Hawkwind Live at Sheffield Corporation, 21st May 2005

This review was written by Paul Eaton-Jones, to whom my grateful thanks.  (PS the rugby
stuff is nothing to do with me...) Photo by Paul Garbutt - cheers!
Five months after seeing Hawkwind taking all before them at The Astoria in London I found myself once
more on a train bound for a Hawk concert. This time I'm headed for a smaller venue, The Corporation in
Sheffield.

The trepidation I'd felt before the Astoria gig didn't rear its head this time. The Yahoo group reviews and
thoughts of the gigs at Middlesborough and Blackburn spoke of a band relaxed and on top form. This time I
travelled alone as my usual gig-going companion, Karlos, was back in his old band The Happy Durals and
committed to a birthday party bash. Going to see Hawkwind by myself took me back to the 1980's when I
saw them at various venues around the North and Midlands. Friends were much less reliable back then. As
we all know it's much better to travel to see the band in the company of others where the chat is about
what they'll be playing, which guests may turn up and reminiscences of past gigs. My only real fears were,
would the venue be full and would it be a good sized hall? (Question. Who decides the venue in any given
town? Band, management, promoters, venue owners ask the band?)  
[Answer: promoter!]

After booking into my hotel I jump into a taxi and cross the city to the club. I arrive about ninety minutes
before the doors open just so I can check everything out and maybe catch sight of the band (I don't) and
get something to eat and drink. Even at six o'clock there are three or four people at the door but I’m
well past the stage / age of waiting for an hour for the doors to open.

Less than 100 yards up the hill is a nice looking pub that is filling up with students, locals and 'normal'
couples. About a third of the people are either wearing Hawkwind / rock T-shirts etc. or look like they're
here for the band. As there is plenty of time I get something to eat and like many upmarket pubs this one is
serving food that is a class above chicken-in-the-basket, pie and mash etc. (nowt wrong with that ah kid, I
hear you say and you'd be right). Forty minutes later full of beef Bourguignon and Ossett Gold bitter I make
my way to the club. (Actually I leg it as it's pouring with rain).

I go inside and, surprise number one, there's an old friend who used to run a rock disco here in Hull five or
six years ago we arrange a chat for later. As usual I look for the merchandising stall but to my
disappointment there is nothing that I didn't get at The Astoria. I really hoped that there would be a new
shirt design or programme but perhaps we'll get one for the Winter tour. (I also think that there would be a
big demand for any of the 'old' T-shirt designs like the Hawkwind Pyramid, Sonic Assassins, ISOS,
Doremi. Any chance, Kris?). The room is beginning to fill up with usual crowd; thirty years old and
upwards with short hair or, like me, starting to lose it! Over there two traveller-types with dreads, a woman
in purple and black, some leather and lace, a married couple in their late fifties, I asked, two guys in their
sixties, lots of 'trendies' in Ben Sherman and North Face shirts and, hurrah, a guy in 'Dave Brock' stripy
trousers with a Del beard (on his chin not on his trousers).

Around twenty five past eight Dave Brock walks across the stage from the left with a Tesco(?) shopping
bag in hand, smiles at the crowd almost as if he's been caught with his hand in the biscuit barrel, waves and
exits stage right. People exchange puzzled looks with each other, "Wot!!??"

At 20.38 the band walk nonchalantly onto the stage, all except Alan dressed in white coats. While leads are
plugged in and equipment checked heavy, bassy electronic sounds start up and eventually resolve into the
ordered pattern of the 'Spirit Of The Age' intro.

As at the Astoria, Dave barely plays a note during the first verse and puts a lot of energy into his half
spoken, half sung rendition. The bass is very 'boomy' and indistinct but after a couple of minutes becomes a
lot sharper. From the start it is clear that the band are going to enjoy themselves - Dave is laughing with
Jason who looks totally at home behind the synths, Alan smiles at people at the front of the audience, and
the moment Dave hits the strings you know, just know, that it's going to be a good concert. He hits the high
spot from the start playing a wonderfully clean melody that is different enough from the last tour to grab
your attention {and not think,'Oh, heard this before'.} The second and third melodies are equally incisive
and are very uplifting. 'Spirit..' has now become a song that, if not hopeful, is not as bleak as the original.
It's almost mournfully sentimental in delivery while the rhythm section bounce it along. (Well, if you've
heard it you may just get what I mean.) The song ends to rapturous applause.

