|Bob Calvert at the Adelphi
This review was written by Paul Eaton-Jones who has kindly given his permission for it to appear here.
Date: 12-12-87... The Adelphi Club
John and I arrive at about 21:00 just as the support band are winding up their set. From the sound of their
final couple of songs we had come at the right time! Thrash / punk / anarchy isn't really my cup of ginseng
but it's what goes down well here. [In the intervening 16 years I've changed my tastes a little and can listen
to this type of music - how magnanimous of me!!]
The room we're in is about 30' by 60' with a stage raised about 18" off the floor. All very intimate. There
are around 70-100 people in the place so it's already quite packed.
I spy a familiar figure over in the corner - the man we've all come to see. Strangely, it looks like Iâ€™m
the only person there who recognises him. Or else they want to give him some privacy. Stuff that.
Clutching my copy of the Hype novel I walk over to him and ask if he would sign the book. As he did we
chatted. Apparently he, along with Hawkwind and a few other groups had been playing in Leeds that
afternoon at a science fiction festival - Strange Daze. It had been suggested that he and his lads travel
across to Hull to do a gig. [I think his agent / manager had phoned Paul Jackson the Adelphi owner and
'offered' him Bob, as it were.]
It had been eight and a half years since I had last seen Bob in action (23-9-77 at Sheffield City Hall) and he
had lost none of his powerful presence. He still had piercing eyes, the pale almost ghostly complexion and,
though as tall as in former years, he no longer had the thin, wasted Lou Reed-type build but had filled out a
bit, quite a bit.
"Standing On The Runway Waiting For Takeoff"
As the lights go down we take our places towards the back of the room full of joyous anticipation. The
band open with 'Evil Rock' and we're away. Bob's voice is a trifle unsteady but whether he's tired from his
exertions during the afternoon or something else I don't know. The band are also a bit untogether but
The next song is one everybody recognises, 'Orgone Accumulator'. John turned to me saying, ".. good
grief. I never thought I'd hear this again." (The last time he'd seen Hawkwind was on The Space Ritual
tour in 1972 - he's not a committed follower.) This was in the groove and really rocked.
The next songs took the mood down several notches as we were treated to Bob's 80's social commentary.
First was 'Ned Ludd' and then 'Test Tube Conceived'. A few of us in the crowd knew these and sang
along accordingly, though in my view they're hardly sing-a-long songs. They seemed even bleaker than on
record and Bob stared at various members of the audience as if trying to force home the point.
Things pick up with the next song, a very spirited version of 'Quark, Strangeness And Charm'. Played at
around the same tempo as on the album, it has everyone leaping up and down and joining in the chorus.
The mood changes yet again as the lights change to red and blue bathing the room in an eerie, cold, gloomy
light. This matches the song 'The Picket Line'. The 'politico's' in the audience recognise the sentiments
behind the song and applaud accordingly. (You have to remember we were still feeling the fallout from the
miner's strike and Hull isn't too far from the mining areas).
From now until the end we're more or less back in Hawkwind territory and old favourites. The next song
is one of my favourites and one I've never heard live - 'Fable Of A Failed Race'. Bob's vocal is as close to
the studio version as you could imagine, very controlled, very emotional. The guitarist reproduces note for
note Dave Brock's melody line too. In fact it was the only time he "copied" Dave's lines as he brought in
original tunes, though he did reproduce some of Dave's characteristic choppy, half-dampened left hand
sound. 'Fable' segued very smoothly into an absolutely stunning rendition of 'Spirit Of The Age'. We were
treated to a fine extended and quite heavy version of this classic. The whole audience were leaping up and
down in sheer ecstasy. By this time John and I have moved forward and are right at the front of the great
man and can see the passion he puts into his performance. I like to think that when he sees me singing the
chorus he joins in with me! Such hubris.
We are able to catch our collective breaths as the band slow things down slightly with the only song of the
night from Lucky Leif and the Longships - 'Ship Of Fools'. This is a better version than on the LP as we're
spared the strange grinding bass / keyboard noise that accompanies the studio one.
