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Gentle Giant Tour History
*** Part Six ***
*** Still Plugging Away ***
(1976 - early 1977)
new information will be in RED
After the success of FREE HAND, Giant felt poised to continue their commercial ascent. However, things did not go as smoothly as they would have liked. They kept on working and touring hard around the world, but they made no new headway and their rise more or less leveled off. Their star did not dim, but neither did it glow brighter.
Jan. 8 In this date’s issue of the Swiss magazine Radio TV, it was announced that twenty episodes of a new music television program called Music-Scene would air during 1976 over one of Switzerland’s German stations. One of the episodes was to feature Gentle Giant but which episode is not known, nor is anything about the musical content.
Jan. 28 A slightly edited version of the Stockholm show from Nov. 12 was rebroadcast over Sweden's Radio 3 on an episode of the Tonkraft program.
Feb. - Mar. The
band's eighth album, INTERVIEW, was recorded at Advision
Apr. 23 Various
notices in the UK press originally had the date for the English Chrysalis
release of the INTERVIEW album as being April 30, with one source listing
a date of May 2. However, it seems to
have been pushed forward to Apr. 23, possibly to precede the start of the
Apr. 24 The group made lip-synched promotional films for the title song, Interview, plus the songs Give It Back and I Lost My Head from the INTERVIEW album. Contrary to earlier reports that these were made in Hannover, Germany, these were actually filmed at ITN House, a studio belonging to a major British news organization in London. All three films are now available on the GG AT THE GG DVD.
the early spring of 1976, Gentle Giant may have put on some shows in
continental Europe, but nothing is known about them. If there were any shows at all, they were
probably very few in number. For one
thing, Gary Green was married on April 14.
Whatever the case, they found themselves back in the U.K. at the very
end of April but they had, by now, become very disillusioned with the lack of
progress they were making there, and it proved to be their last tour of their
native land. From that point on, they
decided to concentrate their live efforts in Europe and North America. No live 1976 recordings before early June
have yet surfaced, but most details about the setlist used during this time
period have been confirmed. They debuted
some material from their new album, but the biggest surprise was the deletion
Films and slides synchronized to the music continued to be a notable part of Giant’s concerts in 1976. Examples were a pair of hands snapping fingers as Just the Same began, and a rainbow as pictured on the INTERVIEW album sleeve as the title song Interview was played.
TYPICAL SETLIST (Spring 1976)
Intro/Just the Same - The evening began with a portion of the album version of the song Talybont from FREE HAND. This segued into yet another prerecorded instrumental intro which appears on UNDER CONSTRUCTION, with the title Intro 76.
Proclamation/Valedictory - Proclamation was played in a slightly different arrangement that concluded with the tail end of Valedictory.
Interview - This one began with the "interviewer" recording taken from the beginning of the new album. The voice was that of Melody Maker writer Chris Welch.
Excerpts from Octopus - Starting in 1976, Yankee Doodle was no longer played on recorders as part of this. It would not return until 1980.
Give It Back - This tribute to reggae music was reportedly put into the set specifically to replace Funny Ways, of which the band had grown tired. Like Funny Ways, the live arrangement of this song included a solo on vibraphone by Kerry.
Timing - the new home for Ray's violin solo
Peel the Paint/I Lost My Head - It’s not been confirmed, but there’s a possibility that the entire I Lost My Head may have been performed as the encore in the UK in late April and May. However, at least by the Italian dates in late May, the encore was this mini-medley which included only the second half of I Lost My Head.
Chrysalis promotional window sticker with UK tour dates Spring 1976
Apr. 29 Derby, England King's Hall
CANCELED. This was, at one time, intended as the first gig of the UK tour with Solution scheduled to open. However, the gig was canceled for unknown reasons.
Apr. 30 Cambridge, England Corn Exchange
Solution opened the show and one fan in attendance believes Giant opened their set with Proclamation. Although Apr. 30 is the Cambridge date listed in the band’s UK tour program and in other sources, there are several eyewitnesses who swear that this show actually took place after the May 1 Southend-on-Sea show, but the Apr. 30 date seems definitive. It was a Friday and that is the only day of the week the Corn Exchange hosted concerts. The rest of the week, it served as a roller skating rink.
Cambridge flyer Apr. 30, 1976
May 1 Southend-on-Sea, England Kursaal Ballroom
opened the show. GG was originally scheduled
to play at a University in Leicester, England on this date, but that show was
canceled. The Kursaal
Ballroom, actually part of a larger amusement complex, was originally built for
ballroom dancing and had a sprung floor, which would bounce and give along with
the movements of the audience. This gave
the crowd the feeling of being on a choppy sea, but also caused concern for the
road crew, as the PA system would wobble along with the crowd. Also on this night, the band had numerous
technical problems, with the PA and monitors cutting in and out at times. The band was seen mouthing directions and
making hand gestures to the crew in an attempt to work through these
problems. At one point, while replacing
an instrument of his own, Derek accidentally knocked two of Gary’s guitars off
a wooden pegboard from which they hung.
As roadies assessed the damage, the band had a quick huddle on stage
then went straight into their five-man drum bash.
Southend-on-Sea ad May 1, 1976
May 2 London, England Drury Lane - Theatre Royal
Solution opened this show. A Record Mirror review gave the impression that at one point in the middle of the show, Kerry played a keyboard interlude of some sort while the rest of the band left the stage. Sounds published a review of the show in which they used the line “Gentle Giant is a band that’s going to magnetize”, ironic when considering the hall on this evening was only a third full. This line was later quoted in some of the band’s advertisements in the English music press. During the concert, the band jokingly alluded to another Sounds article in which John Weathers had apparently been elevated to the status of a ”sex symbol”.
May ? INTERVIEW was released in America by Capitol in the month of May, possibly on either May 4 or May 10.
May 5 Norwich, England University of East Anglia
Solution opened the show. This date was not always included in the band’s promotional materials for this tour.
May 6 Coventry, England Warwick University - Rootes Hall
Solution opened the show. Rootes Hall was a residence hall which also served as a social center on campus, containing a restaurant, bar, billiard room, etc. Upstairs was a carpeted space called the Workroom which was used for events such as the giving of student exams. It was also used as a concert venue with the stage only six inches off the floor and the audience sitting on the carpet. The room was apparently too small for the band to use its array of back projected slides. A review in Melody Maker was unkind to Giant, criticizing the fact that the audience had to sit through a number of taped segues for long periods of time with nothing to look at. Attendance was poor at this gig, numbering only around 250, and the University lost money. In fact, all three of the University’s 1976 summer term concerts, Giant, Canned Heat and folk singer Pete Atkins, failed to break even.
Coventry ad May 6, 1976
May 7 Birmingham, England Town Hall
Solution opened the show. One report has the acoustics being rather poor in this venue. After the opening band finished, Roy Wood of the band Wizzard snuck into the Hall to watch. Kerry confided to an audience member after the show that Roy was indeed a fan of the band.
May 8 Malvern, England Winter Gardens
This was a multi-purpose venue rather than an actual concert hall. Therefore, the audience stood for the entire performance, there being virtually no chairs. Because of this, the crowd was quite noisy. Solution opened the show.
Malvern - poster, flyer and advance sale ticket May 8, 1976
May 10 Oxford, England New Theatre
Solution opened this show, which was definitely not full.
May 12 Manchester, England Free Trade Hall
Solution opened the show. BBC personality Stuart Maconie was at this concert and claims that Derek introduced the band as Led Zeppelin. Sadly, Ray’s violin solo was cut short due to some electrical glitch. A roadie actually brought Ray a screwdriver on stage, but to no avail. Attendance was poor, a fan at the show recalling there being numerous empty seats. This venue is today an upscale hotel. Earlier, a gig in Manchester’s Palace Theatre had been advertised for the previous night, May 11, but it apparently was switched to this date and venue instead. Although a concert at the Palace did not take place, a photograph of the venue was used on the cover of the band's 1977 live album, PLAYING THE FOOL.
May 13 Sheffield, England City Hall
During Interview, the title song to the new album, Derek's microphone failed, so the song ended up being mostly an instrumental. One fan recalls them possibly playing Empty City, although this is unconfirmed. Solution was again the opening act. The City Hall was barely half full on this evening, pointing out once again the trouble Giant had gaining any real commercial success in the UK.
May 14 Newcastle, England City Hall
Solution opened the show. However, advertisements in the Newcastle Evening Chronicle demonstrate that exact details on this show were slow in coming together. The earliest ad had a date of May 11 and simply stated that the bill would be “Gentle Giant + Guests”. The following week’s ad carried the correct date but had the opener listed as folk singer Richard Digance. Finally, closer to showtime, ads had both the correct date and correct opener. One audience member was quite impressed by the striped bass strap Ray was wearing at this gig which matched the colors on the INTERVIEW album cover.
Series of Newcastle ads May 14, 1976
May 15 Edinburgh, Scotland Usher Hall
Solution opened the show.
Edinburgh ticket May 15, 1976
May 17 Southampton, England Gaumont Theatre
At this 1,500 seat theatre, Solution was scheduled to open again, but did not. Instead, the New Zealand band Split Enz opened the show, this being their very first UK gig. In fact, they were introduced from the stage as having “just gotten off the boat.” After a slow start, this support act ended up being very well received and was granted an encore by the crowd, even though they had a problem with persistent feedback from the piano microphone. Nevertheless, Giant was impressed with the Split Enz set and subsequently lent a hand in helping them secure their UK record deal with Chrysalis Records. In fact, personnel from the record label were present to see the openers, meaning the gig served as an impromptu audition.
