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Gentle Giant Tour History
*** Part Eight ***
*** The Final Days ***
new information will be in RED
??? CIVILIAN was released in America, in either February or March, with February being a bit more likely. Many dislike this album, claiming the band had completely "sold out" by this point, but just as many others see it as a collection of quality rock songs, with freshness and vitality. The album cover was adapted from a photo included in a 1950’s Life Magazine article about the growing suburban lifestyle and the increased number of commuters in post-war America.
Apr. ? CIVILIAN seems to have been released in England sometime in April, although the month of February has been mentioned too. There is even conflicting evidence that it didn’t happen until June 13, though that seems less likely.
Life Magazine photo used for CIVILIAN album cover early 1980
Finally, after being off the road for nearly two and a
half years, Giant staged their CIVILIAN tour in May and June, though
As was the case on their late 1977 MISSING PIECE tour, they again added quite a few new songs into their setlist. However, they kept things simpler this time, with less multi-instrumental interplay between the members than on previous tours. Gone were the violin, cello, vibraphone, saxophone and trumpet. Still present were the recorder quartet during The Advent of Panurge, the guitar quintet during Memories of Old Days, and the "shulberry" during Playing the Game. Their intention was to employ two different methods of stage presentation on this tour. They would keep things to a bare minimum at the smaller club dates while using a few interesting staging and lighting effects for the bigger theater dates, such as the projected hologram images believed first used in early 1977. It’s said that these were used during Memories of Old Days and On Reflection. Supposedly, some sort of long-planned ”video presentation” was also initially intended as part of the show, but the band was quoted in a 1980 press report as having run out of time to finish its preparation. They kept to this two-pronged plan at first, but a truck accident a week or so into the tour resulted in some equipment damage, necessitating all the shows, regardless of the type of venue, to be simplified from that point on.
TYPICAL SETLIST (Mid 1980)
All Through the Night/Free Hand
Memories of Old Days
Knots/Playing the Game - The song Knots was played in a heavier, considerably different arrangement than had been used previously.
Giant For a Day/Inside Out - The song Giant for a Day became the only song from their album of the same name to ever be performed live. During the song, Derek would wear the "giant mask" pictured on that album's cover.
It's Not Imagination
Underground - the new home for the 5-man drum bash. The song began with the "subway" recording heard on the new album.
The Advent of Panurge - played in the encore position. Yankee Doodle was back during the recorder quartet, this time doubled on the bass.
Number One - This was usually performed as a second encore.
The rock and roll drum lead-in of John Weathers before the opening song, Convenience, set the tone for the straight-ahead nature of Giant's 1980 gigs. However, these shows were certainly not devoid of creativity. Several new mini-medleys, combining songs from different albums, were put into the setlist. The full-length Excerpts from Octopus was retired, but Knots and The Advent of Panurge were still played individually.
Derek's habit of introducing himself as some other famous singer continued on this tour. At times, he even introduced himself and the whole band, by name, as the members of Yes, much to the audience's delight. On occasion, the group would even follow this with a couple measures of Yes' Siberian Khatru or Close to the Edge.
May 6 Stony Brook, New York Stony Brook University Gary’s printed itinerary had the band doing their pre-tour rehearsals at this Long Island University and then playing a gig there on this date. However, the Rensselaer date the following night was the official start of the tour so, if a gig was played on May 6, it was just an unofficial tune-up show to prepare for the real tour. There’s also a very real possibility that the pre-tour rehearsals ended up somewhere else in the general New York City area.
May 7 Rensselaer,
New York Hullabaloo This was the
tour’s first official concert before a paying audience. It was held in a tiny club oddly located in
the middle of a suburban residential area, and it was packed. Ray later claimed to like this particular
venue. Beforehand, John was spotted
carting crates of concession items into the loading area and when asked about
it, he joked that Giant was a “family operation”. During the soundcheck,
Kerry was heard playing Cliff Richard’s It’s
So Funny and he also began to have trouble with his keyboards. Progressive band 805 was the opening act and
during their own brief soundcheck, their guitarist
continually played the main riff from GG’s All Through the Night. Then, during their actual opening set, Gary
was seen watching them from backstage.
