A sunny Wednesday in March sees me heading to Glasgow for my annual pilgrimage to witness Hawkwind playing in the O2 ABC, only this one was slightly more special as I was scheduled first to interview the band which can be heard here and also shoot them live. To say I was excited would maybe a slight understatement.
Support for tonights show were Dutch prog legends Focus who while I have heard of them I don’t really know their music apart from the famous singles. Focus seems to have been a good choice of support as the ABC was busier than normal for a Hawkwind support act. Focus took to the stage without any ceremony led by their founder Thijs van Leer and I suddenly realised I was in trouble as a combination of mainly instrumental tracks and no visible set lists I had no idea what they were playing!
So what can I tell you about Focus? They were musically stunning between Thijs’s Hammond organ and flute playing sometimes simultaneously, a clever trick that before tonight I would have said was impossible as both instruments are two handed and guitarist Menno Gootjes clean clear soloing it was musicianship of the highest order through Focus’s many different styles and key changes. Prog rock, jazz and complex time changes were all combined effortlessly to make up the Focus experience which the Glasgow audience clearly enjoyed judging by the shouts and cheers between tracks.
Of all the support bands I have seen opening for Hawkwind these 4 guys are clearly the best, their musicianship was faultless to the point where even the drum solo during ‘Hocus Pocus’ was interesting! Focus is clearly a band I’ll need to make a point of catching in the future at one of their headlining shows.
After the musicianship of Focus what do Hawkwind have as an answer? A band that by their very nature is not about individual players, but more the combined abilities of the various players to make a whole sonic and lyrical statement. I needn’t have worried as Dave Brock had already stated in my earlier interview that there were many changes compared to recent set lists.
Opening with a personal favourite of mine ‘Motorway City’ is always a good start to the musical proceedings with the captain’s voice clear and bright with its tale of isolation in our major urban centres. The Richard Chadwick sung ‘The Hills have Ears’ followed and then the first surprise of the night in that the band performed a version of ‘We took the wrong step years ago’ from their 1970 album In Search of Space. A song that I never ever thought I would hear live by the band which had me leaving the photo pit with a huge grin on my face.
Hawkwind shows wouldn’t be Hawkwind shows without dancers and this year is no exception, though this year we only have the one, a new girl who performed during the bands 3 instrumental numbers which were all new for this tour. Her second performance on the silks was especially impressive earning her a very loud round of applause at the end of her performance and I hope I get to see her again at future shows.
Further highlights were the return to the set of a very powerful rendition of ‘Born to Go’ from the classic live album the ‘Space Ritual’ followed by another song I never thought I would hear live ‘The Age of the Micro Man’ from the Hawklords album 25 Years On. The main set drew to a close with a fiery version of the Steve Swindells penned ‘Shot down in the Night’ with the band leaving the stage to cheers and cries for more.
The inevitable encore soon arrived, opening with another song from the Space Ritual ‘Orgone Accumulator’ the band played a powerful version and just when you think you’re about to get the famous 1972 classic ‘Silver Machine’ to close the night off the band didn’t play it! Instead the band launched into ‘Spirit of the Age’ much to the surprise of a lot to the fans. While I’m sure some of Hawkwind’s fans will be disappointed in not hearing their classic single being performed I fully applaud the bands stance in not playing the song as it allows another track to be played from their extensive back catalogue.
In conclusion Hawkwind played a fine set with some very nice surprises for their diehard fans and with the inclusion of Focus as support it was an extremely fine night of space rock and progressive music.
- Dave Brock Guitar, vocals
- Mr Dibs Guitar, vocals
- Richard Chadwick Drums, vocals
- Tim Blake Keytar, theramin
- Niall Hone Bass, vocals & electronics
- Dead Fred Keyboards, violin
- Motorway City
- The Hills have Ears
- We took the wrong step years ago
- 1st Instrumental
- Damnation Ally
- Lost In Science – Instrumental
- Born To Go
- The Age of the Micro Man
- 3rd Instrumental
- Shot Down in the Night
- Orgone Accumulator
- Spirit of the Age
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