May 21 Breda, Holland Turfschip
Dutch band Kayak was the opening band. They were also one of the support bands on Giant’s previous visit to this venue on May 5, 1974.
Breda poster May 21, 1976
May 22 Delft, Holland Stadion DHC
GG participated in an open-air event advertised as the "Oor Festival" or as “Popfestival 76”. This all day concert was billed as including between nine and eleven hours of music and took place in a large venue capable of holding more than 10,000, although it’s not known how many actually attended. Others sharing the stage with Giant included 10cc, Nils Lofgren and an English comedy rock band called Alberto y los Trios Paranoias. One fan reports there were some technical problems with GG's sound this night. Press reviews for GG’s performance were mixed, with one newspaper singling them out as the highlight of the festival, while another believed that the subtleties of the band’s music were lost in an outdoor stadium, being better suited to an indoor venue.
Delft ad and poster May 22, 1976
May 25 Lille, France Le Palais Rameau
A fan joked that this show was played "in a glass house", since the building had lots of windows. The sound at the show was described as "church-like".
Lille May 25, 1976
May 26 Lyon, France Bourse du Travail
originally scheduled for May 28 but moved ahead two days
May 27 Grenoble, France La Patinoire de Grenoble
This concert, the only one the band ever staged in Grenoble, was held in the smaller of two skating rinks used for that city’s hosting of the 1968 Winter Olympics. This particular rink, with a seating capacity of 3,000 to 4,000 spectators, had no official name, being simply known in the area as La Patinoire de Grenoble, translated as “the Skating Rink of Grenoble”. 2,000 to 3,000 fans enjoyed the concert, although it was raining outside that evening. One fan in attendance seems to think there may have been no support act.
May 29 Bordeaux, France Theatre de Alhambra
The May 1976 issue of Best Magazine announced this gig as May 28, but other sources and an existing ticket stub prove the date was May 29.
Bordeaux ticket May 29, 1976
The following few dates were scheduled in Italy. However, unlike what happened in the Spring of 1974, when the band's time there was cut short due to riots and unrest, most of these concerts went on as planned.
Italian tour ads May - June 1976
May 31 Torino, Italy Palazzo dello Sport
Attendance was reported as 5,000. There is a rumor that a tape of this concert may exist.
June 1 Brescia, Italy Palazzo dello Sport
June 2 Milan, Italy Palalido
CANCELED. While municipal authorities in other Italian cities were often slow to grant permission for the staging of rock concerts, Milan was even more reluctant than most.
June 2 Italian television broadcast a segment on Gentle Giant during their TV dei Ragazzi program. This program was geared towards young people and featured family fare, cartoons and some popular music performers of the day. The segment on Giant was entitled Baroque n’ Roll and showed the band doing a live performance of Excerpts from Octopus filmed at the Mar. 16, 1974 London concert, but it also included interviews with all five band members, complete with an Italian translator. It is unknown when or where this interview was filmed, though John Weathers can be heard stating that he had been in the band for "three years." This would imply that, unlike the live music, the interview was filmed sometime during the first half of 1975. The segment was broadcast in black and white in Italy, even though footage from the same film was shown in color at other times in England and Germany. Baroque n’ Roll now appears on the official GIANT ON THE BOX DVD.
Italian “Baroque and Roll” TV listing June 2, 1976
June 3 Cantu’, Italy Palazzo dello Sport
June 4 Reggio Emilia, Italy Palazzo dello Sport
The pre-recorded snippet of Talybont was definitely played to start the evening in Reggio Emilia.
June 5 Rimini, Italy L’Altro Mondo
An existing tape of this concert documents an enthusiastic crowd watching the band play an equally enthusiastic show. Ray got into another of his shouting matches with the audience during his Timing violin solo, while John playfully interacted with the audience frequently, even leading them in a short chant before bringing the band into the song Free Hand. On this night, John was introduced as “Giovanni Catastrophe” while Derek introduced himself as his old friend Elton John. Elton had briefly played with Simon Dupree back in 1967 while still going by his given name of Reginald Dwight. A professional Italian bass player named Tiziano Ricci recalls his band Bingo opening for Giant at this gig.
June 6 An interview with the band appeared on Scotland’s Radio Clyde on a program called Stick It in Your Ear, hosted by Brian Ford. This was a fairly experimental, cutting edge program in which portions of the interview were mixed in with snippets of the band’s music. Since it was not a live broadcast, the actual date of the interview remains unknown. Others appearing on this episode were Billy Swann and Bruce Johnston.
“Stick It in Your Ear” radio broadcast June 6, 1976
June 7 Rome, Italy Palazzo dello Sport
The band graciously donated their profits from this concert to relief efforts for recent earthquake victims in the Friuli region of northeast Italy. In its review, L’Unita remarked how the audience was well-behaved and the concert was relatively uneventful, an unusual occurrence in the volatile Italian concert scene at the time.
Rome ticket June 7, 1976
The Bicentennial summer of 1976 found the band on tour in North America, a tour which, judging from early promotional material, underwent a number of date and venue adjustments before being finalized. Although they did headline some gigs, they still had to play a support role part of the time. During some huge stadium dates with Yes, they sometimes had to appear third or fourth on the bill. How well GG was accepted by the crowds at these stadium dates is in question. A number of reports have surfaced saying that there was much indifference and even booing at some of these shows. It is difficult to ascertain the truth in this matter but with the huge numbers in attendance, it is indeed possible, even likely, that segments of the audience did not appreciate Giant. It must also be remembered that Peter Frampton, who shared some of these bills, was riding a massive wave of commercial popularity at this time. It is reasonable to assume that large numbers of fans were not present to hear the progressive rock of Yes or Gentle Giant. These legions of Frampton fans may have had different musical tastes and this could explain the indifference found in areas around the venues. Logically, one could also assume that the progressive Yes/GG fans probably behaved similarly during Frampton’s set.
JEM Import Company flyer with North American tour dates Summer 1976
TYPICAL SETLIST (Mid 1976)
Intro/Just the Same - The portion of the album version of the song Talybont from FREE HAND, followed by the Intro 76 prerecorded tape, was always played first, before the concert began.
Excerpts from Octopus
Give It Back - played sporadically until late July, when it was dropped for good, never to return
Free Hand - During the first few weeks of the North American tour, many shows ended with this song, with no encore following.
Peel the Paint/I Lost My Head - This mini-medley was played as an encore at some shows during the first weeks of the tour, but more consistently by late July, after Give It Back was dropped.
June 17 Upper Darby, Pennsylvania Tower Theater
Starcastle was the opening act. Giant managed to draw around 2,700 fans to this show which was no small feat, considering that Yes was playing to around 100,000 in nearby Jersey City on the same night. Some early printed tour material had this gig incorrectly listed as being on June 19. The Tower was a venue with excellent acoustics in which Giant appeared several times during their career. It’s been said that at one of those gigs, John Weathers appeared wearing only a huge diaper.
Upper Darby June 17, 1976
June 18 New York, New York Central Park - Wollman Rink
This was a general admission concert at an outdoor venue. It was part of Central Park's annual “Shaeffer Music Festival”, a series of summer concerts sponsored by Shaeffer Beer. Prior to the show, John Weathers was seen running down the line of people waiting to get in, eliciting much applause. Starcastle was the opening act and there are conflicting reports as to how enthusiastically they were received. The New York Times reviewer believed Starcastle was as well accepted by the audience as was Giant and had more rhythmic drive to their music than did the headliners. A tape of Giant’s full set exists. On this night, Derek introduced himself as Barry Manilow. One spectator in attendance recalls a humorous moment as the band members slammed into each other as they rushed to switch instruments during one of the songs. Reportedly, the PA system was a bit underpowered for this particular venue and there were several equipment problems during the show. For instance, there was a small glitch with the “coin spin” tape used to introduce Excerpts from Octopus. In the encore slot was the Peel the Paint/I Lost My Head mini-medley, not a common occurrence this early in the North American tour. Although it ended up not being needed, ticket purchasers were informed that June 20 was set aside as a rain date.
New York - “Shaeffer Music Festival” June 18, 1976
June 19 Ellicott City, Maryland Hollywood Palace
The rumor once was that a local pop group by the name of the Pez Band may have opened, as they often served as a house band for other events at the venue. However, multiple reports have Giant playing alone on this particular night. It's been said that this venue, just outside Baltimore, was really far from being a "palace", but was actually more like a “large bar". The place had tables for around 150 patrons and a dance floor in front of the stage.
June ? Buffalo, New York New Century Theatre
UNCONFIRMED. This gig with Starcastle again opening is completely unsubstantiated, although one fan claims to still have his ticket stub.
