Six Hawks in the Bush

Thanks to Graham P for this gig review and those photos that are placed inline with the text.  
Hawkwind were live at the O2 Academy, Shepherds Bush, London on Saturday 10th December 2011.
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A few weeks after the pretenders graced London, how did the real thing do?

Firstly, the negatives. I miss the Astoria. The O2 academy in Shepherds Bush was just too small - tinned
sardines would have felt claustrophobic downstairs - and due to some unfathomable venue policy most
ticket-holders were barred from the balcony area, access to which might have eased the pressure. As a
consequence I found myself in a corner by one of the bars and by the time Huw Lloyd-Langton came on,
moving anywhere, much less down to the front, was just not an option, so I couldn't see most of the back
projections.

This being a real HawkwindTM gig, the merchandising was restricted to tee-shirts. The two dancers were
on for only parts of the set, apparently mainly reprising old costumes and routines and indeed sometimes
using the same costumes for two songs in a row and hence losing any thematic link between music and
dance. The advertised appearance by Leveller John Sevink on violin never materialised and, given how
slick the Hawks were, it's difficult to see how he would have fitted in. At the end of a storming set, which
obliterated any lingering suspicion that the [so-called] Hawklords are in the same galaxy in terms of
professionalism, quality and sheer power (a good thing, by the way) and after Dave Brock had wished
everyone Happy Christmas, Dibs stayed on stage to tell us what a great crowd we had been and then had
a hissy fit about cameras in the audience ("fucking outrageous") - a slightly sour note to end on.
What else did we learn? The Hawkwind sound and dynamics have shifted again - not before time, because
the set had been getting pretty tired. There were some new songs (on which, currently, the jury is out),
some revisiting of old lyrics in new settings and some new arrangements. Dibs took most of the lead
vocals, indeed for much of the set he played the front-man role, po(i)sed at the mic stand like he owned it,
leaving bass duties to Niall. Before you get too worried, DB took several lead vocals and was, as ever,
evidently firmly in command. Dibs also had his own synth/effects console and even spent some of the time
just standing around on stage rather than playing bass. Meanwhile, Brock, Hone and Chadwick formed a
rock solid power trio, as particularly evident on "Silver Machine". Tim Blake seemed a bit marginalised
throughout, with Dibs taking lead vocals on Tim's only solo number. Huw was very definitely back,
earning guest spot with the Hawks for the encore, introduced by Dibs with the words "We found this old
tramp round the back..."
Huw's own set, with a different (and younger looking) LLG to the one which so impressed last year, was
long on efficiency and technical prowess but short on the passion and feel so evident in 2011. This was
primarily I think, because, of the new stuff, only "Hard Graft" made it into a greatest hits-based set. The
rhythm section was a trifle lumpen at times and Huw was clearly (as he admitted) losing his voice - he
consequently swallowed at least half the lyrics (in other words even more than usual), but it would be
churlish to deny that this was a very solid (indeed, polished) and enjoyable performance.

Huw's set list: "Waiting for Tomorrow", "Hard Graft", "Space Chase", "5th Second of Forever / Wind of
Change / 5th Second of Forever", "Moonglum", "Rocky Paths".
Hawkwind kicked of with a reading of "Sonic Attack", against a background of cacophonous noise...not
exactly the strongest set opener ever but it segued into a muscular and rock solid "You'd Better Believe It"
(with a new breakdown and poem - "Space 2001" apparently - inserted into the middle), Dibs was on
vocals for both. A new song called "Seasons" followed. Dibs sung it of course, and there was a long
instrumental break but the tune didn't stick, at least not on this first listen.

Some Elric lyrics followed (it sounded like a combination of several Elric songs), spoken by Dibs over a
synth-based tune, then another new song, details of which are already pretty hazy. According to the set list
already up on the Starfarer site, these two songs must have been "Footsteps" and "Hills Have Ears" . Then
Dibs read the "Warriors" poem and the band played "Angels of Death", sung by Dave and super heavy,
with both basses pummelling away.

After "Prometheus", sung by Dibs obviously, we got "Magnu/Brainbox Pollution", mainly sung by Dave,
again really powerful. Tim's notional solo spot, "Tide of the Century", followed, sung by Dibs as mentioned
above. Tim then came out front to play the opening of "Assassins of Allah" on his synth guitar, getting the
biggest cheer of the night so far.  Dibs took the lead vocal but Dave stepped up to the mic for the "It is
written...¦" parts. The instrumental break ("Space is their Palestine") has been beefed up and extended, with
more of the chanting heard on IITBOTFTBD and with Niall providing some guitar fills.

That could have been it but the band turned the intensity down a couple of notches for "Sentinel", again
sung by Dibs obviously, before ratcheting it back up again to close out the set with a killer version of
"Silver Machine"," sung by Richard, with Dibs mainly standing around metaphorically twiddling his thumbs
while Brock, Hone and Chadwick locked into a ferocious groove to show what power trios should sound
like.
Huw appeared for the encore, taking an age to get his guitar sound sorted, and just taking the edge off the
slick professionalism evident up until then. Meanwhile Dibs recited "The Awakening". The band then
kicked into "Psychedelic Warlords", the sound initially muddier and messier with the extra guitar in the
mix, before settling down into something more listenable. The encore inevitably wound up with "Spirit of
the Age", definitely getting the best audience response, and sung and led, of course, by Dave Brock, with
the whole band evidently enjoying themselves on stage. DB wears his 70 years incredibly lightly, and
several decades seemed to slip off his shoulders here, bringing the gig to a rousing finish.

As a final aside, strange but true, by way of extra and totally unofficial support (or competition),
Hoaxwind were playing for free in the pub next door (see
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-FdTWRp_1HY).