Rychard Carrington reports on Gong and The Steve Hillage Band - Cambridge Corn Exchange, 26 November 2009

Cambridge Corn Exchange, The


It looks odd to see Hillage with short hair (couldn't he at least have worn a wig?), but it's great to see him back playing his lyrical psychedelic guitar. Performing with Mike Howlett, Chris Taylor and Miquette Giraudy, he transformed rock power into an eloquent, uplifting vibe, just as in days of yore. A state-of-the-art psychedelic back projection - present throughout the evening - confirmed that this was no nostalgia, this was compelling, relevant music. The whole experience raised it's game even higher when Steve went into ‘Hurdy Gurdy Man', followed by ‘Salmon Song': the audience's auras floated up to form an enormous peace sign (psst: only kidding, readers).

All of Gong (the same four musicians plus sartorially sinister saxophonist Theo Travis, cosmic poet/white witch Gilli Smyth and, of course, ludic wizard Daevid Allen) look young for their age (Allen 71, Smyth 76). Miquette danced around like she was still in her twenties. Perhaps they're on to something? Of course they are: Allen, in particular. is an inspiring example of someone walking the walk of hippie philosophy at its best. When he sang ‘You Can't Kill Me', a tone of triumphant counter-cultural celebration was established. The music, a skilful progression from psychedelia, complements the sentiments perfectly. The encore was the mantra, ‘You Are I And I Am You'. If it sounds unconvincing in the cold light of day, it's a tribute to Gong that one half believes it while they are playing. My gig of the year.


Writer: Rychard Carrington