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Astoria, London 22 December 2006
Things may come and things may go, but Hawkwind are still very much with us. And rather than celebrating Christmas with a musical pantomime in the manner of say Quo and The Pogues, the annual Hawkwind Christmas show is essentially a meeting of the counter culture clans. The drugs and the technology may have changed but the band's core audience remains steadfast, and is startlingly diverse.
The packed-out Astoria was a glorious mix of the E generation ravers, speed freaks, bemused hippies and younger rock fans looking for a slice of the rock history concept that has served the Stones so well in the US.
Unbelievable as it may seem, the current 4-piece Hawkwind - mega light show aside - are an exercise in efficient minimalism and cutting edge of technology. Hell, for a bunch of ageing hippies they are almost slick!
Mellorons and Moogs have long been superseded by synths and computers, and the huge illuminated backdrop is years away from the old fashioned liquid light show, but guitarist Dave Brock remains at the core of the mothership with his signature chords and psychedelic tinged metal riffs.
In short, Hawkwind have moved with the times, and lest we forget it they came with an album to promote, the hi tech 'Take Me To Your Leader'. The current album was touched on briefly via the aggressive rocker 'Greenback Massacre' and the polar opposite; mellow keyboard-led instrumental 'Out Here We Are'. Topping that was a raucously received rendition of the re-recorded 'Spirit of the Age.'
So while the ghosts of Bob Calvert, Dik Mik, Stacia and the still working Lemmy and Nik Turner were mostly consigned to history for the night, and the exotic dancers have been replaced by mutant android dancers dressed in futuristic Camden Town fineries, there was no getting away from the fact that the early and mid career material still made the biggest impression.
Guitarist Hugh Lloyd Langton made three appearances as well as his acoustic opening spot, and delivered his piece de resistance on the stunning 'Lord of Light' and crunchingly heavy encore of the Nik Turner penned' Brainstorm' from the 'Doremi Fasol Latido' album. He also joined in on the gloriously retro 'Orgone Accumulator', though in truth his contribution was lost in the wall of sound. Alan Davey did a passable Lemmy impression all night, standing on tip toes with his mic just out of reach, and growling his way through the barnstorming 'Motorhead'.
Slick or otherwise, not everything worked, with the message of 'Robot Robot' all but sunk by a ponderous arrangement, but by the time of climactic 'Haasan-I-Saahba' the old building rocked to epic proportions.
No 'Silver Machine' then, but with judicious dips into their 37 year old back catalogue, this show offered just about enough to explain the nature of Hawkwind's enduring appeal.
Review by Pete Feenstra
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