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IQ - 2004 - "The 20th Anniversary Show"

(210 min 2DVD, GEP)


******

Prolusion. England's most important contemporary Progressive Rock act, IQ, presents the double DVD album documenting the band's 20th anniversary concert and some other related events. Yes, it took three years for the band to release this material, but it was absolutely worth the wait. The set consists of two DVDs packed in a terrifically looking book-like digipack with turnout, numerous photographs and the brief story touching the most significant points of the band's history. DVD data: Region 0 (all) / stereo / Dolby / Surround 5.1.

Disc I (120 min)
******

TRACK LIST:

1.  Awake & Nervous
2.  The Thousand Days 
2a. The Magic Roundabout
3.  Erosion 
4.  State of Mine
4a. Came Down
5.  The Seventh House
6.  The Narrow Margin 
7.  Human Nature
8.  Capricorn
9.  Just Changing Hands
10. Guiding Light
11. Headlong
12. The Last Human Gateway

All tracks: by IQ.
Produced by Holmes & Orford.

LINEUP: 

Michael Holmes - guitars
Martin Orford - keyboards; backing vocals
Peter Nicholls - lead vocals
John Jowitt - bass; backing vocals
Paul Cook - drums 
With:
Tony Wright - sax
Time Esau - bass 

Analysis. It's a fantastically pleasant feeling to have good music playing in your head, and not some stupid pop melody, which enters your consciousness despite the fact that you would never wish it were there. I still experience this, although IQ's immortal classics revived in my memory two days ago, after I saw the DVD for the first time. By the design, the picture and the sound, this is probably the best DVD I've met until now, while the atmosphere reigning here is inexpressibly warm and likable. The visuals are somewhat less diverse than those of "Subterranea Live" (which, being rather a movie by specificity, has just a different object), but are really perfect for such a kind of live performance as is presented here. The first disc features the entire 'official' set of songs IQ performed at the first concert of their 20th anniversary tour, which had place at London's club The Mean Fiddler on December 15, 2001. I must tell you it portrays the band as very likeable guys who really enjoy playing music, and not only. Here you'll find IQ in a truly ingenuous, very friendly and liberate atmosphere, often having fun, joking when interacting with each other, as well as with the audience, kudos to Peter and the other showmen, namely Mike, John and Martin. Only Paul remained serious throughout the show, due to the specificity of his job. (Sadly, he left the band about a month ago.) The guest players, saxophonist Tony Wright and IQ's former bassist Tim Esau, each of whom appeared twice, were partially involved in the fun, though they looked like being a bit unprepared for that. When the band started playing Capricorn, Mike began to monkey around as the frontman. Hardly suppressing a laugh, Peter shook his fist at the 'offender', trying to get control of himself, which he did with difficulty. There is a screen behind the scene, with photographs, documentaries and clip-like shots appearing from time to time, but the main focus always remains on the band, very well depicting their joint performance and personal musicianship as well. There are plenty of highlights, which include all the longer songs with enough place for large-scaled instrumental arrangements: Awake & Nervous, The Magic Roundabout, State of Mine, Human Nature, Just Changing Hands and Guiding Light, usually alternating with rockers and more lyrical stuff, and of course the monster epics: The Last Human Gateway and the slightly jazz-tinged The Seventh House, which is the band's most unique composition, in my view. All the same, "The Seventh House" is an inimitable, incomparable with anything album, which is just IQ, the one that will be a model for many Art-Rock performers to come in the future. On each of those, there is very much the feel of a jam band within a classic Art-Rock framework in its diversity. The work is great ensemble playing, and the compositions give rise to many fine solo work and interplay between Martin's keyboards, Mike's guitar and John's bass, all anchored by Paul's accurate drumming. Peter uses his voice as an instrument, just as the different ranges of sound produced by his instrumentalist band mates, his voice reflecting and inflecting just the right sound to fit the song, yet, always retaining its warmth and identity. IQ are extremely capable musicians, and they continuously use humor to balance the serious and the lighter aspects of their music. You have to see this performance to understand how it is outstanding and pleasant at once. It's so nice to 'be' there!

Disc II (110 min)
******

TRACK LIST:

1.  Subterranea
2.  Jet
3.  Crazy Horses
4.  The Wake
5.  Sleep Until You Wake
6.  Choosing a Farmer-3
7.  Of Tide & Change
8.  Mamma Mia
8a. Out of Nowhere
9.  The Intros & the Outros
10. Access All Areas
11. Cookie Jam
12. Stage Set Up
13. Photo Gallery

All tracks: by IQ, except 2: P & L McCartney,
3: The Osmonds & 13: ABBA.
           

Analysis. The contents of the second disc are more diverse and eventful (just as it always should be in my honest opinion), and nearly all of them are spiced with humor, which made me laugh as if I were viewing a good comedy film. These veterans, often behaving like youngsters, are so sympathetic, and none of the other Prog bands I've ever seen on video were so ingenious as IQ are on this DVD. There is one more an hour of music on Disc 2, and eight of the nine songs present were performed on the same December evening at The Mean Fiddler. The set begins with the encores from the show, two of which are IQ's classics: Subterranea and The Wake, while the other two, the renderings of Paul McCartney's Jet and The Osmonds' Crazy Horses, were certainly dated for the then-forthcoming Christmas. Also included is the encore of Mamma Mia by ABBA, but it appears closer to the end, as it was performed at another time and place - in Holland in May 2004 during the band's "Dark Matter" tour, to be precise. The tomfoolery (in a very good sense of the word) reached its peak when the band played The Wake. Be prepared to rock with laughter while viewing this number. One of the most significant things about Disc 2 is the performance by IQ's direct forebear, The Lens, which had existed in 1981 and was comprised of Holmes, Orford and Cook. Jowitt joined on bass, and the quarter appeared being completely unrecognizable visually: very longhaired, with wigs on their heads and false moustaches on their faces, dressed up like classic hippie Glam Rock stars. Performed were three instrumental compositions from The Lens' only album "A World in Your Eye". When I said the second disc contains one more an hour of music, I forgot that the 10-minute Cookie Jam is the same story, and the 30-minute Access All Areas in some ways concerns music too. The former represents a concerto for drums and percussion, performed by Paul, while the latter is comprised of magnificently cool material, just filled with humor, which is displayed in words, in actions and even in the accompanying subtitles. It must be seen how the band relaxed after the everyday performances during their latest tour in Europe! It was still Paul who began playing a 'glass flute' (see below), as a result of which all the other guys became infected with the idea and did a marvelously funny concerto for several empty beer bottles!

Conclusion. Regarding the DVD, it's rare that the second disc looks like an essential, inseparable part of a set, and that's just the case here. IQ's "The 20th Anniversary Show" double DVD comes very highly recommended, and I believe it was clear already from the review.

VM: March 1 & 2, 2005


Related Links:

IQ
Giant Electric Pea Records


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