June 22 Springfield, Massachusetts Civic Center
Here, Giant played second on a triple bill, following Derringer and preceding Todd Rundgren's Utopia. Derringer, which was Rick Derringer's group at the time, was only added to the bill about a week before the show. Rick lived nearby and was well known in the area, so he may have been brought on board to bolster lackluster ticket sales. Even so, the hall was far from full, with the Springfield Union citing a “modest crowd of 1,866” in an 8,000 seat venue. After Derringer's set, a black curtain was pulled back, revealing GG's stage setup. When the band began, things went very well but, when they began playing some of their softer material, certain portions of the crowd became a bit restless and the occasional call for ”rock and roll” could be heard. Some band members appeared annoyed at this, particularly Kerry. By the end, the audience was again responding well, but Giant's set was still relatively short. Then, the Utopia set was plagued with electrical problems towards the start, resulting in a lengthy delay. A local newspaper had earlier advertised that Derringer was to open for Giant at the Civic Center in Providence, Rhode Island on June 22, but that’s not what happened.
Springfield ad June 22, 1976
June 24 Moncton, New Brunswick Moncton Coliseum
Giant had next scheduled several shows in Canada with Starcastle as the opening act. However, getting to the first concert of this mini-tour proved very difficult for Giant. Due to a Canadian air traffic controller strike, the band was unable to take the commercial flight they had originally booked. They ended up driving for two days to get to Moncton after the Springfield gig listed above. After the show, their promotor arranged for a private charter flight to take them to Quebec City for the next night’s gig. Of course, this entire situation incurred additional expense for the band and may have continued to be a problem for the other dates on this Canadian leg of the tour. This particular gig was a general admission concert held in a hockey arena. It seems to have been a pretty sizable crowd, although one unsubstantiated report has surfaced claiming only 640 people were in the audience. Other more credible accounts place the night’s attendance at around 2,000 with floor seating full and plenty of others sitting up higher. A couple fans remember that during the quadraphonic violin solo, Ray repeatedly pointed with his bow at the various locations within the hall where the next echoes would appear. On this night, a rumor circulated that an associate of the band, perhaps a roadie, died shortly before the gig. This supposedly necessitated the band performing with only half of their normal stage set-up at the show. When asked about this more recently, Gary expressed doubt that the band would perform with much equipment missing. He also recalls nobody connected to the band passing away. One early report had the band scheduled to play in Trois Rivieres, Quebec on this evening but those plans obviously changed.
Poster for Canadian gigs with Starcastle June 1976
June 25 Quebec City, Quebec Colisee
Starcastle was the opening act.
Quebec City ad June 25, 1976
June 26 Ottawa, Ontario Lansdown Park - Civic Centre Arena
Starcastle was the opening act and was given a decent reception. Although possibly not full, it was nonetheless a very good sized crowd of about 5,000. One local newspaper reviewer was unkind to GG, using the headline “Gentle Giant: Boredom on a Colossal Scale”, while another was a bit more gracious, describing the band’s performance as “Tricky but Rewarding”.
Ottawa ad June 26, 1976
June 26 The VARA TV Network in the Netherlands broadcast a 50-minute Gentle Giant concert, more than likely a rebroadcast of the German ZDF-TV Sonntagskonzert program first aired on Aug. 10, 1975. VARA had already rebroadcast the program once in December of 1975.
June 27 Toronto, Ontario Massey Hall
Starcastle was the opening act. The venue, which seats around 3,000, was virtually sold out. The audience was quite loud, lively and enthusiastic at this show. Ray picked up on the enthusiasm of the crowd and was quite playful during his violin solo, provoking them into an extensive back and forth shouting match. One happy fan kept yelling out to Gary, “are you an onion?” The exact meaning of this question isn’t clear, but it did elicit giggles from him. Some of the more rambunctious members of the crowd did get a bit carried away though, with one fan repeatedly gobbling like a turkey during quiet sections, annoying those around him. Another yelled out a derogatory insult just before the start of So Sincere and was roundly chastised by most of the audience before the song could begin. It was apparently quite hot in the venue, causing Derek to remove his shirt for the final encore. A tape of this concert is known to exist.
Toronto June 27, 1976
June 28 Montreal, Quebec Place des Nations
held in an outdoor open-air venue with between 10,000 and 12,000 in attendance. Although not needed, a rain date was planned for the next night. Starcastle was the opening act. According to a newspaper report published the next day, things got off to a rocky start. Just prior to the show, about 300 gatecrashers tried to violently force their way in. Bottles were thrown, while police wielded batons and used patrol dogs to restore order. There were several injuries as well as arrests. Fortunately, things quieted down and for the rest of the evening, the band enjoyed a rapturous reception by the enthusiastic audience. However, that was not the end of the unrest as, while the band was performing, tragedy struck outside the venue. The theft of a leather jacket led to the stabbing death of a youth. The band only found out about this afterwards but, although the police established the crime’s occurrence in close proximity to the concert was purely coincidental, the band was nonetheless quite distressed by the event. During a radio interview Derek did the next day on the city’s CHOM radio station, this unpleasant subject never came up. As was the case with the Toronto show from the night before, a tape of Starcastle’s set has surfaced, but not Giant’s, although it is rumored to exist. As yet another example of how GG tour schedules were often rearranged on the fly, Los Angeles was at one time advertised as being the planned location of this concert.
Montreal ads June 28, 1976
June 30 London, Ontario London Arena
the last 1976 show for which Starcastle was the opening act. Starcastle has claimed to have very much enjoyed their concerts with Giant.
London, Ontario ticket June 30, 1976
July 1 Binghamton, New York Broome County Veterans Memorial Arena
opened for Todd Rundgren’s Utopia. An early report had GG headlining this show at a club called The Bijou, but that was wrong.
July 2 Rochester, New York Masonic Temple - Auditorium Theatre
This show was a theater gig at which Ritchie Blackmore's Rainbow headlined before about 1,500 people. Thin Lizzy was originally planned as Rainbow's opening act during June and July. However, due to illness, Thin Lizzy pulled out of the entire tour, causing Rainbow to sign various alternate support acts as they went along. On this night, Giant played in the middle of a triple bill, after Angel and before Rainbow. They were also well enough received to return to the stage for an encore or two. Their audience ovation continued even after the house lights finally went up. In a published interview in 1980, Ray recalled this concert fondly, proudly claiming GG upstaged Rainbow.
Rochester backstage pass July 2, 1976
July 3 Hempstead, New York Calderone Concert Hall
This show was broadcast live on New York City's WLIR radio as part of that station's Bicentennial celebration. It appears to be the longest broadcast the band ever did. At one point between songs, Derek joked that he would "make peace" with the Americans for "dipping the tea in the water" and "kicking Britain out of Boston". Following the usual encore of Peel the Paint/I Lost My Head, the band again returned to the stage and, as midnight approached, played In the Midnight Hour as a surprise second encore, during which Gary had a little trouble playing his part. This was followed by yet another surprise, a version of Happy Birthday, dedicated as a July 4 birthday tribute to the USA. Fan recollections originally conflicted regarding whether Happy Birthday was actually performed on this night, but it’s been confirmed by a partial audience recording that recently surfaced comprising just the three final encores, none of which were part of the radio broadcast. A number of people at the show have sworn that they saw no support act. However, it’s now been verified that the Mick Ronson Band did play on this date, though perhaps not as an official opening act for Giant. Ronson’s drummer explains that his band played quite early on, before most of the crowd even arrived, with their set mainly meant for record executives in attendance. Over the years, more and more music from this radio broadcast started to appear on official releases. Most, but not all, of the broadcast, was first released by Glass House on the IN’TERVIEW IN CONCERT CD in 2000 but that release is of notably inferior sound quality. Next, two songs were released on 35th anniversary CD reissues. Just the Same is included on the FREE HAND reissue, while the song Interview appears on the INTERVIEW reissue. In 2011, the Alucard reissue of OCTOPUS included Excerpts from Octopus from this gig as a bonus track. Finally, an excellent quality source of the entire live broadcast was released by the band in 2014 on the LIVE AT THE BICENTENNIAL CD, with Excerpts from Octopus from this CD appearing yet again on Alucard’s OCTOPUS reissue in 2015. Not surprisingly, the official release edited out spoken bits from the radio announcer but, for some reason, it also edited out the section where Derek introduces himself to the crowd as Donny Osmond.
July 5 Elyria, Ohio The Joker
A tape of this show exists. Early ads listed Ethos as the opening act, but by the beginning of July, the opener was listed as a British band called Upp who were produced by Jeff Beck and were on their first American tour. The Joker was a low-ceilinged, low-stage cavernous space nestled among the off ramps of a freeway exchange. Earlier on, it had been a K-Mart Department Store.
Elyria ads - original and updated bill July 5, 1977
July 6 Columbus, Ohio Agora Ballroom
The Lantern described the audience as “small but dedicated”. GG played this same venue twice before. In 1974, they opened for Focus while in 1975, they headlined with a local band called I Don’t Care in support. The opener for this 1976 gig was probably Felix Pappalardi and his band Creation. Ads for this show, with Pappalardi in support, had it taking place at the Ohio Theater in Columbus, but it was apparently changed to the Agora at the last minute, as evidenced by the caption below.
Columbus press clipping July 6, 1976
July 7 Chicago, Illinois Riviera Theatre
Felix Pappalardi and his band Creation again opened the show for GG and, according to a press report, they were booed off the stage when they mistakenly returned for an encore. Creation was actually a Japanese rock band that Pappalardi met while in that country. He then brought them back to America to record with him and serve as his live backup band. The Riviera is an old refurbished 1930's movie theater on Chicago's north side, seating around 1,800. Giant's set was recorded by Chicago radio station WXRT, eventually being edited and broadcast on January 16,1977.
