The Forum, London
17 December 2010
This is Earth calling, this is Earth calling……
It’s mid-winter, snow is on the ground and Arctic winds blow and London is bought to a stand still by Tube strikes and 2cm of the white stuff (no not the “Right Stuff”). Beaming down from their planet, Hawkwind are on their usual winter solstice space ritual tour and tonight is its final night.What better way to warm the frozen masses than to slide into a rousing rendition of the X In Search of Space classic “You Shouldn’t Do That.” In fact tonight Hawkwind manage to slip in a few little surprises. From the moment the set starts with Tim Blake’s space synthesizer giving an electronic countdown to cosmic blast off you know you’re going to be in for a treat. Then the rest of the band crash in and its lift off; time we left this world. The musicianship and songs are tight. This is probably down to them honing these songs into shape over the last month on the road. The visuals, as always, are amazing. Psychedelic patterns swirl and dance around the screen, images of beautiful buildings on distant worlds against a backdrop of rising moons take you out into the unknown galaxy. Silver ships ride through the dark void of space then meet star maidens from the nether reaches of the cosmos. Two female dancers in amazing costumes appear on stage at regular intervals, at one point looking like giant green goddesses while images of Stonehenge play in the background over the rush of music. The set consists of perennial Hawkwind favourites such as “Spirit of the Age” in which Blake’s synths take it more towards the sound of the Live ’79 version as they slowly build up to its big sing-along chorus. The set closer of “Brainstorm” is a blasting barnstormer and one of the best live versions of the song I’ve heard as band come alive in a blaze of cosmic fury. Amongst these set staples they throw in a few oddities like Church of Hawkwind’ s “Star Cannibal” that adds an eerie oddness during the middle part of the performance. Blake takes centre stage for a couple of numbers on his moveable keyboard and drives the set at times to a greater electronic feel. The new numbers also sound excellent live, one has chiming sitars over drifting electronic drones and a steady bass rhythm. However, it is songs like “Angels of Death” that get the crowd buzzing as they are bludgeoned by the purest form of space rock.
The two hour set seems over too soon as crowd roars for more over the dying notes of synth wibble. Slowly people exit the spacecraft in a wash of patchouli oil to land back on planet earth and the long cold journey home. For a moment they touched the stars and called out across the golden void as they were lifted far above the stratosphere into deep space. Now back to the mundane – until this time next year when Hawkwind will once again take them on a celestial ride to the outer limits.