|Gong – London, Tufnell Park Dome- 23 November 2016|
|Written by Jim Rowland|
|Friday, 02 December 2016 03:30|
Essential listening for any self-respecting teenage pot head pixie, Gong’s music has stuck with me ever since – and that’s quite a long time now!
Following the death of Gong legend and founder Daevid Allen last year (not forgetting space whisperer Gilli Smyth this year), I, like many others, was surprised to learn that Gong would be continuing without any original members at all. So tonight I approach Tufnell Park’s Dome venue with trepidation, scepticism and curiosity.
The new Gong features most of the final Allen-fronted line-up from recent years with the addition of former Cardiacs guitarist and current Knifeworld frontman Kavus Torabi filling Allen’s shoes as new Gong frontman. However, once they hit the stage, it didn’t take long for that curiosity to be satisfied, and that trepidation and scepticism to disappear. The Gong legacy is clearly in safe hands and ready to move forward.
The set is a pretty fine balance between the old and the new. Golden oldies like ‘You Can’t Kill Me’, ‘I’ve Bin Stone Before’, ‘Oh Mother’, ‘Selene’, ‘You Never Blow Yr Trip Forever’ and ‘Eat That Phone Book Coda’ are delivered with reverence to the original band, but seem to have an extra spikey, heavier and energetic punch to them. The trip that is ‘Master Builder’, from the exceptional ‘You’ album, is nothing less than majestic. What is surprising is just how good the new material from this year’s ‘Rejoice! I’m Dead’ album is. Opener ‘The Thing That Should Be’, ‘Kapital’, ‘Rejoice!’, the atmospheric ‘Visions’ and the excellent ‘The Unspeakable Stands Revealed’ ooze the spirit of the Gong legacy, and blend pretty seamlessly with the old material.
As has always been the case with the various different incarnations of Gong over the years, the musicianship is top notch and it must be said that Kavus Torabi does a fine job fronting the band, from a distance in front of a psychedelic backdrop actually resembling a young Syd Barratt. And talking of a psychedelic backdrop, the light show and projections are in the best of Gong traditions, with the good old pot head pixies still featuring prominently and looking in fine fettle for their age.
The encore sums up the winning blend of old and new perfectly. ‘Insert Yr Own Prophecy’ from the new album is very cool indeed, and actually sounds reminiscent of Torabi’s former band The Cardiacs in many ways. The band sign off by going all the way back to the start with the harmonic ‘And You Tried So Hard’ getting a hearty sing along from the crowd, who give the band a rapturous reception throughout.
As I mentioned, I was a bit sceptical about this new Gong before tonight, but classic old bands continuing without any original members is probably going to become more commonplace as time goes on. Gong have hit the nail on the head as far as respecting the past and forging ahead in the spirit of Gong, and the new album is something I’ll be checking out very shortly.
Rejoice! Gong is not dead. The teapots are still flying high!