23 December 2009

Hawkwind at the Shepherd's Bush Empire

For the second year in a row I saw Hawkwind twice on the end-of-year tour, once at The Brook and Southampton to see them close up and personal and then again at their main London gig to savour the full show.

This year, tempted by Arthur Brown being the support act, I got to the venue early enough to get an unexpected place right at the front which, while not being anything like as close as at The Brook, meant that I was a close as you can get and had uninterrupted views for the many photos that I always take at concerts.

Having been centre of stage four days previously, this time I chose to be left of centre so that I could get a good look at Tim Blake who is the most active member of the band but who was largely hidden from me before by his keyboards.

This picture also reveals a violinist who had not been at the previous show, possibly because they could not squeeze him on to the small stage.

Another improvement was the light show which had continually failed in Southampton. Here it worked impressively and added to, rather than detracting from, the overall performance.

The set was, hardly surprisingly, much as at The Brook, though it was hit by the curfew there so we had more songs to enjoy this time.

I tried to keep a track of the set list and this is what I wrote down at the time: Lighthouse, Fahrenheit 451, Sentinel, Space poem, Angels of Death, Silver Machine, the other Mr Tibbs song from last year, what sounded like a new Tim Blake song with an Indian touch, Spirit of the Age, Magnu, Brainbox Pollution, another new Tim Blake song, You'd Better Believe it and Levitation. A brief gap to recharge batteries and to determine the crowd's enthusiasm for more music then it was Right to Decide and, finally, the monumental closer Hassan I Sabbah.

This set list comes with some caveats, like me not knowing the complete 40 years of music in the Hawkwind catalogue and the way that many of the songs drifted off to places to explore new soundscapes before, eventually, returning to the original theme.

There probably were other songs hidden in these long forays but none were that obvious. Though I did think that I was listening to David Brock playing Cabinet Key at one point.

But back to the show and time for a worthy mention for the two dancers, performing here on stilts, who accompanied what seemed like the majority of songs in a dazzling array of sci-fi outfits. They also made good use of the large space across the front of the stage; another advantage of being at the front centre-left!

At Southampton, Hawkwind were a band playing a (very good) concert but at the Shepherd's Bush Empire they were part of a much bigger show that attacked the senses delightfully. This is exactly what I keep going to Hawkwind concerts for.

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