Steve Hillage and Gong at The Forum (27th November 2009)-A Review


Hello Good People who read this blog


I am recovering from my evening out at the Forum last night in Kentish Town ( in London for anyone who might be reading this in Estonia) to see Steve Hillage and Gong.

Our little troupe of Hillage/Gong fans started our  journey to the gig after lots of cups of tea and a supper of winter foods including of course our green vegetables. We trailed up the road happily like well-fed hobbits, ready to face the bright lights and commuters, but had to make a detour after a rather alarming  encounter with Orcs dressed in blue accompanied by their hounds of hell.

By the time we got to The Forum , The Steve Hillage Band was already on stage, playing “Love Guitar” ,one of my favourite soppy songs.  The audience didn’t seem quite warmed up at that point and so we reckon we must have arrived pretty much close to the start of the proceedings.

(double-click on the photos to see them in full-screen)

Steve Hillage Band-The Forum-27/11/2009

Left to right

Miquette Giraudy Keyboards-Synth-Backing -Vocals-Air Guitar and fun

Steve Hillage –Genius Electric Guitarist, Vocals.

Chris Taylor (I think! at least it’s him on the 2032 new album by Gong) – Drums with a zillion tempo changes

Mike Howlett-Bass-player extra-ordinaire

I know that Steve Hillage and Gong have played The Forum before in 2008, and that they have toured quite a bit in the past 18 months or so,but this is the first time I have seen the “Steve Hillage Band”. The last time I saw Steve Hillage  playing live in a “rock” band,must have been around 1979  or 1980 at The Hammersmith Odeon. Also to my embarrassment, I had never seen Gong live until  last night. Although I know their early albums and the fantastic Japanese import  “Gong Live etc.” (Virgin,1977 ) back to front. If you do not have this double album, try to get one.I got mine on vinyl as a Japanese import around twenty-nine years ago now, but still love it.

Steve Hillage and Gong fans are very difficult to get rid of, as we could tell from the average age of the audience, although there was a minority of teenagers looking blissful while cuddling with their significant others.

We didn’t go there to take photos or film, but we took a few pictures and short clips,like the two above . We went to  have a good time in the audience, not to film, and we did have a great time, my sore  feet, sore neck and sore throat (from singing and dancing along) are testimony to this, so I’ll stop writing now and put up some photos and clips enshrined in a couple of comments.

After the first couple of songs, the audience were warmed up and the crowd had swelled, in fact the place was packed out. They had made an early start and this had obviously caught some by surprise. Steve Hillage and his band were on form. Occasionally Hillage seemed to lose confidence with his vocals, as many singers do as they get older, especially if they have not been singing for a decade or two. If you listen to Joni Mitchell in the sixties and now in her sixties, her voice is totally different but it’s good, she has had to change her singing range and vocal style to keep it up.

In terms of guitar playing and performing, Steve Hillage is still at the top of his league. As the evening wore on, he just got better and better ( and better) playing complicated solos, with key changes, tempo changes, etc..

Here is a short clip Intro to Hurdy-Gurdy Man

He played some fast and furious guitar too and the band were great, but we were too busy dancing to film it! No doubt more footage will appear on youtube. Also Mike  Howlett’s excellent bass playing was mixed in a way that was not beefy enough , we wanted to hear it louder,and yet it obliterated a bit of the rest of the band’s sound, not sure how! I guess that’s what live music is about, it depends where you stand (and the taste and/or ability of the engineer).

The set was amazing and the crowd were ecstatic, a great lightshow too with inventive animations adding to the whole performance.

My only complaint about The Steve Hillage Band was that their set was so short. I would have been happy to see them play their first five albums from start to end and would have not got bored for a second or judged them if they had missed a few bits and improvised instead.

Personally I would have been happier to see the evening split equally between Gong and Steve Hillage.

An Interval of Rainbow Dome Musick , while we got our “healing” beer would have been ideal! ( I am joking…kind of)

However,when we saw the long set that Gong played with the same instrumentalists , we realised perhaps why Steve Hillage’s set was short but quality rather than quantity. When we arrived at 7.45 pm, The Steve Hillage Band was already playing and by the time Gong had left the stage it was past 11 pm.

