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Gong Live

Nights like this make you hanker for the days when a thick fug of stinkweed might cloak the crowd, but the dry ice isn’t a bad replacement and PsiGong are barely visible through the haze.

They come from the ‘make it up as you go along’ school of space rock, and while their meandering might initially seem to lack a purpose – the gentleman to my left describes it as being like “the middle bit in Dazed And Confused” – lift‑off is finally achieved late in the set as the momentum gathers, the keyboards squelch and swoosh, and everything dissolves into a squall of bleeps and bass.

There’s no such hesitancy from Gong, led in the absence of Daevid Allen by Knifeworld frontman Kavus Torabi. Allen is at home in Australia, convalescing after the removal of a cyst from his neck, but he’s very much with us in spirit, on screen (the show begins with This Revolution, Allen intoning the words of the poem from the safety of the backdrop), and via email – but more of that later.

You Can’t Kill Me starts the set proper, a strident, funky beast of a tune. It’s followed by Occupy, a largely instrumental monster that stutters frantically, like Nomeansno jamming with the Mothers Of Invention as the sax wails, before changing tempo altogether and turning into what sounds like a deranged take on the intro to Freebird.

I’ve Bin Stone Before has the crowd bellowing along like a Pogues audience on St Patrick’s Night, and then Torabi asks for the house lights to come on. He takes a photo of the audience, emails it to Daevid Allen, and by the end of the set the mainman has replied with the message: “I’m gonna tell you I love you, whether you like it or not.”

Kangaroo Moon’s Mark Robson joins the fray for a savage rendition of Oily Way, while the highlight comes as Steve Hillage riffs furiously on a stampeding, monumental version of Master Builder.

Gong have always hidden behind cartoons and whimsy, but they play complex music brilliantly, and somehow, in 2014, they’re almost better than ever. The band are ferocious, and leading from the front is Torabi. Full of youthful zest and natural charisma, with a thick mop of unruly hair and a stare that fixes on the back of the room, he’s the perfect man to lead Gong into the 25th century.

Fraser Lewry
Fraser Lewry

Online Editor at Louder/Classic Rock magazine since 2014. 36 years in music industry, online for 23. Also bylines for: Metal Hammer, Prog Magazine, The Word Magazine, The Guardian, The New Statesman, Saga, Music365. Former Head of Music at Xfm Radio, A&R at Fiction Records, early blogger, ex-roadie, published author. Once appeared in a Cure video dressed as a cowboy, and thinks any situation can be improved by the introduction of cats. Favourite Serbian trumpeter: Dejan Petrović.