July 8 Detroit, Michigan Ford Auditorium
UNCONFIRMED. There is a report that this gig may possibly have been canceled due to poor ticket sales. GG was again set to be supported by Felix Pappalardi and his band Creation, as well as by a band called Natural Gas.
Ad for unconfirmed Detroit concert July 8, 1976
July 9 Terre Haute, Indiana Indiana State University - Hullman Center
This was an event billed as a “Summer Jam” and was a general admission show. Giant followed Starz and Wet Willie, all opening for headliner Ted Nugent before 4,200 fans.
July 11 Dallas, Texas Electric Ballroom
The Abilene Reporter-News noted that the audience for this show paid no admission. That was because this was one in a series of free Sunday night concerts sponsored by Dallas radio station KZEW. Even though many in the crowd were unfamiliar with Giant’s music, most were very impressed. At one point while the band was playing the Knots portion of Excerpts from Octopus, a large portion of the crowd suddenly rushed forward in delight towards the stage. This slightly startled the band, but they kept going with no problems. There were two opening acts at this gig. The first is unknown, but the second was called Uncle Rainbow who were also well-received and were called back for an encore. Even though they were basically a pop band, they surprised the audience with an encore of Weather Report's Man In the Green Shirt. One interesting fan recollection has come to light stating that country rocker Charlie Daniels was in attendance at one of Giant’s Electric Ballroom gigs and even joined them onstage. GG played this venue more than once so it is not known to which show this fan was referring.
July 13 Austin, Texas Armadillo World Headquarters
The band has claimed that Austin was one of their favorite places to play and immediately after this show, Kerry, Ray and Gary told a fan that they thought this was one of their better played gigs. The audience was very receptive. The opening act was a band appropriately called Texas.
Austin ad July 13, 1976
July 14 A portion of the Oct. 7, 1975 Ultrasonic Studio performance may have been rebroadcast on this date but where is not known. If it did happen, it could have been over the BBC in England or, less likely, on the American BBC Rock Hour radio program. Rumor has it that the songs broadcast were Intro/Cogs in Cogs, So Sincere, Free Hand and Just the Same, and appearing on the same program was John Miles. However, this broadcast remains unsubstantiated.
July 16 Santa Barbara, California Arlington Theatre
A tape exists of this gig at which Giant played alone, with no support act. There was a brief power failure during the concert, but GG quickly recovered. There had been some dispute over this show’s venue, but it definitely was the Arlington Theatre, an architecturally dazzling venue which held about 2,000 people. Unfortunately, the concert had a poor attendance of only 800, possibly because southern California fans were gearing up the following night’s stadium gig in nearby Anaheim. The band also suffered from poor sound on this evening, but the crowd did give them a warm reception. Prior to the show, one of the ushers remembers watching some of the band’s soundcheck from the wings and says they ran through covers of a few classic rock songs, including some Beatles material.
Santa Barbara ad July 16, 1976
July 17 Anaheim, California Anaheim Stadium
The stage was set up in center field of this baseball stadium. Fans filled the grandstand plus the entire infield was filled with more fans sitting on blankets. Some estimates had as many as 70,000 in attendance, but figures printed in Billboard indicate that 55,000 tickets were sold. In fact, this general admission show was sold out ten days in advance. Even American President Gerald Ford’s son Steve was in attendance, as was Danny Bonaduce of the Partridge Family. Giant played first, with one report having them beginning quite a bit before the scheduled 4:00 start time. They were followed by Gary Wright, Peter Frampton and headliners Yes. Interestingly, weight-lifters, high wire performers and skydivers were used to entertain the crowd between the different musical performers. Kerry thought the experience of being part of such a large event, easily one of the band’s biggest gigs ever, was incredible. On the other hand, Ray seems to recall not enjoying the show very much and Gary says he was a bit intimidated by the huge crowd. This is curious, as GG’s early start time supposedly had them playing while many seats remained empty. Derek joked with the crowd, starting off by announcing, "if you know us, we're Gentle Giant, if you don't, then we're Pink Floyd” and at another point telling the crowd to “pretend we’re Led Zeppelin”. Considering it was very hot during Giant’s set, the crowd was reportedly well-behaved, with the exception of a few people who booed and even threw things at the band. One report has the drum bash during So Sincere being very well accepted by the audience. On the other hand, Giant was the only act not called back for an encore. Parts of Frampton's set this night were filmed, but there’s no evidence that Giant’s set was. This was the first of several large stadium shows in which Giant participated in July of 1976. A report has surfaced that Toots and the Maytals may have been included on one of these bills, but no other information is available, as of yet.
Anaheim July 17, 1976
July 18 San Diego, California Balboa Stadium
opened for Gary Wright, Peter Frampton and Yes on a hot, sunny day. Being first on the bill, GG hit the stage around 3:00 P.M. and the entire concert went on for a full seven hours. During the approximately two hours’ worth of intermissions between acts, the crowd was again treated to a pastiche of circus acts, including skywriters and a skydiving exhibition by a team of 12 parachutists. Not only was the 35,000 seat venue sold out, but the press reported that an additional 4,500 fans were milling about. Police had a difficult time keeping order, as there were many reports of vandalism, as well as more than 90 arrests and multiple injuries, including three policemen. An existing tape of this gig shows that they included no INTERVIEW material, instead relying on their more familiar songs from previous albums. This is one of the shows for which different fan reactions have been reported. Some say GG endured their share of heavy booing during their set, while others disagree. The band did have problems with feedback and an uncooperative PA system that certainly did not help. Whatever the case, the band themselves perceived their reception as being unfavorable, a point that Derek commented on the next time they played San Diego on Mar. 30, 1977. A film of a portion of Gary Wright’s set has recently been officially released but, as was the case the previous night, there is no evidence that GG’s performance was itself preserved on film.
San Diego - Yes’ massive rig and press report July 18, 1976
July 19 Fresno, California Selland Arena
Yes was not on this bill, so Giant opened just for Peter Frampton. One person in attendance claims Giant was booed quite a bit by some of the Frampton fans at this show, as well. 7,300 fans were in the crowd.
July 20 Daly City, California Cow Palace
opened for Yes again to a packed house of 14,500. Giant came out for a somewhat obligatory encore at this show, which would normally imply a very positive reaction from the crowd. However, two fan reports have the band being booed yet again. This could partially be explained by the fact that crowds at the Cow Palace traditionally could be heard “mooing” at many concerts, in honor of the venue’s odd name and history of hosting national rodeo events. Unfortunately, on this night, it appears there truly was some discontent in the crowd, a fact pointed out in an absolutely horrific, scathing review published in the Stanford Daily. Phrases like “fell flat on its face”, “worst synthesizer music”, “bizarre songs”, “overly contrived”, “unimaginative”, “inaudible” and “repetitive” run through what has to be one of the worst GG concert reviews to surface so far. Of course, the reviewer’s credibility must be called into question, seeing as how he also stated that Phil Shulman played bass at the show. It is known that the sound for the band was sub-par this night, with their overall volume coming in considerably quieter than what Yes produced. There were equipment problems, as well. It took a roadie quite a while to get Ray’s bass working properly as the band began their set. At another point in the show, John went to play the vibraphone, only to find the instrument's microphones were dead. He held his sticks up in frustration. Derek told the audience that the band felt crowded on stage, indicating this may have contributed to their problems, but the reviewer took offense at this, as well. As it turned out, Yes had its own share of troubles on stage. Bassist Chris Squire had considerable problems with his instrument, causing him to actually throw it backstage in anger at one point. It's believed that Yes was originally planning on playing in nearby Oakland, California on this particular night and there was discussion of Giant playing at a different venue altogether, but that is not how things transpired. The bands did share the bill, although Giant was the only opening act, unlike most of their other dates with Yes. There is a rumor that Yes’ set may have been filmed but, once more, there are no indications that GG’s set was.
Daly City - horrible Stanford Daily review July 20, 1976
July 22 Vancouver, British Columbia Pacific Coliseum
opened for Yes. A tape of this gig exists and, once more, one fan remembers GG being booed, although another report has this behavior not being rampant, with most people enjoying Giant’s set. The local press agreed with this second assessment in their review, stating Giant was “well received”. Ray commented to this reviewer that, although the band preferred smaller audiences, they were currently trying larger places such as this one to “see what happens”. This particular venue was a 15,000 seat hockey arena but Giant had a very cramped space on stage in which to perform. Estimates range between 11,000 and 12,000 for attendance.
Vancouver July 22, 1976
July 23 Seattle, Washington Seattle Center Coliseum
opened for Yes before 15,000 fans. While in town for one of the band’s Seattle gigs, John and Gary actually did some shark fishing from their second floor hotel window. They caught one and kept it in the bathtub for a time. This odd behavior mirrors that which was first immortalized on an earlier Frank Zappa recording in which he refers to fishing out the window of Seattle’s Edgewater Inn, possibly the same hotel Giant occupied while in town. According to John, GG’s fishing expedition took place either on this date, or when they next were in Seattle on Mar. 26, 1977.
July 24 Portland, Oregon Memorial Coliseum
opened for Yes. Billboard placed the official attendance at 7,871 but the local Oregonian newspaper reported a “sellout of 11,000”.
July 25 Spokane, Washington Spokane Coliseum
About 6,500 people saw Giant open for Yes. Two Spokane newspapers printed reviews the following day, but neither mentioned Giant. One did comment, however, on how hot and uncomfortable it was in the Coliseum.
