|Holmfirth Picturedrome 05/07/2013
|My grateful thanks to Paul Eaton-Jones for this gig review and photos, which show some of the period
features of the venue getting in the way :-)
Originally I had little or no intention of going to see Hawkwind until November as I'm still not convinced of
the point in touring an album in its entirety and Warrior in particular. However, I happened to bump into a
chap on a local avenue ands as he was wearing a Doremi t-shirt and I had a 2002 one on we naturally stopped
to chat. The guy, Andy Beavis, turned out to be a real hard core fan of many years standing and later that day
emailed and asked if I'd like to go with him and a friend to Holmfirth. I 'ummmed' and 'ahhhedâ€™ to myself
and gave in.
We set out from Hull at 14:00 stopping off in Howden to pick up a real Hawkwind veteran, Jim, who first saw
Hawkwind at the Liverpool Empire in 1972 - yes, a Space Ritual veteran! Jim's son, Alex, was the designated
driver so we piled into his car and off we went. The three of us, young Alex is NOT a fan, discussed previous
gigs, albums and our hopes for the concert. Jim had be at the Preston show earlier in the year and was
pleased with what he'd seen. I said I'd last seen them at Shepherd's Bush in 2011 and apart from 'Angels Of
Death', 'SOTA' and 'Psychedelic Warlords' I'd been singularly unimpressed. I felt they were flat, uninspired
and basically chosen the wrong material to play. I said I didn't think that touring Warrior was a good move
either as apart from a couple of songs, 'Magnuâ€™, 'Opa-Loka' and 'King's Of Speed' most of the other
tracks don't work very well live. Having seen them tour Warrior in 1975 and hear them play Assault & Battery
and The Golden Void over the years I simply don't feel they work. So thoughts were batted to and fro and
very soon we were in Holmfirth.
In the car-park outside the venue we saw groups of people obviously there for the gig the Hawkwind T-shirts
giving the game away. Almost immediately I saw the legendary Brian Tawn and his wife Anne. As I moved to
say hello Brian stepped forward and said, "Paul, hi. Good to meet you at last". I had no idea he knew me other
than through our correspondence over the past 35 years or so. We had a quick chat before he and Anne
wandered off to find somewhere to eat. Andy had a word with Dave and Dibs and waved at Tim as the three
of us also walked up into the town for a drink. The first pub we went into, The Nook?, were playing â
€˜Hassan-i-Sahba' from QSC! What were the odds? I looked around for fans but we were the only people in
the place so the staff must have put it on at random. Eventually after eating and a bit more wandering we
ended up at the restaurant next to the Picturedome and saw Brian, Anne and the wonderful Steve Johnson
deep in conversation at the table next to us. I've known Steve for quite a while and always seem to bump into
him at London concerts. Round the corner Richard Chadwick was sat with a large group of people, fans and
crew I think. I eventually saw J-P Drinkall who I'd arranged to meet a few days earlier. I didn't recognise him
without his customary leather hat and lab coat. A number of other fans had also failed to recognise him as
well minus his trademarks.
Eventually the word came that the doors were about to open so we all made our way to the hall. If it was hot
outside it was almost unbearable inside. I stood towards the back of the room close to an open door. The hall
itself is a comfortable size around Â¾ the size of a traditional city hall venue but bigger than York Opera
House for those who know it.
People were still filing in as Tim Blake took to the stage dressed in white shirt, pink jeans (yes, pink) and his
now familiar beret and started his set. I'm not familiar with Tim's solo material and in all honesty Iâ€™m not a
fan of his style of synth/keyboard sounds. He opened with a long theremin solo and gradually brought the
array of synths and keyboards into play. Am I the only person who finds his keytar pointless? Sit down and
play the instruments properly!!! He did produce some very pleasant electronic sounds redolent of Gong, Steve
Hillage all played over a 'dance' beat. He finished with his version of 'Spirit Of The Ageâ€™ which meant we
would almost NOT hear Hawkwind play it much to several people's disappointment. As I've written in
previous reviews I don't think Tim should sing, at all. His croaking delivery is painful and, I have to say,
embarrassing to listen to. He exited to a fulsome round of applause and is clearly well thought of.
The stage remained in semi-darkness while the crew changed the set up ever so slightly and after about a
quarter of an hour there came a long, meandering electronic noodling that eventually led to figures stumbling
onto the stage and shouting out hello to us. Hawkwind had arrived in customary style.
The projectors came to life and onto the screen behind the band was thrown the Warrior On The Edge Of
Time shield. This then opened up to reveal the legend, 'Hawkwind: Warrior 2013' and a space scene with a
space craft bearing the double-headed Hawk logo flying along and ending up at Earth. This brought loud
cheers from the crowd that drowned out the tuning up and electronic sounds. Dibs was at the front with his
'cello and speaks the stark words of 'The Awakening'. As his voice faded away the band launched into â
€˜Master Of The Universe' and fell back on the pad. [Huh?!]
