Hawkwind: USA Tour 1989-1990 DVD review

Many thanks to regular contributor Graham P for this review!
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Another live DVD releasd by Voiceprint in September 2008. Having watched it, my conclusion is that on no
account
should Voiceprint be entrusted with the Hawkwind archives. This set really is appallingly presented.
First off, ignore the contents list on the back – the contents of discs 1 and 2 are (mostly) transposed.
Secondly, when using the on-disc menus, don’t try to cue up any of the individual tracks because you
will almost invariably wind up in the middle of a performance instead of the beginning. Finally, “Reefer
Madness� on disc 2 just isn’t there (the set ends with “Images�) and whatever jam is playing
over the opening montage on disc 1, of the crew setting up, Dave grinning inanely, Harvey scowling, and a
series of album cover images, it is not “Master of the Universe�. It sounds a bit like an instrumental
version of “Damage of Life� to me.

Next the material itself: don’t expect miracles! The majority of it (and all the genuine concert material) is
hand-held video footage shot from the back of the hall, with the band vaguely visible in the distance and
occasional visual glitches. Still, you do get the lightshow and slides. The sound is muddy but some of the
performances still come across well. However, and I don’t know if this is news, having never seen the
video from which this comes, but much of the first disc is pure fakery, with in-concert video and a
soundtrack that apparently mixes rehearsal material with selections from Palace Springs.

Continuing with disc 1, think of this as the “extras� disc. Anyway, after (not) “Master of the
Universe� we have “Assault and Battery� and “Golden Void�. It looks like straight concert
footage except the sound is remarkably good and close-ups of Dave and Alan singing look out of synch with
the music. These are followed by “Treadmill�… except that what we are seeing is rehearsal footage
and what we are hearing sounds remarkably like the Palace Springs album track (the violin is prominent
while Simon House is evidently nowhere in sight!). Same goes for the excerpt of “Time We Left� so
my conclusion, supported by a quick spin of Palace Springs, is that all four of these tracks are the album
cuts.

The visuals cut to Dave Brock’s hotel room for a feebly staged interview, footage from which is
interspersed with clips from a live performance of “Assassins�. Not hugely enlightening, especially
with the two soundtracks (interview and concert) bleeding into each other so it is hard to hear what is being
said, although I did catch the bit where Dave quips that Alan is the one who knows all the songs. Excerpts
of “Down Through The Night� (credited) and “Damnation Alley� (uncredited) follow (who
knows if the sound and in concert visuals actually match), with some shots from close to the stage which at
least enhance the drama, while the interviewers turn their attention to Harvey .

Next up is some footage of landscapes, cloudscapes etc (presumably concert backdrop) over which â
€œLost Chroniclesâ€� plays (basically filling the role played by “Wind of changeâ€� in years gone by).
The visuals then switch to rehearsals again, this time “Needle Gun�. The visuals and sound don’t
completely match but it certainly sounds like a rehearsal, with an unscheduled breakdown a few minutes in. â
€œTime We Leftâ€� returns to concert footage but again visuals and sound appear to be from different
sources. The same goes for “Heads�, and then the credits roll.

So, disc 1 is basically a waste of time – I would much rather have the interview and rehearsal films
presented with no trickery.

So to disc 2, which comprises actual concert footage, as far as I can tell. The sound is, initially at least,
muddy, and the visuals – from a hand-held camera at the back of the hall, pretty poor. Here the basic four-
piece (Brock/Davey/Chadwick/Bainbridge) is joined by Bridget Wishart, whose performance art adds to the
visual spectacle.

After a long and formless introduction/tuning up, the set proper kicks off with “Needle Gun�, never
the most exciting HW song, a bit too much like Status Quo. A lacklustre “Golden Void� leads into a
woeful “Ejectionâ€� sung unconvincingly by Alan. “Brainstormâ€�, incorporating the faux-reggae â
€œYour Secret's Safe With Meâ€� (sung by Bridget) fails to lift the set out of the mundane.

The middle section though is much better. A relaxed “Wings� is followed by a taut “Out Of The
Shadows�. Normally one I can happily skip over, here it lifts the performance up a notch as if the band is
finally engaged with the music – at least it is the point where I started enjoying the performance! â
€œSnake Danceâ€�, “Night of the Hawksâ€� and “Star Songâ€� all remain in the groove.

This is Hawkwind though and the spell is broken by the horrible “TV Suicide� and an iffy “Back in
the Box�, both of which allow Harvey to indulge in a lot of shouting. The set closes with passable
renditions of “Assassins of Allah� and “Images�, the latter featuring Bridget on lead vocals,
singing from underneath a ridiculous big hair wig!

So, overall, of some historical interest but objectively speaking, this does absolutely nothing to enhance the
band’s reputation (and went down like a lead balloon with my other half).

-Graham P