Support tonight was Manchester`s The Blackheart Orchestra, who are a singer / songwriter and multi-instrumentalist duo comprising long term collaborators Chrissy Mostyn and Richard Pilkington. They offer up a blend of musical styles using ancient synthesisers, electronic drums, acoustic, electric and bowed guitars and bass. This evening`s short set was a wonderful introduction to this talented pair whose music was at times captivating, graceful and elegant, We had a few songs from their latest release, “Diving For Roses” including `Hypnotize` and new single `Sebastian`, a track `Hey Pluto` from previous album “Songs From A Satellite” and a few others including `Drown Me Out` This was such an enjoyable set with ethereal , ambient numbers brought to life by the duo`s musicianship and Chrissy`s haunting, emotive vocal range.
What can you say about Hawkwind.? One of the earliest space rock groups having formed in 1969. They have gone through many incarnations and have incorporated different styles into their music such as hard rock, garage rock, progressive and psychedelic rock. Dave Brock remains the bands only original member, having enjoyed roles as founder, singer, songwriter and guitarist. Tonight`s event goes under the banner of “In Search of Utopia – Infinity and Beyond”, which is basically Hawkwind with Mike Batt conducting The Dockland’s Sinfonia playing more a less a selection of the band`s possibly better-known tracks. It was chance meeting of Dave Brock with songwriter and conductor Mike Batt at the US Embassy (applying for Visas apparently) that sparked off an idea. the result of which was for Batt to lend a hand and create orchestral arrangements of some of their back catalogue. The orchestra start up as the band arrive on stage and there is a little pause before founder Dave Brock ambles on stage to rapturous applause. `Assault and Battery / The Golden Void` from 1975`s “Warrior On The Edge Of Time” kicks us off and it`s ten minutes of hypnotic progressive rock to nod along to. As usual there are visual backdrops, dry ice and multi coloured lasers to engage you as the music sinks into your subconscious. I thought the string and horn arrangements along with the kettle drum from the twenty-piece orchestra worked well on tracks such as ` Down Through The Night` it really added another dimension to these songs. The show progressed with some of my favourite cuts such as stunning `Shot Down in the Night`, reflective `We Took The Wrong Step Years Ago`, blistering `Sonic Attack` and out there `Damnation Alley` The show closes out with questioning `Have You Seen Them` and the sort of futuristic ideal of `Arrival In Utopia` before the band and orchestra take their leave.
It`s not long before the band are encouraged back to the stage for a two-song encore with the addictive `Spirit Of The Age` and the song most of the faithful have waited for `Silver Machine` I first saw these guys at Crystal Palace bowl in 1985 at a charity show with believe it or not centenarian Dame Vera Lynn. They were also joined that day by Lemmy and legendary topless dancer Stacia. Dave Brock has stated that as he`s now in his late seventies, he`d like the band to continue after he feels he`s unable to tour. If this was the last tour, then he certainly gave us a show to remember him by.