When Giant finally hit the stage, Kerry’s keyboard troubles had not
cleared up and he was forced to play many of his parts on the Hammond
organ. Being the very beginning of the
tour, there were also a few other problems, such as band members forgetting
some lyrics or missing the odd instrumental line, but they just looked at each
other and laughed. GG was quite popular
in this area of
May 8 Syracuse, New York Stage East There is a tape of this concert at which 805 again played support. Ray claimed to like this venue also.
May 9 Montreal, Quebec Theatre St-Denis They did two shows, both sold out with a crowd of around 1500 each. The second show began around midnight, as planned, but the ticket stub read 11:59 P.M. to maintain the integrity of the May 9 date. The opening act for both was a local acoustic pop/jazz/bossa nova singer named Diane Tell, who performed alone with just a classical guitar. This concert took place at the height of a political upheaval in Quebec Province when many were seeking independence from the rest of Canada. During the show, chants from the crowd arose, hoping to entice Derek to voice support for the cause, but he did not oblige. A very brief silent 8mm film clip of one of these shows exists, but which show was filmed is not known.
May 10 Toronto, Ontario Massey Hall About 2500 people saw Nash the Slash, ex-violinist from the Canadian band FM, open this gig, although he later mistakenly recalled it having taken place in November, 1981. He said he was well-received and was called back for an encore.
Toronto ticket May 10, 1980
May 11 Rochester, New York Triangle Theater Although originally scheduled and advertised for Rochester’s Auditorium Theater, this show was relocated at some point to at the smaller Triangle Theater nearby. Earlier purchased tickets were printed as reserved seating at the Auditorium, while later tickets were printed as general admission at the Triangle. 805 was slated to open this show, as well, although two fans who were present remember that a comedian may have been on the bill instead. Ray stated in a published interview in the city’s Democrat and Chronicle that the band had fond memories of playing in Rochester.
May 12 Detroit, Michigan Harpo's Theatre This was an old movie theater converted into a club. The support act was a punk style band called Nikki and the Corvettes. The audience grew restless during their set, angering Nikki, their female lead singer. As she announced their final number, the crowd erupted into applause. Interestingly, even Nikki herself agreed that putting these two bands on the same bill was a bad idea.
Detroit ad May 12, 1980
Cleveland May 13, 1980
May 15 Buffalo, New York Kleinhan's Music Hall The band 805 opened the show, as they had in Rensselaer, Syracuse and Rochester, and the place was packed. A member of 805 has since recalled GG as being “humble and friendly and very funny in the dressing room“. Sadly, it was after this gig that a truck carrying the neon "Giant's head" that often hung over the stage was involved in an accident and the head was destroyed for good. This head had already been damaged once or twice during the early 1977 tour. It was also used as a stage prop during the late 1977 tour. It was one of the few stage props used at the beginning of the 1980 tour, but it made its final appearance at this Buffalo show. According to the keyboard roadie who was driving at the time, the truck contained mostly instrumental gear which sustained no damage. Some of the casters on the equipment's flight cases were damaged, however, making the act of rolling things around during setup a bit more difficult for the crew each night but, thankfully, no one was hurt. Another truck carrying the lights and PA was not involved in the accident.
Buffalo - article about truck accident after concert May 15, 1980
May 16 Upper Darby, Pennsylvania Tower Theater This show was over an hour late, as Giant was late arriving at the venue, due to the truck accident after the previous night’s show. Because of this, their set was somewhat abbreviated with a couple tunes omitted. The opening act did not even have time for a proper soundcheck. Determining exactly who occupied this opening slot on the bill has proved quite challenging. On the very day of the show, the Philadelphia Inquirer noted that GG was to be supported by a New Jersey band called Fandango. However, a couple witnesses are sure the openers were a Pittsburgh band called the Granati Brothers, a group discovered in 1977 by Ray and Derek Shulman, who also helped sign them, manage them and produce their first album. As it turns out, that doesn’t appear to be correct, either. The opener was actually a New York City new wave band led by one Philip D’Arrow. One fan has clear memories of D’Arrow’s presence, while D’Arrow’s own guitarist has definitively confirmed this. D’Arrow had recently released an album called SUB-ZERO and he held up a copy of that record during his set, a fact recalled by two members of the audience. The crowd was not terribly interested in the opener, but not overly rude or hostile, either. Some particularly pro-Giant people continually yelled out “Gentle Giant! Gentle Giant!” throughout D’Arrow’s time on stage, causing him to remark, jokingly, that “maybe we’ll do some of their songs next.” His guitarist does recall that D’Arrow was a last-minute substitute, possibly signed on the morning of the show, when the previously booked act canceled out. The confusion no doubt caused by that morning’s truck accident, described in the above listing, may have contributed to this situation, and this could explain the erroneous mention of Fandango in that day’s newspaper. D’Arrow and Fandango shared the same booking agency, so it would have been a simple matter for the agency to quickly contact D’Arrow to fill in. However, the fan recollections of the Granati Brothers’ presence remain unexplained. A review of this show does not mention the opener but the reviewer was quite impressed by the drum bash during Underground, particularly its use of strobe lights. A tape exists of Giant’s set.