The set list isn't all that different from the Winter tour, as next up is 'Sword Of The East'. For the next 50
minutes we see a band showing their professionalism, experience and unflappability as Dave struggles to
either fix his guitar or find one that works. Barely a couple of minutes into 'Sword..' and two strings break
on his Westone. His roadie quickly hands him a black Strat (who would have thought we'd see Dave with
one of those?). Then Dave has what looks like big trouble in trying to tune it. At the end of the verse with
no lead break to take the melody we get a rather fine bass, synth and drum workout. The transition was
seamless. There were also some very fine images projected onto the screen behind Richard that were very
reminiscent of the drawings by Blim who did the covers for Ozric Tentacles. During this long electronic
interlude Richard speaks the words to 'Adjust Me'. A nice bit of quick thinking on his part as I don't think it
had appeared on the tour prior to then. In fact I'm not sure as to whether this is the first time it's ever been
performed.

As this draws to a close it seems that Dave has settled for Dumpy's guitar and the band now 'fully tooled
up'. The next song is 'Greenback Massacre'. When I first heard it I thought it was quite good but I'm not
too sure now. The sentiments are typical urban Hawkwindian i.e. the oppressive hand of government,
monetary fat-cats creaming the profits to the detriment of the developing world etc., yet it doesn't feel like a
classic Hawkwind song dealing with similar ideas. Think 'High Rise', 'Psychedelic Warlords', 'Motorway
City', 'Micro Man', 'Coded Languages' and the like. Maybe it's the vocal delivery or something but it doesn't
work 100% for me.

The next song most certainly does, however. 'Psychedelic Warlords' has become a set highlight. Dave and
Alan share lead vocals in a very heavy version that delights the crowd. People are smiling and bouncing in
time to the music. The bass solo halfway through is much more complete than at the Astoria and better for
it. It's controlled and not as rushed. If Alan was going for an 'imitation' of the original then it was as near as
makes no difference. For some reason Dave sat down to play the lead melody. (Mind you, I have noticed he
does this more often these days. Well 36 years on the road with the Hawks will take its toll on his knees!)

The show now eases off somewhat as the next two pieces fail to hold the crowd's attention. I'm in favour
of new songs being introduced, even as works in progress. Often however, they have a natural life span or
are natural album tracks and personally I feel that 'Out Here We Are' and 'Angela Android' are cases in
point. 'Out Here....' has a similar effect that 'The Aubergine That Ate Rangoon' and 'Chronoglide Skyway'
had in the mid-1970's. Excellent studio tracks but rarely hit the high spots live. Within the first few opening
bars of 'Out Here...' most of the crowd had turned away from the stage, were talking loud enough for me
to hear conversations 10 feet away, or had trouped off to the bar. 'Angela Android', though very lively,
wasn't / isn't strong enough to pull wandering attention back to the stage. Richard's voice is getting better as
his confidence grows, but I feel Dave ought to share lead vocals with him. That way the song might have
more impact. The following twenty five minutes are the Hawkwind that outsiders think of as Hawkwind -
heavy, bassy, thunderous choppy guitar, basic, rhythmic.

The audience's attention is certainly focused for the next track, 'Hassan-i-Sahba'. Dave has his Westone
back and grinds out the opening chords and we're all bouncy and happy again. Dave, Alan and Richard
share lead and backing vocals to very good effect and Jason looks like he'd like to join in too. During the "It
is written...." section Dave's guitar sounds exactly as it does on Quark, Strangeness And Charm. This track
has gained hugely from a slight slowing down and being made a lot heavier than how it's been played during
the past fifteen years. Fantastic.

'Angels Of Death' follows on in pretty much the same vein. It has always amazed me (not having thought
too deeply about it or analysed it musically) how the introduction or removal of one musician can change
the sound and vitality of a song. 'Angels....' is a case in point. While Huw was in the band I felt that this had
become a bit of a 'trundler'. Not because of his playing, as I think he is a fantastic musician and utterly
wonderful person, but because he and Dave could play it in their sleep and it was a song from while they
were in the band together. Huwie had a particular way of approaching the song that after a number of years
became predictable - presumably because the song is easy and he was putting his prodigious talents into
new material. All Dave had to do was chug along behind laying down a solid rhythm. With Huw no longer
there Dave has to supply melody and rhythm and we all know that Dave's lead playing is totally different to
the way Huw approaches the song and, voila, we have a new version of an old song that's fresh, heavy,
attention-grabbing and is almost reborn. Alan was giving his all; once again seemingly locked in a private
battle with his bass and wrestling it into submission. Dave added some nice guitar embellishments while
Richard played a solid 'rubbididdy-dubbidy-rubbiddy-dubbiddy' drum pattern in the background. The next
song was a pleasant surprise even though we all knew it was on the set list. 'Paradox' has always been a
favourite of mine and I haven't heard it live since the Earth Ritual Preview Tour of Winter 1984. My usual
gig going buddy, Karlos, is forever calling out for 'Paradox' at every show we go to so it was ironic and a
little bit sad that he couldn't make it this time. In fact he was bloody furious when I told him (heh, heh). It
started very gently with a piano intro instead of the usual choppy guitar riff we all know so well. Next,
Dave and Richard sang the words over the top of a piano and bass so that it was nearly a-cappella.
However, the guitar soon kicked in at the end of the chorus and it was magnificent. The rhythm was heavy
and the lead was melodic and incisive as it cut through the solid bass and drum pattern that Alan and
Richard laid down. We had, I think, three verse / chorus sections and each time the melody soared higher
than the last. Over the past three or four years it seems that the band have been playing with musical light
and shade far more than in previous times. It's always been there of course as in 'Space Is Deep', 'D-Rider'
and so on. But in 'Paradox' in reached some kind of apotheosis - the ultimate example of quiet and loud,
quick and slow.

