Any Space Ritual concern is a special event and that was especially true in a year that I had not seen them at all (the last time was in December 2013) and this concert was made even more special by being billed as their last.
Their final concert was billed as The Space Ritual Implosion and was planned as a long event, running from 5pm to 10pm, featuring two support bands with Space Ritual members. Plans were changed late in the day as Nik Turner's Project 9 were dropped which put the start time back about an hour. That suited me as it gave me time to walk up to EAT for a snack and a coffee before the gig.
I got to the Borderline in good time to squeeze in to a spot on the front left before the other expected support act, Thomas Crimble's Inevitable, took to the stage. I also impressed myself by not getting the usual beer first.
Thomas plays keyboards for Space Ritual but here he was on rhythm guitar and lead vocals. The band's construction (lead, rhythm and bass guitars and drums) and Thomas' checked over-shirt suggested Neil Young and Crazy Horse, and the music did too, especially when there were songs about living on a farm. The songs were all original though and the band made a good noise playing them. Inevitable were the sort of support band that you paid attention to and enjoyed listening to, rather than talking through while waiting for the main act. They went down well.
After Inevitable we were treated to some jazz mixes from the decks of Sam Ollis. That was a good sign as he had a history of appearing with the band but had been missing from recent engagements.
As the rest of the band took to the stage it was clear that this was the Space Ritual A-Team with Nik Turner, Mick Slattery (lead), Thomas Crimble (keys), Terry Ollis (drums), Sam Ollis (more drums), Chris Purdon (noises), Gary Smart (bass) and, of course, Ms Angel (movement). Space Ritual have played with different and more people but this was my favourite line-up.
The music was typical, and wonderful, Space Ritual with familiar songs bent in to extended riffs before gradually returning to where they started. The thirteen songs were each extended from their original four minutes or so to about twice that. It was bouncy, funky, spacey, fun stuff.
Amidst all the familiarity there were a couple of things that I noticed. Gary Smart was so involved in the music that he spent a lot of time jumping on the spot as he played. That may have made him tired as he also sat down cross-legged for a couple of songs. Ms Angel had been shopping and had three outfits that I had not seen before (I last saw her with Arthur Brown). They were all sexy without being rude though a minor wardrobe malfunction on the gold outfit did show a little more that usual until she managed to fix it.
The place was very busy and the audience reaction was loud and enthusiastic. This may have been what tempted Nik to veer away from the "last gig ever" line towards "we'll see what we can do", which brought even more loud cheering. Obviously I hope that Space Ritual can continue in some form even if some of the current line-up are unable to continue.
Space Ritual's version of the Hawkwind legacy is different from the others who still carry the space rock torch and it's a sound that begs to be heard; and I'll be there to hear it if they do keep the magic going.