|Psychedelic Sundae 02/05/2010
Many thanks to Graham P. for this review and to Justin Redgrave for mobile phone pix from Cardiff
Leamington on Sunday morning offers a small open air market in the park selling pot plants and a steel
band playing Beethoven's 5th in the town centre. Outside the Assembly at 2.45 there is a queue of four
people, which gets only slightly longer before the doors open promptly at 3 pm.
Almost immediately, as promised, Krankschaft are on stage. "We're used to playing empty halls" says
Steve Pond, "I think I know every one of you personally, welcome to our living room", and they launch
into "Teen ballad of Dino". Steve, stage left, on minimalist guitar (well these are latter-day Robert Calvert
compositions they are playing, and as he shows later, he can actually play), Fred stage right on keyboards
and sardonic lead vocals (lyrics on cue cards), chewing gum and wearing sunglasses. In the middle, a
stick-thin drummer stands at a small drum kit. This, I later discover, is none other than Mick Stupp, so
Krankschaft are three thirds of the former Maximum Effect, which is to say, the other rump of Inner City
Unit, the one without Nik, Trev and Dino Ferrari in it.
The set is, obviously, based around Calvert's latter albums, taking in "The Luminous Green Glow of the
Dashboard at Night" and "Lord of the Hornets" from Hype, "Ned Ludd" and "Picket Line" from Freq, and
"Acid Rain" and the title track from Test Tube Conceived. The hall rapidly fills up as the set progresses.
As I have said before, Calvert may have been a genius poet and lyricist but some of his later compositions
are musically less than interesting. Consequently, the Krankschaft set drags in places - it is hard to see the
unconverted getting much out of "Acid Rain", with its deadly dull repeated two chord guitar line (Dur dur.
Dur dur. Dur dur, etc), but "Test Tube Conceived" and "Lord of the Hornets" are sprightly and "Picket
Line" is given a thorough kicking, delivered as angry thrash and all the better for it. This material can of
course also be located on the recently released Krankschaft CD The Flame Red Superstar or indeed as
played with Bob Calvert on their CD of the Carlisle concert.
The last song is a non-Calvert composition and it's a cracker. I asked Steve about it later on and he
proceeded, by way of explanation, to sing the chorus of the 1974 bubblegum pop hit "The Bump", by
Kenny. He then filled in the details, the point being that Kenny was what happened to progressive rock
band Chuff when a band was needed to front the already-written hit, and pop stardom beckoned. Anyway,
the vocalist declined to take the money and instead formed prog band Nebula, who had the misfortune to
try to establish themselves at the time of the punk explosion. Steve was apparently a fan, and the song is
one of theirs. Steve, Fred and Mick all duly signed a copy of the "España" single (issued aeons ago under
their previous name), and available at their merchandise table for a very reasonable £1.50 (much to the
chagrin of the guy who'd paid £60 for one).
Probably the most consistently enjoyable HW support act these days, Tarantism, are on next, with their
festival-friendly pot-pourri of folk, reggae, etc, and their good-humoured stage presence. With prominent
saxophone regularly featured, their sound currently at times recalls Moving Hearts (no bad thing at all).
They were indeed pretty good, but looked and sounded tired (and in the case of their guitarist, decidedly
There is now a well-timed interval (i.e., a set by Banco de Gaia), allowing a quick trip over the road for a
pizza, and the soporific noise emerging from the main speakers when I return tells me I made a good call.
Anyway, this is probably unfair prejudice, but playing tapes and turntables on stage doesn't count as a live
Man appeared ahead of the Lloyd Langton Band, contrary to the (not very well) advertised timetable,
which is to say a single typed A4 sheet located by the t-shirt sales. Talking of which, what is it with
Hawkwind? Their support bands sell CDs at the gigs and, God knows, HW fans would buy HW/solo CDs
- the success of the merchandise stall at the HL gigs bears testimony to that - and I'm sure there are some
audience members (probably a minority admittedly) who don't own every single record ever issued. Hey,
at least let Dibs sell Spacehead albums and Tim sell his solo material (and, while I'm having a moan, what
about letting Spacehead play support at one of these gigs?)
