A Return To Traditional Values...(sort of) : London Astoria, 19/12/2007

Many thanks to Paul Eaton-Jones for this trademark passionate review and accompanying photos
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I’d ‘ummed’ and ‘ahhed’ about going up to London for this concert for a couple of months
before deciding to go. It was all Karlos’ fault of course. I am utterly blameless. We thought about
booking tickets, trains and hotels in October. “You do it�. “No you do�. �Where did we stay
last time?� “Can’t remember�. “Ah bollocks. I’m not going�. Silence for weeks so I
decide I’ll do all the work but Karlos had lucked in a got a Zeppelin ticket so I’m going by myself at
the last minute. Luckily my head of department is a generous guy and said it was no problem taking a
couple of days off at the end of term so it was quick scrabble to book everything.

Another part of my initial reluctance hinged around the fact that Hawkwind haven’t substantially
changed their set for around five or six years. As they have become consummate musicians at the top of
their form so their set has become stuck in a groove. The newer additions haven’t worked too well for
me though most fans love the inclusion of ‘Paradox’ and ‘Orgone Accumulator’. My problem
lies in the fact that I remember the original versions which I preferred.

I travelled up from Hull and arrived in good time to check into my hotel. I decided to see just how far away
the venue was so I wandered along Charing Cross Road to The Astoria. I saw Mr. Dibs chatting to a couple
of guys on the steps and then walked along Denmark Street to The Angel pub where some of us had
arranged to meet later in the evening.

Knowing what was where, I went back to change into my gig-going gear. Equipped with camera and note
pad I arrived at The Angel and sat near the fire checking out the people who were drinking and chatting.
Half of them seemed to be office workers and executives who had stepped off the Treadmill at the end of
the day and were enjoying a drink before heading home. The rest appeared to be Hawk fans.  The small
group next to me invited me to join them and introduced themselves. One of the group is the guy who is
compiling the Bob Calvert book for Clyvedon Press.  When I said I’d come up from Hull someone said, â
€œOh you must be Paul Eaton-Jonesâ€�. Fame or notoriety? I leave the reader to decide.

I then got talking to a frequent contributor to the Yahoo discussion group, Martin Wray. He was there with
his brother Paul and band mate Scott. If you get a chance to catch their band, Acropolis do so. A friend of
mine has seen them and he was very impressed.

We wondered what sort of set we could expect. A lot of group talk, cryptic messages from Dave and other
scuttlebutt had led many to believe we might get something very special - a space night - or even a rerun of
The Space Ritual. If it was to be the Ritual we were at a very special time in the story of Hawkwind.

Around quarter to seven we began drifting from the pub and made our way to the Astoria. The talk was
again of what we might be in for; great Hawkwind gigs of the past, good, bad and rubbish support bands
we’d enjoyed or endured. (For me the best were Alberto Y Lost Trios Paranoias and the worst probably
Baron Rojo.) Standing in the queue, the chat I overheard wasn’t so much about music as about the day
to day domestic stuff. Holidays, the school run, a proposed move down to the West Country, letting teenage
daughters stay overnight at friend's houses etc. etc.. All rather homely and in total contrast to the
conversations I had with friends back in 1974-77 while waiting in line for a Hawk gig. When I went to see
the band at Wolverhampton Civic back in 1974 all one guy wanted to know was would Stacia get her t*ts
out. She didn’t but Richie was so blown away by the gig he didn’t notice. (Sorry, but we were naive
kids at the time!)
By the time we got into the auditorium the support act
were into their set. The band, Prime Sinister, are a
heavy/thrash metal band. It’s the first time Iâ
€™ve ever heard thrash live and was deafened yet
surprised at how good they were. Mind you, after
about five numbers I couldn’t tell one song from
the next. They were very competent and rather well
received by the
crowd.

