|Rock 4 Rescue - Seaton & Shepherds Bush, 21-22/02/2014
Thanks to Graham P for these gig reviews and photos from the momentous, and apparently
never-to-be-re-enacted performance of the Space Ritual Alive set
The weekend took in two very different and equally enjoyable gigs. The idea of Space Ritual being
performed in its entirety was enticing, but the addition of a rehearsal day in Seaton, down the road from my
parents' house, made the trip too tempting to miss, despite the long haul from Portugal. After a winter of
rain, England looked in remarkably fine shape, if a little damp, and Seaton seems to have survived more or
less intact even if the tourist tramline is out of action and fossil hunting underneath the crumbling cliffs is
So, rolling in a little after 2 pm on Friday, the stage was set, the hall was sparsely populated and not much
was happening. There was however a friendly and relaxed atmosphere, which persisted all day. A
Hawkwind Feedback tee-shirt and white baseball cap at the front turned out to indeed belong to Brian
Tawn, so I introduced myself - a first despite 20 plus years of occasional correspondence. I'm sure the
weekend result in a new issue of Hawkfan - so be sure to order a copy from briantawn at aol.com. [There
are around 30 issues of Hawkfan now. Many of these pre-date home computers, never mind the internet,
and are well worth tracking down if you want an insight from the frontline over the years.].
Over the course of the afternoon the various band members appeared, and at different times assembled to
run through whole numbers, some of which would be part of their two sets the following night:
"Steppenwolf", "Born To Go", "Sonic Attack" (completely rejuvenated by a fruity Brian Blessed lead vocal,
sadly recorded on computer rather than delivered in person), "Down Through The Night" (wonderfully
melodic, and reminding us of Dave's background as a busker), "Time We Left" (I have come to realise I
just don't like this; it is inescapably naff), "The Black Corridor", "Space Is Deep" (also very melodic),
"Seven By Seven" (sadly not the extended version from Space Ritual Volume 2), "Seasons", and "Sentinel".
Occasional guests and TOSH members like Keith Barton and Steve Bemand were with the crew/in the
audience but obviously there was no time for a TOSH performance. [Note for Hawkeaster: what about a
performance from the Timelords...or a SmartPils set?]
Dibs and Niall alternated on bass; Niall also played guitar. Fred was stage right with a large keyboard rig
and his violin. Tim had his theremin and keytar. Richard contributed vocals and ad libs as well as,
obviously, drumming. Dave played acoustic guitar for "Space Is Deep" and "Down Through The Night".
Niall several times (good humouredly) asked the audience not to applaud ("you're not supposed to clap,
it's a rehearsal") and everyone seemed relaxed. At one point Tim walked off stage and watched the
performance from the middle of the audience. Man of the match though was Dibs. The cello has gone,
thankfully and he now carries the front man role with complete authority. He even adapted some of Bob
Calvert's stage moves, acting out "Steppenwolf" to good effect (although not resorting to our late hero's
associated costume changes).
A bit after 5 pm everyone wandered off for tea and things kicked off again with a full set just after 7 pm.
Meantime I decamped to a local fish and chip restaurant, Frydays. Fred (later joined by Richard) was also
among the crowds there having his tea and at one point I thought I heard him mention a new Krankschaft
album. I hope so anyway! (Note to Fred: I wasn't eavesdropping, but the mention of "Krankschaft" caught
So, the full set upped the tension just a little. There was a quick run through of "Seasons" to check that all
the engines were firing and then we were off. The hall was a bit fuller but not so full that I couldn't get a
place close to the stage. Obviously not many surprises (how many people reading this don't know every
track on Space Ritual?) but highlights were many, notably "Down Through The Night", "Space Is Deep",
"Lord Of Light", a shit hot "Born To Go" and a loose and rambunctious "Orgone Accumulator" (the
projections for which were the closest we'd get to a reprise of the Stacia role). The projections were good,
the dancers great, and (much to the rest of the band's obvious amusement) Dibs forgot that "Master of the
Universe" is followed by "Welcome To the Future" and had to come back hurriedly to the microphone! The
encore was a singalong "Spirit of The Age". Brilliant gig and I'm sure everyone in the audience went home
Cut to a fine Saturday evening in Shepherd's Bush. The Shepherd's Bush Empire seems to have become the
Hawks' London home, now the Astoria is long gone and brief flirtations with locations such as
Walthamstow and Brixton seem to have passed. Although I could only get an upper tier ticket online, there
still seem to be tickets available at the door. No matter, clutching the free goodie bag (new Hawkwind
mini-album of mainly Space Ritual material, another free CD, various information leaflets and an order
form for the recording of the night's performance) and a beer, I found a front row seat on the second tier
with a great view of the stage and settled down. The Hawks' gear was onstage along with a second drum
kit and some mic stands stage left so clearly there was at least one support act.
