IQ are celebrating their 35th anniversary this year with their annual Christmas Bash show. It’s a must for the seasoned fan, and a warm Christmas celebration for any newbie getting their first encounter with this ongoing ritual.
Before the band begin, the audience are treated to a funny Christmas-themed movie, shown on three projection screens at the back of the stage. And once the movie is over, the band kick straight off with Breathtaker. It’s a bit of a rough start as IQ get into the groove, but they overcome this with plenty of energy.
Songs from their latest album The Road Of Bones are well received by the adoring audience, and frontman Peter Nicholls gets them smiling as he cracks jokes. Before performing From The Outside In, he confesses that tonight’s set might be on the short side because he still needs to do some Christmas shopping. He then announces that there will be a special vinyl version of the album The Seventh House available soon.
IQ have another surprise for the audience with the introduction of a new track, which they refer to as Newie. It sounds industrial and heavy, which will no doubt make a lot of fans curious about the direction of the new album.
After Failsafe, the band leave the stage, preparing themselves for the Christmas encore. It’s always exciting to guess how guitarist Mike Holmes might dress up for it. While the audience wait, they’re entertained by the strains of Japanese dance song Pen Pineapple Apple Pen – just the kind of weird humour you can expect from IQ.
When the band come back out, almost all of the members are dressed up as Christmas angels, big wings included. While Holmes is still absent, probably because he’s busy changing his costume, Nicholls asks the crowd to cheer loudly to encourage him back on stage.
When Holmes does finally reappear on the stage, adorned with the largest angel wings of them all, Nicholls launches into a brief speech about the next song they’ll be playing, which is Greg Lake’s I Believe In Father Christmas. It’s a tribute to all those musicians who we lost over the last year, but especially Lake, who passed away only a week before this gig.
The last song of the evening is Out Of Nowhere, one of the most well-known IQ tracks, and one that always gets the audience singing and dancing.
IQ prove tonight, once again, that they’re still one of the best live bands in prog. Mike Holmes’ guitar solos are as phenomenal as ever, Peter Nicholls still has no flaws in his powerful voice, Paul Cook on drums is just so professional, Tim Esau’s bass and pedals style is always very accurate and newish keyboard player Neil Durant proves he’s more than worthy to be an important part of this band.
The only gripe is the absence of those big Christmas trees that they usually set up either side of the stage for this annual bash. They’re really missed.