So to the set. I know some people thought that opening the concert with a spoken piece like ‘The Black
Corridor’ didn’t really work. I think it’s a good ploy and it is of course something they’ve
done before. The Space Ritual opens with ‘Earth Calling’ though that’s used more to cover the
traditional tune-up.

A spotlight falls on Mr. Dibs and to the accompaniment of synths and Tim’s Theremin he recites
Moorcock’s bleak poem about the loneliness of space flight. A good choice to open with and harked
back to the 1974 and ‘75 tours when ‘Standing On The Edge’ opened the set. Mr. Dibs does a very
good job and delivers it well against background of gently washing spacey synths and Theremin sounds.
This segues into what is now a standard in the set, ‘Aerospaceage Inferno’. Dibs, Richard and Dave
share lead vocals and although it’s not a stunning version it does serve to get the guys settled. The sound
at the start is a bit muddy as usual and takes a while to sort itself out. The bass is boomy, the guitar rather
thin and reedy but the drums, keyboards and electronics nice and clear.

Then we get a brand new song that has hit single written all over it, ‘Space Love’. Dave takes the
vocals and his voice is as clear as it usually is. The song is in the same sort of vein as ‘Angela Androidâ
€™ and not just the subject matter either. It bounces along quite nicely and that’s about all. It’s a nice
song. However that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have the ingredients to be a single release nor that it
couldn’t get into the charts. (Do they still exist and does anyone care these days?) It ends to cheers and
the next piece drifts out from the stage. A pleasant mix of space sounds and drum‘n’bass drums. After
a couple of minutes Dibs speaks the words to ‘The Awakening’. Again not too bad.
As this ends the familiar, and to me dreaded, chords
of ‘Orgone Accumulator’ start up. If any of
you have read any of my recent reviews you’ll
know just how I hate this new version. It doesn’t
seem to do anything or go anywhere. I knew however
it would only be a matter of time before I had to eat
my words. The band have worked very hard on this
number and there is far more variation in it now.
Dave’s vocals have more bite and he plays some
good lead guitar albeit down in the mix. Also the bass
lines move around more than previously and a very
reminiscent of the Space Ritual
version. Now the song seems to have direction rather than just bounce aimlessly along the bottom of a
groove-cum-rut. The wailing Theremin sounds add another dimension to it thus giving it ‘body’. The
middle section is still ‘You Know You’re Only Dreaming’ and it fits in well here. The second
instrumental bit is an exciting mix of rumbling bass and incisive lead/rhythm guitar playing. Damn! I almost
liked it!

Following ‘Orgone’ came ‘Paradox’ - another updated song that doesn’t work for me. The
quiet piano intro sounds contrived and although Dave’s guitar is different this time and sounds a lot
more ‘punky’ when playing rhythm and very melodic when playing the lead part. However it still
sounds thin. Now whether this is down to the p.a., the amps or what I don’t know. Perhaps someone
reading this can tell me. The bass also has a more ‘punk’ feel to it too. The vocals though low in the
mix are given more punch than previously. It still doesn’t quite work for me but it’s getting there.
Drop the piano intro perhaps?

So after half an hour I beginning to think the gig is going to be a dud as I’ve not really enjoyed anything
they’ve played. The backdrops are stunning as one would expect and the musicianship is exemplary but
there is something missing. Then the band start to redeem themselves in my eyes. The fabulous ‘Robotâ
€™ is up next and as on previous occasions Dave sings the first verse to bass and drum accompaniment
before crunching out the first set of chords. Brilliant! The parts played by Richard and Dibs in the end
section where they recite the Three Laws Of Robotics and shout out, ‘Obey, obey, obey’ is not only
one highlight of the song, but of the set. It’s an electric moment, chilling and thrilling. During the piece
the mime artists appear dressed in what look like white boiler suits and odd tin hats(!) and perform weird
jerky movements. Tim Blake meanwhile still has his guitar-shaped keyboard strapped on and uses this to
ward off the menacing robots. He also waves his hand over and around his Theremin to very good effect.
Things were definitely on the up. Dave plays some brilliant melodies and seems to be enjoying the antics of
the dancers.
As we tried to calm down Dibs started to pick out the bass line to ‘Lighthouse’. I groaned inwardly as
Tim made his way to the mike as I really don’t like his vocals on this track. He tortured it to death the
last time I saw him do it back in 2002. He muttered a few ‘cosmic’ phrases, passed his hand over and
around his Theremin and left the singing to Dave. This is a song of two halves. On one hand relentless
driving bass and drums and on the other the guitar and synths weaving wonderful musical patterns through
it before they all march together in the final section. Since Dave has taken lead vocals this is a great song.