Lest anyone forget, this was a charity gig, with all proceeds going to charities dealing with abandoned
dogs, caged bears in china and culling of badgers. Pretty soon, Matthew Wright appeared and reminded us
of the reason for the gig and that this would be the last ever performance of Space Ritual in its entirety He
then announced Maria Baines and we were up and running. Maria Baines was an obvious choice given her
charity work with abandoned dogs, plus her blues credentials and obviously the fact that she played the last
Hawkeaster. She and her band delivered a very short and very competent, if slightly unmemorable, set of
blues rock songs before the first of the short charity presentations (short speeches accompanied by
videos). There was another very short support set from the towering figure of John Etheridge (ex-Soft
Machine) who, improbably, coaxed the sound of a steel band out of his guitar with his dextrous fret work.
In between times (and after Hawkwind's first set) there were more presentations and short films. There
was a certain amount of restiveness among the crowd during the speeches but there is no question that the
videos hit home. Hopelessly sentimental? Possibly? Good causes? Very definitely - the film about the caged
bears was particularly gruesome.
This is not a criticism but Matthew Wright made a bit of a pig's ear of the stage announcements! He
introduced the performance of Space Ritual to loud applause...¦ and then what we actually got was 15
minutes of the crew setting up the stage, after which the band played their first set, comprising, inevitably
From my vantage point on the 2nd balcony the audience in the stalls was a sea of shiny bald heads,
reflecting the light (guilty as charged before you ask), a reminder that we're an old bunch and that the
original performances were more than 40 years ago (although I didn't see the band until '76, when Lemmy
and Stacia had already left the ranks and the band was touring Astounding Sounds).
Back to the gig, the main event also got off to a fantastic start as "Earth Calling" gave way to the lock-step
riffing of "Born To Go". The highlights were basically the same but a major revelation this time round was
John Etheridge guesting on lead guitar on "Down Through The Night" and â€œSpace Is Deep"...¦ superbly
fluid lead lines weaving through the mix - the spirit of Huw, maybe, but also very clearly an immense
individual talent. The guest spot was all too brief, possibly because none of the other arrangements left any
space for guest lead guitar. I don't know whether there's any chance of a repeat performance but
Hawkwind with John Etheridge are something else, which hopefully the eagerly anticipated recording of
the gig will bear out. [I think that's enough about bears]
If there was a downside (apart from the unmusicality of "Time We Left") it was that the set was so tight
and well-rehearsed. The vision conjured up by Mike Moorcock's description of the early incarnation of the
band, as primitive barbarians wielding electronic instruments, seems to belong to another time and place.
The encore, inevitably, was "Silver Machine". Full marks to the band for a sterling evening's entertainment,
for the very tasty new CD freebie in the bag handed out to everyone who would take one and, above all,
for still being there and still caring.
of the non-Space Ritual material! Anyway, this first
included "Seasons", "Steppenwolf" (taken to new
theatrical heights by Dibs; brilliant!),"Arrival In
Utopia", "Opa Loka", "Spiral Galaxy" (sans Dave),
"Reefer Madness" (on which Dibs gave us the full
works, acting out the song, including the often
ignored middle section - "I looked at my hand and
saw that I had 11 fingers. One these fingers fell from
my hand-.." etc, and indeed taking it well beyond
what Bob Calvert used to do. Tour de Force),
"Sentinel" and "Spirit Of The Age". A cracking set.
The band was tight but relaxed and noticeably more
forceful in the bigger venue. They rocked.
