|Gig Review 7 - Leeds 06/11/2001 & Manchester 10/11/2001
This review was written by Paul Eaton-Jones, and appears here with his approval
Welcome To The Future
Hurrah! A Hawkwind Autumn tour once again. Hurrah at seeing Hawkwind twice in a year and who are
the galaxy's best combo, as any fule kno'. Cradle Of Filth are a gurl's group. They sing "hullo clouds,
hullo sky". They are weeds. I had seen them at this venue during the short Spring tour when Spacehead
were the support.
Leeds Irish Centre is not the type of hall you might expect Hawkwind to have played since their very early
years. Also they are not Irish nor particularly fond of the centre. Imagine a cross between a community
centre and a working men's club and you will get the idea. The stage is at the back and there's a raised
seating area at the opposite end with two bars down each side and a dance floor in between the stage and
the seats. All very cosy.
The doors open at 20:00 and we all file in looking for a drink, T-shirt stalls or familiar faces. My friends
and I settle for down front and to the right hand side. We watch as various roadies and Mr. Dibs move
to and fro across the compact stage tweaking and adjusting as roadies do. That is, roadies who were
absent at the sound-check.
Then from the wings on the left comes Huw Lloyd-Langton acoustic guitar in hand and walks to the
microphone. He speaks. "Tim Blake was going to play but unfortunately he can't get back into the
country. He's been held up at customs - too many busts so you're stuck with me". This was greeted by
loud cheers. He plugged his lead into his guitar and gave us an extended version of 'Solitary Mind Games'
with a good bit of 'FÃ¼r Kirsty' in the middle section before returning to the main theme. He then picked
out the intro. to '5th Second Of Forever' that drew a cheer from one part of the crowd. Huw stopped
playing and told them, "wrong song" and started again. As the intro. faded he started 'Wind Of Change'
(the LLG song) and called out, "I told you". This has never been a favourite song of mine but Huw gave
it different phrasing and slowed it down and it worked well as an acoustic number. For his last piece,
"before the main attraction", we had 'Rocky Paths'. Again this worked well in a different form and the
audience sang along. All too soon Huw's 25 minute solo spot was over and he left to prolonged cheering.
He looked and sounded very good especially when we consider some of the difficulties he's had in the
past 3-4 years.
"A man tired of Langton is tired of life"
21:37GMT (well we must be precise): the house lights dim, figures move on from the left and we see the
silhouettes of first Simon, then Dave, Alan, Richard at the back, and Huw. Their hellos are answered by
our cheers. The stage lights come up while the guys are plugging in and checking 'stuff'. The familiar
beeps and runs of 'Lighthouse' start up and my initial thought is, "who's going to do this?". What a
surprise when Dave pops up, adjusts the microphone and starts singing. An even bigger surprise is when
we hear how he does it. I have ALWAYS loved Dave's voice especially when it doesn't have too much
echo put on it and feel he should do more vocal work. For this tour he appears to have lowered his pitch
by half an octave maybe a bit more - a baritone rather than a tenor. Puberty at last! Where Tim, bless
him, cracks on the high notes of this song, Dave hits everything right in the middle. As a result this is
now a first-class song. The bass and drums really drive this along with the other instruments not yet up
in the mix. This was the case for about 20 minutes.
Beauty defies the beasts
Lighthouse wound to a close and following a few more adjustments the opening chords of 'Levitation'
thundered round the room. Having heard the 'Yule Ritual' I knew what was to come. Those who hadn't
bought it would have been pleasantly surprised as the intro. seemed to be that of 'Arrival In Utopia'. This
was a typical Hawkwind wild-ride that slowed a little during the middle section to allow an electronic
'improvisation'. Then to huge cheers a girl emerged from the wings to follow in the footsteps of Stacia,
Rene, Rikki, Julie, Kris etc.. Yes, Hawkwind has a dancer again. She cut a slight figure compared to the
guys, who, Simon apart, aren't giants, so you can see how slight she is. Her movements were vaguely
'eastern' and fitted well with the music.
At the Manchester Uni. gig four days later this part was enthusiastically greeted by a chap who, to my
eyes, was on Ecstasy. He turned his back to the stage and treated us to wild, gurning smiles. These were
accompanied by leaps into the air, heel spins and of course the 'big fish, little fish, cardboard box' hand
movements. He made a number of appearances during the rest of the evening. Some of which, he
himself was aware.
Brave Brock becomes Blair's bane
As the final "Levitation, Levitation, Levitation" died away, Dave came in with "Education, education,
education". He then told us we were about to be entertained by Mr. Simon House who would give us
something by DvorÃ¡k. Well no, it was going to be something he wrote a long time ago, 'Spiral Galaxy'
(28948). Simon placed the violin under his chin and Dave promptly sat down! Right there, beside his set
of synths, took a drink from his bottle, and watched the rest of the band get on with it. Ha. What a guy,
the rocking never stops. This is a good piece that I've always liked and tonight we had a version that
was close to the original.