July 28 Denver, Colorado Auditorium Arena
opened for Yes. A member of Yes’ road crew claimed disappointedly that only 3,000 tickets were sold in this large arena. However, that would be very unlikely at this point in Yes' career. A fan in the audience remembers the crowd being much bigger than that, although the arena may not have been sold out. On this night, there have been no reports of GG being booed. In fact, although Giant did not perform an encore, their reception by the crowd was reportedly strong enough to merit one.
Sep. 3 On this date, the RTB TV network in Belgium rebroadcast the German ZDF Sonntagskonzert program originally shown on Aug. 10, 1975. The live performance was actually filmed right in Belgium.
fall 1976 European tour was next. In an
interview published in July, Derek said the group hoped to take the unusual
step of working into this tour a concert in
TYPICAL SETLIST (Fall 1976)
Intro/Just the Same - Some of the European shows may have begun with a shortened Intro 76 in which the portion of Talybont was again left out.
Excerpts from Octopus
Funny Ways - This crowd favorite was put back into the set.
Peel the Paint/I Lost My Head
The Italian band Banco was brought on board and was scheduled to open at many, if not all, of the shows on this European tour. So far, it’s been verified that they had to cancel a few appearances early on, but did open at all the German shows and at least two others. During this tour, Giant recorded four of their concerts with the intention of sifting through the tapes and compiling a live album. Music from these four concerts made up the 1977 PLAYING THE FOOL live album.
Sep. 16 Oslo, Norway Chateau Neuf
One report has a full house of around 1,200 fans attending this concert, while the Dagbladet newspaper states around 800. Banco was scheduled to open, but it’s unknown if they did.
Oslo Sep. 16, 1976
Sep. 17 Gothenburg, Sweden Konserthuset
A tape of this concert exists. Banco had again intended to open this show, but it is known they had to cancel. The newspaper reviews after the concert were lukewarm, at best.
Sep. 18 Stockholm, Sweden Konserthuset
Again, Banco was the scheduled opener but, again, they canceled.
Sep. 19 Lund, Sweden Olympen
held before approximately 700 fans in a concert facility managed by the University of Lund but not located directly on campus. Posters of the event listed Banco as the intended opener but, again, they canceled. A tape of the entire concert was released in 2002 by Glass House with the title of ARTISTICALLY CRYME. This recording shows that the band seemed to take their time on the songs, making this a longer than usual performance. Peel the Paint/I Lost My Head from this gig can also be found on the MEMORIES OF OLD DAYS compilation.
Lund Sep. 19, 1976
Sep. 20 Kiel, Germany Audimax
Banco opened the show. One fan remembers seeing the band at some point at Ball Pompos, a different venue in Kiel, though there is no proof of this.
Sep. 21 Hamburg, Germany Musikhalle
Banco again opened the show. According to a review in Hamburger Abendblatt, about 1,400 fans were in attendance, making the show not quite sold out. The reviewer also claimed the playing was technically precise but lacked feeling, causing a less than enthusiastic response at times from the fans. A member of the audience has also pointed out that the group’s PA system was noisy and uncooperative at this gig, with the quadrophonic system used during Ray’s violin solo not functioning properly.
Hamburg ad Sep. 21, 1976
Sep. 22 Berlin, Germany Philharmonie
CANCELED. The band was scheduled to appear at this gig with Banco, but they encountered problems getting equipment across the border between West and East Germany. The members of Giant did manage to arrive in Berlin and were even interviewed for a local music newspaper, but they were unable to perform. The venue hastily arranged a classical orchestra concert in the band’s place.
Sep. 23 Dusseldorf, Germany Philipshalle
Banco opened the show. This was one of the four concerts from the fall of 1976 that Giant recorded for a potential live album, the other three being the Munich, Paris and Brussels gigs. When the PLAYING THE FOOL album was released, it included Intro/Just the Same, Proclamation and On Reflection from Dusseldorf, but other material from this concert has also seen official release more recently. The songs Interview and Timing, as well as Intro 76 from this show, appeared on the UNDER CONSTRUCTION album. The mini-medley of The Runaway/Experience from this show appears on the 2000 CD reissue of IN A GLASS HOUSE. This same mini-medley is also included on the 2005 35th anniversary CD reissue of the same album, where it's erroneously labeled as being just the song Experience. Still, more of this night’s music remained unreleased until 2019 when the UNBURIED TREASURE boxset contained, in remixed and remastered form, all of the surviving PLAYING THE FOOL source material, including the Dusseldorf show, which is nearly complete.
Dusseldorf ticket Sep. 23, 1976
Sep. 24 Mannheim, Germany Rosengarten Musensaal
Banco opened the show.
Mannheim poster Sep. 24, 1976
Sep. 25 Munich, Germany Circus Krone Building
Banco opened the show. According to the terms of their contract, Banco was not allowed to play encores on this tour. However, the audience was quite vocal at this show in their support for the openers, so Giant reversed their decision and allowed an encore on this evening and on subsequent evenings, as needed. This was another one of the four concerts recorded by the band for the PLAYING THE FOOL album, though only Funny Ways from this show appeared on that album. A little under an hour’s worth of this gig remained intact on tape and that has now been remixed, remastered and included in the UNBURIED TREASURE boxset. The Circus Krone Building, as the name implies, was home to one of the largest circus organizations in Europe, although they often hosted rock concerts and other entertainment events.
Munich flyer Sep. 25, 1976
Sep. 27 Ulm, Germany Donauhalle
CANCELED. The band originally planned to play here with Banco but it was canceled at the very last minute. Electrical issues in the venue were given as the reason, but a notice in the Sudwest Presse questioned whether sluggish ticket sales were a contributing factor.
Sep. 28 Offenbach, Germany Stadthalle
opened the show and was well received, playing one or two encores. During the show, Kerry greeted the fans by
saying "hello Frankfurt", followed by howls of disapproval from the
Offenbach Sep. 28, 1976
Sep. 30 Zurich, Switzerland Volkshaus
This is another gig that some evidence indicates the band may have originally intended to record, though it didn't happen. However, a tape made by an audience member does exist. It may have been unusually hot on stage that night, as Derek remarked that it felt "like a sauna bath" and joked that the band may have to start removing their clothes, which he said might "scare the girls".
Zurich flyer Sep. 30, 1976
Oct. 1 Neuchatel, Switzerland Temple du Bas
A tape of this show also exists. Banco opened the show, which was reportedly only the second major rock concert to be held in Neuchatel. Temple du Bas was a beautiful old church that had just recently been renovated. As a rider in their contract, the band had listed certain electrical requirements. The promoter told them during soundcheck that he was unable to honor their request. That evening, when he walked into the dressing room, the promoter saw the roadies dressed in the band members' stage clothes. The roadies told him that, because of unsafe wiring, the group would not play and the roadies would take their places. The promoter broke into tears, at which time the roadies admitted it was all a bit of English humor. In actuality, the members of Giant were quite touched by the lavishly catered affair the promotor and his friends had provided them in their dressing room. Derek was even moved enough to thank them publicly from the stage during the concert. Apparently, the band played loudly enough this night to be easily heard outside in the street, where some fans stayed and enjoyed the music.
Neuchatel - setting up the stage Oct. 1, 1976
Oct. 3 Vaduz, Liechtenstein
the only known time the group ever played in this tiny European nation. The date may have actually been Oct. 2.
Oct. 5 Paris, France Pavillon de Paris
Banco opened the show. This was another of the four concerts recorded for use on the PLAYING THE FOOL album. Excerpts from Octopus, The Runaway/Experience, So Sincere and Peel the Paint/I Lost My Head on that album came from this concert. The entire remaining source tape has now been remixed and remastered for inclusion in the UNBURIED TREASURE boxset. It contains not quite the complete show, but is well over an hour in length. John recalls a nerve-wracking moment that played out in Paris while he and Gary were doing some after dinner sightseeing along the banks of the Seine. They noticed a student riot taking place on the river’s opposite shore when suddenly, a portion of the rioters split from the group and ran across the bridge towards them. As the students ran by, baton wielding police in close pursuit, John and Gary held their ground but yelled out, “Anglais! Anglais!” The police apparently understood and left them alone, continuing to chase after the rioters. Relieved, John and Gary quickly returned to their hotel. This could have taken place at the band’s Nov. 29, 1975 Paris gig, but this one seems more likely, as they had a day off for sightseeing before moving on to Brussels.
Paris ticket Oct. 5, 1976
Oct. 7 Brussels, Belgium Cirque Royal
the last of the four concerts recorded by the band for use on the PLAYING THE FOOL album. This gig was held in another venue originally designed to stage circuses, as was the case for the Munich show listed above. This venue seated 3,500 and. Although exact attendance on this night is unknown, it was said to be quite crowded. A total keyboard breakdown after just two songs led to a lengthy delay in the show, during which Ray and Gary played a few impromptu numbers. One of them was a spontaneous improvisational version of the 1925 jazz standard Sweet Georgia Brown, a number the two of them had played on and off for years during soundchecks. It appeared on the live album, retitled Breakdown in Brussels, interestingly one of only two songs the band ever released that were not original compositions, the other being The Queen off the first album. The keyboards were eventually brought back to half strength so the band could at least finish the show. The song Free Hand from this concert also appeared on the live album. As was done with the other three PLAYING THE FOOL gigs, all the intact taped material from Brussels was remixed, remastered and included in the UNBURIED TREASURE boxset but, possibly because of the evening’s technical difficulties, the tape that remains barely approaches a half hour in length. The tape only contains the last three songs which means that, curiously, Breakdown in Brussels and the entire keyboard fiasco from earlier in the evening no longer exist and do not appear in the boxset.
