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GONG, Manchester Academy
10 September 2010
Gilmour famously told us he "fell out of love with noodlings" Daevid
Allen was still offering a whole new selection of noodle dishes in 2010.
Together with Hawkwind, Gong first took us further to the outer limits
during what was reputed to be the late 60's and early 70's.
Tonight at Manchester Academy, I must admit some savage curiosity as to
whether Gong could, after all these years, translate those joyous
noodles into a decent live show.
Special guests Space Ritual were first to abduct us with an eight
song set which celebrated Space Ritual's achievements from fine albums
like 'Otherworld' rather than a set of Hawkwind's greatest.
troopers do have more original members of Hawkwind than the current line
up, so they could have been forgiven for people pleasing. Inevitably
Master of the Universe and Brainstorm got the biggest cheers of the
evening and overall this was a fine hors d'oeuvres beautifully
presented, as they say on 'Britain's Best Dish.'
landed with Daevid Allen, resplendent in white horned space costume,
closely followed by Gilli Smyth. Both in their 70's, this would surely
be a short set then right? Wrong. For two hours both artists showed that
ancient wisdom can translate itself as well to live music as well as
books, art and film.
At times it
was difficult to discern what that wisdom was though. But to divide
Daevid's lyrics up into some kind of conceptual analysis, like you can
with say Roger Waters, is defeating the object of the exercise. Gong is
a sonic experience first and foremost.
difficult to imagine Gong selling out as it did tonight though without its
legendary guitar hero, Steve Hillage who remains one of the most
respected composers to come out of the UK.
in stance it was Hillage's mastery of the art that held the whole set
together, ably assisted by rhythm section Dave Stuart and Chris Taylor
with Miquette Giraudy (Synthesizer) and Ian East (sax and flute).
Much of the material came from the iconic 'Camembert Electrique' (got
the T-shirt) and the Radio Gnome triumvirate 'Flying Teapot,'' 'Angel's
Egg' and 'You.' Without access to a set list, this anorak found it
difficult to discern which track was which. No matter at a Gong gig
methinks. The excellent light projections did offer some clues for us
from Camembert was, for example, delivered in its original arrangement.
I was in the photographer's pit for the first three numbers and you can
see the joy of the audience's enthusiastic responsive in to the faces of
Hillage, Smyth and Allen. This had clearly been a good decision to fire
up Radio Gnome again.
The seminal 'Master Builder' from 'You' was highlight from me. The
hypnotic chants becoming far more poignant in a live setting than they
are on a crackly piece of vinyl from 1974. 2032, the first collaboration
between Hillage and Allen since that of the three majors depicted a
glimpse of the future.
A word for
the wonderful Gilli Smyth whose voice is truly unique. I don't think she
sang more than three words in a logical line, but her spacey wailings
added a je ne sais quoi which is difficult to define. Magic Mother
Invocation would thus be rendered useless, even with or without the
genius of Steve Hillage or Allen's poetry. My Space Ritual lighting
buddy, Johnny Teach agreed.
So it was a strange gig and not for everyone. Many of my friends had
questioned my sanity but I am glad I went. Gong are a quirky yet
essential addition to the genre we loosely called rock. File under
naughty noodles. Ozrics, Hackett and Hawkwind coming up!
'Rockwaves' on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio every Sunday at 21:00
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