Anyway, Man are effortlessly cool, playing a set consisting of just three extended songs. I don't really
know their stuff but the middle song was the wonderfully titled "Many Are Called But Few Get Up". The
two older members respectively contribute the smooth Hammond organ which defines their current sound
(I say current, as it's nowhere to be heard on the Greasy Truckers version of "Many Are Called...¦"), and
the bass which kicks it along. Both also sing and they are ably supported by two young guitarists and the
So far so good then and not a sniff of Uncle Rotter or their ilk. The Lloyd Langton Band follows,
eventually. First there is a delay as Huw performs a Chaplinesque routine entitled "why can't I get any
sound out of my guitar?", less than ably accompanied by various members of the stage crew. However,
Huw is as self-depreciating about it as ever ("there's a technical problem - me"). While we are waiting, the
current LLB consists of drummer, keyboard player and an imposingly huge bassist, alongside whom Huw
looks impossibly small and thin, a good reminder that he has only recently returned from life-threatening
illness. I'll admit my expectations were low. What follows then, is nothing less than a revelation. Huw is on
inspired form tonight, turning the opening "Waiting for tomorrow" into a veritable tour-de-force, wringing
every sound imaginable from his fretboard over the course of an extended jam. After a brief hiatus caused
by the guitar lead coming loose, this is followed by "PDT" - not much of a song but another opportunity to
show that Huw's got his guitar chops back in spades. "Psychedelic Warlords", Hard Graft" (from the
in-the-can but unreleased new record - Huw blames the management) and "Rocky Paths" complete an
excellent set. During the latter, at which point I'm standing next to the mixing desk, I spot that the person
now standing next to me is none other than Marion LL, so I have to tell her how good I think Huw is
playing - and he was. I've seen the original LLB live (many years ago in Aberdeen) and I've seen Huw with
play with or support Hawkwind a great many times, from the 1979 tour onwards, but this performance
still stands out. His singing voice may be shot these days but, I have to repeat, his guitar playing today was
The stage is now set for the main event. Niall and Tim come on to set up their gear, Richard makes the
briefest of visits to his drum kit, and Dibs appears, apparently to give the stage crew a bollocking. A guitar
lead is draped over the central microphone by an unfamiliar roadie. A second roadie comes along, talks to
the first one and puts the lead back down on the floor. Keith Barton comes along and puts it back up again.
Said guitar lead turns out to belong to the final support act, a Huw LL solo set, with Huw this time on
acoustic guitar, although a strange one at that, as the body looks like an electric. Predictably, there is no
guitar sound at all to begin with, but that is soon fixed and Huw then plays "Wars Are A Hobby There" and
"5tth Second of Forever/Wind of Change". After telling us he doesn't know when his Dad's band is going
to start and asking (to no avail) if anyone can play harmonica, he finishes with "Hurry on Sundown".
After all this, the risk was that the headline act would be a bit of an anti-climax and, to some extent, it was.
The band are tight and aggressive but they offer few surprises. They kick off with a recital of "Space is
Deep" from Dave, leading into the two-bass version of "Angels of Death" followed by "Fahrenheit 451" (in
the middle of which I'd swear the captain is playing "Flying Doctor"). Not much sounds new - the closest
being an extended take on "You'd Better Believe It", a remake of which is scheduled for the new album,
and an unfamiliar instrumental piece. There is also an outing for Tim's "Tide of the Century" (played to a
visual backdrop based on the new album artwork) and we get all three newish Dibs songs ("Sentinel",
"Prometheus", and whatever the other one is called). Otherwise it's strictly 1970s back-catalogue material:
"Lord of light", "Warrior on the edge of time" read by Dibs, "Lighthouse", "Magnu/Brainbox Pollution" and
an encore of "Hassan I Sabha". Three decades worth of subsequent material is unvisited - and it would be
nice to have just one new Brock composition, one of these days, although admittedly not if it's along the
lines of "Space love".
The light show is okay (a bit darker and less in-your-face than recent tours), the two dancers are never
less than engaging (certainly from the point of view of the males in the audience, judging from the rush of
camera and video recording activity down at the front every time they appear!), and the band are
supremely efficient. Tim stands out in front for a couple of (portable) keyboard solos but otherwise there's
not much movement on-stage. Dave barely manages a smile all night except when making asides to Tim.
He obviously has fun at some gigs but this didn't look like it was one of them. Dibs says the final
Onwards to the Hawkfest, as Dave might have said. I really hope the day's event was being recorded but
in any case it was enjoyable from start to finish, so thanks to everyone who made it so.
|Thanks to Alfred Koessl for the photos appearing below. All are from Leamington 02/05/2010
|Mick Stupp and Steve Pond of Krankschaft
Below, L-R: Steve
Pond, Mick Stupp and
Dead Fred Reeves.
Billed as Krankschaft,
they are also the core of
the second (?) line-up
of Inner City Unit,
minus Nik and a couple
of others of course
|Left: Dead Fred
Below: Huw again on
stage with wife Marion