Hawkwind, Astoria, London <!-- none onestar twostar threestar fourstar fivestar -->

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The Independent Culture

Once the house band to the freaks of late-Sixties Notting Hill and, for many, the festival band of the British underground, the space-rock legends Hawkwind have now been on the road for at least 37 years. As their annual winter-solstice gig, at the Astoria in London, demonstrated, there is plenty of tread on the wheels yet.

They've had more members and associates than some bands have had audiences. These include Lemmy, the great Robert Calvert, the novelist Michael Moorcock, "Fire" man Arthur Brown, the drummer Ginger Baker, and more recently, the TV host Matthew Wright, a Hawkwind über-fan who sang the late-Seventies Calvert classic "Spirit of the Age" on the band's first studio album in almost a decade, Take Me to Your Leader.

"Spirit of the Age" featured in a set dominated by a string of classic Calvert songs that haven't been aired in years - the storming "Psi Power" being among the highlights - though there was no space for the Lemmy-driven "Silver Machine". These days, Hawkwind are a three-piece, with longtime bassist and vocalist Alan Davey and drummer Richard Chadwick led by Dave Brock, the one constant in the band's many incarnations, augmented by keyboards, sundry electronics, and the sax and flute of their longtime associate Jez Huggett.

Just as Dave Brock and Lemmy's guitar-and-bass interplay anchored and defined the Hawkwind sound in the Seventies, so the symbiosis between Davey and Brock is the rock on which the band now rests. Indeed, Davey's bass is as much a lead instrument as any, carrying an epic reworking of "Brainstorm" when Brock's guitar dies on him mid-solo

Visuals have always been a dominant part of the show, and tonight's gig was heavy on fractals projected at dizzying speed on a screen above the stage, while lengthy periods of strobe lighting combined with the churning, pounding beat to suitably disturbing effect. There was also a trio of dancers, in fairy, alien and spaceman costumes.

Surprisingly, there were only a few songs from the new album. The heavy protest-punk of "Greenback Massacre" easily exceeded the studio version, while Chadwick's jokey "Angela Android" sounded like Chuck Berry on mescaline and the classic "Seven By Seven" got an airing.

Hawkwind delivered a set drawing deeply from their Seventies heyday, while still sounding vital.