Brussels ticket Oct. 7, 1976
Jan. ? Rehearsals
for the next tour began in a public room in a pub in
Jan. ? Later in the month, the band booked time on a soundstage at London’s famed Pinewood Film and Television Studios, famous for many major productions through the years such as the long-running James Bond series. In fact, at the very same time Giant was in attendance, a Bond movie was in production on a second soundstage, while the Rolling Stones had one of their own stage rigs set up on a third. The exact dates GG was there have not been determined, other than to say it was a few days during late January. Their intent was to conclude preparations for their upcoming North American tour and to settle on a final setlist. When all was ready, they staged three complete run-throughs of their show, exactly as they planned to present it. These were full technical rehearsals, using all their stage crew and all visuals, lighting effects, taped intros, segues, etc. A handful of representatives of the music press were also invited in to document the proceedings. Although they did not film themselves, they did make an audio recording of one of the rehearsals. The original arrangement of Winning from this rehearsal appears in the SCRAPING THE BARREL boxset with the title Winning - Lights Rehearsal - Pinewood, while the entire rehearsal is also included in lower mp3 quality. All of it can be found again in the MEMORIES OF OLD DAYS boxset where it, oddly, appears in an incorrect, shuffled running order. However, the entire rehearsal has now been finally released in fully remastered CD quality in the UNBURIED TREASURE boxset. Some of the numbers are a bit rough, as would be expected so early in the touring process, but the band seem to be enjoying themselves. Derek, in particular, seems very light-hearted and relaxed, often making jokes during his spoken bits. For instance, he introduces one song as being from the soundtrack to an Al Jolson movie, while at another point, he says he’s glad to be here “at the Hong Kong Forum”. During the song Memories of Old Days, he simply hums the melody. This song was new and perhaps he did not have a copy of the lyrics handy.
Jan. 16 The July 7, 1976 Chicago gig that was recorded by WXRT Radio was broadcast by that station in edited form on this evening. The broadcast was part of the station's regular Sunday night "Unconcert Series". The series was sponsored by 7-Up, the soft drink then being promoted as the "uncola". Normally, concerts were broadcast one or two months after being recorded, but this Giant broadcast took six months to air, for unknown reasons.
Chicago - “Unconcert” radio broadcast listing Jan. 16, 1977
Jan. ? There is information pointing to two different January dates for when Capitol released their live album PLAYING THE FOOL in America. Some evidence indicates it was released on Jan. 18 while a press release advertising their upcoming North American tour said to expect the album on Jan. 24. The tracks on this live album were recorded in Dusseldorf, Munich, Paris and Brussels in September and October of 1976. To come up with the title of the album, they modified the name of a 1975 bootleg of their material called PLAYING THE FOOLE.
Jan. ? PLAYING THE FOOL saw release on Chrysalis in England , probably at the end of January. UK trade papers had listed original release dates of Jan. 14 and Jan. 22, but the date of Jan. 28 seems like a very real possibility.
??? At some point in early 1977, Capitol Records released a promotional record called GIANT EDITS. Released in America, but not in England, it contained shortened versions of a number of the songs on PLAYING THE FOOL. These all fit on one record, while the full live album was a double record.
Feb. ? For its part, the Canadian branch of Capitol Records also released a promotional record, in that country only, entitled INSIDE GENTLE GIANT. It’s believed this was released to radio stations in late February. It was recorded at Thunder Sound Studios in Toronto and was used to promote both the PLAYING THE FOOL album and the early 1977 Canadian tour dates. Exactly when it was recorded is not known, but immediately before the start of the February tour would be a reasonable bet. The hour long record included interviews with Derek and Ray, as well as studio and live tracks.
their long held tradition of heavy touring, the group hit the road again in
North America during February and March in support of their new live
album. At last, the group was able to
headline most of their concerts in North America. However, they did share some dates with
Renaissance, the two bands switching off the closing spot on the bill. Promoter John Scher,
in a Rolling Stone interview, confirmed that the two groups played
twelve dates together but, instead of characterizing this as two bands
alternating as headliners, he oddly described Giant as “opening for eight and
co-headlining for four”. Available
evidence does not exactly coincide with these numbers. Plans may have changed as the tour went
along, or Scher may have simply been mistaken. He explained that he wanted Renaissance to
headline in places where they were already strong and co-headline in places
where they were less well known. It is
clear that there was tension and frustration between these two bands. Scher, in his
interview, was somewhat disparaging toward Giant, claiming they were too
demanding in that they expected the same treatment from the promoter and the
venue when they opened as when they co-headlined. Annie Haslam of Renaissance, while
acknowledging that this tension grew as the tour went along, also stated that
for the most part, the two bands got along fine. This PLAYING THE FOOL tour was unique
in that the band broke tradition and premiered four songs that they intended
for their next studio album, but which had not yet been recorded. There were also a number of other changes to
their stage show. Besides dropping all
material from the INTERVIEW album, Ray's violin solo was missing, as
well. Kerry said in an interview in a
Canadian publication at the time that the band had intended to play The Face
during this tour, with the violin solo included as part of that song. Unfortunately, he said that equipment
problems of some sort made that impossible.
Actually, the song was rehearsed at Pinewood Studios in January and
appears on the "run-through" recording made there. It also may have been played on the first
couple nights of the tour but, if so, it was definitely dropped by the time the
TYPICAL SETLIST (Feb. - Apr. 1977)
The Runaway/Experience - Beginning the concert, a prerecorded classical piece was played, specifically the final movement of Bach's Brandenburg Concerto #4. Gary says that whenever he heard this piece begin, he knew he had exactly six minutes to get on stage. After this piece, the group used the novel idea of playing a tape of themselves pretending to be tuning their instruments and testing their equipment, followed by a riff, ever increasing in speed, first on guitar and drums, then fading in the keyboards, then bass, then voice. As each instrument or voice was added to the tape, the band member’s face would appear on a rear projection screen. Finally, John would count in the opening number.
As Old as You're Young - not yet recorded. This song was not played when the band opened for Renaissance.
Just the Same/Playing the Game - On Playing the Game, Derek played the "shulberry". This was a simple 3-string instrument invented by one of the band's roadies, either Phil Freeman or Dave Zammit.
Memories of Old Days - not yet recorded. Kerry played a brief keyboard version of the song Giant as a lead-in. During the song itself, all five members played one type or another of guitar.
Winning - not yet recorded. The arrangement of this song was vastly different from what would eventually be recorded for the group's next studio album. When performed live, this song featured an electronic drum machine, the only time the band ever toyed with such a device. This song was not played when the band opened for Renaissance.
For Nobody - not yet recorded. Ray often got to introduce this song on stage, though not always.
Funny Ways - John got to showcase his comedic skills as his humorous introduction to this song became a nightly ritual.
So Sincere - For this tour, the beginning of this song was played on vibraphone. This song was not played when the band opened for Renaissance.
Excerpts from Octopus - This song was the new encore but was not played every night. It featured a new keyboard bridge section.
Poster for US tour early 1977
On this tour, Giant attempted the use of abundant special effects, perhaps more ambitious in scope than they had tried before. In addition to standard effects, such as smoke and strobe lights, they also made an early attempt at using projected hologram images. These were of spinning white balls and were known to appear during On Reflection and Memories of Old Days. They also continued to use synchronized slides and films, such as one set of slides of hands playing conga drums. These hands would appear to move faster and faster and were used during the song Winning. Also, because of the complexity of this particular song, the band played along on stage to an electronic drum machine which provided additional percussion parts. It's possible they may have used other pre-recorded backing tracks on stage, as well, during some parts of the show, though this is unconfirmed. During Memories of Old Days, a film was also rear projected that showed a closeup of a rubbery giant head mask. In this film, made by a friend of Ray's, and now included as a bonus feature in the SCRAPING THE BARREL boxset, someone wearing the mask would appear to poke his head through a curtain and look down while pointing his finger. This film was projected directly behind John, so as to make it appear that the mythical Giant was watching the drummer. The face would also turn and was timed so as to appear to stare at different band members at specific appropriate times. During the concerts, white accordion shaped screens were used to hide the amplifiers.
neon "giant's head", which hung on the back wall, was planned as part
of the stage set for this tour. The
intent was to turn it on towards the end of the show, but it was damaged after
just the first or second show and was sent out for repairs. It did not return to service until the
Feb. 17 Buffalo, New York New Century Theatre
As the band arrived in Buffalo, the city was still digging out from one of the worst snowstorms of the century. Nonetheless, after rehearsing at the venue on Feb. 16, the tour officially began on Feb. 17. The opening acts were local Buffalo band Rodan, followed by Mr. Big. Mr. Big was not well received. Upon being booed after one of their songs, one of the members of the band responded by yelling out an obscenity directed towards Gentle Giant before going into the next song.
