My expectations weren't high for this; twice cancelled and finally rescheduled on a cold November
Sunday in a little club in central London. The promise of a reformed ICU prompted me to buy a ticket...
and then Fred and Steve pulled out, apparently because they wanted to rehearse and Trev didn't. Oh Dear.
Then the Brian James Gang Cancelled. Indeed the roll call of the missing in action kept growing. Surprise
guests were conspicuously absent or, as will become clear, inconspicuously present.
Rolling up to the venue around 3 pm I'd already missed Lol Coxhill and there was a queuing system
whereby only five people could be let in at once... to enter a tiny subterranean room with a postage stamp
sized stage. It was already crowded and the only attractions were the Barney Bubbles exhibition (with
relevant music in the background - the eighties Stiff acts who Barney drew sleeves for), Trev Hughes's
stall, and the bar. Nik, Harvey and Alan pushed through the crowd and disappeared into a makeshift
dressing room around the back. Everybody carried on standing around. Apparently we were waiting to be
let into the main hall so I nipped off up the road to get a sandwich. A few minutes later Harvey turned up
in the same place to pick up his lunch, still every inch the mad professor. If ever Michael Gambon gets
bored of playing Dumbledore...
The main room was opened and half the crowd instantly gravitated to the merchandising stall - which
featured virtually every Nik Turner release known to man and several other archive recordings, including
a CD of the Imperial Pompadours record, plus a smattering of CDs from Alan Davey, Ron Tree, Adrian
Shaw, Trev Thoms and Earth Lab - and Hawkwind's Spaced Out in London and the Hawkfest 2003 CD.
DVDs too, plus the usual teeshirts and programmes. I think they did good business and the Hawks could
learn a thing or two about merchandising! Meanwhile, the Imperial Pompadours came out on stage,
around 45 minutes behind schedule: basically ICU - Nik, Trev and Dino plus bassist, female backing
singer and percussionist (the main percussion instrument being an empty plastic water canister) - and
backing tapes of the spoken word weirdness sections of the record. The stage set consisted entirely of
selections from the album, sometimes familiar songs generally arranged very strangely. Not exactly easy
listening but interesting enough and genuine Barney-inspired material.
|Barney Bubbles Memorial Concert, 29/11/09
|Thanks to Graham P, the same gent who brought
you all the 'Music from the Hawkwind family tree'
reviews, for the text and photos on this page...
Left: The Imperial Pompadours
Half an hour or so later, after we had been regaled
with Beatles songs over the PA, ICU took the stage:
Nik, Trev, Dino, Nazar and female
percussionist/backing vocalist. Well, actually Trev
is late, off to change his teeshirt. Nik asks
Quintessence if his son Elfin can borrow their
percussion set up. Apparently he can. Cue female
percussionist (noting empty keyboard station): â
€œNik - where's Jim?" Er... Jim (Hawkman) is
nowhere to be seen so they make do without
keyboards. The set leans heavily on the first three albums (Passout, The Maximum Effect, Punkadelic
just in case you need reminding) kicking off with "Watching the Grass Grow", then taking in (in no
particular order), "Solitary Astrid", "Remember Walking in the Sand", "Space Invaders", "Cybernetic
Love" (so that's where the Utopia lyrics started out), "Cars Eat with Autoface", "Gas Money", "Two
Worlds" and â€œLonesome Train" (the only track from New Anatomy). Nik clearly still has an incredible
memory for lyrics, never missing a beat, delivering the whimsical (Two Worlds), the rock and roll
(Lonesome Train) and the deadpan comedy voiceovers. Give this man a job with the Bonzos... he'd be a
great choice for Viv Stanshall's songs. Trev handled singing the harder-edged stuff like "...Autofaceâ€�.
The biggest cheers (and singing along) were for "Bones of Elvis" and "Rajneesh". The set ended with "In
The Mood". Despite the depleted line up they were in fine form: Naz and Dino rock solid, Trev doing the
|Right: ICU in full flight...or is it the Imperial
Pompadours: Nik, Naz and Trev
punky reggae guitar lines and restraining his hard
rock tendencies and Nik imperious on his sax.
