Gong, Queen Elizabeth Hall, London
Tuesday 24 June 2008
This is Gong we're talking about, and half measures are an unknown quantity in their world. This is a band that knew what the joke was, and their joyous trip to enlightenment and the left-hand path made for an unforgettable, psychedelic experience at Massive Attack's Meltdown.
Founded in 1967 in Paris by the Australian musician Daevid Allen and the poet Gilli Smyth, Planet Gong has been through many permutations. This 2008 gig reunited Smith and Allen with guitarist Steve Hillage and Miquette Giraudy on keyboards, plus the veteran Gong bassist Mike Howlett, who took to the stage in monk's cowl, and jazz saxophonist Theo Travis. It's a line-up that fans have dreamt of for years, and tonight they delivered two unremitting hours of mind-crushing delight.
From the start, atonal and ambient electronica blew across an empty stage, the iconic Gong mandala of eyes, triangles, and circles hovering on the projection screen behind. Allen sprang out in top hat and tails, long white hair hanging to his shoulders, his stage movements a cross between your great-uncle dancing and weaving a spell.
The band was awesome, wound as tight as a tourniquet in the rhythm section, with both Hillage and Allen playing cosmic, fabric-ripping guitar with fantastic range and feeling. Smyth's space whisper – echoplexing her voice into zero-gravity loops of call and response – worked wonders, while Travis sailed over and under on sax, clarinet and flute.
The set was filled with classic Gong tracks – "Master Builder", "Sold to the Highest Buddha", the glorious "Om Riff", "You Never Blow Yr Trip Forever", Hillage's "Light in the Sky". You left with a string of Gong mantras going round your head: "...have a cup of tea, you can do what you want, why don't you try, You are I or I am you, Hang on to your head..."
The old Notting Hill alternative society used to talk about good drugs (acid and dope) and bad drugs (everything else). It's true, visionary drugs are great to watch Gong by, but failing that, the projections will take you there. A blizzard of strobed imagery – kaleidoscopic, fractal and interstellar – all tore at you at the pace of three or four per second. The visuals matched the music, and for the audience, abandoning their seats for an extended encore, meltdown was inevitable.
GlastonburyWI to make debut appearance at Somerset festival
TV reviewIt has taken seven episodes for Game of Thrones season five to hit its stride
FilmPalme d'Or goes to radical and astonishing film that turns conventional thinking about immigrants on its head
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Man on naked bike ride gets ejected after becoming aroused
- 2 Caitlyn Jenner's mother Ester thought her daughter, formerly known as Bruce Jenner, had transitioned for money
- 3 Charles Kennedy 1959-2015: A gifted, compassionate politician whose career was cut short by the 'demon drink' - latest news
- 4 Ann Summers survey reveals the UK's favourite sex position
- 5 Ayyan Ali: Pakistan's top model now appears in the courtroom rather than on the catwalk
The 1975 leave social-media after cryptic comic strip tweet hinting at possible break up
Britain's Got Talent producers apologise for not making Matisse dog double stunt 'clearer'
Britain's Got Talent 2015 final: Jules and Matisse used secret dog double for winning tightrope act
Netflix is testing out adverts
Game of Thrones season 5 episode 9: 'The Dance of Dragons' sees Jon Snow return to The Wall after epic Battle of Hardhome
Thousands of teenage girls enduring debilitating illnesses after routine school cancer vaccination
Migrants in Kos: Photos show real tragedy after Brits abroad complain of 'awkward' holidays
British tourists complain that impoverished boat migrants are making holidays 'awkward' in Kos
Michael Gove determined to scrap the Human Rights Act – even if Scotland retains it
Threat to scrap Human Rights Act could see UK follow Nazi example, warns UN official
Why this year's general election was the most unfair in Britain's history