21 December 2011

Hoaxwind, Hawkwind and Hoaxwind

One set of songs, two bands and three concerts proved to be the recipe for a great evening. As expected.

The catalyst was the annual Hawkwind Christmas Concert which still feels a little homeless after the untimely demise of the Astoria.

Having tried the Shepherd's Bush Empire two years ago and then the HMV Forum last year it was back to the sprawling mess of West London.

At least it is easier to get back from there late at night.

Hoaxwind took advantage of the date and the location to play in O'Neill's next door.

This is the nearest pub to the Empire and so was full of receptive Hawkwind fans when the fun kicked off around 7:15.

I had not long arrived by then but the quick service had already provided the first Guinness of the evening.

The pub is laid out for food and drink but there is a raised area that makes a reasonable stage and it's wide enough to accommodate the many members of Hoaxwind with some comfort.

Hoaxwind did what Hoaxwind do and that's a brisk Calvert-era Hawkwind songs like Kerb Crawler and Ejection. There is slightly more emphasis on the "rock" rather than the "space" but the air is still thick with weird electronics to show that they've not strayed too far from the Mother Ship.

They kept us well entertained until 8:30 and then it was time to head next door.

Hawkwind fans obviously do not like walking very far and the area just inside the entrance of the Empire was packed but after some forceful squeezing spaces appeared and it was possible to get pretty close to the front on the left.

Judging by the photos, I was in almost exactly the same spot two years ago.

And Hawkwind did what Hawkwind do too.

They've mellowed with age and in a nice way. The song selection favours the long ballad over the quick thrash and these are extended with riffs, warbles and subtle references to other songs.

That's not to say that they do not rock, because they do, and loudly, as you would expect with a band featuring three guitarists.

It's just that their sound changes as the band changes and the current line-up makes a lot of Tim Blake's keyboards with the guitars playing complementary roles rather than all pounding out the same beat at the same time.

A slight change this year is that Mr Dibs has assumed the mantle of lead vocalist for most songs rather than just those that he wrote.

The ability of Team Hawkwind and their confidence in it means that they can throw in new songs and leave out established crowd favourites and still make it an excellent concert.

New this time was Seasons and notably absentees included Master of the Universe and Brainstorm. Yes, we really had a Hawkwind concert without Brainstorm.

What we did get was around fifteen songs smoothly stretched over two hours.

It was all good but the ending was magic. Closing the main set was Silver Machine, complete with heavy audience participation (even from me) and then came the encore of The Psychedelic Warlords and Spirit of the Age. Two of my favours songs from one of my favourite bands. Nice!

That would have been a great end to a great night but the pub next door was still open and Hoaxwind were playing again.

This time the lights were low and the audience warmed up, musically and drinkingly, and ready for more of both.

Hoaxwind delivered more Hawkwind songs in their own manner that differed from both their original incarnations and the way that Hawkwind play them now.

And that's how it should be. There has to be more to a tribute band than straight copies otherwise you might as well stay at home and play the originals.

The fun went on to Midnight when the curfew came in to play and it was time to catch a tube or two back to Richmond.

Hawkwind were polished, professional and pulsating but Hoaxwind held their own in comparison and helped to make a great evening even better.

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