Well look what we have here just in time for the festive period, it’s a live double CD and DVD set from veteran spacerockers Hawkwind. I’ll be absolutely honest and say that I pre-ordered this the Day Cherry Red announced its release…I’m a bit of a fan to say the least.

I’m not going to go into the history of Hawkwind, most readers will be familiar with the name, if not the music. As well as the CDs and DVD you also get a little poster for the Into The Woods tour earlier this year and a booklet of pics from the gigs and the words to a handful of the tunes.

The first track on CD 1 is Ascent, the tune the band did on the Wright Stuff TV show recently. “Oh, dear”  says I as we take our first listen in the car “I would not be happy if I’d gone to see this!”. I get the message in the song and I applaud it being a vegan tree hugger myself, but I just do not like this tune and this version of it. Rant and song over the same acoustic treatment (Hawkwind Unplugged) is given to We Took The Wrong Step Years Ago and my mood changes somewhat to a “Ah, now I would have paid to see just that tune alone!”. The Watcher, a Lemmy tune from the 1972 album Doremi Fasol Latido is a cracking acoustic version and fitting to be played at the Roundhouse as Brock announces the last time Hawkwind played here was 1977 with Motorhead supporting.

Then, as Brock announces, we go into “Electric Loud Music Land”. The sound effects begin, we hear This Is Earth Calling, This Is Earth Calling before all spacerock, psychedelic hell breaks loose and the band steam into an absolutely stunning, twelve minute version of Born To Go…great stuff indeed! We then have the superb Calvert penned First Landing On Medusa spoken word and noise interlude before You Better Believe It opens and we’re off again into classic Hawkwind spacerock territory. We’ve barely spoken to each other in the car since the first two tracks but do now, both saying what a great record this is. Earthbound comes up next and is a superb segue before Have You Seen Them off the Into The Woods album. It’s more straight up rock than the previous couple of tracks but works well and does have its spacey moments at about four and a half minutes in. Side one is ended with the Brock penned Vegan Lunch with a bit of band banter before the tune kicks in.

And so to side two, no introduction, just straight into a ten minute version of Steppenwolf off Astounding Sounds. It’s fantastic with the band doing wolf howls and the break at around three minutes shows what a great saxophonist Michal Sosna is, this is lightyears away from the random bleats and squeals of yesteryear! Another chilled out segue in the form of Dib Derbyshire’s Darklands before the onslaught that Magnu is hammers home just why I got into Hawkwind all those years ago…again it’s a class version and fans will love it. Needless to say it’s Golden Void that is up next and it’s majestic with the soaring saxophone being a highlight. Synchronized Blue from The Machine Stops is up next, it’s a ten minute tune and whilst being a more recent tune of Hawkwind, it has elements of past incarnations and is rather good actually.

The Dibs penned Deep Cavern is another spoken word and sound effects laden interlude before we have the title track from Into The Woods, another straight up rock tune with spaced out elements that is typical of Hawkwind of 2017.  The Machine, from The Machine Stops follows and again this is a thoroughly modern Hawkwind tipping a nod to the past.

Another spoken word and sound effects, and pretty close to the original, Calvert penned Welcome segue before all hell breaks loose half way through and the crowd think it’s all over.

It’s not and Motorhead’s Phil Campbell is welcomed to the stage and stonking version of Brainbox Pollution ensues. I think we all know, and the audience all knew what song would end the show and the band don’t disappoint, launching into the bands most well-known tune, Silver Machine, aided and abetted again by Phil Campbell. It’s a tune that has been played to death but for Hawkwind not to play it at a gig just wouldn’t be right…and it’s another corker of a version.

I don’t usually bother with packaged DVDs if truth be known but I played this one. It’s shot from one position in the audience with no fancy editing or anything. This is pretty basic stuff but it does give the viewer a sense of being in the audience, and the light show is, you’d expect it to be, fab.

Hawkwind of latter years have their detractors, but this package should go some way to reaffirm the band as a serious proposition. They are tight, the musicianship is brilliant and they put on a show that flows nicely through the whole set, though, as I’ve, said I’m no fan of the opening tune. The band intersperse well-loved classics with newer material and this is good to see – Hawkwind on this occasion certainly couldn’t be accused of resting on past glories, though there is enough to satisfy the fans. Seeing and hearing a Hawkwind set is a special thing when they are good and I would imagine the folk that went to the Roundhouse gig were well chuffed to have been there. We’ve already booked our tickets for the London Palladium gig next November where they will perform with an orchestra…can’t wait!!!

Stuart Smith

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