|Hawkwind @ the Astoria, 29/12/2000
Thanks to Graham P for this gig review, all the way back from December 2000. I'm only posting it
12 years too late. It's well outdated now in terms of the band politics, but read it as a period piece...
The Astoria is [was!] on Charing Cross Road next to Tottenham Court Road tube station and a lengthy
queue had built up by 3 pm. The soundcheck was audible through the walls. Around 3.15, passport
holders were let in. Having got my passport stamped I headed for the main hall - when Dave Brock rushed
past, shouting to someone "... almost didn't make it". Believe it or not, despite following the band for 25
years, this was the first time I've seen him anywhere other than on stage. In the hall, some of the band
were still onstage - Alan Davey in the middle in front of the drum kit, Richard Chadwick behind the kit
(obviously), Keith Kniveton on the right, a new sax player second right. Harvey Bainbridge stood behind a
big keyboard, at the front, stage left - towering over everyone else and looking like some fearsome mad
professor with his shock of grey and white hair. Tim Blake with his computer and keyboard was at the far
left - he was shouting instructions to Alan and Richard about "Lighthouse". Simon House appeared from
the floor and climbed onto the stage. It was of course brilliant to see Harvey, Alan, Simon House and Tim
Blake all with the band. Dave Brock's grizzled features appeared again as he sauntered onto stage in a
shapeless multicolour sweater.
They ran through Freefall, with Harvey on vocals. Dave said hello to all the passport holders. Huw Lloyd
Langton appeared and climbed up onto the stage - Dave Brock announced that Huw would do a short
acoustic set - "he's going to play Solitary Mind Games". Huw asked Dave if he would join him but the rest
of the band disappeared and it became clear that the soundcheck was over. Huw picked up an acoustic
guitar and ran through various bits and pieces for the benefit of the small crowd, including the
aforementioned Solitary Mind Games, a bit of FÃ¼r Kirsty, the intro from The Fifth Second of Forever
and, finally, Rocky Paths. Huw looked impossibly small (not to mention increasingly ancient) close-up.
I wandered off to see what else was going on - there was a Nomads of the Timestream stall with reprints
of the two Michael Butterworth Hawklords novels among the various Moorcock-penned books, various
CDs on sale and not much else yet. Chaos CafÃ© (who provided turkey sandwiches and mince pies)
were setting up on the balcony. I passed Dave Brock again on the stairs, but this time he stopped to talk to
fans who were seeking autographs, so I managed to get the passport signed, even if he barely glanced up.
In the bar, Harvey Bainbridge was holding court so I asked him for an autograph, thanked him and he duly
acknowledged the thanks - no star trips here!
The first proper support set got underway eventually, the hall already filling up - two guys with
keyboards/decks playing nondescript spacey ambient/techno whatever its called these days. Then we got
Spacehead - quite enjoyable even if they sound like Hawkwind's slightly noisier younger brother. They
finished up with a couple of numbers from "Captain Lockheed" - one was Gremlin and I'm ashamed to
say I can't remember whether the other was Ejection, The Right Stuff or Aerospaceage Inferno.
I wandered upstairs to where Tim Blake was supposedly doing signings - no sign of him, but Huw Lloyd
Langton was leaning on the doorway speaking to a group of fans. Another autograph, also some
interesting comments from Huw (see below).
Simon House did a Spiral Realms set - mostly familiar and familiar-ish numbers (Chronoglide Skyway
etc), with Simon looking dapper in an outfit topped by a pink baseball cap - playing the violin and
accompanied by a keyboard player. Pleasant but a bit bland (as someone said). The venue was filling up
and it was harder to move around now and everyone wanted the main event to start - but at 8.00 we got
Tim Blake's solo set. This should have been a pleasant interlude (as it was at Brixton) but, much as I like
New Jerusalem and think the new stuff is okay (and he didn't play Lighthouse since, as he said, another
band were doing it), it sounded like the same set as at Brixton. Two ambient/synth sets in a row was
maybe a bit much anyway, and it was delaying things...
Finally, around 8.40, the band drifted on and took their places during a long instrumental introduction -
Keith Kniveton at the far right, Dave Brock behind him, Alan and Richard centre stage, Simon House to
the right of Alan, Jerry and then Harvey to the left, Tim Blake far left. Jerry Richards was crouched down
at the front with a roadie trying to fix his guitar and/or monitor well into the first number - which was a
pleasant enough Levitation. Mr Dibs was standing at the side of the stage but never actually joined in.
Other guests were Captain Rizz - who appeared during the closing Assassins of Allah and Mike Moorcock
who phoned in Warriors(?) and Sonic Attack from Texas ("this is Texas calling...")
The set, not all in the right order because I didn't take notes, was as follows:
- Dave introduced the band, said Ron would be appearing later, and they launched into Levitation. The
sound from the balcony was a bit muddy - and turned into sludge whenever Alan's bass entered the mix.
Nevertheless, a powerful start and Dave's vocals were spot-on. This really set the pattern: the focus of the
material was very much 1977-80 and Dave's singing was good all evening.
