Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Gillan Edinburgh University 1979

Gillan Edinburgh 1979
Edinburgh University

February 1979

I was really looking forward to this one, I have to say.  I had seen Ian Gillan (in the IGB guise) twice previously, in 1977, and was intrigued by the fact he had recently jettisoned three members of the band, and decided to “bring in younger musicians”.  I was, therefore, keen to hear the fruits of these changes.  Additionally, I had purchased keyboard player Colin Towns’ solo album Full Circle, and hugely enjoyed it, with the result First Girlfriend (FG) and I went along hoping he may play something from it at the gig (he did not).

The concert took place in the same Edinburgh University venue as I had seen The Strawbs almost a year earlier: little more than a room with a bar and dozens of annoying pillars.  If there was any support band on the evening, I have long since forgotten about them, although I rather doubt there was. 

The set opened with a brief atmospheric synthesiser piece, before Bang……the group crashed in with the relentless Secret of the Dance.  It was clear Gillan had decided to make a complete break with the jazz-rock leanings of his previous band, and return to the land of metal.

And what an arresting sight this new outfit were.  Colin Towns was still there, as cool and aloof as ever, whilst Gillan himself had grown his hair approaching Purple length, and appeared to have put on quite a few pounds.  New guitarist Steve Byrd was pencil thin and sporting a pudding-bowl haircut, the likes of which many of us would not see again until Gareth Keenan.

Drummer Pete Barnacle looked young enough to be Gillan’s son, whilst new bass player John McCoy could easily have passed for the singer’s dad.  Well-nourished, extravagantly bewhiskered, and sporting a dayglo-painted bald pate, he bounced around the stage in an alarming manner.

The band rattled through a set of mostly new material, the exceptions being the obligatory Purple tunes.  I had hoped at least a couple of songs from the IGB days may have been retained - the song Scarabus would have fitted well into this new heavier sound, I thought - and during Gillan’s congas solo, it briefly looked as if proceedings may drift into Goodhand Liza, but regretfully no.  Each of the other band members also enjoyed a solo spot, McCoy’s rumblings evolving into Dead of Night, Towns’ flute piece tagging onto the outro of Abbey of Thelema, with Byrd’s a prelude to the set closer Smoke on the Water.

When the band returned for the encores of Woman From Tokyo and Lucille, the students in the place, having clearly by this point realised they were attending a heavy metal gig, all became a tad excited and a minor mosh-pit rammy developed, with a few of the braver ones jumping onto the stage.  To prevent FG being buffeted around too much, I watched the last of the concert standing behind her with my arms around her, nuzzling her hair and breathing in her perfume.  Which was nice.

When driving home afterwards, I can recall looking across at her thinking that although a metal concert generally tends not to be too conducive to romance, this I felt had been quite a special evening.  But within weeks the relationship was history – a victim of my very own personally reared Four Apocalyptic Horsemen: Immaturity, Insecurity, Insincerity, and Inferiority.

Set List (from memory)

Street Theatre
Secret of the Dance
I’m Your Man
Child in Time
Bringing Joanna Back
Abbey of Thelema
Dead of Night
Message in a Bottle
Back in the Game
Smoke on the Water

Woman From Tokyo

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