Before leaving the stage again, Nik reminds us that
ICU was also a Barney Bubbles project, at least
Barney chose the name (named after a council
department). ICU may be an acquired taste but for
my tastes they were spot on and well worth the
price of entry.
|Above: Turner junior, Nik, Naz ... Naz and Trev
telling his sergeant about his
dreams of the future. Probably
20 people watched the play and
probably fewer heard it, since
the performance was not
amplified and the assembled
crowds carried on talking...
but it was a fascinating glimpse
of Calvert's non-musical work,
his facility with language and
imagery (and various phrases
that would crop up in his
Starting immediately on the small stage, the Pentameter Players performed the two- person one-act Calvert
play "The Stars Who Played with Laughing Sam's Dice", featuring a young Hendrix in the army and
By the time this finished, Quintessence were already on stage but sounded unexciting so I went off for a
pizza. When I returned I would swear they were still playing the same song, which I guess just tells you I
wasn't in the mood for their laid-back fare.
The stage was rapidly set for the main event but it
took a good while before individual Hawks came out
to set up their gear (no roadies to steal their jobs!!). Jerry came out and plugged in his guitar, Alan (who
has grown his hair again) brings his bass, Steve Swindells stood behind his keyboards. Danny Thompson
towered over the drum kit - made it look like a toy kit. Nik carried out his saxophone and flute, Ron Tree
appeared, looking increasingly like an emaciated piece of string, carrying piles of paper, which he
proceeded to drop on the stage and had to pick them up and reorganise them. Harvey took up a position
on the left; Ade Shaw added his bass and then retreated. Nik obviously is centre stage, the rest of the
front line being Jerry, Ron and Alan. With little fanfare they are up and running: the sound from in front of
the stage is solid if a bit ponderous. Alan and Danny keep it solid, the bass drum vibrations a physical
assault. Jerry is efficient without emulating Mr Brock's rhythm attack. Nik's sax is high in the mix but the
keyboards barely audible (although later on, from the back of the hall, the balance is much better). Ron
reads most of the lyrics and has to crouch on the stage floor half the time to see the words, although
some of his performances (notably on Steppenwolf and Psi Power) are really excellent. He is also
convinced that the band are going to play "Urban Guerrilla", twice announcing it to no avail. Alan twice
swaps bass duties with Adrian. No egos here (and none of the nonsense of multiple bassists on stage at
the same time which helped make the early Hawkestra gigs such a farce (if videos of same are anything to
go by). Despite a severe lack of space on stage there are dancers for a few songs (Angel and two friends,
plus Tony Crerar - supposedly, although he never showed his face). The one real let down was the light
show. Pretty non-descript throughout and low intensity.
The set features more than a smattering of Space
Ritual tracks (Orgone Accumulator, Brainstorm,
Master of the Universe, Ten Seconds of Forever, Seven by Seven, Sonic Attack, Shouldn't Do That) but
also ventures into the later catalogue for Opa Loka, a fairly bizarre reading of The Reptoid from Ron, the
above mentioned Steppenwolf (excellent), and the closing Psi Power (outstanding - by this time Iâ€™d
drifted to the back of the hall and could actually hear Steve Swindells' keyboard work - and for once Ron
didn't need to read all the lyrics).
Nik announces that they need to bring things to a
close and reads out apologies from Thomas Crimble
(present apparently but arrived too late to play),
Terry Ollis (off with flu), Mick Slattery (injured
finger), Stacia ("perhaps she couldn't get two seats
on the plane" says Alan), and DikMik. Simon King
is somewhere in the audience he says, but doesn't
rise to Nik's invitation to join them on stage. The
crew are thanked, and the spirit of Barney invoked
again. It's probably not fair to say this but the real
elephant in the room is Dave Brock's inevitable
absence from proceedings. The band conspicuously
lacks the edge of the real thing but on the other
hand they are all speaking to each other despite past
differences, they all have some genuine claim on at
least some parts of the legacy and Nik is a fabulous
front man. Age has not slowed him down.
By this time, I was standing at the back of the hall
to ensure I could make a quick getaway to catch
my train. Looking around I finally spotted him, an
unassuming, neatly dressed and short-haired middle aged man, chatting to Trev Thoms. Acknowledging
Nik's stage announcement with a small wave, Simon King, the former Hound Master and engine room of
Space Ritual era Hawkwind, slips out of the door. Sometimes it's better that legends stay that way... And
as the Hawklords bludgeon their way into Silver Machine, this seems like a good time to leave.