This was not the mind-numbing start I'd hoped for. It sounded bitty and rather disjointed and felt flat. It wasn't
helped by the vocals. Dibs is a fine chap but he's not a lead singer. People have commented that his voice is
getting stronger. It's certainly louder but I'm positive that's because the sound engineer is simply turning up his
microphone. All this does is highlight the quavery quality of his vocal range. Some of the top notes he does hit
perfectly and it sounds good but overall it detracts. He's too shouty. One of the dancers walking on stilts is
dressed in a bull's head with glowing eyes, a long black cloak and waves a double-headed axe, first at Dibs and
then everyone else. The other girl sort of cowers in fear at the monsterâ€™s feet. I'm not too sure what this is
meant to convey but it does look quite good. The middle section is dominated by some truly awful prog-rock
keyboard organ sound, fussy drumming and thin guitar from Dave. 0/10.
The next song was a vey pleasant surprise - 'Steppenwolf'. I'd not heard this since Ron Tree was with them
over 12 years ago. Dibs and Dave share the vocals and give a very good rendition. I must confess that Dibs'
vocal style suit the song very well indeed and I loved his wolf-howls. It was atmospheric, subtle yet menacing
and went on for quite a long time. The middle section wended its way here and there without getting lost with
some tasteful lead guitar from Dave and interesting violin from Fred. The projections featured, I think, a wolf
mask and the Greek drama and humour masks superimposed on a kaleidoscope effect. The song finally faded
A bit of noodling and the band strike up a song from 'Onward' - 'The Hills Have Ears'. Richard and Dibs take
vocal duties but amid the over-elaborate drumming and organ their efforts are completely lost. The
instrumental section is a total mess and sounds under-rehearsed. Again the drumming is unnecessarily complex
to no good effect, the guitar goes nowhere, the keyboards sound pointless and the whole thing is just a noise.
It sounds like all the players are intent on playing what they want and everything appears unrelated. A poor
track from a bad album. There was a time when something like this would never had made it onto a
Hawkwind album. Embarrassing really. 0/10.
Then the moment most have been waiting for. The Warrior cover appears and to the accompaniment of
clapping Tim's organ heralds 'Assault & Battery'. Well 38 years on and it still doesn't work live. It is played
far too quickly, the vocals are pitched too high and all you can hear are the drums and keyboards both of
which are far too intrusive. There is no atmosphere at all. The song segues into 'The Golden Void' as the sax
player joins the band. One of the girls dressed in flowing gold wig moves sensuously around the front of the
stage and is joined by the stilt-walker in a face-hugging golden mask and solar halo and waving an enormous
sword with which she 'knights' the smaller girl. The sax plays a pleasant melody very much like Nik Turner's
original soprano sound. This version is better than I've heard as it's taken at a far more stately pace. But
overall the two tracks lack the majestic, full sound one so desperately wants to hear. The crowd seemed to
appreciate it though as the cheers fill the room. 4/10.
'The Wizard Blew His Horn' is pretty good with some fine electronic sounds and effects though Dibsâ€™
voice lacks the mordant quality of a Moorcock or Turner. Still it IS nice to hear the track.
Then a highlight of the evening. Opa-Loka. What a difference a couple of minutes can make! The stage is in
virtual darkness only lighted by swirling diamond (?) patterns mainly in black and white. Dave and Dibs play
lead/rhythm while Niall plays and good monotonous bass line. The sax man nearly blows his horn straight and
Richard provides a solid drum beat without the frippery. This is what Hawkwind do best - just listen to any
recent recording of 'Angels Of Death'. 8/10.
'The Demented Man' is next and has caused a stir on the Yahoo discussion group - mostly positive. On this
hearing it's hard to understand why. Dave merely strums his acoustic and almost chants the words taking
away all the poignancy of the song. This could have been rescued by the omission of the hi-hat cymbals and
the backing vocals of Dibs and Richard as they added nothing to the track. 3/10.
I realise that this all sounds very negative but this is the show as I heard it. However 'Magnu' picks up the
reigns (I've just seen what I did there!) and lifts the feeling. This is probably the only track from the album that
has ever worked live and tonight was no exception. Bizarrely I noticed Dibs playing his bass with Dave's
trademark right hand figure of eight pattern. Oh for Dave to do it! Fred played some wild violin and Richard
again provided a good solid beat. The song went on for quite a time and while not a jam it went here and it
went there all to good effect. 9/10
'Standing On The Edge' had some fine projections to accompany it. Onto a blood-red sky was projected a
black sword which flew to the hand of one of the figures from the 'Master Of the Universe' album and the
head of one of the dancers also appeared and seem to speak to the audience. The dancers came on dressed in
black fetish-like costumes tantalisingly cut to reveal parts of their bodies which, as a gentleman, I won't reveal
[picture next time, please Paul!] and once 'Spiral Galaxy 28948' started up they gave us a jerky dance routine
in time to the music while they passed the bull-head mask to and fro. The band recreated the original quite
faithfully with no surprises. Part-way through Dave picked up a pair of maracas and seemed to enjoy shaking
them about. 6/10.
