24 December 2009

Space Ritual rock the Inn on the Green

Where does the time ago? Apparently it is three years since Space Ritual last played at the Inn on the Green in Ladbroke Grove. I saw them play twice there in the tail end of 2006 but since then my immersions into their version of space rock have mostly been at the 100 Club, so it was nice to go back to this intimate and friendly venue.

The stage at Inn on the Green has quite a narrow, if reasonable deep, stage which could pose problems for a band with some many members. Space Ritual got round these restrictions by pushing Chris Purdon forward to the dance floor where he was joined by the Fabulous Ms Angel.

This left the stage to (L-R) Mick Slattery, Nik Turner, Terry Ollis, Jerry Richards and Thomas Crimble.

It was great to see Thomas Crimble facing front and with so much space as he is sometimes the secret member of the band hidden at the side behind his keyboards. Here the secret member mantle was passed on to Terry Ollis whose drums where very evident but the drummer himself was right at the back in Nik Turner's shadow.

A band with seven (sometimes eight) members is always going to have problems fitting on to any stage but they did very well here and the loss of one drummer, though regretted, was a good compromise.

The set was a strange mix of the expected delivered unexpectedly.

Expected was the collection of Hawkwind classics, including Brainstorm, Master of the Universe and Orgone Accumulator. Incidentally, none of these featured in the recent Hawkwind tour.

A little unexpected was the emphasis on Hawkwind songs at the expense of their own. Previously we had been treated to most number on Otherworld but there seemed to be much fewer on this occasion. Pleasingly, the title track was included.

The songs had the expected extended instrumental breaks in the middle but they sounded a little different, a little less rocky and a little more funky. I was firmly reminded of Pink Floyd's Money in one song with its staccato theme.

It may have been the song selection or the way they were presented, or even a combination of both, but the flute was rarely used as the saxophone won the battle for Nik's attention. The prominence of the saxophone kept the funky feeling going throughout the set. I was almost dancing at times!

It's hard, and unfair, to compare Space Ritual to Hawkwind, or to Hoaxwind or any of the other bands that feast on the rich harvest of Hawkind's back catalogue, but I'll have a go anyway. Hawkwind rock more, experiment with new songs more and put on a better show overall (because they can afford to) but Space Ritual have more respect for the heritage of the music and for the society that spawned it. There is much more of a community feel about them.

But the best thing about the differences is that both bands are worth going to for different reasons. In the space of a month I saw Hawkwind twice and also two concerts by Space Ritual/Hawklords, without once getting anywhere near thinking that I had had enough of space rock for the moment. And I'm sure that I'll be listening to a lot more space rock in 2010 too.

In fact I may even venture to Darkest Ruislip to see Space Ritual on 5 February but I'll definitely see them on home territory at the Boom Boom Club in Sutton the following night.

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