A rather different take on it comes from Paul Eaton-Jones, to whom my thanks for the photo above and
the heartfelt review, below:
And so after 40 years 3 and a bit weeks of seeing Hawkwind in concert I finally had the opportunity to
see them play what is widely regarded as the finest live album ever recorded. I certainly regard it as such
and would say it's one of only ten or twelve rock albums worth owning. Having first got into them in
September 1973 and not actually seeing them until 28th January 74 I'd missed the chance of seeing the
original tour by a matter of months and fumed for years.
During the middle of the 2000's there had been tantalising glimpses of a possible replaying of it, many of
the numbers appeared in various concerts until only 'Born To Go' remained to be aired and by 2006 the
side of the stage was decorated with the leopards and trailing orange and black blobs that adorn the album
cover but never The Ritual in any tangible form. Once the band issued a release saying that the London
Christmas show would be a special space show with guests. Hurrah we thought and talk in the Angel pub
in Wardour Street positively buzzed with excitement and the prospect of the band playing it. However it
wasn't to be, in fact it wasn't a space special at all though they did blow the audience away with a show
that was a stunning tour de force. So thoughts of a re-evocation of 1972/73 passed quietly away and I felt
the opportunity had gone.
Things stirred in 2011 with Alan Davey's notification that he was putting together a band with the sole
intention of recreating the album for the 40th anniversary of it's release. In late 2011 Nik Turner also had
ideas of getting as many of the original band back for such a celebration and was really hopeful that Dave
would do it as a one off. But as we know things between them soured even further, if such a thing was
possible! So once again hopes faded though Alan did tour playing it and was fairly successful. I saw them
in York and was pleased during the show but a few weeks after my impression was one of, 'well it was
just a tribute band paying tribute and not the real thing'.
So the day finally dawned and we set off. My feelings were the same as my first time, and you can take
that any way you will. I had butterflies and thought they'd be pterodactyls by show time. We saw a
couple of fellow fans getting on at Retford and chatted away to them for a while and had different ideas
of how it might turn out. Further along the carriage was a chap I've recently got to know and long-time
fan, Andy Bevis, but as he's a medical professor he had plenty of work to complete so didn't join our
We duly arrived in London, found our hotel and some time later set out for Shepherd's Bush where we
met another mate from Hull. Nigel Filer was a Hawkwind virgin and really keen to experience everything
that Karl and I had been banging on about for years.
We go into the venue which is by common consent the worst venue in the known universe. Imagine the
bar at Mos Eisley in Star Wars but not as welcoming or as clean. The security staff are still as
pig-ignorant as they were in 2011, the place cramped, the lavatories filthy, the beers overpriced and the
atmosphere tinged with the threat of indiscriminate, random violence courtesy of the football fans of
Arsenal Tottenham and West Ham. I was stood next to three football fans and one, an Arsenal fan, said
his mate was a Spurs fan. I leaned in and said, "Oh, you're a Tottenham fan then?" His response was to
thrust his australopithicine face into mine and snarl, "Yeh! What of it?". I replied that I too was a Spurs
fan from way back in the early 60's and what did he make of the screw up Villas-Boas had made of the
club? Wanker! (Him, not AVB)
I eventually find the merchandising stall and buy the new Space Ritual/Animal Aid T-shirt. Very tasty.
While I'm wandering around looking for familiar faces and just mooching about there's a band on stage
playing some kind of vaguely folky/protest type songs that don't seem to be holding anyone's attention.
Not my sort of thing and I'm now past the stage of standing watching most of the bands Hawkwind have
supporting them as in general they're not very good.
After they depart the main reason for the event, the Dog Rescue/Animal charity part begins. There is a
film presentation about the Doris Barnham charity and some rather harrowing scenes of animal cruelty as
well as the wonderful work done by the organisation. A number of celebrities are filmed (Benedict
Cumberbatch, I think?) with dogs they've adopted and it was so pleasing to see the joy the dogs displayed
in their new homes with such devoted new owners. It's a charity well worth subscribing to even if you're
already donating to other dog / cat etc charities.