The next track, 'Dying Seas of Time' was another highlight. Dibs sang it and played his 6-string. Fred played
some subtle keys and the sax player again recreated the sound and melody of Nik's original. The dancers again
came on, one with the bull mask, the other as a woodland creature and both swung sword and axe at each
My impression of the dance and mime was that they were creating the scenes from the second Corum series.
The battle between the Ghoolegh and Corum - The Bull and the Spear/Sword and the Stallion.
'Warriors' was spoken by Dibs to a background of frantic drumming and wailing electronics - very good. 7/10.
The final track from the album, 'King's Of Speed' rocked and rolled along without ever doing a great deal. Fred
provided the main melody and there was the hint of some lead guitar from Dave but that was very low down.
The projections were exceptional. Someone must have taken a real roller coaster ride for this. The scene was
full of psychedelic colours as we were swept along the tracks dipping and rising before the song finished and a
star-scape replaced the fairground ride. 5/10.
I found it bizarre that a song that wasn't originally written for the album and doesn't 'fit' received the biggest
Then we hear the familiar intro to 'Hassan-i-Sahba'. I love this song though I could have done without the
audience joining in. The middle section was heralded by some fabulous eastern-flavoured violin as the girls
returned. Wow. They were dressed in Burmese/Thai costumes with elaborate head-dresses with long-flowing
feathers/scarves and moved gracefully around. Excellent. Dave shook his maracas, stopped and then decided
to shake them after all. It lost its way for a bit and all I could hear was what sounded like somebody hitting a
block of wood. 6/10.
Things then got a bit confused. The band started talking to the audience, Dibs took photos and everyone
thought it was the end including I suspect some of the band. Anyway they then launched into 'You'd Better
Believe It' - a traditional Hawkwind thrasher that has always gone down well. So why did they put that
pointless middle section breakdown in? Up until then everything was going well, Dave playing his choppy
rhythm, the dancing skeletons on the screen, space scenes and then...some jazz / prog nonsense. Get a grip
lads, please! They revert to 'YBBI' and thankfully close it. 4/10
The final song of the main set is 'Seasons'. So we end the set as we began it. Flat. Another 'orrible song from
'Onward'. I do have to admit that this was a slightly better version than I'd heard before but it's still a bloody
dirge. Another non-Hawkwind track. Dibs and Richard give it all they can but Dave seems bored and his lead
sound is thin and played in the wrong place i.e. In the middle of a verse not in the instrumental section - if you
follow me. When we do get to the middle section there's some haphazard lead guitar, in fact it sounded in a
different key, a snare drum and some electronics. Eventually this too came to a close. 1/10.
For the first part of the encore they decided to play 'The Only Ones' with Dave again picking up his acoustic.
My impression was of someone saying, "Hey guys I've got this vague melody and a bunch of words. What do
you think?". I actually saw people turning to each other and mouthing, "WTF??". 0/10.
However they redeemed themselves with the last song. Dave said that we all probably knew Lemmy was quite
ill so they were going to do 'Motorhead'. This blew the roof off. If they'd put this much energy into most of
the rest of the set it would have been a great evening. The girls came back dressed in black tight, all-
encompassing outfits and generally jigged around to the sound. 9/10.
So there you have it. Admittedly it's not my usual positive review but as I've said before I always try to report
my feelings and convey to those not there what is was like. I try to steer away from hagiography or a sterile,
disinterested music journalism style. I have for some time been disappointed with Hawkwind's set list and
their approach and feel they've fallen into a bit of a rut. The London 2010 concert was a possibly the best I've
ever seen but very quickly they dropped the best and most powerful songs from the set and substituted them
with songs that are weak in comparison and we're left with a very bitty set. One of my companions, Jim, said
the Preston gig earlier in the year had features virtually the same set but was full of energy, life and fury and
was puzzled how all that had gone. He felt that it was the worst Hawkwind concert he'd seen in 41 years.
This is in total contrast to what many people said as we exited the hall. The word "awesome" was the most
common description of the event and "terrific", "amazing" â€œwonderful" were bandied about too.
