Solstice Daze : London Astoria, 21st December 2005

At last, I finally manage to get to a Hawkwind Christmas gig...
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Spacehead opened proceedings with some good swoopy synthy space noises over a backing that is not my
cup of tea, but they were still preferable to Man – who Mike Holmes pointed out should be more properly
called Son Of Man given the youthfulness of the membership (only Martin Ace remaining of the original
generation).  They provided 45 minutes of pedestrian hard rock / blues, which went down well with an
appreciable portion of the audience.

Hawkwind came on at 9.05pm and went straight into a teasing introductory motif featuring the Lord Of
Light chord sequence, only to cut over to The Right Stuff.  The sound was clear but not quite loud enough
in the seated area up top.  This number featured a new melodic interlude based on an inversion of the
familiar 2-chord pattern before sliding back into the pounding main riff, but was otherwise as we’ve
come to expect. And then a mystery guest took the stage for Sword Of The East; none other than Jez
Huggett, plus the male Puck and female fairy first seen at the 2003 Hawkfest, during the relative short and
focussed trancey midsection that I’d not heard before.
Greenback Massacre which is next up, is interesting
for the way the band run with the unusual time
signature, which I’d thought was 9/8 when
listening to the studio version on Take Me To Your
Leader, but is more like 5/4 at this point in the
proceedings.  I notice Jason Stuart bobbing away
behind his keyboards – it’s the first time I’ve
seen him live with the band and his buoyancy shows
his evident enthusiasm which I’m not yet entirely
sharing.  Perhaps the acoustics of the
venue are responsible, but what I am hearing is not as interesting as the visual spectacle – even without
being able to see the lightshow properly due to an obscured view…

Next we get the minor strummed guitar chords that herald the inclusion of 7 By 7.  It’s given a
swinging, jazzy feeling despite Alan Davey’s religious observance of the correct Lemmy bassline.  Mr.
Dibs does the spoken interlude and his sonorous tones are just right for this.  The Captain then follows this
up with a brief, searing guitar solo, which I can’t swear is the first of many, but his guitar playing is an
absolute revelation throughout the set.  Jason’s joining the band seems to me to have a invigorating
effect on Mr.Brock, pushing Dave from the right-hand side of the stage to the centre, and turning him away
from the bedspread-shrouded banks of synths behind which he lurked for most of the 90’s and 00â
€™s.  Jason himself is also a tremendous asset to the band in terms of musical prowess – and rather like
Steve Swindells in an earlier incarnation of Hawkwind, is a bona fide keyboards player as opposed to a
synthesizer operator.
For Love In Space the female android backdrops are
illuminated in cobalt blue, and Alan Davey pumps a
real Ricky sound from his bass to offset the gorgeous
vocal melodies.  The Hawkfest fairy does a turn
unaccompanied as the Captain lets rip with another
acid-laced guitar solo.  Mr.Dibs comes back out to
Alan announces they’re going to do the “Upside Down� version of Brainstorm, and this is exactly
what we get.  It’s somewhat thrashy and simplistic, introduced with a new chord progression (A-B-C-B-
A-C-B?)  It seems to end and segue straight into a fast, punky Upside Down with Mr.Dibs on vocals again.  
This then reconnects to the “is he dead / where’s his headâ€� part of Brainstorm.  The crowd down
the front are more animated now, but one still gets the feeling that the audience are so laidback with
Christmas cheer as to be stunned into immobility by the efficient, blasting band up on stage.  And it’s the
end of the main part of the set, too…
The band comes back on and Kris Tait introduces
Matthew Wright – who himself announces Rob
Ayling of Voiceprint, who’s here to give an award
to each member of the band for the “phenomenal
salesâ€� of Take Me To Your Leader.  Amid all this
Martin Griffin pops up on stage and presents a similar
award to
I dare say that where I sat had an impact on my
enjoyment of this gig (I was looking after someone on
crutches who couldn’t stand or get trodden on)
but even so, it did seem to start slowly and gradually
build up steam.  For my money the set really came to
life during Psi Power – rather later in proceedings
than I would have hoped, but the rabbit was pulled out
of the hat once again, and I shuffled out in the usual
state of stunned euphoria that only a great Hawkwind
gig can provide.
Left: our view of the lightshow was fairly well
obscured...
Out Here We Are features a new hippy girl dancer in the vein of Julie Murray (who was on the 1990 Live
Legends video).  There is also some seemingly live sax from Jez Huggett, though I was sure that it failed to
touch his lips at one point near the end of his mid-song solo.  He stays on stage for Angela Android, which
features another dance innovation with a male / female pairing which I think captures my attention because
where I’m sitting the sound is missing some layers – no punishing bass, for example…
handle lead vocals on Lord Of Light and does it splendidly with only the bizarrely costumed male dancer
letting the side down.  This version is definitely a cut above the 1995 tour soundcheck.  But the crowd, it
seems to me, is not going bananas, and a quick check over the balcony shows those down the front are no
more animated than the rest of the audience at this stage.
noticeably intensifies during this middle part of the
set. By the end of the first vocal passage it all lets rip,
including Dave’s lead guitar, before returning to
the more muted rendition of the second verse.  This
whole pattern is repeated, with what must be at least
three heavy duty guitar solos from Dave Brock.

Psi Power contrasts Richard Chadwick’s
intonations low in the mix with a dominant dual lead
vocal from
Paradox has the trio to the fore with a Dave / Alan vocal duet to introduce the main part of this number,
which settles into yet more lead guitar – DB is really going for it tonight.  This seems to be everyone’s
favourite track judging by the huge cheer it gets.  It’s followed by a Spirit Of The Age which has
reverted to a “Live 79â€� arrangement of syncopated riffing.  The crowd roar along with the lyrics, as
the atmosphere
Davey and Brock, over a quiet keyboard’s descending chord progression.  Again, the arrangement is to
keep it quiet on the verses and louder on the chorus.  This one really cooks by the time the band get to the
end of the song, and they then launch into a blistering knock-em-dead version of Hassan-i-Sahba.  What a
shame that it includes the Space Is Their Palestine interlude, which turns into the Jez Huggett show, and is
also something of a dance special, featuring an Angels and Demons motif that fairly swiftly degenerates into
an experience akin to watching a tank full of puffer fish goggle about aimlessly for ten minutes.  The “it
is writtenâ€� coda is illuminated by back-of-stage footlights that resemble one bar electric fires.  In terms
of dancers and stage lighting this could be lifted from the 1986 Chaos tour video…
Matthew Wright.  After all this presenting it’s a reliefwhen the band get back to the important business
of pushing out a blanga-rich blasting Psychedelic Warlords.  The light show is dominated by white stage
lights, and the whole thing is ratcheted up to the bouncy finale provided by Brainbox Pollution, where they
absolutely pull out all the stops, with everybody on stage, including Keef Barton from Spacehead, Mr.Dibs
and Jez Huggett.  There’s so much thrumming musical power flowing from the stage that the drums are
pretty much drowned out and there’s no way that the set can continue on past this song –  anything
more could only be an anticlimax, and the band go off to tumultuous acclaim, having pulled off yet another
ripping tour de force of a gig.