The final two songs are probably Bob's signature tunes (in my opinion anyway) - 'The Right Stuff' and
'Ejection'. The band are by now so tight and together and really enjoying themselves. Bob's vocal on 'The
Right Stuff' is again very close to the album and he looks out into the audience menacingly as he tells us he
really does have, "The Right Stuff, baby".
'Ejection' starts out in the way we all know and we all join in and virtually shout out for forgiveness with
our mea culpa's. This song thunders around the small room with us singing along and jumping about. I
look at the people in the crowd and it seems everyone knows the words. The song comes to an end in the
only way it should, "Echo, Juliet, Echo, Charlie, Tango, India, Oscar, November" and aeroplanes crashing.
Cue berserk crowd reaction and the band leave the stage.
Naturally there are long and loud calls for more. The band drag their seemingly knackered bodies back onto
the stage. As they're plugging in instruments I can hear them discussing what they ought to play. Captain
Calvert announces that they're going to do an old Chicago-style blues number. This is greeted by looks of
abject disappointment and utter disbelief. The number starts off in a typical blues manner - all that's
missing is the, "I woke up this morning..." But wait... What's that he's just sung?
"I, I just took a ride in a Silver Machine"
You crafty old sod, Calvert! Had us done up like a kipper. The verses were sung as traditional blues song
with the chorus done a la Hawkwind. This was all very entertaining, all very original. The band finish and
go off to tumultuous applause and much backslapping and handshaking. A thoroughly enjoyable evening
made all the more so because we've seen Bob Calvert close up and personal in a very small venue.
A quick word about the band and the playing. Unfortunately I never found out the names of the three guys
in the band but they were exceptionally talented. I did find out however, that they had had only a few days
practice. They lived in Margate and had wanted to play with Bob for ages and had got in touch via some
record shop in the town - very enterprising. They appeared quite young -to my eyes anyway- early
twenties and wouldn't have appeared out of place in a punk outfit. Very short, spikey hair, earrings and
studs.(I'm guilty here of merely judging by appearances; something I try hard not to do). They were tight
and knew their stuff - well done guys, you were a real credit.
And Bob? Dressed in an R.A.F. greatcoat and Afrika Corps cap he struck his well-known pose grasping
the mic stand with both hands and tilting forwards threatening to topple into the crowd. (Well that's how
he always seemed to me when he was Hawkwind.) He also had a couple of synthesisers from which
emerged tuneful accompaniments as well as assorted whistles, white noise, twitterings, and thunderous
crashings. His voice, after the first song, grew in strength and was soon as powerful and evocative as I
remembered from gigs gone by and perfectly matched the songs they did. He had lost none of his stage
presence and dominated the proceedings.
In conversation after the gig Bob said he was planning a new LP "with lots of guitars", and that he'd written
a new novel but couldn't get it published. (In the light of his death I sincerely hope someone will publish it
posthumously.) We shook hands all round and bid one another goodnight. We all left the club in a happy
mood suffused with a warm glow.
That was the first and last time I met Bob though I felt I'd known him for a long time through his work
with Hawkwind and his solo albums. It's a cliché I know, but although he's gone, he lives on through his
music, literature and the memories he's left us. Thanks Bob.
|Right: Pic by Nick Lee and
whipped by me from the
Hawkwind Museum website...
these young guns are members
of Bob's backing band, the
I originally started this off as just
a review of Bob's gig on 12-12-87
but as I began writing I heard
from Brian Tawn that Bob had
died. It was obviously written 8-9
months after the gig but I had
made notes during the show so it
wasn't just a collection of distant
thoughts. Therefore this became
my tribute to a great man and one
who holds a special place in the
hearts of Hawkwind fans
There I am walking along thinking
of...well, nothing in particular,
when up strolls a friend of mine
and says, "Guess who's playing
the Adelphi on the 12th?...
"No idea", I replied.
"Captain Robert Calvert and The
Starfighters. Is it likely to be
*your* Robert Calvert?"
Me: "Well there can't be TWO
Calverts playing with a group
called the Starfighters so it must
be. But here? In Hull, at the