Thursday, 12 September 2013

Hawkwind - London, O2 Empire, Shepherds Bush - 24th August 2013

After Motorhead, Hawkwind are the band I’ve seen live the most – I would estimate at least 40 times over the years. They weren’t all great, and there were definitely a couple of stinkers in there, but I’ll say this right from the start – I’m struggling to recall a better one than the one I witnessed tonight.

Tonight’s show was centred around a complete performance of the 1975 ‘Warrior On The Edge Of Time’ album, the last to feature Lemmy, and widely regarded as one of Hawkwind’s finest moments. These shows coincide with a superb recent reissue of the album on Atomhenge. Before launching into the album, the band warm the audience up with a true Hawk classic ‘Master Of The Universe’, a slightly more obscure gem in the shape of ‘Steppenwolf’ from 1976’s much underrated ‘Astounding Sounds, Amazing Music’ and a taste of the rather fine latest album ‘Onward’ with ‘The Hills Have Ears’. It’s a cracking start, and as the intro to ‘Assault And Battery’ kicks in, a huge cheer goes up as it’s ‘Warrior’ time.

The album is performed in sequence with no interruptions and accompanied by a hugely impressive multi-media visual feast. A backdrop of the original album cover is mixed with psychedelic projections, and a cast of costumed dancers act out big riffing classics Hawkwind Shepherds Bush 3like ‘Assault & Battery’ and ‘Magnu’, the uplifting prog of ‘The Golden Void’, the kraut-rock of ‘Opa-Loka’ and the timeless space rock of ‘Dying Seas’ and ‘Spiral Galaxy’. If you take the spacey noises out of the acoustic ‘The Demented Man’, it’s easy to imagine a young Dave Bock standing there with an acoustic guitar busking on the streets of Ladbroke Grove back in the late ‘60s.

The more straight forward proto-Motorhead ‘Kings Of Speed’ wraps the album up with a bit of a sing-along, but thankfully the show is far from over and there’s some pretty special stuff still to come. ‘Reefer Madness’ is another unexpected gem from ‘Astounding Sounds’ and indeed sounds pretty astounding, as does the classic set closer ‘Hassan I Sabha’, still just about my favourite Hawkwind tune.

A couple of months back it was rumoured that Lemmy would be making an appearance at this show, how true that was I don’t know, but with his current health problems it was simply never going to happen. For the first encore Hawkwind send him a get well card of their own as they launch into ‘Motorhead’ in his honour, and his spirit is also all over the superb final encore of ‘You’d Better Believe It’ from the ‘Hall Of The Mountain Grill’ album, with both songs getting a huge sing-along.

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