous stills from the footage taken at the gig can also be found on IQ Internet (look under IV - features).
Sleep Until Your Wake
Choosing a farmer (pt. 3)
Of Tide & Change
Awake & Nervous
1000 Days (uptempo version)/ Magic Roundabout
State Of Mine/Leap Of Faith (end)/Came Down
- Theme from Postman Pat -
The Seventh House
The Narrow Margin (short version)
Human Nature *
Just Changing Hands
The Last Human Gateway (full version)
Jet (Paul McCartney's Wings) *
Crazy Horses (The Osmonds)
The Wake +
* = with Tony Wright
+ = with Tim Esau