For me some of the show worked while some didn't at all. The sets they did from around 2007 to 2010 were
dynamic, powerful and interesting. They built the concert around four or five major tracks with the rest of the
set inter-weaved around them. Start with 'You Shouldn't Do That', then later 'Angels Of Death', 'Spirit Of The
Age', and finally 'Psychedelic Warlords' or 'Brainstorm'. Minimal chat between the songs and less of the gala
performances. Personally I question the need for touring an entire album especially a 38 year old one. People
have said it's great to hear 'the fabled lost WOTEOT'. Well I'm sorry but it's never been lost at all. It was
available on CD for quite some time when released in the early 1990's and (heresy alert), it was never a great
album anyway. A good one yes but not in the same league as 'The Space Ritual', 'Doremi'. 'QSC' or 'Live
Chronicles'. What I'd love to see is for them to ditch all the prog-rock keyboard and guitar nonsense [and
content], have Richard revert to a less fussy style of drumming, Dave to take over lead vocals even if this
means he has to write most of the material (there's enough happening in science, society and between the
covers of science fiction to provide ideas) and for him to either turn up his amplifier or buy some thicker
strings as his current sound is wafer-thin. We need The Pounding of The Great Machine back!!
I really must say a word or two about the dancers. They were magnificent. They interpreted the music very
well, they were graceful and elegant but could jig about when the music asked for jigging about. Their
costumes were colourful and sometimes extremely elaborate and I felt they were very brave to use stilts so
often on what was a small, crowded stage.
The lighting and projections appeared to have undergone a transformation of some sort. They seem more
relevant and less psychedelic though the multi-coloured swirls are still there. To match the theme of the tour
there are many science fantasy scenes, flashing swords and assorted weirdness. The purely science fiction
space-scapes are interesting and some are obviously taken from the Hubble telescope collection including â
€˜The Pillars Of Creation' (which I have adorning my living-room wall.)
Still, my reservations aside it was good to see the band and seeing how much they enjoyed themselves. They
really do appreciate the fans who come to see them. They are always willing to stop and chat with us and that
means such a lot to us. For all my doubts I'll always buy their albums and see them when I can because I
know that they will again put out something that thrills me beyond reason.
I'd like to thank Andy for getting me the ticket and Jim and his son Alex for the lift from Howden and for
being wonderful travelling companions. Here's to the next time.
The aforementioned J-P Drinkall responds:
fair points paul, this is my take on the show. it certainly wasnt as good as preston earlier this year which was
up there with the best show ever by the hawks. my friend said he preferred the last show he saw which was
last year. i always think the sound is too low at holmfirth and that sometimes seems to "subdue" the
atmosphere. i love "seasons" and think it is one of the best tracks the band have written so thats always a plus
for me to hear that. mr dibs just gets better and better and with the weight loss his voice has improved greatly.
he obviously is honoured to be in hawkwind and gives nothing but 100% which is all one can ask for. i think
he is one of the best hawk members ever. the band is quite clearly on top form and very talented as a whole, i
think the old "wall of sound" has given way to much more individual instrument sounding affair. as quite a few
people have said, it is quite proggy sounding as each instrument matters rather than the overall sound. i have to
admit that i probably see hawkwind through rose tinted glasses, it just astounds me that a band that is so
underground manages to play year after year ( and a few times each year too) and constantly change the
sound and structure of their shows. the massive effort it must take to get the whole theatrical experience
together year after year. and the fact that they WANT to do it. its the biggest tragedy in music that they arent
more widely acclaimed than they are. ONWARD! jp
And another take on proceedings from Rob Godwin:
The band are playing VERY well right now. Dibs is doing a great job on vocals. Knows all the long Calvert
songs with his originals inflections and pauses perfectly. I think he actually might even have the same accent.
He's obviously really into it. They've slowed down Master of the Universe back to nearer its original pace
which was just great. Dead Fred was bloody brilliant on violin although hidden at the back. Tim Blake is
hamming it up and actually PLAYS the theramin as a real musical instrument (rather than the Jimmy Page
thing of just making it scream). He did a solo set before the gig at Holmfirth. Played Spirit of the Age solo and
brought the house to its feet. Seeing Dave do TWO acoustic numbers was very cool. He was so keen to get
them right he rehearsed both in the dressing room at Jodrell and both Dibs and Rich sang along to get the
harmonies right. Light show is as good as I've ever seen it. The two girls are both young, attractive and
obviously having a great time doing their thing. Motorhead was an inspired choice for encore. Audience went
bonkers. Probably about 7000 at Jodrell more than half clearly there to see Hawkwind. Lots of people couldn't
understand what they were doing opening for a bloody tribute band though. They took it all in their usual laid
back mode and just played a great gig, even in broad daylight. All in all I hope they bring the whole thing
exactly as it is to the USA. If they do I think you'll be happy.