As the safety curtain raised to reveal the Docklands Sinfonia Orchestra conducted by Mike Batt – yes, he of Womble fame and the exquisite Tarot Suite recordings and much more – the murmur of expectancy turned to a commotion of wonderment as the Star Wars style red and purple lasers shot out from the stage, revealing an animated backdrop detailing Hawkwind’s Journey to Utopia; this being title of their latest remarkable release and conceptual theme for this evening’s spaced out shenanigans.
Now stripped down to just the four members with singer Mr Dibs no longer in the ranks, this veteran progressive band are still led on their musical odysseys by the legendary 77-year-old Dave Brock. Miraculously, this new collaboration between Brock and Batt has breathed new life into the set list by giving the songs a fresh lick of Day-Glo musical paint.
Tonight’s blend of orchestra and electric instrumentation got off to a noticeable flyer from opener Assault and Battery and continued to soothing effect on We Took The Wrong Step Years Ago. Brock’s somewhat nasal delivery adding a slight sardonic overtone to this cautionary ecological tale.
However, an absolute masterstroke was the introduction of a theatrically face-painted Arthur Brown who, wearing a shimmering glittery kaftan amongst his other various eye-catching costume changes, colourfully brought his flamboyant other-worldliness to the stage.
A frequent collaborator with the band and their various spin-offs down the years, Brown brought his immense presence to bear on The Black Corridor, The Watcher, Sonic Attack and Damnation Alley which found his operatic scream still operating in fine fettle.
The hypnotically charged Down Through The Night, adroitly aided by the mesmeric orchestration directed from Batt’s baton, stunned with its opiate effect on the senses. There was more serious head-nodding on display than a wall of Churchill Insurance TV adverts.
To wrap up an evening of enlightening entertainment, Brock knocked out the much loved Spirit of the Age and wheeled out a super-charged Silver Machine as a finale to send the buzzed-up progressive punters merrily homeward bound.
Special mention must be made of support act The Blackheart Orchestra whose ethereal opening slot set up tonight’s main musical course with aplomb.