Steve Hillage: Live At Rockpalast

The ex-Gong guitarist takes solo flight in the 70s.

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When Steve Hillage stepped out onto the Rockpalast stage in 1977, he knew he’d achieved something under his own name that had eluded him as a member of Gong. Released the previous year, his second solo album L took him into the upper reaches of the charts (a prize denied the Flying Teapot trilogy).

There are therein plenty of nods in the direction of his old band for all the mentions of ley lines, Atlantis and the search for inner enlightenment, and there’s a decidedly earthier grittiness at the heart of this German TV appearance. Playing without recourse to any of the on-stage looning about of his recent past, and looking resplendent as a beatific, white-robed rock deity straight out of central casting, Hillage is very much the centre of attention. His euphoric excursions across the fretboard contain a smattering of post-psychedelia bliss via his trademark cyclical echo-FX processing, but they’re also flecked with a decidedly bluesy undertow. Alongside powerful selections from Fish Rising and L, Hillage is very much in homage mode, paying tribute to heroes, Donovan and The Beatles. Doused with a liberal sprinkling of synth-stardust, his chugging cover of Not Fade Away was performed exactly 20 years after Buddy Holly laid down the original, and it highlights another aspect of his less than cosmic rock‘n’roll roots.The DVD comes with a surround sound option, and whatever the mix lacks in finesse it makes up for in its unerring projection of the brute force this band had its disposal, thanks to ex-Jethro Tull drummer Clive Bunker, bassist (and future Camel stalwart) Colin Bass and keyboardist Phil Hodge. Though Miquette Giraudy and Basil Brooks add swathes of electronics, the emphasis is on precision-drilled arrangements expertly delivered with accuracy, muscle and a generous helping of panache.

Sid Smith

Sid's feature articles and reviews have appeared in numerous publications including Prog, Classic Rock, Record Collector, Q, Mojo and Uncut. A full-time freelance writer with hundreds of sleevenotes and essays for both indie and major record labels to his credit, his book, In The Court Of King Crimson, an acclaimed biography of King Crimson, was substantially revised and expanded in 2019 to coincide with the band’s 50th Anniversary. Alongside appearances on radio and TV, he has lectured on jazz and progressive music in the UK and Europe.  

A resident of Whitley Bay in north-east England, he spends far too much time posting photographs of LPs he's listening to on Twitter and Facebook.