Buffalo press notice and ad Feb. 17, 1977
Feb. 18 Cincinnati, Ohio Riverfront Coliseum
Steve Hillage opened this show followed by GG and, in the headlining slot, the Electric Light Orchestra. Billboard reported just over 8,000 in ticket sales for the evening, while the Cincinnati Enquirer placed the size of the crowd at 12,000. Multiple reports described the crowd as being quite hostile to the openers, especially Giant. The first problem was that there was a delay of over an hour after Hillage finished before Giant even took the stage. In addition to having poor sound on this night, they had to endure quite a bit of booing, starting right after their opening number. The audience disapproval peaked during the xylophone bit of So Sincere, after which Giant had had enough and left the stage, ending their set after only half an hour. The band was visibly frustrated and Derek, in particular, was not terribly “polite” in his choice of parting words. Additional reports single out problems with a teenager seated near the front repeatedly yelling out “let’s boogie”, and baseball fans in the crowd who objected to John wearing his traditional Oakland A’s baseball jersey instead of that of the local Cincinnati Reds. Regardless, the University of Cincinnati’s News Record gave GG an overall positive review, even while mistakenly identifying one of their songs as In Case You Didn’t Know Upon Reflection. This was a festival seating gig. About two and a half years later, the city of Cincinnati banned all festival seating at concerts after eleven people were killed at a Who concert at this same venue.
Cincinnati ad Feb. 18, 1977
Feb. 20 Quebec City, Quebec Centre Municipal des Congress
The Quebec area band Et Cetera was the opening act and they were not well received. A tape exists of this gig.
Feb. 22 Toronto, Ontario Maple Leaf Gardens
A tape exists of this show, for which Montreal trio Symphonic Slam was the opening act. Half of this hockey arena was closed off to give the venue more of a concert hall atmosphere, although the acoustics were still a bit iffy. Record Week reported a low attendance figure of only 4,300, but praised the fact that such an intricately conceived concert presentation could be pulled off so masterfully. Ever the gentleman, Kerry graciously gave Symphonic Slam’s keyboardist a tour of his own rig beforehand and allowed him to try it out.
Toronto Feb. 22, 1977
Feb. 23 Montreal, Quebec Montreal Forum
A tape of this concert is rumored to exist. There was some concern whether Giant would be able to play this show, as bad weather in Toronto almost canceled their flight after the previous night's show. Fortunately, they did arrive, but the show didn’t begin until 9:30 PM, causing the crowd to get a bit restless. Et Cetera again opened and were better received than they were in Quebec City. About 6,000 people were in The Forum to see the show. At about 4:00 that afternoon, John found time to stop in at the city’s CHOM radio station for a quick interview. Early on, one local paper advertised this show as being set for Feb. 27, but that was false.
Montreal ad Feb. 23, 1977
Feb. 24 Albany, New York Palace Theater
At this show, Giant opened for Renaissance to a reportedly positive reception. The venue is estimated to hold 2,500 - 3,000 people and was either full or close to it.
Feb. 25 Boston, Massachusetts Orpheum Theater
was a sellout show. Even though advance
promotion of this show had Giant as the headliners, they actually ended up
opening for Renaissance. A tape of the
show exists on which Derek, in his opening comments, seems to express
frustration with GG having to shorten their planned set to about an hour in
length. Nonetheless, a
Boston Feb. 25, 1977
Feb. 26 Upper Darby, Pennsylvania Tower Theater
tape of this gig exists. The opening act
was Ace and a bit over 3,000 tickets were sold, making this a sellout
performance. Renaissance is known to
have played at the Palace Theatre in
Upper Darby ads Feb. 26, 1977
Feb. 27 New York, New York Avery Fisher Music Hall
A tape also exists of this near sellout gig, held shortly after the hall was renovated to improve its acoustics. The show, for which there may not have been an opening act, was an hour late starting, due to problems getting the stage set up just right. During much of this hour, the audience was stuck in the lobby, which led to a certain amount of frustration. When the show finally began, Derek introduced the group as “a smelly old rock band”, but this attempt at light-hearted self-deprecation did not appease everyone. Segments of the crowd were quite annoyed during the opening song, as the volume was apparently set too low for some audience members' taste. Interestingly, one written review made it a point to comment on John’s “off-color” remarks during his brief comedy routine. Billboard gave a lukewarm review of the gig, at best, while the Daily News was much harsher, calling the band a “whacky bunch of characters” and referring to their music as “loony rock”. The opening act for this concert, if there was one, is not yet known. The pre-show music in the hall was from a Frank Zappa album. Coincidentally, Zappa played in New York around the same time and the pre-show music at his concert was from a Gentle Giant album, Giant being a band he greatly admired.
Feb. 28 Hempstead, New York Calderone Concert Hall
During Giant's set, the ever-cheerful John Weathers wore some sort of wig over his balding head before removing it partway through the concert. A tape exists of this gig, as well. Ace was the opening act and, according to one report, was booed off the stage after two or three songs. However, this has been disputed by another fan in attendance. There was also a rumor at one time that a third band was on the bill, but this does not seem to be the case.
Hempstead marquee Feb. 28, 1977
Although no corroborating details have surfaced, it’s possible that live segments from this tour may have been filmed by Belgian TV and shown in that country at some point. A photo said to be from this broadcast appears in the SCRAPING THE BARREL boxset. In the photo, Derek is holding his shulberry, implying the group would have at least performed the song Playing the Game. One rumor is that the bit of live footage was filmed for use in an ad, possibly promoting the PLAYING THE FOOL album.
Another unrelated rumor has Giant possibly being filmed on this tour for Canadian television, as well. No other details are known about that alleged broadcast, either.
Mar. 1 Ellicott City, Maryland Hollywood Palace
A band called Zed was the opening act. It’s been estimated that about 300 people were crammed into the club, well over normal capacity. This date was added to the original tour itinerary.
Ellicott City Mar. 1, 1977
Mar. 2 Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania Soldiers and Sailors Hall
CANCELED. The reason given for this cancelation was “booking problems”. The date does not appear in the band’s pre-tour press release or their own handwritten notes from the tour, but it was advertised at the time by both the Giant and Renaissance camps. The plan was to play at Soldiers and Sailors Hall but problems arose. As little as one week before showtime, a local newspaper still advertised the show as “site to be announced”. Renaissance ended up playing at the Tower Theater in Upper Darby while GG apparently had a night off.
Mar. 3 It
seems a 30-minute news special on Gentle Giant was broadcast over WXFM Radio in
Mar. 4 Chicago, Illinois Riviera Theatre
At this show, Renaissance opened for Giant. The neon "giant's head" was triumphantly returned to service for this show.
Chicago ad Mar. 4, 1977
Mar. 5 Akron, Ohio Civic Theatre
A tape exists of Giant’s set opening for Renaissance. Mr. Big, who played first, was not well-received. The fact that the show was almost an hour and a half late could have contributed to the audience's frustration. Mr. Big also had guitar trouble and is said to have borrowed Gary Green’s Les Paul for the show. The late start also worked against headliners Renaissance as their set didn’t begin until after midnight, at which time much of the crowd was quite exhausted. The Civic Theatre, which was an ornate theater used for film and live stage productions, had a stage designed to simulate the look of a castle, with the lowered drawbridge being the stage itself. The outline of the castle was backlit on the back wall of the stage. Additionally, tiny lights in the theater's ceiling gave the impression of an evening's starlit sky, across which the illusion of clouds could also be seen moving. One unusual report has surfaced from this concert. According to two separate fans, at one point during GG’s performance, someone was noticed in one of the small side balconies wearing a Giant mask and lit by a spotlight. It turned out to be John Weathers. In attendance in the audience, as acknowledged by John from the stage, were members of the Granati Brothers, a band from nearby Pittsburgh that Ray and Derek took under their wing this year, helping to secure them a record deal and serving in a management and production capacity. It was after this show that one of the roadies makes the disputed claim that the neon head was damaged again, although he says it continued to be hung at almost all of the gigs that followed.
Akron ads Mar. 5, 1977
Mar. 6 Detroit, Michigan Ford Auditorium
GG opened for Renaissance. Ace was advertised as taking the stage first but one fan at the show believes they did not appear. There is an existing tape of GG’s performance.
Mar. 8 Indianapolis, Indiana Indiana Theater
This show, at which Mr. Big went first before Giant and headliners Renaissance, was not sold out by any means, possibly because it may originally have been scheduled for Mar. 7. The band was extremely well-received, even though Gary played the entire show while not feeling well. In fact, after Playing the Game, Derek tried to introduce the next song but had to stop, due to the continued applause. The band appeared genuinely moved by the audience's reaction and did come out for an encore. Then, after Renaissance started their own set, the members of Giant actually went into the back of the audience and sat together to watch.
Indianapolis ad Mar. 8, 1977
Mar. 11 Atlanta, Georgia Fox Theater
Here, Giant played first on the bill before Sea Level and headliners Renaissance, therefore playing what’s been reported as a shorter set than usual. It's been rumored that the Mike Green Band played at the show, as well, though this does not appear to be true. Published ads show that GG was scheduled originally to appear in Atlanta on both Mar. 10 and 11 but only this Mar. 11 show took place. Georgia Tech’s student newspaper, The Technique, gave a glowing review to Renaissance and a decent review to Sea Level. However, they did not like Giant at all, describing their stage presence as “somewhere between Carol Burnett and Idi Amin.”
