Live Music/GigMusicNorth WestReview

Hawkwind: In Search Of Utopia Infinity And Beyond – The Lowry, Salford

Music: Dave Brock, Mike Batt

Conductor: Mike Batt

Reviewer: Jo Beggs

The first and only other time this reviewer has experienced Hawkwind live was in a packed tent at the Bluedot Festival at Jodrell Bank last summer, the perfect backdrop for their particular brand of space rock. The Lowry’s Lyric Theatre has quite the opposite vibe, although the bar is doing equally well before the show. This is Hawkwindscrubbed up a bit, creating a very different sound with Mike Batt partially in charge and the added bonus of a full orchestra.

This veteran band, known for their ability to surprise, have created, in their forty-ninth year, a three-dimensional concept album. As some of the most prolific and best musical collaborators in the business, they’ve pulled together a strange and wonderful crew to produce a rich and fantastical thing, drawing on, amongst others, their 2018 acoustic albumRoad To Utopia.

The real surprise guest is The God Of Hellfire himself, Arthur Brown. Dressed like a glam-rock alien, the 76-year-old Brown even outshines the orchestra, pacing the stage singing, reciting, dancing and spinning. His three or four costume changes are a delight, especially the silver sequinned cape he appears in at the end of the show for his own Arrival In Utopia. His rendition of Sonic Attack, complete with fantastic animated visuals, is bonkers and brilliant

It’s not only Brown who’s great to look at, though. Projections, lights and lasers create a rich visual feast throughout, filling the theatre with colour and light. There’s lots of film of rockets and robots and futuristic landscapes to enjoy, the animation of the orchestra, and a dancing Mike Batt’s extraordinarily loud shirt. It’s really quite the backdrop for the band.

The orchestra give the songs a whole new depth, rich and multi-layered. The strings ring out in Damnation Alley, the French horns in Paradox. The combined orchestra, acoustic guitar and folk harmonies on We Took The Wrong Step Years Ago are a real highlight. There is a lovely balance too when the band perform without the orchestra, giving the show a nice ebb and flow.

After the orchestra leave, the band come on for three encore numbers –Spirit Of The Age, the lovely acoustic HymnTo the Sun and the crown-pleasingSilver Machine. It gets the audience on their feet but as soon as it turns into a straight gig, seems a bit out of place in this venue.

Given that the show starts half an hour later than advertised, andHawkwindplay continuously for two hours, it’s debatable whether a support act is necessary, especially as a good proportion of the audience stay in the bar. Their loss. Local duo Blackheart Orchestra are a great warm up, quickly winning over the audience with their catchy, proggy songs and friendly chatter. Multi-instrumentalists Chrissy Mostyn and Rick Pilkington create a great multi-layered folky sound, topped with Mostyn’s haunting voice.

Reviewed on: 18 October 2018 | Image: Contributed

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