Next up is a welcome return of of one of my all-time favourites - ‘Arrival In Utopia’. And it’s
audience participation time again as we all join in the verse and chorus. The middle section is Dibs in free
form narration. Something about high definition televisions and Armageddon all to the tune of ‘Death Trapâ
€™. He used to do something similar when he was in Krel. Speaking something just about intelligible
underneath a driving, pulsing beat. Very effective. After five minutes the band revert to Arrival.... Dave’s
guitar sound is archetypal Brock i.e. a solid crunchy, hand-damped rhythm that makes the hairs on the back
of your neck stand up. If I have a complaint about this number it’s that Dave doesn’t play much, if
any, lead guitar on a song that demands a searing lead break. Not necessarily a Huw Lloyd-Langton one but
a Dave special. I remember very clearly when I heard ‘Choose your Masques’ for the first time and
was utterly blown away with Arrival In Utopia. The bell-like lead break was awesome. It was 5-6 years
before I heard anyone else produce a similar sound and that was Joe Satriani with ‘Back To Shalla-Balâ
€™ on ‘Flying In A Blue Dream’ As ever, where Hawkwind lead others are bound to follow.

The next number is one which hasn’t been done for a while and when it was last aired it was murdered -
‘Damnation Alley’. I know many liked the way Alan handled it but I’ve always felt he tried too
hard and resorted to shouting. This version has Mr. Dibs taking lead vocals and us on backing, harmony
vocals. Dave played the melody more or less from the start and produced a pleasant light sound that
contrasted well with the subject matter. This has to be the best since Calvert’s time. It was very
reminiscent of the Quark version even down to the stop-start bit at the end of the fist verse before the
extended instrumental. Dave’s guitar is a bit too low in the mix but when it comes through it’s a very
sharp, well defined break. The ‘Armour-plated motor Pony Express’ vocal chugs along nicely; two (?)
note bass, simple timekeeping drums, Brockian rhythm and tinkling keyboards. This is going on in front of
Doomsday projections - Peter Sellers as Doctor Strangelove in the War Room, bombs falling etc, people
running around and the 1950’s U.S. ‘Duck & Cover’ propaganda film. Towards the end Dave
seemed to experience some problem with his guitar -string trouble, I think- but he hardly broke his stride.
Once again consummate professionalism triumphs. Huge cheers greeted the end of the number and is one of
the evening's highlights.
Things sort of quietened down with the next number, ‘Abducted’. Dibs again took the speaking part
and while he didn’t give it quite the same sense of quiet terror Ron Tree gave it Richard’s cries of
panic in the background let you know that the descriptions of the aliens weren’t merely remote
observations but close encounters. During the number both Dave and Tim produced some very interesting
sounds from their Theremins that add a more alien sound than do some of the synth sounds: very effective. â
€˜Alien I Am’ segued in at the end of ‘Abducted’ nice and smoothly and was a welcome return.
Dave took the lead singing and Dibs did the narration in the middle. He accompanied this with a nice driving
bass line and kept up the pace and the tension. Dave also played some very pleasant lead melody during the
verse part - understated rather than pyrotechnic. The projected scenes were of bulbous-headed aliens and the
standard Roswell alien. How to describe the mime during this song? Well they came on on what must have
been stilts as they towered at least twice the height of the guys in the band. They were dressed all in white
with long flowing sleeves and moved menacing and slowly around the stage. Very impressive all round.