In between this and Hawkwind we were entertained by an acoustic guitarist, John Etheridge, who sang
some nice songs and played very well indeed. I only learned some days later that he had been in Soft
Machine. He was very well received. This was all too soon over and before we know it the house lights
dim and the band wander onto the stage. Cries of "hello" are called from the stage to the audience and
back again. Stage lights flicker and the opening number starts. My reaction is, "Jesus Christ!" as the
turgid, flat sounds of 'Seasons' crawls out from the PA. God knows why this is even included in the set,
let alone opening it. Dave has always said he wants to start a concert with a powerful, hard-hitting
number and maintain that for the first few songs. 'Seasons' is just dreadful and I have the awful feeling
this is going to set the tone. Also, I dislike intensely being preached at during a concert. The images
projected on the screen were of war, bankers (I think), dollar bills, heavy industry, blasted wastelands
etc. OK, OK we get the picture. For some the thought of capitalism is anathema and should be torn down
blah, blah, blah. Talk about heavy-handed. That message is quite frankly outdated and so 1960's and I felt
I was being lectured by some earnest young thing from the Lower VIth.
Next up is a tortured version of 'Steppenwolf'. It's again flat, devoid of any emotion except Dibs' howling
at the end of the verses which detracts even further from what is already turning out to be a bad night. At
this stage I'm looking around for reactions from the people next to me. Karl is screwing up his face is
disgust, other fans are shrugging their shoulders and one guy mouths "WTF?" to his mate. The song ends
to rapturous applause, so most are enjoying it. I can't remember what comes next, probably something
from 'Onward' if my bad luck was holding up. It too was cheered. Then I felt there was a chance to
change direction and lift things as the opening chords to 'Arrival in Utopia' sounded out. But no! The way
this was arranged meant at the end of the "...in Utopia" phrase, the band stopped/started, stopped/started
thus ruining the flow of one of their great songs and adding nothing to it. As the song finished I turned to
Karl and said, "Fuck this, I'm off next door for a drink. We'll come back when The Ritual starts". So off
we went to the O'Neil's pub, sank a couple of beers and played the quiz machine with two Irish lads and
had a really enjoyable 30 minutes or so.
We went back into the hall halfway through Born To Go and it sounded OK, though as with the first set
(and as it turned out, for the rest of the 2nd set) the sound was woeful. A combination of poor acoustics,
useless sound engineering (where do they find these people?) and lacklustre performances by the band all
contributed to some of the worst sounds I've heard in 40 years of attending rock concerts. 'Down
Through The Night' saw Dave picking up his acoustic guitar and he played the melody well enough but
the rhythm bounced rather than flowed. The rest of the songs were presented in a way I hadn't expected
- a sort of "here they are, take it or leave it". It was again flat and uninspired and uninspiring. Dave's
regular guitar was so low in the mix as to be non-existent, Fred's keyboards were low and when they did
rise above the background were heavily jazz-influenced. At various times John Etheridge came back on to
PLAY THE LEAD GUITAR PARTS!!!! That certainly shocked and annoyed some people around me. My
faith was failing fast - if Dave can't be bothered to play the lead melody on his own compositions, what is
the point? They are hardly the most difficult parts in rock music as tuneful and uplifting as they are, but to
get a stunt-guitarist in is beyond me. It's hardly Tony Macalpine or Dream Theatre is it?? 'Electronic No.1'
turned out to be the best track of the night - this was Hawkwind at their best: full of thunder, fury, energy
but this soon segued into their Chas 'n' Dave version of 'Orgone Accumulator' and so it stumbled on until
'Brainstorm'. THIS is Hawkwind, it defines Hawkwind for me, this was the song that got me into the
band in the first place. It set the template for their sound, their vision, their s.f. writing, their space opera
credentials. So what do we get? A flimsy, mimsy, pale,watered down version that struggled to get OFF
the fucking runway. I left at the end of the first verse and didn't come back.