Miquette and Steve ( Forum 27/11/2009)

There was a long break for drinks, just as well as it seemed impossible to get served ( hence the request for Rainbow Dome Musick at this point to keep us all calm). Only two bars on the ground floor, for thousands of people, the bar we queued up at only had one person serving, although after half an hour or so ,he was joined by two others.

The mood was jolly, lots of blokes, average age 50, many still with long hair or bald.But there were also a few women of all ages and also there were young, some very young ,teenage boys occasionally with young,very young,girlfriends in tow.

There is always a new crop of hippies germinating from any background. They emerge at around the age of 13 and by 16 they are either in a band or leading some form of alternative lifestyle with individual image to boot.These budding hippies who appear from nowhere decade after decade, will always gravitate towards the music of Gong and Steve Hillage.

Gong appeared on stage at around 9.15pm. They consisted of the members of  The Steve Hillage Band , plus Daevid Allen ( vocals and  guitar, and much leaping around), Gilli Smyth ( Vocals, “Space Whispers”, Goddess/Witch) and Theo Travis ( playing some rather excellent flute and sax).

Gong at The Forum 27/11/2009 ( minus Miquette)

We couldn’t help but notice that Gilli seemed older than the kind of woman you’d expect onstage with a rock band.We have been conditioned to expect only young people onstage doing weird rock music,  especially when it comes to women in a non-acoustic band.We are super-conditioned that only certain types of sexualised young women or alternatively young teenage rebel girls who shave their heads or dye it some extreme colour, will  be there. But I believe in breaking boundaries, most of the best classic bands are older, too old to rock and roll and too young to die? No! Get on stage, I say!

According to Wikipedia, Gilli Smyth, is 76 years old and used to be in academia, lecturing at the Sorbonne before deciding to do something all the more intellectual by forming Gong with her partner Daevid Allen.

Here is Gilli being a Witch on stage along to a free-form jazz jam from other members of Gong.

The Witch’s Song Performed at The Forum 27/11/2009  originally released 1973 on “Radio Gnome Invisible.Part One”

Daevid Allen is 71. But he bounces around the stage like a kangaroo on acid (and speed). Daevid has such a stage presence  that I can’t help but wonder what on earth he would do if he didn’t go on stage and dispel that energy. He is a jester with apparently boundless tigger-like energy. He definitely needs a stage to bounce on!

Gong- You Can’t Kill Me

Unfortunately the camera ran out of memory before being able to film Daevid in his special silver-white silk catsuit, embellished by CDs, or his “No one Knows I’m a Lesbian” T-Shirt, or when he chased Miquette around the stage, or was she chasing him, either way his energy was impressive.


Daevid Allen at The Forum 27/11/2009

Miquette having fun playing air guitar along to Steve (27/11/09-Forum)

There were times when Gong shouted and repeated the same line over like a cross between a sergeant major barking orders and the rat-rat-rat of a self-loading machine gun, which reminded me of war , riots and abrupt change. At other times, Gong intoned half-sung and half-spoken poems with themes of the collective unconscious and mythical archetypes in a free-from jazz jam, then planting  a strong melodic chorus , wherever and whenever it seemed the least expected. There were times when the music became ultra-psychedelic, the same repeated riff and beat, getting faster and louder with glissando guitars and excessive strobes, it went on in a cyclic fashion until it induced the brain into resistance or acceptance. I could not help but close my eyes to take it in. I felt like I was at some spiritual ceremony and that certain harmonious energies were being purposefully raised. I was pelted with rays of  white light and the sound of repeated musical mantras ,until I felt transported from the middle of winter, to a bright dance tent at some summer festival. People didn’t dance as much as they would in a dance tent though, but then we are older and we were tired by the end of the evening.

However there seemed to be some incredibly strong positive force present within the music. ..and I couldn’t help but notice that at the end of the evening, after a long encore and a very long gig,  Daevid Allen seemed to do a little ceremony to seal off each one of his chakra points, starting at his head and working his way down before leaving the stage.

Aha! I thought to myself , that’s where Daevid gets his energy from: rituals and chakras!

I am somewhat cynical about anything too religious, but they must be getting their energy from somewhere!

Love and Peace ( off to do yoga,meditation and find my chakras now!)

