Live Review: Ian Gillan Band — 1977-10-07 Manchester, Apollo, UK

Tracks/track lengths:
01 – Clear Air Turbulence (13:06)
02 – Over The Hill (15:10)
03 – Child In Time (12:17)
04 – Mercury High (5:41)
05 – What’s your Game (Gustafson) (7:29)
06 – Scarabus (6:18)
07 – Tryin’ To Get To You (1:25)
08 – Power Cut (2:47)
09 – Tryin’ To Get To You II (3:55)
10 – Twin Exhausted (5:06)
11 – Smoke On The Water (15:25)
12 – Medley: Lucille (2:20)
13 – Medley: Jailhouse Rock (2:41)
14 – Medley: High School Confidential (1:29)
15 – Medley: Whole Lotta Shaking (0:47)
16 – Medley: Lucille (1:20)

Poster for a related concert. Retrieved from here.

Personnel (as of this lineup; may have been different for this concert)

  • Ian Gillan–Vocals
  • Ray Fenwick–Guitar
  • Colin Towns–Keyboards
  • John Gustafson–Bass
  • Mark Nauseef–Drums

Analysis:

For full disclosure, this is my first immersive experience with the Ian Gillan Band as it was in the mid-70s. I have listened to a few of their studio songs here and there, but overall this is my first. Ian Gillan himself has said he is comfortable with bootlegging (with a few stipulations), so I felt alright delving into their work as such.

On that note, however, I now want to become acquainted with their studio work. The opening two songs alone (“Clear Air Turbulence” and “Over The Hill”) are quite interesting, and it only gets better from there. It’s not my favorite jazz fusion work that I’ve heard, a distinction which goes to Colosseum II. However, it’s definitely ear-catching. It is quite eclectic, fitting with Gillan’s own multitude of styles. He brings some early 50s rock-leanings into songs such as “Mercury High” and “Twin Exhausted”, while songs like “Scarabus” are quick reminders of his roots as a pioneering hard rock singer with their drive and energy.

The group themselves. Retrieved from here.

Speaking of which, Gillan has not forgotten the band which made him a household name. “Child in Time” makes a welcome appearance on the setlist. It is a familiar song, bun performed in a way that is almost certainly different than what audiences would have been used to, with a long instrumental solo on the flute, without the Hammond organ, and with far less of a hard rock edge. In general, it is a far more subdued take. The reinterpretation is nonetheless tastefully done, still capturing the mournful tone of the song. “Smoke on the Water” gets a similar reworking, featuring extensive improvs interspersed throughout. Ray Fenwick’s guitar work fails to capture the drive of the original song, but Colin Towns’ keyboard work fills out the soundscape quite well. While this fails to impress as much as the earlier, it is still an excellent number.

The level of musicianship overall is quite high. Ian Gillan himself has moments of sounding stressed; as a sensitive as well as talented musician, this happens occasionally. However, he is still able to give a strong performance. Colin Towns is the most distinctive of the remaining band, with Ray Fenwick, John Gustafson, and Mark Nauseef giving good supporting work. Fenwick in general, while unable to capture the electricity present in the early Gillan-Blackmore team-up or the joyous chemistry of the current Gillan-Morse pairing, nonetheless keeps pace fairly well. He is able to successfully trade riffs with Ian as well, keeping him within comfortable range.

Also on display is Gillan’s personal magnetism, as well as his sheer professionalism. When there is a power cut, he easily transitions into regaling his audience with stories. The recording is not clear enough to tell precisely what he’s saying–there first appears to be a girl, and then perhaps a story about Deep Purple (interrupted by the restoration of power), but the clamoring of the audience and his easy tone tell enough about what’s going on. “Tryin’ To Get To You” continues on as though it has never been interrupted, Gillan transitioning back into singing like a pro. He even finishes with his quick tangent on Purple at the end of the song!

I wanted to take a quick tangent here to praise how easily Gillan, and indeed the rest of his band, rolled with this. It takes a special kind of musician to be able to handle stage mishaps with ease. Even musicians considered the top of the field, such as Jon Anderson of Yes, occasionally got thrown seriously off kilter by power cuts (see a 1969 concert at the Actuel Festival in Belgium). Ritchie Blackmore, meanwhile, was known to sulk and refuse to play after similar instrumental failures. Gillan, however, even as early as 1971 with Purple, was very blasé about such stage mishaps. It is an oft-overlooked but nonetheless important skill for truly outstanding live musicians.

Overall, this was an excellent introduction to some of Ian’s less high-profile work. An eclectic set of old songs and new work, with Ian’s typical favorite early rock numbers making their appearance as well. I would recommend it for, frankly, anyone.

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