If 'Paradox' was greeted with delight then 'Techno Lab' (or is it Techno Land??)
[Yes, Technoland] was
greeted with sheer indifference. Almost as soon as Dave started reciting the words the crowd started
chatting amongst themselves and their attention wandered right off. Dave's reaction was to put on his
serious, pissed-off face, cut the piece short and go straight to 'To Love A Machine'. We got what some of
the crowd deserved, a short-ish version delivered in a perfunctory way. And rightly so.

Then we got what we didn't deserve. 'Ten Seconds Of Forever' spoken by Mr. Dibs who, one might have
said, resembled a clockwork toy just about to run out. My thoughts were, "For God's sake, someone wind
him up!!" Talk about dragging it out. TEN seconds? Nearer ten minutes. I love Dibs and think he's done a
lot for the Hawks, promoting them, helping out here and there and is fantastic in Spacehead and Krel but
tonight he just wasn't the real deal. I've always regarded 'Ten Seconds.....' as a sort of count down
(obviously) and random thoughts of the narrator's life (obviously) not a poem. Whenever people other than
Bob do it they try to make it 'meaningful'. Nik did it justice as he like Bob spoke it almost robotically with
little inflection.

Next up are old crowd pleasers. 'Assault And Battery', 'The Golden Void' and 'Where Are They Now?' are
run together as a continuous piece. They have never worked for me as live tracks except when the first two
were first aired in 1975. "Heretic! Unbeliever!" I hear some of you cry. Well I've always found them lacking
a real depth of sound, though I do think The Sonic Assassins version is pretty good. Let's move swiftly on.

The final track of the main set is a real thriller. Dumpy comes back on stage for 'Brainstorm'. Once again
everyone hits the floor running and we are treated to the full Hawkwind sonic assault. Lights flash, strobes
strobe both in time and out of time which when combined with a sound that resembles a, "right lads, lets
throw all these rocks down that huge wooden staircase" event the effect is frankly overwhelming. The
break in the middle for 'Kapal' / 'Elfin' gives all concerned time to catch their breaths before Alan's bass
signals a return with the "What's he say?" chant and its a sprint for the line with everyone getting there
together. The only fly in the ointment was that towards the end like either a either a speaker blew or a drum
skin split. It didn't intrude too much but you could definitely hear it.

After the usual hand clapping, foot stamping and shouting the band trouped back on stage. Richard called
out 'thank you's' and 'it's nice to be here'. Dumpy too came back and with the minimum of fuss the guys
got themselves sorted out. Some electronic noises heralded a wonderful rendition of 'Silver Machine'. The
band were laughing and joking with each other and seemed very relaxed indeed and the crowd sang along
and bounced in time with the music. The band played a powerful and melodic version; driving bass and
drums underneath Dave's choppy rhythm all topped off by Dumpy's searing lead breaks.  Dumpy's vocals
sounded a bit like Lemmy's and the other guys all chipped in ably as his backing singers!

All too quickly another Hawkwind concert was over and even with the guitar problems at the start it was
still a pretty good gig. Not a ten out of ten by any means, but seven pushing eight.

Highlights? 'Spirit of The Age'; 'Psychedelic Warlords'; 'Angels..'; 'Paradox'; and 'Brainstorm'. I have to
admit to being immensely disappointed when I realised that they had dropped 'Uncle Sam's On Mars' from
the set list as it was a show-stopper at the Astoria in December. Personally I'd like to see 'Greenback
Massacre'; 'Sword Of The East'; 'Out Here We Are'; and 'Assault / Void' dropped from the next tour set.
Speed up Mr. Dibs and ask that any narration be delivered without so much emotion though Dave's spoken
pieces benefit from "added emotion". (because they are emotive pieces, if you follow).