May 17 New York, New York Palladium A crowd of 2400 made this concert nearly a sellout. Always the clown, John used a huge number of green beer bottles to decorate the stage for this concert. Unfortunately, the stage lighting was said to be weak on this night. In fact, it’s been said there were various technical problems all night long. Although originally the subject of some debate, it has definitely been confirmed that David Sancious opened this show. He performed a short set with only two other musicians, a pianist and a drummer. During his set, he even played the well-known theme song from the animated Peanuts Christmas TV special and received quite an ovation in the process. As it turned out, both acts received positive reviews in Variety. The possibility has been floated that the Granati Brothers, who were also rumored to be on the bill the previous night in Upper Darby, were supposed to be on this bill as well, but cancelled. On this tour, Ray showed his appreciation for the currently popular punk rock movement by dressing in black leather trousers contrasting nicely with his hi-top red sneakers. At this particular show, one fan in the audience recalls him knocking his knees together at the start of the show, reminiscent of Sid Vicious, the notorious bassist with the Sex Pistols.
New York - marquee for Palladium show May 17, 1980
May 18 New Haven, Connecticut Toad's Place This concert was broadcast live over New Haven's WPLR radio station with a sizeable, though incomplete, portion of it officially released on the MEMORIES OF OLD DAYS compilation. There was a slight delay getting this show started, as the band had some trouble with their gear. In fact, Kerry seemed to have equipment problems of some sort throughout the evening. The band, playing in an area that seemed way too small, complained that it was quite hot on stage.
May 20 During the afternoon, before the two evening sets in Chicago listed below, the band visited Pierce Arrow Studio in nearby Evanston, Illinois, a state of the art facility, with the possibility in mind of considering its use for their potential next album. Of course, there ended up being no next album. Band members described this studio visit in an interview held between sets that night.
May 20 Chicago, Illinois Park West They did two shows, the second added at the last minute. The support act was the midwest band Faustus. GG had some sound problems during the early show, particularly with Derek's monitor. While being interviewed between the two shows, Ray claimed to not like this venue, saying it was too business-like and didn't lend itself to rock and roll. The venue was actually an old adult movie theater which had recently been refurbished and seated 750. Originally, Giant had scheduled this midwest date in the middle of their east coast dates because they expected to participate in some sort of big live satellite radio broadcast. However, this was postponed, so they headed back east the next night, expecting the broadcast to be rescheduled sometime within the following two weeks. As it turns out, though, no such satellite broadcast ever took place. Phil Collins of Genesis is believed to have been in the audience at one of these shows, quietly sneaking out afterwards. One report has some audience members booing the band during Betcha Thought We Couldn’t Do It at one of the shows, as well.
Chicago May 20, 1980
May 22 Boston, Massachusetts Paradise Club They did two shows at this 400 seat club. The sets were similar although, at the early show, they left out the song Number One, traditionally done as a second encore on this tour. This could have been due to time constraints, as the club management had very little time to clear out the first crowd so the second crowd, waiting outside, could enter. The first show was packed and the second a little less so. One fan who was at both shows remembers the band being a bit tense during the early show and a bit more loose and relaxed, as well as louder, during the second show. There was tumultuous applause after the first show’s encore, causing one anonymous audience member to remark that it was the greatest response he’d ever seen for a band at the Paradise. A tape of the early show definitely exists and while the late show was also recorded, that tape was stolen and is now missing. Opening for both performances was a local band called the Shane Champagne Band. Giant was also originally scheduled to appear in Boston on May 21, but it's very unlikely that they played both nights.
