Hawkwind: The Tramshed, Cardiff
It’s been almost three years since veteran space rockers Hawkwind graced the City of Cardiff, when they played their 1975 masterpiece Warrior At The Edge Of Time in full in what was one of the last gigs at the Coal Exchange. I’ve seen Hawkwind in many different guises over the years, but they are always brilliantly entertaining and not to be missed. The bonus of this evening was that the company was fabulous, as I was joined by my oldest and best mate Brett who I first saw Hawkwind with in 1985 when I was 15 and my valued work colleague and good friend Steve, who first saw Hawkwind on the In Search Of Space tour in the early 1970s when he was a mere 15 years old.
A very healthy crowd had gathered in Cardiff’s newest music venue and it was pretty much what you’d expect. A smattering of wizards, the odd goblin, many IT technicians and amazingly over ten ladies! Of course, if you are of a certain age then you’ve either seen Hawkwind or continue to see Hawkwind and alongside the leather clad metallers stood the psychedelic old schoolers and the chaps in their jumpers and polo shirts; none of whom were likely to have been Hawkwind virgins. It’s an eclectic mix alright and this gig also attracted a smattering of younger fans who were intent on pogoing and dancing all night. These may well have been the first timers.
For a band that have been around for over 45 years Hawkwind’s performance was nothing short of incredible. This tour and set was based around their latest album, The Machine Stops, a concept release based on the short novel by EM Forster. If you are unfamiliar with this work it is well worth a read. Written in the early 1920s it is a visionary warning of the dangers of isolation, reliance on computer technology and the effects upon society. Despite being nearly written 90 years ago it is frighteningly accurate and relevant to present day society.
A 20-minute electronica based opening set the scene; huge visuals on the full width screen kept the audience focused whilst Niall Hone twisted and twiddled his various pieces of kit to achieve the swooping space sounds as the extended preparation for the “evening’s lecture” continued. Meanwhile vocalist Mr Nibs sat impassively at the edge of the stage, reading a book, looking at his phone and monitoring information on a video screen.
The rest of the band ambled onto the stage and the band launched into The Machine, the opening track from the new album. Mr Dibs cuts an impressive figure, mainly due to his huge frame, dark glasses and bush hat but also because he can sing the Hawkwind stuff so well. Long-time drummer Richard Chadwick hammers away at the back of the stage whilst Haz Wheaton brings back memories of a very young Lemmy with his thunderous bass lines, flowing hair and general stage demeanour. This is not a criticism, far from it and the man who is also responsible for all of the psychedelic and mesmerising back drop projections is now an essential component of the Hawkwind sound. Of course, there is only one man when it comes to Hawkwind and Dave Brock, now aged 74 but still looking as fit as a butcher’s dog commands stage left in his gentle but steely manner, moving forward to join the vocals on some of the classics that segued seamlessly with the new songs, and controlling the input on keyboards from the rear of the stage. Since the departure and subsequent tragic death of Huw Lloyd Langton, Brock has been THE Hawks guitarist and a fine one at that. Whether it be the crashing riffs on Shot Down In The Night, intricate acoustic work or wandering solos during Arrival In Utopia, the man is just fantastic.
As the evening played out, Mr Nibs assumed the Michael Moorcock position, narrating parts of the show to enhance Forster’s story lines. All Hail The Machine began the journey with other sections interspersed with new tunes that mixed effortlessly with older tracks which included a magnificent Orgone Accumulator and the inevitable and warmly welcomed Assault And Battery. Having played for over two hours, the band brought proceedings to a close with a storming rendition of You’d Better Believe It from 1974’s Hall Of The Mountain Grill. A deserved ovation concluded proceedings and another Hawkwind gig had finished. As always, the musical prowess on display was stunning, and there could be few complaints. I for one missed Master Of The Universe, but that’s really small beer for a band who have consistently chosen to follow their own path for so long. In a year overshadowed by the death of so many older rockers, it was a joy to see one of the oldest legends still delivering the goods. An excellent evening. 9/10