HAWKWIND, SPACECORE Agora Theatre April 7
Last Friday, the Hawkwind 25th Anniversary Tour landed at the Agora Theatre. First, let me say that the
idea of mounting a retrospective Hawkwind tour was risky at best. Here we have a band that has had more
lineup shuffles than Jethro Tull, and has only one constant member, guitarist Dave Brock.
It was an idea akin to Grace Slick taking a Jefferson Airplane / Jefferson Starship / Starship revue on the
road. One person can't possibly lay claim to that much history. I'm not saying that Brock doesn't have the
right to tour as Hawkwind (no-one else has more of a claim), but what went down at the Agora last Friday
night left a lot of longtime Hawkwind fans with a bad taste in their mouth.
For this tour, Brock, along with 1980s alumnus Richard Chadwick (drums) and Alan Davey (bass),
enlisted new vocalist Ron Bastard. Bastard was a good enough singer, but what really annoyed a portion of
the crowd was his aping of former Hawkwind lead singer Nik Turner's presentation. A guy behind me
yelled out, "He's even wearing Turner's [glow in the dark] lipstick."
By the third song, the row behind me was unanimous in their condemnation of the show as a travesty.
Turner still tours with a full production show featuring Hawkwind material from his tenure. Brock was
copying something still available in its original form.
I'd never seen Hawkwind before, so I kind of enjoyed their space-rock extravaganza. I do, however,
sympathize with those people who felt they were getting ripped off. If I went to a Marillion show, and they
wheeled out a towering, makeup-wearing Fish clone, I'd be pretty ticked off. Fans of cult bands like
Hawkwind demand a certain level of integrity in exchange for their rabid loyalty. Last Friday night.
Hawkwind shirked on their end of the deal.
I also question the thought process that went into having Spacecore open for Hawkwind. Not that the
bands were mismatched - they were too matched. Although Spacecore played a set of original material,
they basically came across as a Hawkwind tribute band (although some in attendance would attest that they
were a Hawkwind tribute band opening for a Hawkwind tribute band). I don't want to see an opening band
which obviously worships and wants to be the opener [sic: he meant 'headliner']. Imagine John Cafferty
opening for Springsteen or Whitesnake opening for Page & Plant - it just doesn't work.
The band Spacecore is made up of former Destructor members Pat Rabid and Dave Overkill and
Screwtractor's Paul Resnik. Their set was a lot like Hawkwind's: lots of keyboards, "Lost In Space" sound
effects and descending chord patterns. What made their set less than enjoyable were the vocals. Every time
Spacecore began to hit their stride, they'd open their mouths and ruin the mood with some *really* bad
When I first read this review I was astonished at the conclusion that had been drawn here. In a total
reversal of the "official line", which is that the promoters of Nik Turner's 1994 U.S. tour had ripped off the
real Hawkwind (a verdict legally endorsed by American court's issue of injunctions in Brock's favour), the
review chastises Brock for "copying something still available in its original format"!! Am I being
uncharitable in thinking that the only person who would agree with this statement is Nik himself?!
Revealingly, the author of the review admits that "I'd never seen Hawkwind before" and my hunch is that he
knew nothing much about them and possibly had never heard the band before going to the gig. He certainly
seems to have based the thrust of his review on the adverse reactions of the fans who were sitting behind
him, and while there is an element of that being comprehensible in a self-confessed neophyte reviewing
something with a dedicated cult following, logically, condemnation of the whole gig based upon the alleged
"aping of...Turner's presentation" doesn't stand up. This statement reads to me as a complaint that Ron Tree
had somehow usurped Nik's style, as in copying his mannerisms as well as his lipstick (!).
Setting aside such imponderables, a more objective comparison might be obtained from the set lists of the
two bands. Hawkwind's gig at the Cleveland Agora on April 7th 1995 had the following set list: Intro;
Master Of The Universe; You Shouldn't Do That; White Zone; Golden Void; Death Trap; Wastelands; Iron
Dream; Hassan-i-Sahba; Space Is Their; Hassan-i-Sahba; Wave Upon Wave; Robot; Alien I Am; Vega;
Urban Guerilla; Silver Machine; Welcome To The Future; LSD. Let's review that against Nik's set list on
his 1994 tour of the USA: Ejection; D-Rider; Master Of The Universe; The Awakening; The Right Stuff;
Armour for Everyday; Nirbasion Annasion; You Shouldn't Do That; Orgone Accumulator; Silver Machine.
Three numbers overlap between the two sets (Master Of The Universe, You Shouldn't Do That, and Silver
Machine). That's about 30% of Nik's set, but only 15% of Hawkwind's - so much for the notion that
Hawkwind were just ripping off what Nik had been doing across the USA the year before. The reviewer
also seriously misunderstands just who originated this material (Nik co-wrote only Master Of the Universe
and You Shouldn't Do That, but Brock's fingerprints are on those too, as well as on everything else). So
we are left with the fan's reaction, by which the review above was totally coloured.
What really seems to have happened was a negative crowd reaction to the direction of Hawkwind circa
1995, with Ron Tree at the helm. It really is ironic to see Ron condemned for aping *Turner* when the
usual observation (a criticism or a recommendation depending on the subjective views of the recipient) was
his apparent homage to Bob Calvert. Cleveland may well have had a stronger admixture of Nik Turner fans
(hello Stephe!), but my guess is that opinion was polarised by the enormous stylistic difference between
what the two bands were doing at the time. Nik's Pressurehed-based touring band in 1994 were treading a
U.S. space rock line, compared with the real Hawkwind's Alien 4-era thrashings. Nik's outfit may well have
had the edge live (see the Nik Turner's Space Ritual 1994 video review compared with the review of the
Love In Space DVD on the Hawkwind DVD's page) and I am personally inclined to prefer Nik's evocation
of classic mid-70's space rock to the cosmic thrash of Hawkwind fronted by Ron Tree; and so this strange
review is perhaps a compliment to Nik after all, though the anti-Brock notes that it sounds are totally
misplaced. Did Hawkwind "shirk their end of the deal"? Almost certainly not...but they probably just
weren't very good, either!
|This page was originally going to be a press clipping
of the gig review from "Scene", a free Cleveland OH
newspaper, dated April 1995, which appears below.
That was before I realised it contained revelations
about Ron Tree and Nik Turner stealing each other's