- Ron joined the band onstage for an instrumental which I couldn't place, presumably a recent one, and
Hippy - the only song from a recent Hawkwind album, which came across very well. Throughout the rest
of the set, Alan, Dave, Keith and Richard were pretty much ever-present. The rest of the band, and two
dancers, wandered on and off at different times. Jerry Richards, surprisingly, played only about half the
- Space is Deep / Hurry on Sundown - this was really good - these were the oldest numbers in the set,
sung by Dave obviously and with Dave playing guitar.
- Ron shouted "are you high... are you fucking high?" and this seemed likely to be a cue for Assassins but
it turned out to be another (far more welcome) revival - High Rise. This was sung by Ron, whose vocals
were generally excellent throughout, ably filling the Calvert vocal role even if he has none of Bob's stage
presence (and he carried cue cards on stage with him for all the old numbers - at least it means he gets the
- Flying Doctor - again with Ron on vocals, a really excellent addition to the set.
- Damage of Life - this should, no question, have been the highlight. A long keyboard intro suddenly
coalesced into the familiar riff, first aired on the Traveller's Aid Trust album as an Agents of Chaos track
and revived on Spacebrock. Dave's vocals were generally good but he seemed to fluff a line early on,
Alan's backing vocals were barely audible on the chorus and, with only part of the band on stage, it didn't
have quite the power it should have had.
- Angels of Death - this was an extraordinary version, with the sax taking the lead. Weird but excellent.
- Warriors, Sonic Attack - vocals phoned in from Texas by Mike Moorcock, with the band providing
accompaniment and Dave doing the "think only of yourself" backing vocals.
- Freefall - Harvey's only lead vocal; good to hear this song again (although obviously not a surprise
having seen it at the soundcheck), and to see that the Hawklords album is apparently back in favour.
- Lighthouse - Tim Blake's spotlight. Good, but again no surprises and it was also aired at Brixton.
- Motorway City - this sounded like the slower version off "Family Tree", pleasant but lacking bite. One of
the relatively few songs in the set also played at Brixton - the Brixton version was better however.
- Spirit of the Age - the lead sung by Ron and pretty good too, even if he tripped over the first couple of
- Assassins of Allah / Space is their Palestine - sung by Ron and Alan (Alan's vocals were barely audible),
Captain Rizz joining in with a short rap during "Space". Then it was over, quite suddenly.
Kris appeared, to say sorry, but they had to stop as it was 10.30. She thanked everyone, and reminded
people invited to the post-gig party to pick up their tickets. Unfortunately I had to get back to Reading so
set off to catch the tube and didn't see what else happened. Overall, a brilliant event, excellent
performance by Hawkwind too.
It wasn't all good though: I guess every band has its politics and they did intrude on the event
unfortunately. Huw made various comments to other fans while I was waiting to get his autograph.
Firstly he was speaking about the Brixton gig - "incredible to get 30 geezers like that together, especially
when most of them hate each other's guts". Someone then brought along a "Masques" LP for him to sign
and Huw spent several minutes turning the album sleeve over and over before launching into another bit of
reminiscing. "...you know the artist spent ages doing these masks, getting them lifelike... but Dave's was
too life-like, all the lines...so that's why they're all blacked out. I hate to think how much time...".
Someone asked if he was playing the gig and he shrugged "you'll need to get up a petition...". He said that
when he'd been up on stage he thought he was just doing a soundcheck but in fact the acoustic set was all
we were going to get. Later on, downstairs at Trevor Hughes' stall, someone was asking whether Huw
was playing and I caught part of the answer "...Dave doesn't like the Hawkwind Reunion Band". So that
was it, apparently - Huw (and presumably Nik Turner) are currently frozen out because they're using the
name without the Baron's approval. (So when Dave announced "Huw's going to play Solitary Mind
Games", it looks like that's what he meant!)
It was frustrating to know (and see) that Huw was available to play it but not called on, even on songs like
Angels of Death where his lead guitar was a crucial feature of the original arrangement. In fact, Angels
was played with the sax as the lead instrument - a triumph in terms of sound but I can't help thinking that
the reason Hawkwind featured sax in the first place was because Nik was in the band and it wasn't the
same seeing a hired hand play the sax and flute, however skillfully.
From the balcony I could see everyone on stage and eventually realised the identity of the hunched figure
playing percussion behind Richard throughout most of the set. In an increasingly "Spinal Tap"-like
situation, between numbers Huw could be seen apparently trying to persuade the others to let him on -
being rebuffed and returning to play percussion at the back - well that's what it looked like anyway. Sadly
the gig ended without him picking up a guitar again.
On the train home, I started leafing through one of the books I bought, the 60th birthday tribute
"Moorcock@60.com" - and found Nik Turner's contribution, mainly consisting of lyrics for several Elric
songs that never came to fruition because Nik left the band. For all that it has been a pleasure to continue
following the mothership since the mid-1980s when Nik and then Huw finally departed, I can't help
wondering what would have happened if some of the other "captains" had been able to contribute a bit
more. Thinking back, the Black Sword album is great but knowing that two of Huw's best ever songs
(Moonglum, Dreaming City) were left off it (as was Alan's Arioch), and now seeing Nik's unused lyrics,
couldn't it have been far, far better - a stunning double perhaps? The "reunion" album idea, floated by Nik
during interviews in the music press before the Brixton gig, sounds a better and better idea. Not likely