Monday, 16 March 2015
However, at the Steven Wilson concert that myself and Mrs Ambassador attended on Saturday night in Manchester, I was witness to one of the oddest fans I think I've ever seen. Progressive (or 'conceptual', as Wilson would have it) rock is normally home to the more genteel breed of rock fan. The sort of person who would quietly nod along to the music and emit polite applause, or maybe a cheer if they're feeling particularly exuberant, at the end of each son (unless you're at a Rush gig)
Anyway, a little scene-setting is required. I spotted this man walk in after we had taken our seats when he came and sat down two rows in front. I noticed him in particular because I thought to myself that he looked the archetypal middle-aged prog fan. He was wearing an IQ tour t-shirt, which was no doubt carefully selected to show off his prog credentials. Not a particularly well known act, IQ, so he was showing he liked 'deep cuts' and everyone knows it's a big no-no to go in a shirt of the artist you're seeing that night, unless it's a really old one so that you can show everyone else that you've been into this outfit for bloody ages. He looked like Mr Average, not very tall, and was wearing the ultimate in comfort: a fleece jacket (you might as well have a sign over your head saying "I've given up, me" if you're going to go out on a Saturday night dressed in a material made from old pop bottles). I think he was the kind of guy who made an effort to get down to London when he was student to see Marillion when they were virtually residents at the Marquee Club. And I bet he still jokes that he only just dried out a fortnight ago after the Genesis/Peter Gabriel reunion show at Milton Keynes Bowl in 1982 (it rained, famously. Well, famously amongst proggers). Oh, and he arrived alone. Now I spend a chunk of my spare time fighting music snobbery, so I hate to pigeonhole people but he really did look like what the kind of people who listen to BBC 6 Music think a fan of progressive rock might look like, i.e. quiet, unassuming, a bit of a nerd, CAMRA member. I'm not like that, of course, I'm far too cool.
So imagine, my surprise when during Wilson's first address to the crowd he said that he knew we were all seated but if we could make the band feel like we were actually at a rock 'n' roll show then that would be fine. At this point, matey jumps up out of his seat, rips the IQ t-shirt from his body, twirls it around his bonce and starts roaring. Yes, roaring! Mrs Ambassador and I exchanged a glance.
Again, during the song Index (about a serial killer who collects the body parts of his victims. Yes, I know.) our friend decides to really throw himself into the song, pointing, headbanging. He was really feeling that song. Worryingly.
But he saved the best to last, during the instrumental section of the song Harmony Korine, he was repeatedly punching himself in the side of the head. Incredibly quickly.
I hope I don't sound like I'm being sarcastic about this guy. I just found it a strange way to carry on at a prog gig. True to form, most of the other audience members nodded along in time with the music. And as the audience was about 80% male, the balding heads gave an extra dimension to the lights as they added a handy reflective surface for the light to bounce off. Well, they were nodding after they'd put their real ales down.