Peter Hammill @ Gagarin 205 in Athens, Greece on March 8th, 2019
Peter Hammill @ Gagarin 205 in Athens, Greece on March 8th, 2019

Live Review: Peter Hammill @ Gagarin 205 – March 8th + 9th 2019

For half a century, Peter Hammill has been one of the most innovative and prolific artists working in rock music, both as a solo artist and with his band Van der Graaf Generator. From the first VdGG album Aerosol Grey Machine released in 1969, to his 35th and most recent solo studio album From the Trees released in late 2017 (and its companion live album, X/Ten, released in November), Hammill has amassed a massive catalog ranging from the most elaborate progressive rock, to proto-punk (1975’s Nadir’s Big Chance), to experiments in synth pop (1988’s In a Foreign Town), to art rock, to quiet ballads. Throughout it all Hammill has refused to be categorized, defying expectations at regular turns.

At 70, Hammill prefers these days to do one-off performances rather than grueling tours. But that doesn’t mean he doesn’t continue to challenge himself. A case in point was his recent solo appearance at Gagarin 205 in Athens, Greece, in which, over the course of two nights, he played two entirely different sets with no repeats. While most artists might be content to change up a few songs between their sets, if they change anything at all, Hammill treated the audience (many of whom were diehard fans who had come for both nights, and who had traveled long distances just to see him) to a wide-ranging 36-song overview (drawn from 25 albums) of his extensive catalog.

As a solo performer, Hammill switches back and forth between piano and guitar, focusing on the instrument most appropriate for each song. His distinctive voice, immediately recognizable, still sounds as strong as ever. One of the most notable things about his solo performances is how successfully he manages to take often very complicated songs (including full-on prog rock tracks from Van der Graaf Generator like “My Room,” “Lizard Play,” and “Refugees”) and strip them down to their barest elements.

At the end of this month, Hammill is releasing an eight-disc live box set, Not Yet Not Now, showcasing the scope of his solo shows from 2017 and 2018 with 98 different songs. If you’re a fan, it won’t be one to miss.

setlist – night 1
My Room
Too Many of My Yesterdays
Mirror Images
The Unconscious Life
Losing Faith in Words

If I Could
Time for a Change

Labour of Love
Friday Afternoon
Four Pails
Stranger Still


setlist – night 2
(This Side of) The Looking Glass
Empire of Delight
The Mousetrap (Caught in)
After the Show
His Best Girl

I Will Find You
Lizard Play
Slender Threads
(On Tuesdays She Used To Do) Yoga
Once You Called Me
Sitting Targets

Faculty X
Your Tall Ship
A Better Time
In the End


Photos © Matt Condon

Peter Hammill – night 1

Peter Hammill – night 2

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