May 23 Asbury Park, New Jersey Fast Lane This date was a last minute substitution. Originally, the group was set to play at the Mid-Hudson Civic Center in Poughkeepsie, New York but that concert was cancelled a couple weeks before showtime. One fan who was planning to attend believes it was due to poor ticket sales. This club date in Asbury Park was quickly booked instead. Regina Richards and the Red Hots, a Brooklyn dance music act, opened the show.
May 24 Hempstead, New York Calderone Concert Hall broadcast live over New York City's WLIR radio station. Regina Richards and the Red Hots served as the opening act, as they had done at the Asbury Park gig. Their short set was not well received. Amazingly, one fan at the show claims to have been quite impressed when Ray rode his motorcycle onto the stage wearing a tight leather jacket. However, a couple other fans have confirmed that this rather unusual claim is false. During Memories of Old Days, Gary's acoustic guitar died, so he finished the song using an electric guitar. As the band began playing the song Giant For a Day, a fan tossed a poster at Derek on which he had painted the mask from the front cover of the album of the same name. Derek held it up during the tune and the poster remained on stage for the rest of the concert, first near the bass drum, then in front of the keyboards. During the encore, Derek dedicated the song Number One to the New York Islanders hockey team who had just won their league championship on that very day. While singing the song, he even wore an Islanders shirt presented to him before the number. On this particular occasion, Derek introduced himself as Ted Nugent.
Hempstead May 14, 1980
May 25 Owings Mills, Maryland Painters Mill Music Fair A tape exists of this concert which had Giant performing on a circular, rotating stage. The opening act was Face Dancer, the same band who opened for Giant in Bailey’s Crossroads, Virginia on Nov. 10, 1977. At this 1980 show, it’s known that Face Dancer, who were normally viewed as local home town heroes in Maryland, were very poorly received and left the stage in humiliation after just a few songs. For some reason, the tickets for this show listed the headliner in plural form as “Gentle Giants.”
Owings Mills May 25, 1980
May 29 Atlanta, Georgia Agora There was no support act and the sound in the hall was reported to be quite good this evening. The show was broadcast live as it happened over Atlanta’s WKLS radio station. On the broadcast, the band came across very loose and relaxed. While presenting the members of the group, Derek referred to himself as Jimmy Carter who, prior to his stint as U.S. President, worked right in Atlanta as Governor of the state of Georgia.
May 31 Gainesville, Florida Great Southern Music Hall There may not have been a support act on this evening. Towards the end of the show, a number of people in the crowd began throwing marijuana cigarettes onto the stage. One fan in the front row then handed them to Ray, who placed them on a drum.
June 1 Miami, Florida Gusman Cultural Center Interestingly, Derek introduced the song Knots to the crowd as a “psychedelic” song. One fan claims Giant looked ill during this concert, even remembering John Weathers repeatedly throwing up into a bucket on stage during the show. As it turns out, the fan was correct. The band had eaten some bad burgers beforehand, jokingly described by Derek in a backstage press interview after the gig, as “Kentucky Fried Rat”. This also explains why Derek frequently left the stage when he was not singing. The food poisoning hit the players when the opening act, a group called Hoochie, took the stage, and continued through all of Giant’s set. Gary recalls this difficult gig, but says they still managed to put on a good show, even though they played without their own lighting and sound rig which was, unfortunately, on its way to Houston, the site of the following night’s show.
June 3 Houston, Texas Palace A San Antonio band called Heyoka opened the show. This Houston show may have been originally scheduled for June 2, but clear evidence exists that it, in fact, took place on June 3. The Palace was originally known as the Agora Ballroom, but had recently changed its name prior to this concert.
June 4 Dallas, Texas Bijou Showcase Club Opening the show was a band called Lightning. This small club was so crowded that the local fire marshal came and threatened to cancel the show if some people did not leave. It appears that security personnel at the club used a rather nasty method for thinning out the crowd. The show was late getting started and as waiting fans left to use the bathroom, they were not allowed back in and were forced to leave the premises, even though they had valid ticket stubs. Others presumably took their seats. Quite a crowd eventually gathered in the parking lot and scuffled with police officers, but to no avail. It’s rumored that some of these forcibly ejected paying customers later filed a lawsuit against the Bijou. The show finally did get underway about a half hour late.