As our cheers faded Huw came to the mic. and picked out the chords to one of my favourites -
'Moonglum'. He and Alan have always done this song justice. The power of the words to evoke the
scene from 'The Sleeping Sorceress' where Elric walks from a castle to take on the forces of Chaos
single-handedly (and win) is really amazing. This coupled with the moving instrumental section is what
sends shivers down my spine. Tonight was no different.
The next song was a real treat. 'Brainbox Pollution'. I'd not heard this since 1974 when it opened 'The
Ridiculous Roadshow' tour - my first tour, incidentally. Dave and Alan sang this with Alan doing
Lemmy's middle bit. Then another old one - 'Wind Of Change' - together with dancer, Jenny. Again,
another favourite. Simon and Huw played the melody to stunning effect. All it needed was the 'City-Tree'
slide-show to make it complete (or am I trying too hard to recreate the past?)
Next up an old crowd pleaser - 'Angels Of Death'. After 20 years Dave and Huw could play this one in
their sleep and to be honest there have been times in those 20 years you might have thought they were.
But not this time. From the first ground out chords they hit the spot. Dave's vocal was as exact as was
the backing by Alan and Huw. He has always had a sound that is distinctive to him and during this gig he
hit new levels.
Following the familiar strains of 'Angels' the first few notes of the next song were something of a
mystery. This turned out to be yet another piece I'd not heard for years. Twenty-six to be exact when
Lemmy performed it at Leeds Uni. It was 'The Watcher'. Some of my friends had never heard it
performed and were well pleased. The version we got was the 'live' one, that is with the extra verse -
"everything is warm and calm, down here on the funny farm". Alan performed the lead vocal and handled
The shake (sic) of Araby
22:25. We were now into the end part of the concert when the rising and falling arpeggios of 'Motorway
City' start swirling around the room. Just when you might have thought things couldn't get any better, the
band ratchet the sensations up several more degrees. With Dave pitching his voice lower this is now an
excellent song, even better than ever. Again very similar to the 'Yule Ritual' version. At Manchester Huw
tried his E-bow to play the melody as on 'Live '79' but couldn't get a decent sound and abandoned it after
a few bars. Tonight he played 'normally' and we were treated to a very pleasant melody. Immediately
following this to huge cheers comes 'Hurry On Sundown'. I've always wanted the band to play some
very early pieces and was pleased when this popped up at Brixton last year as it works better live. It's not
my favourite song from the 1st LP and I've always longed for 'Seeing It As....' or 'Be Yourself'. But I'm
not going to argue with the reaction it received here and elsewhere.
As this song ended I really, really hoped 'Spirit Of The Age' was going to follow as in Leeds in the Spring
and at Brixton. If I ever got up on stage with the band the song I'd ask to sing would be 'Spirit....'
However when Dave came back to the mic. he said something slightly inaudible about Osama bin Laden
and "this was written by Bob Calvert 25 years ago and nothing has changed. It's still all about oil and
petrodollars. So let's get to it". Simon bows a wonderfully evocative Eastern intro. as heard on 'Quark...'
and the rest of the band come in on cue and treat us to a thundering version of 'Hassan I Sahba'.
Personally I've never been keen on Alan's voice on this one, well to be honest I don't actually like it. He
seems to have to stretch for the higher notes and that spoils it for me. Nobody has done it in the same
menacing way that Bob did. Ron does it well, Nik OK, Dave has never sung it as far as I know, but I
think Alan tries too hard. Even so this is a good rendition. The middle section is great mixture of Eastern
melodies from Simon's violin, furious drumming, pounding bass runs interlaced with swirling
synthesisers. The young dancer, Jenny, comes back on to glide across the stage and sway provocatively
around Alan. He seemed very pleased with the attention. During part of this instrumental section Richard
turned his back to the audience and his attention to something behind his drum-kit. I'd guess it was either
a set of congas or some electronic gadgetry. Soon however everyone but Dave was girding up for the big
finish to the song. Huw and Alan exchanged knowing smiles and kept on casting glances (not sly ones)
across the stage in his direction but he was too intent on generating howls, whistles winds and other
assorted FX. When he'd had enough he swung his guitar strap across his shoulder, waited until everyone
was looking at him and gave the 'Brock nod' as if to say "all right lads, into the final stretch and let's wind
this one up". The sound died away and the crowd erupted into wild cheers and whistles as the band
walked off into the wings. They'd been on stage for an hour.
After a couple of minutes of us all doing our teenage girl- thing of shouting and, it must be said,
screaming for our boys, our boys came back for the encore we all knew they would do. I'm sure there is
a PhD thesis in there for someone. Why do grown men react like that towards a bunch of other grown
men who play them some songs? Hmmmm.
With a rebel yell, she cried: "You're playing WHAT for an encore?"