As I made my way through the crowd at the back of the hall I saw 'fans' sat on the floor with heads in
hand, 'fans' stood with their backs to the stage talking about whatever, there were 'fans' in the foyer
chatting and as I left the building I saw I was part of a stream of between 12 and 20 'fans' wandering
away. I spoke to some and comments ranged from, "Are they taking the piss?", "That was bloody awful",
and "Shit", to "What are they doing, do they know what they're doing?", "Has Dave finally given up?" and
"What a bloody shit sound crew". I know many, indeed most of the people who were there absolutely
loved every minute of it. I'm not going to say they're deluded or viewing the show through rose-tinted
spectacles, yet neither am I hyper-critical or merely pissed off because they didn't or don't play the way I
want. I've found virtually all their recent recorded output boring, tedious and far too prog-rock for my
taste. Four out the last six live shows have also, for me, lacked energy and that indefinable Hawkwind
spark. As I missed the original Space Ritual tour by some nine months I jumped at the opportunity to see
them play in in 2014 even though I had serious doubts as to whether they could pull it off. Had it NOT
been the Ritual I wouldn't have gone to see them. Now that is a measure of just how far the band and I
A recurring question amongst fans is, "Why are they bothering to resurrect old albums?" Old songs
thrown into the concert are always welcome but I'd much prefer to hear mostly new material even if, in
the end, I don't like it. The whole of the 'Warrior' tour of the past two years was a waste of time in my
opinion. I saw them play it originally back in 1975 and even THAT band couldn't do it right. As I've said
before 'Assault & Battery / The Golden Void' have never been successfully played live and I feel
'Warrior...¦...¦' is the ultimate studio album with its multi-layering, multi-tracked instruments, studio
tweaking etc - in fact only Magnu and Opa-Loka come out intact. 'The Demented Man' was embarrassing
to listen to as it was rendered as a bouncy, hippity-hop song and not a mournful plea. I find it hard to
understand why some fans were in a state of near ecstasy when this has been played.
All fans agree that the standard of musicianship is top-class though many feel it is soulless. Steve Vai, Joe
Satriani, Billy Sheehan, Stu Hamm, Jonathan Mover etc etc could play it perfectly but not have the "X"
ingredient and this is how Hawkwind deliver their concerts.
Natasha Scharf's very positive, glowing review in Prog Mag is not the same one many of us saw and
have said so.
For some the triumph that was the 2010 tour has dissipated and they have fallen away very badly. The
sounds that shook the Camden Forum have been replaced with a weak, insipid sound which fails to raise
the hairs on ones neck or stir the blood. *If* these were merely my own feelings, I would put up my
hands and say the problem lies with me. However, there are probably ten fans I exchange views with on
a regular basis who agree closely with my opinion (as well as the 12+ leaving the venue on 22nd) so we
can't ALL be mad. I have to say that while some of us dislike the current sound / approach / albums,
etc., there are many, many hundreds, probably thousands, who just love the current set up. The
discussion boards ring with delighted reports of how the band have never been better, how the new
albums utterly thrill them and so on, in ever more glowing terms. For these fans the turn prog-ward is a
welcome direction but for me it's a disaster as they have become just an ordinary,run-of-the-mill rock
band and no longer have that je ne sais quoi.
Twenty years ago a friend and I were talking about bland groups and the name Madness came up. "What
is their appeal?" we asked, "Who on earth would really like them?" Tony said to me, "Madness; they're
very good at what they do but what they do isn't very good". Some of us feel the same way about
Hawkwind. One shocking development over the past three or four years is that many fans no longer feel
able to voice any criticism of the band at all. My thoughts and motives have been by turns ridiculed,
dismissed and questioned whenever I've said Hawkwind have turned in something less than stellar.
Others have suffered worse abuse. Woe betide anyone who questions the orthodoxy and received
'wisdom' lest the Thought Police get on your case. It's gone all at little bit unsavoury.
So, was the concert a success? Judging from most of the comments I've read and heard - yes, a
resounding one. But for some it was bloody awful; a weak, thin sound that again failed to show-case
Dave Brock's guitar playing, vocalists who are backing singers at best and a first set that is probably the
worst selection in many years. The only real highlight was the dancers who are simply magnificent. They
move around with purpose, with elegance and interpret the words and music quite delightfully. Their
ability at stilt-walking across the stage and through the various band members is mind-boggling and no
doubt takes a great deal of courage. Kudos to them.
I suspect (and hope) Hawkwind will go on for as long as they and the fans want. I can't see this current
'fascination' with prog lasting too long and I really hope they'll revert to traditional Hawkwind values -
science and space-based themes set to thundering, mind-numbing sounds and uplifting melodies and I'll
continue to buy the albums, though will see them less often. But for now we / I'm stuck with what we
have. They will continue influencing here, inspiring there but they've become less of the Outsider with the
Lifetime Award -who would ever have imagined THAT?- and their more mainstream music. It's ironic
that the more mainstream and accepted they are, the less relevant they have become.