Friday, November 20, 2009

Gong: Bristol 19th November 2009




It was at the Academy, an OK venue I think, not too big and with a good view of the stage. Unfortunately they don't allow photography inside, so no pics I'm afraid.

Gong have basically got a classic line-up back together and they have a new album too - which I posted here a while back.

The touring line-up is (I think)

Daevid Allen - voice, guitar
Steve Hillage - guitar
Gilli Smyth – voice, space whisper
Miquette Giraudy - synthesisers
Mike Howlett - bass
Chris Taylor - drums
Theo Travis – sax and flute

OK, so first up last night we had the Steve Hillage band, basically the above without Daevid, Gilli or Theo.

I enjoyed them a lot, pretty rave orientated stuff with classic Hillage moments thrown in. Very tight, focussed and danceable. You can see that Steve Hillage has immersed himself in trace, rave and other more modern music while still keeping his core appeal. Definitely music to be enjoyed with an E.

The back projections and lights were excellent too, as they stayed for the whole evening.

Then, after about 20 minutes or so, the main event. They started off with the same players as before plus Theo Travis and the feel of the opening number was a continuation of what went before, maybe a bit more jazz-rock, but very tight and dance orientated. So far, so good.

Then on comes Daevid Allen. The last time I saw Gong was in about 1974 but he hasn't really changed except to get older. Still as weird as ever.

He came out in a wizard's hat type of thing and a sparkly cape arrangement over what looked like psychedelic pyjamas. He looked like Catweazle on acid.

He was surprisingly sprightly for his age, he is easily 70 if he's a day. He was later joined by Gilli Smyth, who added in her patented Shakti Yoni "space whispers" on several tracks and generally grooved away to the music.

I have to say it was weird, they are easily the oldest people I've ever seen playing lived tripped-out space rock. Still, good luck to them.

The set was pretty long, around two hours and was all at a fairly constant tempo, still with that rave/dance intensity and with the excellent Miquette Giraudy and Steve Hillage providing the musical layering and textures. Mike Howlett was a solid bass presence and the drumming of Chris Taylor pushed it all along at a steady pace. I liked a lot of Theo Travis' input but overall he gets a bit drowned out in the mix at times. His flute work was good.

At times the intensity of the music was almost like Hawkwind, hard-driven space rock with wobbly noises and whooshes and at other times veered off to a jazz-rock tinged rave sort of thing.It was pretty relentless overall, with some slow spacey passages.

There was a fair bit of the glissando guitar on the slower bits which was hard to pick out from the synths occasionally, because everything was going through a lot of processing and FX channels.

So, what did I think?

Well, a bit of a mixed bag really. Mostly, I enjoyed it a lot but the whimsy and general silliness of Daevid Allen was a bit wearing at times. I could have done with more of the hard playing and less of the space whispers too.

We stayed for one encore but the second one was a bit of an aimless jam, with more of the same acid rave and whimsy as had gone on before, so we left.

Maybe if I'd been on 'shrooms or acid it would have been a total mind-trip, but I was 100% straight and there were moments where I just wanted them to get on with it and play the music.

I'd definitely see the Steve Hillage Band again, maybe not Gong though.

18 comments:

Chris said...

You miss the point.

gremlinfc said...

Divided Alien Playbax 80 - one of theeeemost under-rated albums ever IMHO but Daevid Allen was / is a geeeenius. "Bodygas go...heyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy bodygas go...ee popa checka aha...(or does he really say "Barney Gaskill"?)
Not sure about Gong again either but one of theee most surreal moments in my life was staying in a huge tent in Munich in summer of '86 put up for students as cheap accommodation and being awoken by "Angel Egg" never having heard it before over massive loud speakers. What you'd call a life-changing moment.

CaroleBristol said...

@Chris - how so?

Musically they were OK, it was the whimsy that got a bit too much.

What do you think was the point?

devotionalhooligan said...

i have to agree with chris,i've seen gong(& the many alter-ego's)many times over the years... i was at last nights gig and they blew me away.... totally far out & easily as good as the floating anarchy gigs. Allen is a genius.xx

CaroleBristol said...