The songs chosen for the encore are not the ones I'd have picked, I must confess, and I have to admit to
a some feeling of disappointment. But hey-ho. The familiar (and after nearly 30 years of following the
band most of it IS familiar, no bad thing) bass line of 'Assault And Battery' is picked out. It started off
quite well but during the instrumental part oh dear. I could have closed my eves and imagined the guys
dressed in tuxedos playing in a cocktail-lounge. I promise you. It was the blandest 5 minutes of
Hawkwind I've ever encountered. AOR from mid-80's USA. Not a nice sound. By the time I saw them
again four days later they had a much better version worked out. As this eventually came to end and the
whistles and soaring violin of the intro. to 'Golden Void' sounded out, I saw Dave bending over his synths
shaking his head seemingly in frustration. 'The Golden Void' was as dynamic as 'Assault And Battery'
was bland and enlivened by Jenny once again twirling and swirling across and around the stage.
Rickenbacker, drive off the cliff, I'm committing suicide
The final song was 'Ejection' and how I wish it hadn't been. The instrumental bits were fabulous but I've
never thought this works live and tonight confirmed my feelings. Alan's voice doesn't suit 'Ejection and he
again has to strain to reach some of the notes and to my ears at least he shouts the words out. Don't
think I'm being unduly critical of him, I've met him, read interviews with him and think he's a truly
wonderful chap who has brought dynamism and youthful energy to the band. But my feelings are that his
voice isn't suited to some of the band's songs. Well that's enough bitching. I think I caught a bit of
'Snake Dance' in the middle of the song before everybody came back in on time to bring the song and the
show to a thundering climax.
So what were my overall feelings and impressions? Notwithstanding my reservations regarding 'Ejection'
in particular, this was one of the best and most exciting gigs I've seen the band perform.
If music be the food of love, here comes the KY jelly
The standard of musicianship has reached another level with the reintroduction of Huw and Simon, who I
believe were playing together for the first time (excluding The Hawkestra last year). The timing was
spot-on with nobody missing their cues, stopping and starting in the wrong place or missing the beat.
The singing was amazing. Huw was on top form with both his guitar and his voice; Simon's violin added
a texture and depth to the sound that I hadn't noticed was missing. He played a few runs on synthesiser
every now and again which were sometimes lost in the mix. Maybe next time he will drag out his
mellotron; Richard pounded and thundered away in a controlled manner that drove the whole show to
dizzying heights; Alan wrestled his bass, often seemingly in his own private battle with the instrument so
intent was his concentration.
Brock the builder, can he fix it?
And what of the venerable Captain Brock? As I said earlier, dropping his voice an octave or so was a
revelation. Every note was hit perfectly; every word enunciated properly e.g. during 'M/Way City' the
words 'Motorway City' and 'lighting up the night sky' were not run together, the 'T's', could be clearly
heard. His rhythm guitar playing was of its' usual high standard; the choppy, figure-of-eight pattern Dave
uniquely(?) employs is to my ears the sound that characterises Hawkwind and the one that has propelled
the band for 30+ years. I just wish he would play lead guitar a bit more often. His synthesiser/electronic
FX playing was mightily impressive and he created some wonderful sounds.
The light show isn't what it was 20-25 years ago and I wish it was. The overall sound was muddy to
begin with though this gradually resolved itself but, again, feel it could be sorted out properly. All in all
then, a mighty Hawkwind gig that saw one of the most experienced line-ups going out on the road and it
certainly showed. We were given a thoroughly professional event and the band appear to have
re-discovered their zest for playing and touring. Now if only Dave would come out from behind his
synths. and sing and play at the front of the stage, I'd be well satisfied.
The audience were a fine bunch - all ages, all social sub-groups as usual. I saw a father and his son both
wearing the current tour T-shirt standing down front and singing along - and were very enthusiastic. The
people at the Manchester gig were a different proposition. I was stood at the back of the room and was
pushed past by dozens of 'fans'. You know, the fuck-wits that subscribe to Boddington's and Joshua
Tetley's conceptual continuity. They brayed and bellowed bovine longing on the numerous occasions they
broke free of the pens of good taste and flew headlong to the bar. Jeez! If someone can't go 90 minutes
without alcohol then it's a sad day. Some of the more worldly esoteric types ACTUALLY DRANK BEER
AND SMOKED DOPE AT THE SAME TIME, a.k.a. pissing in the wind. What happened to our
reputation for audience of sober "Heads" high in orgone accumulation with synaptic connections enough
to appreciate the "trip" at Hawkwind gigs...you know, like the old days? No, space will not be conquered
in a beer barrel. Surely you go to a gig to see the band. Imagine the uproar if you were to be in and out of
the auditorium at the opera. Also a number of idiots decided they would carry on celebrating Guy Faulks
night by throwing bangers around the place. What can one say about such behaviour?
Even with those few reservations I was still knocked out. After all this time Hawkwind are really beyond
criticism - which is why I wish Dave would release some of the stuff in his archive he believes isn't
worthy of public hearing. I realise hard-core fans call for more product than an artist can publish, but
Hawkwind would do well to imitate their imitators and make full use of CDR, MP3, CDs and other "bush"
distribution systems more quickly. God help them if a cover band as good as the Australian Pink Floyd
get on their case and Nik Turner continues to win the internet battle. Hawkwind are still heroes, call them
an institution if you want to although I think that is a patronising term - their abilities, dedication and
professionalism are there for all to see and hear.
My thanks to Nick Ball for the paragraph headings, his editing, witticisms that litter this review and