Saturday, May 28, 2005
(No, this pic is not from the Tampere gig.)
Last night I saw Hawkwind, the legendary UK spacerock band, who started their career in 1970, and have been together and touring, with constant line-up changes, all this time, like an old but still relentless warhorse. During their "classic era" of the early-to-mid-70s Hawkwind comprised of such people as Lemmy, later better known from his Motörhead (which got its name from a Hawkwind song), the late poet Robert Calvert, Nik Turner, and the well-known sci-fi/fantasy writer Michael Moorcock who provided some lyrics.
Not to forget their legendary onstage dancer, the 6 feet tall Stacia (pic above; did you think I would have had photos of some wrinkled old hippies here?) who was their gig mainstay during these years; something you won't see on Top of the Pops. Whatta woman.
Obviously, for their communal spirit, there are some comparisons being drawn between Hawkwind and their American hippie cousins Grateful Dead, but whereas The Dead has been known for some prolonged, laidback guitar jams, Hawkwind's music has been always grittier and more anarchic, even closer to the spirit of punk at times. Maybe of their contemporaries, Hawkwind's Ladbroke Grove mates Pink Fairies, or German musical genre of Krautrock would come closest.
Personally, Hawkwind in its current incarnation probably goes to the category "Well, now I've seen this band too", meaning the musical act in question has their meaningful place in history and therefore a "must-see at least once in a lifetime" -- even though their current shape would not live up to their legendary past reputation.
Of the original line-up there was left only Dave Brock, 63 years old at the time of writing, who looked exactly like an archetypal old hippy: a wrinkled, skinny man with a long, albeit slightly thinning hair and moustache, resembling one of the characters out of Asterix comic books.
The band, wearing white lab coats, started their set with one of their best known songs, 'Spirit of the Age', after which they played a set of tracks where their other classics such as 'Silver Machine' or 'Urban Guerilla' were sadly not included. Well, that's always a problem with these old bands, who don't want to be regarded just another nostalgia act playing a jukebox-like set of their "Greatest Hits", but instead concentrate on their newer material, unfortunately more unknown outside the circle of hardcore fans. (Dave Brock announced a couple of other songs as "golden oldies" but at least I did not recognize them).
So, all there was left to do was to assess the band as themselves, and they were OK as raw "spacerock" with occasional synthesizer burps familiar from their records -- no elaborate guitar solos or other "virtuoso" showing-off, which I was grateful of -- which clearly had paved the way for even punk and metal. One song was fashionably anti-American, being against the US wars for oil, with the obligatory "fascist regime" mention. Well, you can't change an old anarcho-hippie. Hawkwind's grittiness, with such song titles as 'Agents of Death' or 'Assassins for Allah', reminds me of cheap, trashy sci-fi novels or Judge Dredd comic books: hard-hitting and entertaining despite the lack of higher virtuosity. If you are a neophyte to their music, I recommend checking one of their "Best of" collections first, though.
http://www.hawkwind.com/ - the official site
http://www.starfarer.net/ - an extensive fansite
Jørgen Angel's photos of Hawkwind with Stacia -- for obvious reasons, I would have liked to included some of these here but since Mr. Angel would probably have busted my ass for that, just check the site!
Hawkwind: The Spirit of the [R]Age