Next we had audience participation time. Now that ‘Spirit Of the Age’ has been dropped (temporarily I
hope) the crowd need a song to sing along with. All join in with, ‘Master Of The Universe’. It starts
rather thinly with no crescendo of space-whoosh just some barely audible guitar chords before the bass
arrives. Dave handles the vocals very well and gives it more “oomph� than he has for a long time. At
the end of the first verse Dibs plays the familiar ‘Anderson’ bass line before the rest of the band come
in on cue. There are a lot of traditional lighting effects for this song. Dancing ceiling lights playing out onto
the audience and illuminating us all; spot lights on the band; sudden darkness then all the lights coming back
on.

The band have now hit the right note. At the end of the middle instrumental section the song comes to a halt
and goes straight into a fantastic rendition of ‘Time We Left This World Today’. This has always been
a difficult one to bring off live but this is the best I’ve heard. Dibs reaches right down into the subsonic
area one moment before hitting the higher bass strings for a prolonged workout. While his bass is dominating
the piece Dave and Richard sing the verse and then during the instrumental part Richard cries out the â
€˜Today, today, tomorrow, tomorrow’ lines. Interwoven amongst all of this are Jason’s spiralling
keyboards, Tim’s Theremin and synth noises and Dave’s jangling guitar. The visuals are stunning.
One moment subtle blues, pinks and yellow lights, the next a total white out as all the strobes and pure white
spotlights engulf the stage and auditorium. Total sensory overload. What a pity it lasted only three minutes!!
In the notes I made I’d written in capital letters: UNBELIEVABLE!!!!
The next piece is ‘Sonic Attack’ and is nearly always a bit of a Curate’s Egg. Do the musicians
take it seriously or not? That is the question. Perhaps it can only be done seriously in the context of a
concept show/album where it’s part of the narrative flow. I’ve said before that I loved the way
Dave corpsed midway through it on the 1988 Hammersmith show because it really is rather incongruous
out of context. However this time it’s delivered with all due severity. Dave and Dibs manage to keep
straight faces throughout and are joined onstage by the dancers dressed as air-hostesses / hosts and wave
placards above their heads with ‘Save Yourself’ written on them. One of them has what look like
table tennis bats or aeroplane direction paddles in her hands and she too does a lot of waving around. While
Dave and Dibs are playing and singing Tim is providing backing vocals and keyboard/synth sounds and
waving at his Theremin (a lot of waving went on in this number). I have to say I enjoyed it this time.
So, another Winter, another tour. And as usual I ask, “Where do Hawkwind stand in the scheme of
things and where do they go from here?� As usual I answer that they stand outside of everything that is
rock and roll and allow the vagaries of fashion, taste and winds of change to pass them by. Not because
they are disinterested or uninterested in what happens but because they make up their own minds about how
and when to comment, or not, and have no obvious interest in the antics of politicians, ‘celebrities’
and the tawdry, air-headed issues that come from them. Hawkwind definitely do not follow fashion and
seem to set their own agenda. Perhaps that is why we never see them at the G8 protest gigs and similar
events. I’m sure they have very strong feelings one way or another but would prefer not to be aligned
with the likes of Amy Winehouse, Bob Geldof and Bono. The Hawks highlight the issues in their own way.
OK maybe they don’t get invited but they aren’t above crashing the party as they’ve proved in
the past. They still command fanatical loyalty from their fans though we continually bitch and fight amongst
ourselves and complain about the band but woe betide an ‘outsider’ to criticise them. I believe they
have a deep respect from the rock musician community and not necessarily for their longevity but for their
invention, professionalism and influence.

Where do they go from here? Hard to say really. At the top I wrote “A Return To Traditional Values -
almost�. By that I meant there was less chat between songs and the stage lighting was lower than it has
been for ages. I’m one of the older group of fans who remember almost complete darkness on stage and
no inter-song talk at all. I much prefer it like that so I was happy with the presentation.