A few words about Dumpy. What a truly wonderful guy who gives a truly wonderful performance. His
opening set was almost the same as during the Winter tour. Personally I thought it was played at a slightly
slower pace and thought it had "extra" bits here and there in the form of spacey sounds, whooshes and
screaming electronics. The sound seemed clearer and cleaner and his mastery of guitar and foot operated
synth was far more evident. Or maybe I was able to stand back and watch this time instead of just being
blown away by the sonic battering! I really wish some of his set might have been recorded at some stage of
the tour as I'd love to hear this set again. (What chance any of the supports or even Hawkwind being
officially recorded??)

I had chance to speak with Dumpy as I left about an hour later as the roadies were packing the van at the
side door. He's a longtime Hawkwind fan and relished the opportunity to not only tour with them but
provide guitar and vocals especially on 'Silver Machine'. As with most people associated with Hawkwind he
was kind enough to take some time to chat with a fan, me, and ask if I'd enjoyed it etc., etc. Good man,
and I hope he'll tour with Hawkwind again or even come up as far as Hull with his Rusty Nuts outfit.

The audience was once again the usual mix of ages and styles. Most of us were in the over 35 group and I
was pleased to see quite a few in the mid-teens to mid 20's age range. Thirty years ago most of us dressed
in the obligatory Hawkwind / heavy rock T-shirt and denims. As I said above tonight's audience sported T-
shirts and shirts with logos such as Von Dutch, Ben Sherman, North Face through to Monsters Of Rock,
Iron Maiden, Motorhead and Hawkwind. There were even a couple of guys wearing sports jackets. Apart
from a small mindless minority, who lost interest as soon as the music presented them with either
something new or a bit of a challenge, the crowd received the sounds and the band with wild applause and
appreciation.

In my Astoria review I asked where did Hawkwind stand in the rock culture and how relevant were they. I
still feel they stand outside the normal rock business and think they probably don't really care that they do.
Like a number of 'name' artists e.g. Ozric Tentacles, Porcupine Tree, Judy Tzuke, The Alchemists, The
Bevis Frond and the whole Woronzow crowd who don't have the backing of major labels etc. and who rely
on their fan base and the internet to disseminate information and so on, Hawkwind have a fairly comfortable
position at the top of the alternative tree. Those of us who know them realise they are totally relevant as
they continue to address subjects that concern society and embrace the technology to produce exciting
sounds and albums. The mainstream rock press and gig-goers still imagine Hawkwind as crusty old hippies
locked in the early 1970's espousing a love and peace philosophy and playing three hour concerts of 'Silver
Machine'. If Matthew Wright has his way perhaps we'll see them on television where they can start to show
just how very good they are. And they are good. Their high standard of musicianship is the product of
many years honing and practice and they are able to make it look easy. It looks easy not because it's easy
but because they know what they're doing and how to do it with the minimum of fuss. That's the big
secret. It all flows smoothly, even the crises are dealt with effortlessly.

So, could Hawkwind be the Wales rugby team of the music world? The past year for them (both) has seen
a transformation in their fortunes and their 'styles'. Starting from the gigs in Northern Europe in June '04
Hawkwind have tightened up, made far more use of musical light and shade that has resulted in them
moving almost to a progressive rock sound for some of their numbers, (O.K. within limits lads ;-)) and
introduced songs that have made for a better balanced set. All credit to them for bringing in brand new stuff
that hasn't as yet worked out but may do in time. That's another thing that sets them apart from most bands
- it doesn't have to be 100% perfect and sanitised before being presented. The addition of Jason on
keyboards and synths has worked out very well indeed. His contributions were much more evident this time
than at the Astoria. His presence has freed Dave and Alan to spend more time playing guitar and bass than
before and boy, have we noticed.

The venue was a strange place. I found out at the end of the gig that two guys I actually knew ages ago
who ran a rock disco here in Hull had bought the Corporation and turned it into a live venue as well as a
place for weekend discos. The various rooms catered for hip-hop, "classic" 80's pomp-rock and Goth stuff.
The main hall was very Goth i.e. matt black and dust. In fact I thought it looked as if it had probably been
sacked by Alaric and his Goths and nobody had thought to tidy up. Certainly not ideal from my point of
view - I need somewhere to sit down at my age!!! Also the ceiling was far too low and it cut off about a
third of the projected images. Dave said that they were unable to use their dancers as the ceiling above the
stage was too low. So there you go.

Another season, another Hawkwind gig. I'm looking forward to the Autumn/Winter tour and the new
album. I hope they'll keep some songs from the last two sets as I think they would fit in very well with the
theme of TMTYL but we'll have to wait and see. Whatever happens we're bound to be in for a few
surprises. It wouldn't be Hawkwind otherwise, would it?
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Brock, Bags, Beef Bourguignon and a desperate attempt to crow-bar in a reference to Welsh rugby:
Hawkwind at The Corporation, Sheffield, 21-5-05.