Review of Hawkwind at the first Strange Daze, 31 August 1997, Sherman, New York.
They have done it again. Hawkwind has a new sound, and it is great!
The addition of Jerry Richards on guitar and Ron Tree now on bass
has pumped a fast-paced jamming-oriented rock sensibility into this
band. No more long synth excursions, tunes from here on out are
going to be hard crunchers and pounding jams!
First off, no Lemmy. Reports were that the "negotiations" for his
participation had not been satisfactory (monetarily), and at the
last minute Lemmy did indeed call to say that he was "sick"
and would not be able to make it. Rumor was that there was a
scruple over first-class plane fare and $1600, but supposedly
there was definitely a phonecall about being "sick".
Ron was shirtless, covered in red paint, with two glowing stars on
antennae above his head. He is playing an ancient Gibson bass,
a monster of a guitar, centerstage. Jerry Richards is on the left
side, wearing the black glow-in-the-dark HW t-shirt for this tour.
He has black hair in a small afro, and a short trimmed goattee.
He *does* look just like Tony Iommi, except for a little around
the eyes. Dave Brock was on the right, behind his keyboards,
his Warrior axe sitting on a stand beside him. Richard was
hiding in the distant back of the stage, and I saw little of him.
The Hawks opened with one of the new songs, I believe it is called
"The Wheel". Unlike the never-quite-gelled version from NYC on Friday,
tonight this song coalesced into a fast tight construction from an
almost ambient beginning. Something to look forward to on the new
album. Jerry and Ron are now a driving energy in this band.
More good stuff all around. As I knew the show was being recorded
I didn't bother to keep a setlist. I remember hearing Assassins of
Allah with the Space is Your Pal middle section. Also, there were
several new songs in there somewhere (don't remember any names I'd
heard them called).
Captain Rizz joined HW on stage for several songs, typically not
adding much and not even knowing the lyrics for some songs. As
you might tell, he didn't impress me much, and I didn't think he
really fit in. In fact, I think his presence prevented some of
the songs from properly blossoming. One great moment that worked
better here than in NYC was an anti-establishment dub chant that
Rizz did over a new HW tune in the background. I'd like to have
heard Dave or Ron sing it instead, but my guess is that Captain
Rizz may make an appearance on the next HW album...???
The big question was whether Dave would allow Nik to come onstage
during the HW set. It's always been obvious that Nik would rejoin
HW in a minute (at least part-time) if Dave would let him back in.
Dave's opinion often appears to be that he thinks Nik is just too
much for HW, and he doesn't want that kind of over-the-top
uncontrolled spontenaity mucking with his vision of the band.
Even Ron "Got Any Drugs" Tree can get as wild as he wants, as
long as he Doesn't F--- Up, not even once.
So, it was actually a happy surprise when Dave mentioned early on
in the set that Captain Rizz would guest tonight, and that "...a
little later we might wheel Nik Turner up here.." or something
Well, they jammed hard. Nik joined them, and then sat out a song.
Then Nik joined them again, and played more sax. Then, they played
a new song which Nik didn't know, but Nik tried to keep up thereby
earning himself some strong looks from Dave. Dave made an occasional
dig at Nik in his on-stage banter, but Nik just smiled throughout.
On the next song Nik played sax very loud and upfront, and when
the band attempted to bring the song to an end after 5 or 6 minutes
old Captain Nik wanted to keep playing. He went into a big solo
and thus forced the band into extending the song a bit more. More
dirty looks from Dave and smiles from Nik.
Finally, the end of the set and the single encore, which I believe
included "Ejection". The band wrapped it up, promised to come back
in the future, and split. The crowd chanted for 10 minutes, then
the roadies came out and started tearing down the stage.
At the first sign of the crowd's disappointment at not getting a
second encore, Nik Turner appeared at center stage wearing his
sax. He broke into one of those little ditties that he does,
and the crowd started cheering. When he finished, he played
another one. Then, he took a request to play "Master of the
Universe" I think it was, which he proceeded to do for 10min.
By now the sweat was dripping off of him, and a mic had been
brought out for his sax. Meanwhile the roadies continued to
do their work right behind him, and all stage lights were on.
Finally, Nik played a last tune and called it a night. Total
time for HW was around 90min including the encore, and Nik
played another 30min after that.
Summing it up, Hawkwind have a great new sound that pumps more
energy into a band that had been on the verge of sagging. Their
new album is looking really good, based on the live shows. The
Hawkwind show on Sunday beat out the Nik Turner show on Saturday,
but not by much. Nik clearly knows what it is that the people
want, and he wants to give it to them. Nik is a master showman,
whereas Dave continues to focus on the music first, in a structured
format. Dave isn't going to let Nik back into HW, but at least
he is willing to consider a one-off with Nik once in a while.
Hawkwind now have a heavier sound than they've had in many years.
Jerry Richards plays fast and furious, as does Ron on bass. The new
songs are going to be more jam-oriented than any Brock has written
in quite a while.
The future is glorious...!