I’ve written previously they can continue along the same path and fast become their own tribute band by
reviving old favourites, have the audience sing along with them and by being too visible on stage. We’ll
keep on coming to see this type of show but after almost five years of this we dearly crave something new
either new material or a new spectacle. Every time I see them I get the impression that they’re on the
verge of something new. What new songs are aired hint at a different direction or concept. We were led to
believe this show was to be ‘Space Night’. Well about 50% of the songs were space related I suppose
but not in any coherent way. I realise this all sounds negative and carping and we should be grateful for the
guys turning out year after year. But as I said above, we love to complain.

In the past when there’s been a personnel change or crisis the band and Dave in particular has risen to
the challenge and used it as a springboard to something different. Look at 1976-77; 1978-79; 1989 and 1996-
97. Perhaps with a new bass player and the return of Tim we WILL see an injection of new ideas. There are
plenty out there. The return to the Moon, bases on Mars, commercial flights to outer space. Surely Bransonâ
€™s excursions will fuel something??

And what of Dibs and Tim? I like Dibs’ playing. It’s in a different style to Alan’s - he picks the
strings rather than playing it as a rhythm guitar and doesn’t have it turned up as loud. His singing is
much more to my personal taste too. Whether he will write as extensively as Alan is another matter. He can
write and write some good space-related songs as he did with Krel and Spacehead. But I don’t know if
he can match Alan’s subtlety in the electronic/synth area but we can wait and see. However with Tim
back on board maybe he won’t need to. As long as Tim leaves the vocals to Dave and the others heâ
€™ll be fine. His contribution this time was amazing. I’ve never seen him as animated or so obviously
enjoying himself. The way controlled, coaxed and cajoled the sounds from his Theremin was wonderful to
behold. If I were writing an early 20th century romantic novel I would say he was positively coquettish but
as I’m not I won’t.

Jason seems perfectly at home now and I hope he is a fixture. I wish his synths / electronics were higher in
the mix as it’s very difficult to pick out his sound except his piano parts which are decidedly non-
Hawkwindian and detract rather than enhance.

Richard is becoming more of a force within the band taking lead vocals more often as his voice is getting
stronger and is almost a lead vocalist. I don’t mean that unkindly but his vocals weren’t always
suited to the songs he used to sing. Now it doesn't seem out of place. His drumming is still vibrant and
inventive when it needs to be. I see him as Simon King Plus.

As for Dave, well he doesn’t change too much which is a good thing as we need a steady hand on the
wheel and all the troubles both personal and business never seem to affect his stage performances. His
playing is still punchy, punky, melodic, spacey, and at times searing. Whichever song is being played it isnâ
€™t too long before we get the trademark Brock rhythm, the crunching chords and figure of eight right
hand pattern that marks out Hawkwind from the rest of the pack. His singing is still very good and as heâ
€™s got older he’s pitching his voice around half an octave lower and makes songs like ‘Lighthouseâ
€™ stand out. I’ve always felt that as a vocalist he is very underrated and we all know that as guitarist
and writer he’s been dismissed so many times as to be laughable. But WE know differently don’t we
children? I think I can safely say that we love the man.