Atlanta Mar. 11, 1977
Mar. 12 Tampa, Florida University of South Florida
held in the University's basketball gym. GG opened for Renaissance. As openers, Giant was well received, a standing ovation bringing them back out for an encore. Derek did seem a bit perplexed as one young lady in the audience kept yelling for him to remove his pants. He politely declined, to the audience’s roar of approval, but the girl persisted, requesting the same of John during his monologue. An off-color response from John ended the interruptions. Poor ticket sales for previously sponsored concerts had, by this time, put the University under financial strain. They canceled other upcoming performances but, fortunately, this one went ahead as planned. In fact, the attendance was good on this evening, totaling around 2,200, although quite a few people had left by the time Renaissance reached the end of their set.
Mar. 13 Miami, Florida Gusman Cultural Center
Giant opened for Renaissance. In a Miami News interview, Ray boldly vented his frustration, claiming Renaissance were “afraid” of Gentle Giant. He claimed the headliners refused to let GG play an encore at Gusman, even though the audience was screaming for one. He was also upset that, whenever Giant played support, they were not allowed to use their projectors, movie screens and props, having instead to water down their show. He claimed Giant were “incredibly mad at the way we’re being treated”. After this concert, the band enjoyed a few days off during which they apparently soaked up too much Florida sun.
Mar. 18 Austin, Texas Armadillo World Headquarters
During Giant’s set, a band member announced from the stage that they always enjoyed playing this particular Austin venue, but it’s been reported that the crowd this night was not as receptive as they had been at GG's previous Austin gig on July 13, 1976. At one point, John Weathers had to chastise the audience and one spectator remembers the band struggling to "keep their cool" in front of a rather rowdy audience. On the other hand, another fan at the show characterizes the evening differently, believing that Giant did win over the crowd by the end. The Austin Daily Texan also gave a very positive review, particularly singling out the song For Nobody as being well received by the packed crowd. The Wommack Brothers, a local Austin jazz-rock group, opened this show and suitably impressed Giant. GG’s management requested tapes and materials from the Wommacks with the intention of helping to publicize them, particularly in England, where they felt there was a need for their kind of music.
Austin flyer and ad Mar. 18, 1977
Mar. 19 Dallas, Texas Electric Ballroom
This was a late show and, although not confirmed, it may have been another in a series of free concerts sponsored by Dallas radio station KZEW, similar to what happened at the July 11 gig at the same club. Prism, a Texas band not to be confused with the Canadian band of the same name, was the opening act at this packed concert. Interestingly, progressive supergroup Genesis also played a Dallas venue on this same night and their own attendance was disappointing. Prism has officially released their set from this night on CD and members of Prism have described having Giant watch their set from the wings as one of the highlights of their career. Their drummer had a cymbal which he made from a metal disc originally used to scoop golf balls from the bottom of ponds. John Weathers heard this cymbal and liked it very much, so Prism’s drummer gave it to him after the show. It can later be heard on the song Winning on GG’s 1977 MISSING PIECE album. The venue was basically a cavernous barn with corrugated tin roof and siding, with a stage at one end and a 100-foot bar running the length of the room. It seated around 1,800 and was similar in design to the much larger Sportatorium which was located across the street. The SMU Daily Campus, in its review, said GG’s sound was horrible and also stated the band was quite cramped on the small stage. This same review was also riddled with factual errors, such as describing how John Weathers strummed an acoustic guitar during the song Funny Voice from the ACQUIRING THE TASTE album, none of which was accurate. Ray remembers a gig at a club in Texas where a spectator in the back attempted to steal a rear speaker during his violin solo until apprehended by the tour manager. It may very well have been this show, as one fan does recall a scuffle taking place in the rear of the club. A tape exists of a brief portion of GG's soundcheck before this concert, showing them running through For Nobody a couple of times. These two takes were included on the LIVE IN SANTA MONICA 1975 release on the Glass House label. It’s possible that Prism may have opened for GG on more than one occasion, but details as to where and when these other shared bills may have been are not known.
Mar. 20 Tulsa, Oklahoma The Wharf
A southern rock band from Texas called Point Blank opened the show at this small club. There is a rumor that the gig was simulcast over Tulsa’s KMOD Radio, although that remains unconfirmed and a recording of that show has not been found. However, the band did take the time to do an interview with KMOD while in town. It may not have helped much as one estimate puts only about 150 people in the audience.
Mar. 22 Kansas City, Missouri Uptown Theater
UNCONFIRMED. Although not part of the band's original tour schedule, one of the roadies for this tour thinks this gig may possibly have been planned at one point and subsequently canceled.
Mar. 25 Portland, Oregon Paramount Theater
UNCONFIRMED. Some printed evidence shows that this gig, for which Starcastle was slated to open, was more than likely canceled. However, a conflicting report has Starcastle’s soundcheck taking longer than usual, pushing the starting time for the show back a bit. Since the audience was then restless, they were not kind to the opening act.
Portland ad - unconfirmed show Mar. 25, 1977
Mar. 26 Seattle, Washington Paramount Northwest Theater
Starcastle did open for Giant at this festival seating concert, although the Seattle Daily Times claimed the two bands “co-headlined”. That same newspaper gave both groups a poor review, while noting that the theater was less than half full. John’s monologue was reportedly a bit more off-color than usual at this gig.
Mar. 28 San Jose, California San Jose Center for the Performing Arts
A country-rock band named Stallion went first. This opening band actually had a tumbleweed blow across the stage at one point in their set. Hometown heroes Pablo Cruise were supposed to headline but, for some reason, they and Giant switched places and Giant went last. It’s been conjectured that this may have been due to the much larger array of instruments GG used on stage, thereby necessitating a more complicated setup. Because many in attendance came to see Pablo Cruise, expecting them to headline, the crowd thinned out dramatically before GG's closing set even began, leaving the GG fans who remained scrambling to find seats closer to the stage. Where one may expect an eager crowd to clap their hands in anticipation of the start of a show, some of these diehard Giant fans began snapping their fingers in a rhythm reminiscent of the opening of Just the Same while waiting for their band to take the stage. Pablo Cruise was originally supposed to play in San Jose ten days earlier, without Giant, but the show was canceled. This was a rescheduled gig, this time with the addition of Giant, which would explain why San Jose was not on GG’s original tour schedule.
San Jose ad Mar. 28, 1977
Mar. 30 San Diego, California Golden Hall
Renaissance opened for Giant before 1,300 fans in a hall built for 4,000. During the show, Derek commented on the poor reception the band received at its previous San Diego appearance on July 18, 1976. An existing tape of this gig shows that as an encore, they played The Advent of Panurge by itself, instead of playing the entire Excerpts from Octopus, as was usually done on this tour. John also shortened his humorous introduction to Funny Ways. Both of these events could be attributed to time constraints. The crowd wasn’t even admitted into the building until 15 minutes after the scheduled start time, the show actually getting under way 50 minutes late. Intermission between the two acts stretched to a full hour. Additionally, a buzzing, hissing speaker caused problems throughout the entire concert, growing louder as the evening wore on.
San Diego Mar. 30, 1977
Mar. 31 Los Angeles, California Shrine Auditorium
A tape that exists of this concert shows that they played In the Midnight Hour as a surprise second encore. This occurred, even though the house lights had already come on, after the crowd of around 5,000 fans would not stop cheering. Although it may have happened on other occasions, this is only the second time this song has been verified to have been played, the first being in Hempstead, New York on July 3, 1976. Gary has fond memories of this show at which Giant headlined. The show was opened by the Scottish singer-songwriter duo Gallagher and Lyle with Renaissance playing second. Renaissance suffered from sound and equipment problems but, for the most part, the Giant fans were patient and polite during their set. In fact, the Los Angeles Times gave Renaissance a better review than they did Giant. Additionally, Variety gave GG only a lukewarm write up. The vocals were at times inaudible during Giant’s set, as well, but the News-Pilot reported that their overall energy overcame any problems they had. One fan in attendance recalls Kerry's vibraphone solo in Funny Ways being particularly well received by the audience on this night. It was during this evening’s soundcheck that a roadie claims the band finally confronted the road crew concerning some damage to the neon head supposedly sustained back in Akron on Mar. 5. As stated above, this entire chain of events concerning the head has not been corroborated. The band themselves feel the roadie’s recollections are not totally accurate.
Los Angeles ad Mar. 31, 1977
Apr. 1 Phoenix, Arizona Celebrity Theater
opened for Renaissance who, reportedly, were much better received. When Giant started their set, the audience was rather cool, giving them only subdued, polite applause, unlike the enthusiastic applause they gave Renaissance. One young fan in the audience proudly wore his own homemade Gentle Giant teeshirt to the show, with white iron-on letters on a black shirt. Derek noticed this well dressed, enthusiastic young man near the front of the crowd and invited him backstage afterwards, where the band treated him quite graciously. The Celebrity had a rotating, in-the-round stage. During John’s Funny Ways intro, he started walking in circles around the microphone, mimicking the rotation of the stage. Some silent 8mm film footage of Giant's set is rumored to exist. A roadie at the time claims the band was not originally planning on playing in Phoenix on this tour, which would imply this date was added at some point after initial plans were made. If one is to believe the recollections of this same roadie, the neon "giant's head" was not used at this show, supposedly at Derek’s request. Perhaps this was due to potential problems that would have resulted from rigging the head over the revolving stage.
Go on to Part Seven
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