Soundchecks Music Reviews

Hawkwind on stage

Hawkwind in concert

Hawkwind live

Stamford Corn Exchange
24th April 2016

The Machine Stops tour

review by Cardinal Cox

So, we're in a bar opposite the venue discussing whether we should watch the support act. We agreed that we could stand at the back and if we didn't like them, go to the Corn Exchange's basement bar. Standing... Waiting... I suggest I'll nip to the basement bar and see if any friends are there. Pass the foyer and the merchandise girl is telling someone that there isn't a support band. Head back to my mates and advise them to get to their seats… I'm glad we did.

Hawkwind are approaching their 50th anniversary of a full-on rock career. Dave Brock is 74. The new bass player looks 24, and boy can he play! Not that they've got rid of previous bass players, one - Niall Hone - was on keyboards and the other - Mr Dibs - on a computer and vocals. On previous tours they've played alternate songs on bass, or occasionally both at once.

Man, it's space rock, these things happen...

The new concept album The Machine Stops is inspired by a short story by E.M. Forster (now there's not many bands you could say that about), and is a kind of Edwardian version of The Matrix. I'd had my doubts about the album - not about the strength of the material, it's solid enough on that - but on how much it was a band album. Those doubts were soon taken out and shaken by the collar by the gig. The band is as good as they have ever been. The album track Hexagone (by keyboard player Dead Fred, who couldn't be on the tour) becomes a full-on band piece, a really good reworking.

They do include some old tracks in the live set. Utopia, previously a ho-hum song, suddenly works really well. The Watcher - written by Lemmy in the early 1970s - is both an excellent nod in tribute to the ex-band member and it fits perfectly with the show. Shot Down In The Night (from the late 1970s) similarly snuggles up like it was written for the show. Opinions were divided though over Orgone Accumulator as I didn't see its relevance but my mates enjoyed it. The tour this year didn't include dancers but the accompanying video to Orgone Accumulator featured one, maybe for the fans who expect the titillation.

Opinion was also split over the sound. I thought it was quiet but beautifully clear. One friend a couple of rows forward thought it was loud and another, much closer, thought it muddy. Different ears, different seats.

If there was a downside it was with the age of the audience. Constantly people were getting up to go to the toilet - I hung on until the encore so I was just as bad - but all of our bladders are shrinking. Halfway through Niall had a solo number and the other band members nipped off stage. I joked with the people alongside that they too needed the toilet break.

Hawkwind were so on the button that night. The previous tour to come to Stamford they played the classic mid 1970s album Warrior On The Edge Of Time and I suspect that re-visiting that old material has done them some good.

I can't imagine anyone left disappointed that night.

Edited by Tony Lee
for PIGASUS Press