Rotherham was the longest drive of the tour for me, 190 miles, and we made it with only half an hour to spare after a long lie, having got in at 3.30 am having driven back to Reading from Bridgend the previous evening.
This was a different sort of show for QANGO, but one that Wetton, Kilminster and Young had all experienced before, the Classic Rock Society. (If you are interested in finding out when they played shows in Rotherham the CRS site now has a handy list of gigs they have promoted on their site.) It was a special occasion for the Society, the gig celebrating their magazine, Wondrous Stories, 100th issue. Before the show autographed copies of the front sleeve were auctioned off for the paltry sums of £10 and £16 - perhaps everybody knew they'd hang around afterwards and autograph full copies rather than just the front covers.
This was the first time I'd been to a gig in this venue, both previous visits to CRS gigs had been to the Oakwood School (and both to see Pallas) and what a nightmare it was to find! I'd trusted Jump's bass player in that the HLC was just over the road from the Oakwood school, though I was a touch on the dubious side having not spotted it on previous visits. Needless to say it wasn't there - or at least not directly over the road. The whole area is a housing estate dipping into a valley, not a large building in sight. We drove around for a while and eventually found a sign pointing to Herringthorpe which eventually led us to the correct venue, possibly in the valley bottom we'd overlooked though, because of the route we took, I have no guarantee of that.
I'm sure this venue is smaller than the Oakwood Hall but it was very busy, if not almost sold out. There were probably more people here than in Bridgend, though compacted into a hall about 1/3 the size. The stage was only 15 inches high so we managed to get to the front for the photos, though I think the sound would have been better had we stayed a little further back.
At 20:40 a few quick, introductory bars of Fanfare moved quickly into the first of two Asia tunes, Time Again instantly showcasing the talent of Dave Kilminster whose fingers moved over the fretboard with alarming ease. Unfortunately, the same could not be said of John Wetton’s voice. Even in this initial song it was obvious that it was hoarse - not a good omen for the remainder of the set, never mind tour.
Before John Wetton could introduce the second number Carl Palmer bust in with, "Hang on a minute", as he adjusted and tightened one of his Hi-hats, to which Wetton replied, "Haven't got the staff these days" before wiping his forehead and saying, "I'm leaking!". This comment may have prompted a later event, read on to see what. Sole Survivor was the song and Dave got carried away during the end solo, using his tongue for the last 20 seconds of the solo, running it up and down the strings. The things some people will do to get attention. Bitches Crystal followed, John Young's keyboards becoming more apparent now, the keyboards having been mostly drowned out by Kilminster's guitar amps for us so far.
Carl took the microphone to introduce Dave Kilminster's Guitar solo as Dave had a quick gulp of water. “Oh, that’s me” he realised and began his Pictures at an Exhibition piece to a quiet crowd. They were pretty slow to cheer towards the climax of the solo, the ‘speedy fingers’ section, and Dave had to mouth a silent “come on” to prompt them into vocal activity. The Classic Rock Society members are, I guess, a hard audience as they have a lot of bands coming to them. I’m a fairly new member but from the back issues of their magazine it seems that CRS gigs tend to be long and have several bands on the bill. Tonight QANGO were the only band on the bill so had to warm the crowd up, as well as impress them, not an easy task with the spoilt audience.
Wetton returned and gave a short solo acoustic run before being joined by Kilminster for The Smile Has Left Your Eyes at the “I became a rolling stone” section. Carl returned in time for the next track, All Along the Watchtower, drinking heavily from a bottle of water before reminding us that “we’d just been listening to “John Wetton, that was John Wetton”. The water was needed by the poor bloke to prevent dehydration as the venue was swelteringly hot, possibly the reason for the crowd being a bit on the quiet side. Mind you, the last time we’d been to a CRS show the audience response had been muted, though I assumed that it was because Pallas were playing their second show in front of the same audience in six months. Carl didn’t have to strain himself too much during this track, just some light padded stick tapping, tambourine and hand drumming.
Battle Lines was welcomed by a small cheer, having been played to this audience a few times in the past by the Wetton solo band. The following track was presented by Wetton as “A new one from Qango called Walking on Air”. This heavier, more menacing, track got more of a reaction, though still a fairly muted one.
Carl introduced himself to the audience with “It’s my first time here so hello” before his usual lead into John Young's keyboard solo, Paddydog. John was out to impress, despite the keyboard problems he’d suffered up to this point, as he was due back in a solo capacity a couple of weeks later at the CRS’s Spring Progfest. As the solo finished Carl reminded us who we’d been listening to, “John Young”, just in case any of us had forgotten.
Only Time Will Tell followed, Wetton making a Churchillian ‘V’ for victory salute as he sang “crying victory" before one of the highlights of the set, Hoedown. Carl gave it a simple introduction, “its Hoedown” as Dave and John Young blasted into it before vying with each other for the solo sections.
John Wetton explained that next was “Another new one, its called Last One Home”. Too late Dave remembered that it started with an acoustic guitar, having to rush to swap guitars. He made up for the slip with an extremely slow starting Floydian solo mid section of the track, though Wetton's voice failed a little during the latter sections of the vocals. He went on to introduce Carl and the next musical extravaganza as “Now we’re going to do something that features the man who makes coffee nervous”. The extravaganza is, of course, Fanfare for the Common Man which led into coffees enemy, Carl Palmer and his drum solo. Carl dropped one of his sticks during the solo, sweating in the heat perhaps though the water, which flew towards the climax of the track, cooled him.
Before the encore Martin Hudson came onstage to award the guys a framed cover of the 100th issue of ‘wondrous Stories’ the CRS magazine and reason for the celebratory gig. Plenty of water was thrown around during the presentation, making John Wetton careful as he donned his bass for the encore of Heat of the Moment.
A 90 minute set was not quite what this audience was used to, and they made this fact obvious to the band when they failed to do a second encore by loudly booing and hissing. A few weeks previously they had Jump give a 2 1/2 hour performance and that was after a support act. I guess the felt a little cheated but then again, Jump don’t feature half of Asia from whom they obviously expected more! I think CRS president Martin Hudson felt partially responsible having not checked how long a set they were going to perform. Had he known in advance how short the set was going to be, he told me, he would have arranged a support act. Ah well, does the members good to see how lucky they are with some of the acts who perform for them.