Dallas backstage pass and ticket June 4, 1980
June 5 Austin, Texas Armadillo World Headquarters A fan recalls this as being yet another well-received Austin show, with about 2500 in attendance. It's possible the band changed their normal song order and opened with Playing the Game.
June 6 Norman, Oklahoma Boomer Theater This was an old movie theater that only seated around 600. It has been described as “not having a bad seat in the house”, but also offering less than adequate air conditioning. When Derek first spoke, he joked that the band would be playing selections from CLOSE TO THE EDGE, IN THE COURT OF THE CRIMSON KING and TRICK OF THE TAIL. Of course, they did no such thing.
June 8 Denver, Colorado Rainbow Music Hall The Rainbow was a 1300 seat venue, with Billboard reporting 958 in attendance. Listen Up, the Denver audio company which had professionally recorded many of the rock concerts at local nightclub Ebbets Field earlier in the decade, began recording shows at the Rainbow after that venue closed in 1976. They recorded this show and Denver's KAZY radio station broadcast an edited version of it shortly after it ended, the broadcast starting at midnight on June 9. A funny moment happened during the broadcast when, before Memories of Old Days, the announcer started the tape at too slow of a speed, then had to adjust it. The Rainbow was a converted movie theater with a capacity of about 1000. One fan at the show claimed the hall had terrible acoustics, though others have disputed that. Outside, it was a rainy, windy day and, partway through the gig, the ceiling over Kerry’s head began to leak. The band also had problems with their stage lighting at the beginning of the show. They soldiered on, though, even handing out GIANT FOR A DAY masks to audience members. The opening act for this show was the Colorado reggae musician John Bayley.
Denver June 8, 1980
June 9 Albuquerque, New Mexico KiMo Theatre This show was cancelled, due to too few tickets being sold.
June 10 Tempe, Arizona Dooley’s Dooley’s was a chain of small clubs in the southwest US, this one seating no more than around 300 patrons. One of those present believes the band looked a bit tired on this evening.
June 11 Tucson, Arizona Dooley's The band played two shows on this evening. As publicity for these concerts, Tucson radio station KWFM played an ad featuring the subway train recording heard at the beginning of Underground, along with an announcer proclaiming that Gentle Giant was "rolling into town". The Tucson Dooley's was an old renovated church that was converted into a nightclub in 1977, before finally burning to the ground in 1983. Supposedly, it had also been used, at one time, as a fraternity house, due to its being adjacent to the University of Arizona campus. There was a wooden balcony, once a choir loft, around the interior of the club which extended quite a ways inwards, so that patrons in the front of the balcony appeared to be looking almost straight down onto the stage. Kerry is said to have appeared a bit apprehensive about the people watching from there. According to fan reports, the place was packed for these shows and the crowds were raucous but enthusiastic. Attendance at the early set is known to be around 250. There was not a musical act in the support slot. Instead, a juggler named Chris Bliss entertained the appreciative crowd with his juggling and his joke telling. Before finally correcting themselves, the Arizona Daily Star advertised an incorrect date of June 10, perhaps confusing this with the Dooley’s gig in Tempe the night before. The promoter, Evening Star Productions, claimed to have lost money on nearly every Tucson concert it had organized since February, but did break even on the Giant shows.
June 13 West Hollywood, California The Roxy They did two sold-out shows on this, the first of three nights at this famous nightclub outside of Los Angeles. Comic juggler James Marcel, known for juggling chain saws, bowling balls and the like, served as the warm up act for both sets. An audience tape exists of Giant’s set at what's believed to be the early show, though it's also believed that the Roxy's sound man recorded both shows from the house mixing desk. At this early show, the group got off at the very beginning of For Nobody and had to start again. An audience member in attendance at both shows recalls the crowds being quite unmoved by the band's newer material, with the exception of Inside Out, for some reason. During one of the shows, Derek threw his mask into the audience at one point and was saddened to see that no souvenir collector even bothered to pick it up for a while. At the sold out late show, Derek, who admitted to being drunk, had some trouble remembering his words during The Advent of Panurge. Gary, also drunk, lost one of his sticks during the drum bash. A fan in the crowd retrieved it and, since Gary apparently didn't have another stick, the fan reluctantly gave it back to him. As a thank you, Gary returned the stick to the fan after the song.
