Camp HRH, March 17 2017

Rarely has the Camp HRH main stage been so rammed full of bodies craning their necks for a glimpse of a band that trails in the wake of lofty expectation. It was on good authority that the masses were about to witness a band on fire – recent live shows had simply ramped up the sense of anticipation ahead of the Friday night headliners.

And what an appearance this was. Opening with Assault & Battery/Golden Void – backed with stunning visuals that drew the eye and the mind into a special place – Hawkwind ruled the stage from start to finish. It was immediately obvious why the die-hard Hawkfans have ensured this band has become an institution during half a century.

For those of us new to the experience it all became clear.

Arrival In Utopia was next up as a hybrid of swirling, psychedelic sounds swept over the masses. The howling from Mr Dibs was the signal for one of the band’s better known tracks –Steppenwolf – and sparked crazy scenes with crusties left, right and centre creating a classic party atmosphere.

Long and complicated pieces backed by heavy riffs might be the common perception of Hawkwind but theirs is a sound simpler than the critics would have you believe: imagine a punk band with keyboards that string out the centre section of every song for five minutes.

A song about cannabis (HassanI Sahba) was hardly a suprise given the band’s colourful history with Into The Woods also boasting a trippy edge. The content might scream laid-back jam but the musicianship was both professional and pin-sharp.

Watching 75-year-old Dave Brock revel in the plaudits was both surreal and life-affirming. This was an hour lost in a dreamy soundscape scored by biting riffs. But what about the encore?

Lost In Science was a curveball compounded by the good-time rock and roll of Brainbox Pollution. Eventually this stunning show had to end and, inevitably, Silver Machine closed the set. Live it took on a different guise and in this case different was good.

Maybe it is finally time to buy the back catalogue and discover the true meaning of Hawkwind!

Colin Davies