An 8ft intergalactic God stands in the middle of the stage. Dressed in a purple cloak, glowing eyes ablaze, its dangly arms appear to manoeuvre the wrists of a young woman wearing a golden wig and the type of skin-tight jump-suit you’d associate with a female Marvel superhero.
Welcome to a night with Hawkwind.
If there’s one thing sadly missing from live music today, it’s showmanship and theatrics. Case in point: psychedelic space-rockers, Hawkwind. This grizzled, aging band has long since used mime artists, exotic dancers and seizure-inducing light shows in their act. However, as the years wear on (sole original member, Dave Brock, is now 70), Hawkwind have stepped things up a notch – diverting attention away from themselves more than ever.
Indeed, last Saturday night’s show at the Queen’s Hall was pure, sensory overload. No hallucinogens required.
Amplifiers were covered in military camouflage netting; two female dancers dressed in star-suits, robot costumes and what appeared to be Medusa-like water-nymph outfits, delighted the ninety-per cent male-dominated crowd; all the while, a giant screen projected mind-bending images that would make Magic Eye autostereograms seem pathetic by comparison.
As for the music, Hawkwind simply don’t do three-minute songs.
Firing off into space with You Better Believe It, every tune is a monumental, eight-minute jam where bass bubbles, guitars fuzz and creepy-sounding Theremins shimmy. Old Hawk’ favourite, Damnation Alley, started off on dry land before a lengthy sojourn around the sun saw it return safely back to earth. But that wasn’t until the sexy funk of Prometheus had its wicked way with the audience.
The band didn’t let their fans down, encoring with that quintessential Hawkwind classic – Silver Machine.
Yet one question remained.
Take away the lights, the dancers and the visuals and what are you left with? OK, you’d still have some rollickingly good tunes to listen to. But then that’s what CDs and mp3s are for. A live concert should be a visually-entertaining, sensory event – and Hawkwind do that almost better than anyone.