Hawks in Edinburgh

Thanks to Graham P for this gig review and those photos that are placed inline with the text.  
Hawkwind were live at the Queens Hall, Edinburgh on Saturday 2nd June 2012.
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Every tour it seems that the Hawks play smaller halls... Queen's Hall in Edinburgh feels like a church hall
(complete with pews downstairs) and a small gallery upstairs, and is pretty small. When I arrived, there
was no queue and not many people inside either, although it did eventually fill up. Syren were already on
stage, launching into "Dehumanized" (title track of their first CD). This is not exactly the Syren who
played the 2008 Hawkfest: Erin's partner, drummer Jo, died from breast cancer only a few months ago and
bassist Amanda (who had also played alongside Jo in Rockbitch) quit soon afterwards. Indeed, this was the
debut of the new line up. The new bassist is a large bearded bloke (named Bad Dog, according to
Wikipedia) who seems to have wandered in from a country rock group and the front line was completed by
a female backing singer (Suna Dasi). There was a tiny drumkit in semi-darkness stage right and I didn't get
any impression of who was behind it. Knowing some of the back story inevitably coloured my view of the
gig, but although Erin dedicated one impassioned song to Jo, otherwise it was all played straight: Erin
remains a forceful presence on stage and is an excellent guitarist and singer. In terms of sound, I missed
the fretless bass and, although the total lack of space to move obviously affected dynamics, this new
version of Syren feels less like a band and more like Erin Bennet plus hired hands. Nevertheless, the short
set was solid and enjoyable, with a sprinkling of new songs. The new album isn't out yet but Dehumanized
was on sale in the bar - or as Erin put it, "the guys in the bar will sort you out... and sell you the CD".
Although most of the Hawks' gear was onstage throughout proceedings there was an extended period of
positioning guitars, mucking around with cables and distributing water bottles and hand towels (rock ‘n'
roll!!), etc before the headliners finally took the stage. Long enough to note that Tim's set up was much
reduced and indeed the only keyboard on stage was a small one right in front of Richard's drum kit. There
was also an electric cello was placed stage left, which got people wondering. It rapidly became clear that
Dave Brock had acted on his suggestion of adding someone to help out on keyboards (see the Prog Rock
magazine interview), with none other than Dead Fred (of ICU and Krankschaft) taking his place behind the
keyboards, wearing a baseball cap with a torch on it and generally keeping his head down throughout
proceedings. Dave seemed to be keeping an eye of his new recruit (last seen with the band almost 30 years
ago in a line-up fronted by Nik Turner), every so often going over to exchange words. Tim remained stage
left with theremin and keytar. Dibs, sporting a black kilt, hat and shades, handled most of the vocals, also
taking occasional bass and cello duties. Dave played guitar and sang (and when he did so, he was in
excellent voice), and also wandered off stage at several points during proceedings. Niall alternated between
bass and guitar as well as adding sound effects on synth.
The first half of the set, to be brutally honest, dragged a bit and the atmosphere was just not quite right.
Nobody on stage seemed to be smiling, Dibs shook his head disapprovingly whenever a camera flash went
off (strictly no flash used for the accompanying photos, honest), there were virtually no stage
announcements, and no-one except the dancers moved around very much (although this was not surprising
given the small stage). As ever the presence of the dancers often enhanced the songs (more often than not
in fact, sometimes to stunning effect) but occasionally lent proceeding the air of a village hall pantomime.
The light show was minimal at best but the back projections were excellent, a lot of the material apparently
new.
This was followed in turn by an efficient take on "Sonic Attack". Next up was a track I didn't recognise:
certainly energetic but I couldn't place the lyrics delivered (spoken) by Dibs. “Prometheus" followed,
the only one of the new Blood of the Earth tracks remaining in the set. Up to this point, while every song
was individually good, the concert needed something special to kick it into life.
They set the place on fire!  Literally! (right)
"The Awakening", read by Dibs was followed by an
extended "Better Believe It", which had a long (too
long) central section with lots of instrumental
noodling and spoken contribution from Dibs.  This
set the pattern for "The Hills Have Ears" and "Seasons", both sung by Dibs: rousing during verses and
choruses, a bit flat in the long instrumental sections. "Southern Cross" followed, introduced by Dave as
the consequence of Tim lying on his back in New Zealand, contemplating the stars - "at least he claims it
was inspired by the stars". It is indeed slightly trippy, and a good track, but the set probably needed
something faster at this point. "Assassins of Allah/Hassan-i-Sahba" helped energise the set and indeed
received a better reception. However, again, the long instrumental mid-section dissipated the momentum
gained: this may still be based on "Space is their.." but, if so, it has been stripped down and rebuilt from
the bottom upwards so as to be almost unrecognizable.
From here on in, everything slotted beautifully into place as the band moved effortlessly through â
€œAssault and Battery" (sung by Dibs), "Golden Void" (Dibs and Dave) and "Where Are They Now", the
latter complete with its stunning a-cappella harmony section. It certainly raised the energy level in the
audience, with plenty of singing along to "Assault and Battery"" and “Golden Void" (although the bloke
next to me fluffed the entry of the vocals twice before DB finally stepped up to the mic). The main set
was completed by a splendid and extended run through “Damnation Alley". The encore was
"Psychedelic Warlords" and "Silver Machine".

Hopefully this new incarnation of the band will bed-in - they've already got the sound spot on - and
hopefully too Dave can maintain his enthusiasm for a few more years. Despite the slow start and slightly
dodgy choice of venue, this was well worth the drive down from Aberdeen.
Showing how much they have freshened up the set,
and a very welcome return to the repertoire, â
€œLove in  Space" followed, sung with conviction
by Dave.