Born2rant

p.s. for more of a spiritual explanation click on Pete’s comment on the upper part of the left hand column of this blog or follow this link  to hear Daevid Allen’s spiritual vision for Gong( thanks again Pete).

http://vimeo.com/1626328

new readers to this blog  might be interested in this entry as well…

Steve Hillage always looking to the future: Part one from Hyde Park to Solfest


Steve Hillage and Gong, better late than never…


Hello Good People who surprise me by still reading this blog during my long absences.

This post was originally half written over four weeks ago and was never finished, I was interrupted by the ‘flu,the Cultural Revolution and Revolutionary Operas and then had to recover from the exhaustion of all three!

Anyway, I am now myself again and am greatly excited at the prospect of seeing the Steve Hillage Band and Gong live at The Forum in London, this Friday (on the 27/11/2009 in case you read this at some point in the future).

Talking about some point in the future, before the Cultural Revolution, or sleeping or reading about East Asian pop music compulsively once  again, I will get straight to the point and illustrate Gong’s new album entitled 2032 with a short clip. I have to admit that I think this music video is amazing. It was made by the Japanese animator team Mu-0C Magic , who I believe are Hibari Hoya,Haruka Sakota, and Akira Watanabe.

Gong- How to Stay Alive ( 2009)

Is the album entitled 2032 because an asteroid is due to hit Earth in that year?

Answers in the comments section please, the song is certainly cheerfully apocalyptic. But then the first ever song by Gong that hit me lyrically in the centre of my brain was You Can’t Kill Me, a song about killing off the rest of the family, symbolic and  psychologically strange.

( preceded appropriately by Radio Gnome Prediction) released in 1971 from the album Camembert Electrique:

The tracks on the new album 2032 sound definitely like the old Gong, although on occasion I can hear a bit of old Hawkwind and The Ozric Tentacles too. However considering that without both Hawkwind and Gong , there wouldn’t be any Ozric Tentacles ..I’ll let you do the maths…

Here is Pinkle Ponkle from the new Gong album, starting off sounding a bit techno, then a bit middle-Eastern but then definitely just like Gong’s unique style with echo unit orgasmic sighs by Gilli Smyth , Daevid Allen’s poetry, psychedelic spacy effects by Miquette Giraudy, Steve Hillage’s uniquely wonderful  guitar sound ,with Mike Howlett on bass,Chris Taylor on drums and Theo Travis on flute and sax.


See the Gong website (http://www.planetgong.co.uk/) for further guest players on the album including the original Didier Malherbe.

Gong and Steve Hillage surreptitiously introduced me to Gamelan, free form jazz , Middle-Eastern and Indian classical music and musical concepts like drones on Miquette’s synth,and modes from the East on Steve‘s guitar, when I was only fourteen and “World Music” was not generally heard in London’s mainstream media, apart from a bit of Indian Classical music.

In recent years of course, Steve Hillage has been creating music with Miquette as System7, but even with dance/trance/techno music he was still playing his guitar live.

Now with the reemergence of The Steve Hillage Band , he is playing his old stuff again, something many of us had wished and prayed for during the past two and a half decades and never dared to hope would come true.

I will end with some video clips as it’s late and I need to go to bed! One last piece of info, I phoned up a ticket agency today ( Keith Prowse) and there are still tickets available for this Friday (tomorrow) at the Forum in Kentish Town…

but only because every Steve Hillage fan in London does not realise he is playing yet. If you are one of them, get yourself a ticket by whatever means , it’s not too late. Or you could go and see The Steve Hillage Band and Gong , on Saturday the 28th at The O2 Academy in Oxford,  and Sunday the 29th of  November at The Corn Exchange in Brighton.

I have already put up so many of my favourite Steve Hillage tracks up on this blog along with my favourite youtube video clips so forgive me if I am repeating myself .

Om Nama Shivaya from the album “L” (1976)

Salmon Song ,this is a clip from the fantastic video of Steve Hillage playing in Canterbury from the truly excellent DVD  Steve Hillage LIVE in England 1979.

and from the same DVD here he is with Hurdy Gurdy Man

and here they are in 2009 in Bonn playing  Searching for The Spark ..they need a bigger audience to bounce their musical vibes off, so get down there , if you are in London, Oxford, or Brighton and dance your hippie dance.

See you all on Friday or online sometime.

Love and Peace

Born2rant