This might not have been a classic Hawkwind gig as the first half hour put paid to that but from ‘Robotâ
€™ on they were brilliant. The backdrop complimented the songs and the lighting enhanced the songs and
projections. While they’ve produced duff albums I have never seen a duff gig. I know artists are often
hypercritical of their performances but we see and hear what we see and hear and are never privy to the
demands the artists set for themselves. In a recent documentary about The Pink Floyd Dave Gilmour said he
was very pissed off with a fan who came to the dressing room and congratulated the band on a wonderful
gig. Gilmour told him to fuck off as they had played, in Gilmour’s opinion, a poor set. Not what I’d
have expected from a cultured man like Dave Gilmour no matter how annoyed he felt with his performance
or whatever difficulties he may have been experiencing in his personal life. As far as I’m aware Brock or
any members past or present have never been that rude to fans even when they have in their opinions played
poorly. I know Calvert used to set very high standards for performance and Dave in interviews never seems
totally happy with shows. But as I’ve written here before Dave is a very seasoned professional and deals
with on-stage problems without outward panic. He just shrugs his shoulders and laughs. If rumour is to be
believed he may use the 40th anniversary as a point to call it a day. Why? He’s said he’ll keep going
for as long as the fans want to keep coming. Well Dave we’re still coming and show no signs of
deserting you. As long as he is health and not infirm there’s no obvious reason for him to quit.

So we didn’t get a rerun of The Space Ritual even though the side pieces of the stage set hinted at it.
The outer designs were the double-headed Hawk from the 1974 Ridiculous Roadshow and the inner ones
were the Space Ritual Leopards. Even the opening projections on the backcloth looked like interstellar
engines. What we did get was a very good concert full of energy, commitment, fun, vibrancy etc. For me it
was spoiled by a ropey first 30 minutes or so. Not crap by any stretch of the imagination - more rough and
ready, unfinished. As I’ve said above Dave’s guitar sometimes sounds reedy as though he’s
playing with thin strings. I realise that may sound ridiculous but as I’m not a guitarist it’s the only
way I can describe it. It may appear unfair to pick on these small things but I want Hawkwind to excel and
mentioning my concerns amongst other fans is legitimate. Being a Hawkwind fan of course means that we
never talk to outsiders of what we perceive to be shortfalls in a gig or album. Hawkwind is ours and is to be
defended against the rest.

The Hawkwind crew continue on their own chosen path seemingly unconscious or untouched by fashion
and the slings and arrows of media and rock industry criticism or indifference. Quite right too! It’s one
of the reasons we love them. All we want now is THE BIG IDEA with some oldies thrown in where
appropriate and we’re off again into uncharted space. It can’t come soon enough for this space
cadet. Onward flies the bird.

-Paul Eaton-Jones
The main part of the show ends with ‘Welcome To
The Future’ sung to the tune of ‘Infinity’
and is a relaxed way to finish. Dave and Dibs again
share lead vocals with Richard’s high-pitched,
plaintive voice calling out ‘Welcome’ as an echo.

As an introduction to the first encore Richard informs
the crowd that there’s a lot of illnesses and flu
going around and then coughs theatrically before the
band launch into ‘The Flying Doctor’. Lots of
electronic
bubbling, a stop, another cough, stumbling bass
intro and we’re off. Mr. Dibs again handles the
lead vocal and does a fine job. Richard and Dave
come in for ‘The cabinet key’ part and
unfortunately we have to have to now mandatory
shout of ‘Drug’ before cabinet key. Dibs
does another freeform narration in the middle
instrumental part and we also get some nice
keyboard runs from Jason and more Theremin
sounds from Tim. Both seem to be having a good
time. Things suddenly come to a dead stop, the band joke amongst themselves, hack and cough for a bit
and start the song again.The final song of the evening is of course ‘Silver Machine’ and there is a lot
of space-whoosh before Dave’s rather thin guitar plays the opening chords. Richard and Dibs take lead
vocals and the audience again provide backing vocals on the ’Silver Machine’ part. Tim, who has
been quite animated during the show, really throws himself into it now. He dances and prances up to and all
around his Theremin enticing and dragging weird and wonderful sounds from it. Dave plays thunderous
rhythms and actually looks as though he means it rather than going through the motions of, “God, not
Silver Machine again�. We only get about four minutes of it but it’s a frantic, high powered four
minutes. And then.... it’s all over of another year at The Astoria. We shout for the band more in hope
than expectation and once the house lights come up we turn and wander away exhausted, happy, thrilled
and glad we made the journey.