02 April 2011: IQ – The Robin 2, Bilston, England, UK

My first IQ gig and it was a bit of a special one – the first of their 30th anniversary shows. There was no support band at this gig, instead we got a slideshow of photographs from the past 30 years projected on three screens playing as the band arrived onstage to play a two hour-long set with a few surprises…

Despite a recent lineup change (the addition of Neil Durant on keyboards and return of Tim Esau on bass), the band sounded well rehearsed and professional. Peter Nicholls’ onstage presence is incredible to watch – direct and confrontational with a more subtle and emotional edge to his voice. All of this is contrasted by his onstage banter with the rest of the band, genuinely relaxed and witty with the ability to put the audience at ease and give the impression (even to someone like me, at their first IQ gig) that everyone here has been best mates for years, even more so when one of the audience collapsed and was picked up – without missing a note he stepped forward to offer the guy a bottle of water – always nice to see a band look after their fans!

Being a new fan, there were a few songs in the set I didn’t recognise, but there were some excellent choices there. “War Heroes” went into “Nothing at all” beautifully, “Human Nature”, “Guiding Light” and “Outer Limits” all sounded excellent. As they came to the end of the first part of the set, they treated us to the full version of “The Last Human Gateway” – a real masterpiece played perfectly. All of these were accompanied by beautiful graphics, projected onto the screens behind the band.

For me, the encores had the two best songs of the show – the first encore was “No Love Lost” which would have left me happy, but the second encore was a brilliant version of my favourite – “Awake and Nervous” – made a little more special by the break in the middle where they decided to play part of “Caroline” by Status Quo before going back to finish the song! For me, they’ve managed to get just the right balance of fun and serious going to make a band interesting – something that isn’t easy to determine from listening to their albums, but which comes across brilliantly in their live set.