If you are paying attention you may have noticed that I have already seen The Psychedelic Warlords this year. In fact, I’ve seen the same show – a celebration of the 40th anniversary of Space Ritual, the classic live album by Hawkwind. Tonight, however, there were a few differences.
Last time support came, rather fittingly, from a Hawkwind tribute band. Tonight it’s the turn of Maginot who, in their own words, play “a mix of funk, folk, punk, rock, pop and indie” and “aim to get people dancing and thinking”. A curious choice to support a Space Rock band, you might think. And it seemed that Maginot might have realised that as well, but they weren’t going to let it stand in their way of having a good time. Among the songs there was much laughter and jokiness and a hint of gratitude that, even though the band might not have been the favoured hot drink of much of the audience, they still applauded every song. The contents of their set was familiar from when we saw them for the first time a few weeks ago. Pretty Pretty, the energetic Monday morning bus love song, with its funky bass line was followed by South America, which is about “being slightly rubbish at life”. The slower and much mellower Chasing Ghosts gives you a chance to look around the stage and see how Mike plays the drums effortlessly and seemingly without concentration, almost looking as though he’s thinking about something else. Slow Step From The Big City is a new song about York. There’s a fair bit of foot stomping going on from vocalist Thomas in the middle and some nice changes of pace towards the end. Tip Of Your Tongue sees Tom narrowly avoiding an on-stage incident as he spots the lead from Thomas’ acoustic has somehow got trapped between two of the pegs on his electric and, still playing, deftly manoeuvres the latter to disentangle everything, a look of relief briefly crossing his face. After much hilarity between the band members about their song available on iTunes and Spotify, Ink finally gets played and it reminds me of The Jam, but “popped up”. The set ends, as it did last time, with Casino, the funkiness of which is emphasised by Neil’s short mid-song bass solo. They may not have been everyone’s cup of tea but, like last time, I enjoyed their set – it’s light, entertaining and gets your feet tapping.
The Psychedelic Warlords
There had been a couple of line-up changes since The Psychedelic Warlords last played York. If we’d realised that Tom Ashurst was the band’s guitarist and not, in fact, a roadie or member of staff at The Duchess, we probably wouldn’t have asked him whether he was going to move the stepladders that had been left in front of the stage. No wonder he looked slightly annoyed and declared, “they’re not mine!” before relenting and shifting them. The core of the band is still the same, with Alan “Boomer” Davey on bass, Meurig Griffiths on drums and Nigel Ward and the brilliantly made up Rich Om sitting off to the sides twiddling knobs on their electronic bits-and-bobs. Vocals this time, however, come from Craig High, resplendent as an all-in-black retro spaceship captain (until he removes his wraparound shades, and then the resemblance of more of a bus conductor…) The wandering poet who occasionally comes on stage between songs has also changed. I couldn’t find a credit for him anywhere but have subsequently been told that it was local poet/musician Oz Hardwick, who has known Alan Davey for over thirty years. And Demolitia is back as the dancer, the bigger stage at the Duchess giving her much more freedom to move about and meaning there was less danger to the rest of the band from the whip, knife and various other props she uses.
Being a full play-through of the Space Ritual album, the set was the same as last time. The overall sound was of driving, relentless rhythms overlaid with the music of the cosmos. Although some lyrics and parts of the poetry were beginning to sound familiar, I still barely recognised most of it, unlike the young redhead standing almost next to me who danced and sang along to pretty much the whole performance despite being (like Ashurst) nowhere near a glimmer in her parents’ eye when the album was released. Tonight was the first night of this part of the tour and, I assume, the first night Ashurst had played. I often saw Alan Davey glancing across at him, offering nods of encouragement or perhaps asking whether he was OK. He needn’t have worried, Ashurst looked nerveless and played brilliantly throughout. As did the rest of the band. Now, I’ve seen it performed live twice, albeit on a smaller scale than originally, and I really must get round to ordering a copy of the album.
Alan “Boomer” Davey – The driving force behind The Psychedelic Warlords