|(Yet another) Sonic Attack - Hawkwind at The Forum, London
This comes from the Feb 2011 issue of Prog, and was published under the title of Sonic Attack...like so
many other articles about Hawkwind have been...
As Hawkwind's annual yuletide shows took flight again across the UK, Raziq Rauf was in London to
find out if Brock and co still had the old magic...
Down the road in Camden Town, spritely
noiseniks Gallows are pulling a double shift with a
show either side of supper and as you walk into
the Bull And Gate -the pub next door to the
Forum- you'd be forgiven for assuming that
Hawkwind were pulling the same stunt. However,
it is but a well-honed and humourously-named
tribute band. There is no doubt that Hoaxwind
have pulled a few revellers in off the street on this
bitterly cold evening for some pre-gig solace and
that's more than likely why there aren't too many
present to watch the early theatrics of The Jokers.
Main support, Hot Steppers fare better in terms of
both attendance and appreciation but, ultimately,
everyone here is just waiting for the mighty
Hawkwind to take the stage.
It's quite the luxury to be able to choose tracks
from two dozen studio albums and after 40 years
of space rocking around the globe, it's the kind of
wealth that Dave Brock has afforded himself but,
after some whooshes and swirls, it's the title track
of their most up-to-date album, Blood Of The
Earth, that kicks things off tonight. The band's
confidence in the new album is clearly high -and
rightly so- as they play another four tracks from it
tonight. The tentative moshpits that start during
the closing song from the newer set, the revived
version of You'd Better Believe It, both grow in
size while never really getting off the ground.
Needless to say, the ringleaders have their hearts
in the right places, even if their actions aren't
appreciated by others all around them.
A huge positive that is noticeable from the first whirls of the theremin is the quality of the sound tonight.
Every whiz, wail and keyboard solo is audible in crystal clarity and while the travelling troupe has had
the rest of the tour to perfect the sound levels; for example, the way Spirit Of The Age sounds tonight is
absolutely magnificent. The vocals sound as strong as ever and - fittingly, with its classic status - it sits
perfectly alongside newer material. It's a salient point that Brock has now assembled arguably the
strongest Hawkwind line-up ever and that never hurts in making a band sound good. In stark
comparison to Mr Dibs' stationary figure, Tim Blake's frequent forays from behind his keyboards to
pretty much anywhere else adds an extra dynamic to the show. Draping his keytar over his neck, his
languid episodes across the stage are a common element tonight, along with his longest solo clocking in
at almost five minutes. Not bad, but it's always painful to see a theremin neglected for so long.
It's the hard work and the high standards that Brock set himself that has allowed the band to have a
meaningful career of this length. That Hawkwind are able to command venues of this size so long after
they started is testament to that. Half the reason that they are still able to tour so successfully is that the
punter really does get value for money from their ticket purchase. While some bands are content with
just the handful of members on a bleak stage that has maybe just a backdrop for company, these guys
go all out. If the music 'somehow fails to create vast, twisted landscapes of colour in your imagination,
the superbly orchestrated lights coupled with wild, apocalyptic projections will definitely help. Throw in
a couple of lovely dancing ladies and it's a sure hit.
Initially taking to the stage in metallic spandex and wild headdresses, Hawkwind's cavorting characters
continue to appear with their own take of conceptual dancing whether it be dressed like giant purple
druids (on stilts, of course), the archetypal angels of death (complete with scythes) or just tottering
about in bare feet while having a dance. Either way, they add to the viewing experience tenfold.
It's been a hugely enjoyable evening all round and with more dates already booked in for 2011, there
seems to be no end in sight for Hawkwind. Dave Brock appears to have found a way to balance the
diminishing dynamism of the band's performance with an increasingly exciting and uniquely ostentatious
live show. It's an absolute winner. While wishes for another 40 years of creative output might be slightly
excessive (and impossible), on the evidence of tonight, the possibility of even more from Hawkwind can
only be celebrated.