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.