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Gong: Access All Areas

Welcome reissue of long-deleted concert footage.

The passing of Daevid Allen earlier this year of course makes this 1990 concert especially poignant viewing and listening. The exact make-up of the Gong personnel had become something of a movable feast, affected by geography, health and artistic temperament.

The line-up featured here, complete with occasional on-stage dance troupe, put on a pretty convincing show. Allen excels in his role as psychedelic ringmaster, who at any given moment might be either conducting an elaborate experiment in performance art or gurning and hamming it up for comedic effect for all he’s worth before the cameras. Importantly though, he’s in terrific voice and it’s good to be reminded that, putting all the greasepaint and costumes to one side, Allen was above all a passionately committed performer. Helping to give some of Gong’s classic 70s material a 90s makeover are Here And Now’s ace bassist Keith Bailey and Stephen Lewry (aka Steffi Sharpstrings). With veteran Gongsters Didier Malherbe, Gilli Smyth and, surprisingly, Pip Pyle, they apply a bright, slightly funky gloss to some old classics. The updates don’t always ring true: the extended work-out on an otherwise surging trance-like rendition of Flying Teacup ends up as somewhat indifferent fusion. At the close of the show during a sparse, almost whispered I Am You, Allen goes walkabout through the crowd. Some long-term fans in the packed audience revel in his presence, while other newcomers appear slightly embarrassed by his attentions as he gazes beatifically into their eyes. It’s a resonant moment that serves to illustrate Allen’s fundamental belief that making music, at its heart, should be about sharing in a communal experience rather than holding the line between players and punters.