No doubt, many who witnessed Nik Turner’s Hawkwind at Reggie’s Rock ClubMonday night were bummed when Dave Brock’s version of Hawkwind postponed its Logan Square Auditorium show scheduled just five nights prior to a March 2014 date, but at the end of Turner’s set, they should have left satisfied.
Nik Turner’s Hawkwind did not disappoint as the band ripped through classic Hawkwind tunes from Turner’s days with the band from its inception in 1969 to 1976 in a 90-minute set. This band Turner has assembled has some serious chops and delivered, tearing through crowd-pleasers like “Brainstorm,” “Silver Machine,” “D-Rider” and “Children of the Sun” with pulsing rhythm and ethereal space noise. Add the projected images of go-go dancers, spaceships, the cosmos and sci-fi beasts and you’ve got a hell of a far out, jazzy, psychedelic prog rock show.
At 73-years-old, Turner looked like he was having a ball on stage. He still can wail a mean tenor sax solo and play a haunting flute. His voice hasn’t changed too much, but he has lost his fastball. It’s okay, though, as his slider and curveball are still pretty nasty.
The only time Turner seemed to lose any of his faculties is when he pulled out a crib sheet to remind himself of the words to “Fallen Angel STS-51-L,” a number from his latest album Space Gypsy which was released in September. It was an awkward moment, but proved to be a minor distraction in in the scheme of taking in the whole show.
Guitarist Nicky Garrat provided some wicked solos, as well as adding to the space noise throughout the set. Bryce Shelton flew across the fretboard of his Precision Bass, but also new when to slide back into the pocket and complement the relentless, hypnotic rhythms laid down by drummer Jason Willer. When allowed, keyboardist Lana Voronina shone, providing some groovy solos. However, she was mainly relegated to adding background noise, delay effects and spacey layers.
Garrat performed on Space Gypsy, and he joins the other members of Turner’s touring band in an act called Hedersleben with vocalist Kristen Bean, which explains why the group performed so well together.
The show was originally booked as “Nik Turner’s Space Ritual,” but was rechristened to “Nik Turner’s Hawkwind” after Hawkwind announced the postponement of its first U.S. tour in nearly 20 years. Turner filed a petition with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to register “Nik Turner’s Hawkwind” in November 2012, and it was recently approved.
Brock cited “stress-related illness” over the trademark issue as the main reason for postponing the tour. Turner addressed the crowd at the end of the set to give his take on the issue.
“I never want to make anyone sick,” he said. “I want to heal people.”
He also added speculation sparked by rumor by saying the U.S. State Department had denied Brock’s work visa, which is the real reason Hawkwind postponed its tour, “but I don’t want to gossip,” he insisted while standing on the stage.
The crowd went wild when Turner added he’d “love to get together and play with Dave again.” After all, it’s what many Hawkwind fans would fall over each other to see.
The crowd filled about two-thirds of the club Monday night, and was mainly on the older side, though a few youngsters around the 30-year-old mark could be seen. Some old-timers had seen Hawkwind back in the 1970s when Lemmy of Motorhead fame played bass with the band, like the one fan this writer met in the men’s room—you know, the place where most good conversations with strangers start.
It’s a drag to think about the Turner/Brock drama and Hawkwind name war between the two men. We’re talking about two men in their 70s who continue this silly fight like petulant children. Each “Hawkwind” band has exactly the same number of original Hawkwind members – which is one.
Each man has a certain right to use the name. Brock has carried it through the decades and built up the band’s reputation. But it’s hard to claim you’ve worked hard sustaining the brand in a country in which you haven’t toured in 20 years.
By many accounts Turner came up with the name and penned a lot of the classic material, but he’s continued to work and create and find success without having to use the name for a long time now.
There’s room on this earth for both acts and if it means Chicago Hawkwind fans get a double dose of Hawkwind shows once every 20 years, then we can live that.