I am not slagging them off, devotionalhooligan. I enjoyed it most of the time.

I rather like the new album, 2032, and I thought that the overall package was pretty good last night.

I just wasn't convinced by Daevid Allen all the time, not sure about the genius tag either.

bethnoir said...

Really enjoyed reading your review, I've liked Gong for many years, but never seen them live so I was interested to hear what they're up to now. I can understand the Hawkwind comparisons at times. Thanks for posting your thoughts about the gig.

ejay said...

For some reason (maybe it's the name), I feel like Gong could be the kind of Prog I like. Do they sound like Egg (by whom I've only heard 2 songs)?

CaroleBristol said...

Not really, ejaydee.

Check out my post from a few weeks back. There is a whole album of Gong there.

http://readersrecommend.blogspot.com/2009/10/gong-new-album-2032.html

wrax said...

I was surprised when you said they didn't allow pics. Security were fine with me, and I was right at the front and took loads of pics. Let me know if you want any and I'll be happy to email them.
wraxallman@hotmail.com

ejay said...

I remember listening to that Carole, I didn't really like it. Is their latest album representative of their sound. I preferred Nektar actually. I think I like my prog with a limited amount of distorted guitar, I think. It's all very new to me though, so I may not know what I'm talking about.

wrax said...

I should have added that Hillage was excellent. As I was the first person in the hall, Mr Hillage was still wandering around and got to talk to him for all of 45-60 seconds, reminding him that the last time I saw him was in 1976 at the now defunct Queensway Hall in Dunstable, Beds. He described it at the time as a "space age egg box" and got everyone in the front row to sit down so everyone in the back could sit down too and enjoy the gig. He didn't remember but then why should he.

As more of a Hillage fan than a Gong fan, I didn't recognise much of the Gong stuff. What was the set list. The tracks I recognised were Dynamite/I Am Your Animal, You Can't Kill Me, Flute Salad, Oily Way but that was about it.

By the way, Mike Howlett was excellent and Steve Hillage is still the master!!

wrax said...

I should have added that Hillage was excellent. As I was the first person in the hall, Mr Hillage was still wandering around and got to talk to him for all of 45-60 seconds, reminding him that the last time I saw him was in 1976 at the now defunct Queensway Hall in Dunstable, Beds. He described it at the time as a "space age egg box" and got everyone in the front row to sit down so everyone in the back could sit down too and enjoy the gig. He didn't remember but then why should he.

As more of a Hillage fan than a Gong fan, I didn't recognise much of the Gong stuff. What was the set list. The tracks I recognised were Dynamite/I Am Your Animal, You Can't Kill Me, Flute Salad, Oily Way but that was about it.

By the way, Mike Howlett was excellent and Steve Hillage is still the master!!

CaroleBristol said...

I was surprised when you said they didn't allow pics.

That dates back to a previous occasion when I wanted to take a SLR in there and I had to leave it in the ticket office and collect it afterwards.

wrax said...

Carole, yeah they were clamping down on SLRs but even though my Fuji camera looks like it might be an SLR, it's a fixed lens and the security guy was cool. He even went it and told the other security guys it was OK and not to stop me taking photos. Any idea how I might post a few photos here?

CaroleBristol said...

You'll need to create a new post and then you can add photos from your PC. You just click on the little icon at the top of the box.

Chris said...

Carole: That wasn't your local Deadhead posting up there. I'm not sure I've ever actually listened to Gong, although I do know someone who rates them. I should give it a listen maybe? Would I see if you did miss the point?

devotionalhooligan said...

hiya carole
i agree,the 2032 is gong back on form... and i enjoyed your review & your blog. for anyone wanting to hear some gong,here's a free downloade link for their out of print peel sessions lp.
laters.x

http://devotionalhooligan.blogspot.com/2009/10/gong-pre-modern-wireless-peel-sessions.html

CaroleBristol said...

@{Chris - yes, give them a listen. Despite a few reservations about some aspects of the gig (which I did enjoy overall) I like them. Listen to the album I posted earlier.

@devotionalhooligan - thanks!