Set 13-07-85: Awake and nervous, Wiggle, The wake, The magic roundabout, The thousand days, Widow’s peak, Outer limits, Corners, Intelligence Quotient, Through the corridors, The enemy smacks, Stomach of animal, Ace of spades, Sweet transvestite.
While tens of thousands in Wembley Stadium and millions of people behind their TV sets were witnessing how rock music could change the world, or at least Africa, I was applauding one of my favourite bands in a dark and hot Marquee. On 13 July 1985, the day of Live Aid, IQ rounded off their short UK-tour to promote The Wake, which had just been released. Of Live Aid we knew it was going to be a legendary concert while it was happening. Only later the IQ gig became legendary as well, as the departure of Peter Nicholls was announced shortly afterwards…
In January 1984 I read a short review in the Dutch magazine “Sym Info” about Tales from the lush attic, the first album by IQ. A few days later I bought a copy of the album (no. 1451) in my favourite record shop, and I was immediately impressed by it. Those were the days of Script for a Jester’s Tear and Fact and fiction, there was a positive change in English rock music again, and life was good. For some time, I didn’t hear much about IQ, apart from this rather strange 12″ single Barbell is in. In the spring of 1985 I made plans with a friend of mine to go to London to do some record hunting (which is THE most pleasurable thing to do in life), and checking out the English music papers I found an ad announcing two gigs by IQ in The Marquee. Without any hesitation, we decided to book our trip around the days of those gigs, and ordered tickets at the Marquee. We also found out that a new album was to be released soon. I immediately purchased a copy of The Wake, and with a lot of anticipation I put it on my turntable. My life has never been the same since. It was clear that this was not just another album by some mediocre progrock band. This was a major event. The album had some haunting effects on me, I couldn’t get it out of my mind for weeks on end, and songs like The magic roundabout and Headlong touched me deeply. It turned out to be a long-lived infatuation. It still is my favourite album from the ’80s.
Of the first of those two gigs we went to, I remember four things best: the monstrosity of the supporting act Dagaband, an ELP rip-off; the unbearable heat inside the Marquee (in those days still located at Wardour Street); the disappointment of seeing Peter coming on stage without his make up on; and the tremendous energy of the band. Especially Intelligence Quotient, which I heard for the first time that night, and The last human gateway made quite an impression. But I have to be honest and say that my recollections of that first night are a bit overshadowed by the second night. That gig had already been announced as a special show, as the proceeds were to be donated to Band Aid. Instead of a support act, there was a video screen with footage from Live Aid (if I remember correctly, The Who turned out to be IQ’s support act…). We met some other Dutch guys who had come over especially as well to see IQ, and all the signs were there that it was going to be a special evening. A raffle draw took place prior to the gig, and Tim Esau and Paul Cook came on stage to announce the winners (and make some mocking remarks about Marillion in between). Later, during the gig, Peter Nicholls announced that almost 1800 GBP could be donated to Band Aid on behalf of IQ and their fans.
Martin kicked off the gig with “Awake and nervous”, which made it clear that this was going to be a different set than the night before. To everybody’s surprise, Peter appeared with his make up on this time, and we all realised that this was going to be a night to remember indeed. The Dutchmen present got initiated in this habit of the English to strangely move their bodies while singing “Wiggle”, which was, fortunately, followed by The Wake, a majestic Magic Roundabout, and the catchy The thousand days, which always reminds of Anthony Phillips somehow. As Pete was quite surprised to find out that a few Dutch fans had come to London to see them, he dedicated the next song, Widow’s Peak, to us. After the wonderful instrumental intro, Pete came on again wearing his widow’s outfit, which he never used again (as far as I know) after he rejoined the band in 1990.
After some more songs from The Wake (no Headlong, unfortunately!), Intelligence Quotient (which I happily recognized by now) and Through the corridors, everybody cheered at the opening chords of The enemy smacks. They hadn’t played this song on the entire tour yet. I finally understood the shapes of Peter’s make up. The white on his face was to fit exactly with the white mask he wore halfway the song. Very very impressive, as all those who saw IQ perform this song in the ’90s will admit. The encores were a bit of a shock with a weird Stomach of animal, a terribly loud Ace of Spades (sung by Martin), and a humorous Sweet transvestite, with Pete fully in drag. It contrasted very much with some of the very serious songs from the set, but it was obvious that an IQ gig was supposed to be (and still is) like having a party. So much energy and humour floating about.
In the years that followed I was lucky to see the band in the Netherlands often. Most of those gigs were really great, but nothing can beat those first two gigs I experienced at The Marquee.