Lions and Tigers and Bears, Oh My!
Growing up in the 1960s, Glasgow’s Kelvin Hall was the place to go to catch a glimpse of these exotic creatures. I can’t actually attest to the presence of tigers and bears but there were certainly lions and also elephants on show when the annual Christmas circus and carnival was staged in this dour reflection of the celebrated Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum which sat just across the road. Back in the days when it wasn’t considered cruel to have chimps perform on stage at a chimpanzees’ tea party (and, yes, I saw several of those, on holidays and even on a school sponsored outing), the Kelvin Hall was, for me, redolent of the musky smell of animal dung along with the excitement of the waltzers and other fairground rides.
I digress somewhat but essentially it was strange to be queuing up (via a side door, there were never any queues at the front door for the carnival), just 16 years old and excited to experience my first ever, and proper, live gig. Who knew that when the circus left town, actual musicians took their place? Anyhow, here we were, several school friends clutching tickets to see Yes on their ‘Close To The Edge’ Tour. Why they played the Kelvin Hall as opposed to Glasgow’s much more famous (and infamous) Greens’ Playhouse (soon to become the Glasgow Apollo) is not known but the Kelvin Hall did have a slight history of rock gigs, The Kinks having released a ‘Live At The Kelvin Hall’ album back in 1967 while Captain Beefheart and Leonard Cohen had both performed there just a few months before. A quick Google check actually shows a list of gigs from the early 60’s and ending around 1976 with a range of artists from Roy Orbison to The Incredible String Band yet, somehow, there’s no legend there, maybe the lions and tigers and bears were more in tune with what Glaswegians wanted.
Anyhow, having embarked on my record buying Odyssey in 1970, by 1972 it was time enough to dip my toes into the realm of live music. ‘The Yes Album’ was actually the first record I heard on stereo (in a listening booth in Hades record shop) and ‘Fragile’ and the recently released ‘Close To The Edge’ were pretty much cutting edge as far as I and my school chums were concerned so off we ventured. Too fresh faced and spotty to tank up in any nearby pubs we were sober concert virgins as we showed our tickets and gained entrance. Despite the sobriety, my memory of the gig itself is pretty much non-existent. I remember that we were stood to the side of the stage nearby Rick Wakeman, who, adorned with a silver glitter cape, toodled around on his bank of keyboards (while a, perhaps false, memory has him with a crate of beer by his side which he chugged down, the yin to Jon Anderson’s more ethereal yan). The support act was Gary Wright, late of Spooky Tooth, a band I knew of from an Island Records sampler album and a couple of years away from hitting the charts with Dreamweaver. Looking back, Wakeman disappointed as he didn’t produce any tigers or bears and there was no dancing on ice (his extravaganzas were to come a few years later). I presume we all applauded the guitar and keyboard solos as the band played (according to Google) nine songs (suites) from their last three albums, their arrival on stage announced as an excerpt of Stravinsky’s Firebird Suite played.
This was the only show I attended at The Kelvin Hall. Greens Playhouse, an ancient cinema and, nowadays a Glasgow legend, was the main stopover for touring bands and as far as I can reckon it was just a month later that I saw my first gig there, Emerson, Lake & Palmer. Weirdly enough, I remember that show much more vividly than the Yes Concert. Memory is strange. By this time I was abandoning my early and brief flirtation with prog rock after having discovered Neil Young. In fact, most of my comrades on the night were on a similar path which allowed us to escape the imposition of ‘Tales From Topographic Oceans’ on us a year later.
Class Paul and a good decision
Takes quite a writer to state “my memory of the gig itself is pretty much non-existent” and yet knock out such a lively piece on and relating to said gig!
Thanks for that comment, much appreciated.