Bloody club nights mean early starts and fortunately, I got here just in time for the beginning of The Utopia Strong’s set, a band who have been on my ‘want to see’ list for some time. Their ambient electronic ramblings are wonderful and snooker ace Steve Davis hits a 147 break on his small eurorack synth whilst the others use glissando guitar, bagpipes, recorder, hurdy-gurdy, bells and other accoutrements to deliver this 40-minute improvised meditative experience. To be honest this really needs a sit-down venue to chillax to but the visuals on the screen are trippy and entertaining. Om.
More photos can be found here: https://flic.kr/s/aHBqjAxrqD
Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/theutopiastrong
Bandcamp – https://theutopiastrong.bandcamp.com
The in-between “act” is a laptopper whose primary skill appears to be his ability to stop songs halfway through by hitting the pause button, and whilst some of the tunes played hit the spot, for me the om is paused.
When The Steve Hillage Band announces on social media “I thought I should mention that I’m not planning to do this again for quite a while” it becomes even more imperative to see the man once more, he was a huge part of my musical life in 78 and 79 and his albums still fill me with joy!
It’s All Too Much opens before we go swimming with the Salmon Song and the visuals are trippy, man. His band is, essentially, Gong plus Mr Hillage and his partner Miquette Giraudy on synths and they are incredibly tight drummer Cheb Nettles is exceptional reminding me at times of the powerhouse that was Clive Bunker in the mid-70s.
The audience is invited to join the band on an underwater journey before we move to pyramids and space as our journey enters the mind’s eye and to the source of inspiration as we become absorbed in the Lunar Music Suite where Mr Hillage’s synth mixing partner Miquette Giraudy wields her cosmic knob twiddling powers through her fingertips. The visuals are equally as trippy, the guy next to me has had his eyes closed for 30 minutes, trust me he is deep in this trip. I got a bit bored though, I wanted to be bouncing around to more of his songs.
Deverish Riffs and Glorious Om Riffs abound and are gloriously heavy, three guitars (Hillage, Kavus Torbay and Fabio Golfetti) and some sax from Ian East along with perfect baselines from Dave Sturt and more of Nettles driving drums, give these pieces monstrous power as they galvanise and wrap the audience in om-ness. The Hurdy Gurdy Man brings us songs of love with a blinding guitar solo that has Mr Hillage reaching out into the universe and beyond where he also finds a Kevin Ayers song to include in the set.
According to Hillage, the encore is going to be another psychedelic white knuckle ride. The Move’s I Can Hear The Grass Grow is a pleasant surprise and the show ends with Hendrix’s Are You Experienced as featured on his recent Glastonbury Live CD (where it actually performed better).
Whilst I enjoyed the show it was nowhere near as epic as his performance here in 2019 when it was banger after banger. Tonight it was most noticeable for the number of covers – there was no Light In The Sky, no Talking To The Sun, no Unzipping The Zype, no Palm Trees, no 1988 Aktivator – you get the picture. All of this is leaving my om a little flat.
More photos here: https://flic.kr/s/aHBqjAxkwh
Website – http://www.stevehillage.com/
Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/stevehillageband/
Bandcamp – https://stevehillage.bandcamp.com/