Steve Hillage: Live At Rockpalast

Lunar rising: so-so 70s set from the golden-vibed guitarist.

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Come 1977, having just about extricated himself from a disintegrating Gong, the erstwhile Submarine Captain’s first two solo albums, Fish Rising and L, saw a dialling down of the absurdism and surrealism of his former collective, forging a far more guitar-centric take on spiritual idealism and aquarian prog fusion.

Always a truly pioneering player, his arpeggiated echo-led motifs and searing, bubbling runs perfectly complimented the evolution of synth technology and foreshadowed his own contributions to the trance genre in the early 90s.

Already released (on DVD at least) as Germany 77, this uneven set sees the first incarnation of his touring band perform on the legendary TV show in front of a curiously stilted, or possibly sedated, audience. Track listings on the CD and DVD differ for some unfathomable reason, though both contain wonderfully psychedelic interpretations of Donovan’s Hurdy Gurdy Man and George Harrison’s It’s All Too Much, the latter’s subtle drug connotations reclaimed and writ large.

The Solar and Lunar Musick Suites form the centrepiece of the show, as a pair fully illustrating Hillage’s scope and fluency: riff-driven meditative musical mantras, mercifully free from the bombast and pretention that commonly afflicted his prog peers. Less impressive is a reedy and ethereal production job – too much air and water, not enough earth and fire – with an almost entire lack of bottom end.

Live Herald from 1979 set a high bar for Hillage live recordings, both in performance and audio quality, perhaps this is best viewed as a warm up./o:p

Tim Batcup

Tim Batcup is a writer for Classic Rock magazine and Prog magazine. He's also the owner of Cover To Cover, Swansea's only independent bookshop, and a director of Storyopolis, a free children’s literacy project based at the Volcano Theatre, Swansea. He likes music, books and Crass.