It was right after Jethro Tull had put out 'Thick as a Brick'! They were touring in support of that album. I had been listening to Giant for several years at that point, having bought their very first album as Gentle Giant at its release. The anticipation of seeing them in their opening role to Tull, both mine and that of my musical partners attending the show, was palpable. What to expect? Could they actually do their albums justice live? My God....their albums! So perfectly played and arranged.....so many instruments to cover for only five musicians.....how could they possibly play those complex arrangements and produce such a gigantic sound with only five musicians? I decided my best approach to the evening would be to simply not project onto the possible events to follow their entrance but to simply watch and take in as much as possible, leaving the judgements for after the performance.
From the first sign of a flashlight on the darkened stage heralding that maybe the boys in the band were ready to play, I strained to see any movement on the stage, not wanting to miss a thing! Then, seemingly out of nowhere, Derek Shulman leaped to center stage and as the spotlight came up, its focus on the just struck, vibrating gong, the first notes exploded in the civic arena (Charleston, WV's Civic Center). From that moment, it was as if someone had flipped a switch to a music machine operating at full capacity from the git-go! No warm up necessary. The Giant had come to play.
Memories from the evening's performance: the laugh followed by the flipping of the quarter (wonder why I assumed it was a quarter?) signalling the tune, 'Boys in the Band'. I couldn't believe they would play that tune, perhaps one of the most intricate in their repertoire. Another highlight of the evening was 'The Advent of Panurge'. We were astounded that this vocally demanding song was included in their live performances. Even in the controlled environs of the studio, the vocal work would be challenging with its quirky keys and timing nuances. We just could not imagine that they could pull it off while also having to play their instruments at the same time. Either the vocals or the instrumental parts of the song would be a full time effort for a lesser band. The nailed it and then some. They made it look easy! Another memory is the superb dynamics with which they played. Kerry Minnear's vibe solo in 'Nothing at All' started so low you could hear a pin drop in the usually noisy arena. Collectively, the audience held its breath as Kerry slowly built his solo, ultimately beating the keys as if they had just insulted his woman and he wasn't going to let such an act go without a good thrashing about the ears. The band, as one, increased their participation in support of his emotional build until we all found ourselves caught up in the fury, not realizing at what point we had been taken to this new level of hysterics. As a musical unit, Giant did that to its audiences all night. One minute we were stomping and head banging with abandon, the next sitting on the edges of our seats, leaning forward to hear every last nuance of gentle sweeping notes lovingly played as sweetly as one might place a baby in its crib. Masters........Masters I tell you!
Once the last note of their set was played and the house lights came up, returning us back to some semblance of reality, only a half hour had passed. Their set was cut to 30 minutes so that Tull could perform 'Thick as a Brick' in its entirety. Not even time for an encore was allowed for Giant. As quickly as they had come, so did they go. They had completely made us forget that a band by the name of Jethro Tull was to follow. As an aside, I must say, Jethro Tull was amazing but my mind had been blown by the time they set foot on the stage. Later that night, I and my bandmates went over to the hotel where both bands were playing. We walked right by Ian Anderson and "the boys of Tull", asking where we might find the Giant of a gentler kind. Having somehow found out, we stopped briefly by their room (all of the Giant was in) to simply dote and say, "You guys are our favorite band....or you guys are our heroes....or some such idiotic statement. They politely expressed their gratitude for our drooled praise and excused themselves, having been on the road for "sometime now" and having exhaustion preclude them from an extended conversation. No matter, we were happy and satisfied. They had us at the gong!