18 November 2019
@The Cambridge Corn Exchange, Cambridge

On a chilly November eve in Cambridge, a large and expectant audience of space cadets gathered to pay homage to one of Britain’s most celebrated psychedelic rock bands.

Formed in 1969 the same year as yours truly – a year also famous for the first moon landing and the Woodstock festival – Hawkwind were on their 50th Anniversary Tour.

Although I was familiar with the Hawkwind ‘story’ and the legend that surrounded them, such as playing at the Isle Of White festival entrance gates and Jimi Hendriks coming down to jam, and the antics of former bass player Lemmy getting sacked by the band for taking the wrong drugs, I was not so familiar with their songs. I was unsure what to expect but looked forward to the musical journey I was about to embark upon.

From the beginning, the skills of the musicians and their obvious love of the material they were delivering was reciprocated by the Cambridge audience, of largely middle-aged men, who were loving it. The music was also augmented throughout the show by a bold and clever light/laser display high above our heads. The centre piece was a big screen at the back of the stage continuously rolling, often psychedelic, projections featuring a mix of Hawkwind’s original films and other ‘space themed’ material.

Showcasing the abilities of vocalists and original founder Dave Brock, the evening opened with rousing and emotional delivery of ‘Motorway City’, ‘Flesh Fondue’ and ‘Last Man on Earth’. Like a warm fat embrace, their selection of songs had a wonderful rock but other worldly vibe to them, emitting a wistful charm. They were clearly enjoying it too, lots of banter between the band with young bass player Haz Weaton often chatting and cracking space jokes with the audience.

Songs such as ‘65 Million Years Ago’ and ‘Spirit Of The Age’ followed to keep the momentum going and then, to my pleasant surprise, they gave us the famous number one hit ‘Silver Machine’ – the only song I’d actually recognised so far!

As the night progressed, I started to understand the influences - rock, punk, jazz, electronica, soaring melodies, mind-blowing solos, psychedelic imagery and a sense of complete musical freedom. I even picked up a bit of what I thought sounded like The Stone Roses at one point! It was ace.
They played some epic songs to finish the set off with ‘Assault And Battery’ and Hawkwind’s protest song called funny enough, ‘Right To Decide’. They left the stage to rapturous applause and were beckoned back by the space cadet crowd for an encore. They returned and played ‘Hurry On Sundown’ which to my surprise, was another of their songs that I recognised! It had an acoustic folky feel to it that I had heard before and enjoyed – strangely, I could also hear The Beatles and Oasis in there too. They finished their Cambridge show with ‘Master Of The Universe’, another 70’s Hawkwind anthem.

Although I didn’t know what to expect, I left the gig a Hawkwind fan and felt privileged to have seen them live. If you are a music fan, then you are also a Hawkwind fan. Go see them while they are still around……..but don’t look inwards………look upwards and outwards into space!

Words and Pix - Dan Sly

Thanks to Simon at Chuff Media for sorting this out for us