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Hawkwind / Focus

Glasgow O2 ABC (Wednesday 4th March)

By • Mar 16th, 2015 • Category: gig reviews

A real flashback this one, or just the audience – let BM stress she has seen neither of these acts before, and could be the most uncool gig she has ever attended, nevertheless something has always pricked her (missus) about this longstanding British act – possibly because she lost out to Stacia for that “exotic dancing” gig as the 70s dawned…

Caught the last 10 minutes of support act Focus, an extended run through their most notorious 70s track ‘Hocus Pocus’, yes the one with the yodeling. They are from Holland and have BM thinks one original member left (Thijs Van Leer), still touring frequently and to be seen usually at the Renfrew Ferry (has it given up live music btw, not seen too many ads for gigs there recently?). Anyway it is a very distinctive track, let’s just leave it at that…

So Hawkwind, a British institution, still performing, formed in 1969, one original member left (Dave Brock I think) – space-rock pioneers and have survived various musical transformations, line-up changes almost more numerous than The Fall, and possibly the missing link between Pink Floyd and The Levellers…

They have a pretty devoted audience, the less said about that the better – “years have not been kind” etc, but that’s not really the point, these people have survived a lot… (and have the T-shirts to testify to it…)

The main things about this band are the lightshow (man!), quite extraordinary, and the fact that they appear to have refused to be a caberet act and well, they just keep on.

It’s a good sound, some really heavy guitar mixed with a live theremin from Tim Black (man!!) (as well as the not much seen now strap-on synth, Howard Jones fans!) which as the screech intensifies and lifts up the notches, has the same effect as many Superstar DJ effects, Calvin Harris could learn something here, no really!

The line-up is complex in terms of people who currently play, used to play and now play – Dave Brock takes the first vocal (‘Motorway City’) but it is their former roadie Mr Dibs, who performs most of the rest. Six musicians on stage, including “Dead Fred” on other keyboards, god it is confusing…

And there is the dancer, well BM was a bit old to audition for this one, she appears (unnamed) for three of the instrumentals and (update alert, 70s men…) does not flash the flesh but instead performs some very tasteful routines, and acrobats, first time BM has seen anyone do a rope act at ABC1, v impressive, no really, while the band drone on about computers, space etc etc…

The band’s lyrical message does at times appear to be seriously conflicted, at times lamenting the destruction of the earth’s natural resources, also in one track urging people to (via messages on the backdrop) occupy, oppose and stick two fingers up to The Man, while also celebrating technology, fast cars and other attributes of late capitalism. Confused? Well there are some good tunes, some spaced-out arrangements and some guys revisiting their misspent youth – closest comparison here for BM was Floyd but with more of-the-moment steals from each following decade.

There are also a couple of brushes with more electronic, and techno sounds, quite good actually and I do recall (knew nothing about them really at the time) seeing line-ups in the 90s where Hawkwind played at “repetitive beats” festivals with the likes of (oh crumbs stretching the memory now) the Feed Your Head collectives? (Asking the wrong person there – Ed)

Hawkwind are also notorious for former member Lemmy (who went on to form Motorhead) – this group does span some fair amount of musical ground.

BM supposes that the best thing about this band is that they have always done it themselves, no corporate stuff, not pretty or styled, just have gone where it takes them.

And tonight it was a pretty good gig, didn’t stay to the end (schoolnight) but it was not all pure nostalgia, there is life in some old dogs yet. A mixed review but BM does not think this is unfair, there are no classic albums but BM is happy to have rubbed shoulders with Hawkwind, think everyone should at some point – England’s Grateful Dead, anyone?

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