Dave Brock has been through it all. Solidly tied to the wheel of the ship for the last 40 years, the Hawkwind man hasn’t budged, with his creative juices – alongside a collective mentality on membership – providing the foundations for a band that can single handily be accredited for inventing Space Rock.
However, outlasting many of their contemporaries wouldn’t mean much if they couldn’t show up on the big stage.
Thankfully The Jokers were good enough to get things moving, although their classic rock sound was nothing out of the ordinary. Choruses tend to fall easy on the ear and, when you bunch that with some more than savory solo picking, then there’s nothing particularly bad to say about the Liverpool band. Song of the set was Hell To LA, a track that really asserted The Jokers as no laughing matter.
The temperature of the venue also proved hard to jest about, lingering surprisingly below a stellar level. Though seemingly unimportant, the conditions didn’t give the warmest of welcomes for Brock and his crew. Probably seized stiff from hours sound-checking in the draft of a glacial chill, Hawkwind’s performance positively bloomed with age.
Any die-hard fan knows that a Hawkwind gig can have as many visual benefits as there are audio ones. For years a variety of stage dancers have aided the band and this night was no different. But look at them as two trained dancers on stilts and you miss the point. Compounded by the light show and the atmospheric music, these dancers become a twin pair of mesmerising extraterrestrial beings towering above.
Shifting through paces, Hawkwind are a force of what I can best describe as inflation and deflation, except without the gas. Masters of timing and tempo change is exactly what they are. The chaotic interlude of Sonic Attack is allowed to breathe in its full entirety of apocalyptic ambience and yet still the song can morph tentatively into a progressively faster pace without warning. Standing At The Edge Of Time did this perfectly too, running naturally from the psychedelic, echoing passage into a lengthy, epic version of Angels Of Death.
Spirit Of The Age was met with great reception and showed that at 69 years old, Brock still has the lungs and that unique, mesmerising voice. With the menacing multi-tasking of Richard Chadwick on drums and the reciting of the three laws of robotics, Robot was the desirable follow-up.
Leaving out Silver Machine and Hassan I Sabbah may have ruffled some hawk-feathers, but what can be respected most about Hawkwind is their loyalty to exhibiting new material on the stage too. The wizard behind the laptop, theremin and keyboards with the occasional freedom to prance freely with portable keyboard in hand is Tim Blake. His new song Tide Of The Century was remarkable – its poignancy further exploited with the animation of a sailboat on the screen, floating peacefully through the imaginative landscape of an unknown world.
Little as this boat may look in this graphic world of fantasy, it serves as perfect metaphor for Hawkwind itself. They are the ultimate ship that continue to float across vast planes of space, unaffected by the gravitational conventions of genre and ever-willing to voyage into endless depths of escapism so long as their Captain willingly has the helm.