West Hollywood’s Roxy Theatre early show review June 13, 1980
June 14 West Hollywood, California The Roxy They did two more sold-out shows, again both supposedly recorded by the Roxy's sound man. An existing audience tape of the early show shows Derek teasing the crowd by referring to the venue as the Forum, a much larger Los Angeles hall. In addition, an audience tape of the late show is also known to exist. Juggler James Marcel again opened the shows.
June 15 San Francisco, California Old Waldorf The band played two general admission shows upstairs at this club, which is believed to have held, at the most, 300 people. Originally, they only planned on one performance at 8:00 but it sold out so they added another show at 11:00. The opening act for both shows was comedian A. Whitney Brown, who received a mixed reaction from the crowd. This was originally scheduled as the final night of the tour. However, as the tour went along, things were reassessed and the band ended up adding one more night in West Hollywood. A fan at one of these San Francisco shows had the impression that the audience was divided, half cheering wildly for the older tunes and the other half mainly interested in the newer material. During the concert, an audience member up front yelled loudly to Derek, asking if he’d “rather be playing the Coliseum”, possibly referring to a venue in nearby Oakland. Derek repeated the question and responded, “sure, of course”. Gary recalls that near the end of the concert, a fan presented the band on stage with a giant replica of the “missing piece”, the puzzle piece pictured on their 1977 album by the same name. A tape of one of this evening’s shows has been rumored to exist, but the rumor is probably unfounded.
San Francisco ticket June 15, 1980
June 16 West Hollywood, California The Roxy They again did two sold-out shows, with juggler James Marcel opening. Both shows were added after the original tour schedule was set. As late as the end of May, the Los Angeles Times was advertising Roxy Giant shows only for June 13 and 14, with Tommy James slated to appear on June 16. However, the June 1 issue of that newspaper listed the amended schedule. As is befitting a final gig of a tour, it’s known that many Gentle Giant masks, teeshirts and other memorabilia were tossed into the crowd towards the end of the late show. During this same show, the band held an awards ceremony of sorts, presenting their sound man with a food mixer painted gold and their lights man with a light bulb. Additionally, the band held a little sing-along during the "hey friends" section of The Advent of Panurge. These light-hearted diversions were sadly edited out of the 1996 officially released LAST STEPS LIVE AT THE ROXY album. Again, the Roxy's sound man is said to have taped both shows. A different, totally separate soundboard recording of the late show, recorded by a roadie named Ritchie, was the tape made into the official live album which, interestingly, was released with the incorrect date of June 14. Richie’s tape was a modified soundboard recording with one channel taped directly from the mixing desk and the other from an open mike. The two channels were then blended together to create the mono mix found on the live CD. In 2013, a large, though incomplete, chunk of this live CD was reissued as part of the MEMORIES OF OLD DAYS compilation album, thus further helping to preserve Gentle Giant's very last live performance.
West Hollywood’s Roxy Theatre - ad for Giant’s very last performance June 16, 1980
* Valedictory *
Original plans called for a European leg of the CIVILIAN
tour, including some festivals and television appearances. They even hoped to play two or three dates in
Although a full-scale reunion seems highly unlikely, a few members of the band have stayed involved in the music business in some capacity. The most exciting development occurred in 2008 when Gary Green and Malcolm Mortimore, with the assistance of a few other seasoned musicians, played a gig together under the moniker of Rentle Giant, performing a number of Gentle Giant pieces. In 2009, with the addition of Kerry Minnear, this group morphed into Three Friends and played ten gigs together, after which Kerry left the group for personal reasons. However, Green and Mortimore plan to continue bringing Giant’s music to grateful audiences into the future.
Even if none of them plays another note together from this point forward, Shulman, Shulman, Shulman, Minnear, Green, Weathers, Mortimore and Smith clearly left behind a remarkable legacy of work for all to enjoy, and historical and archival interest in the band is still very high today. There is no doubt that fans of sophisticated music will continue to be inspired, long into the future, by the music of that mythical beast from the past known as
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