Archive for the ‘Steve Hillage’ Category

Steve Hillage Newcastle University 23 March 2023

hillage tix1 is, in his own quiet way, a guitar innovator. His pedigree is strong and impressive and last night, reminded me just what a great guitarist the man is. As usual, and no apologies, the night brought back many memories of the man himself and of the venue. Steve Hillage currently has two identities (in fact, probably more): (1) as a reborn trance hero in the band System 7 and (2) he is now out on the road fronting a new Steve Hillage band, drawing from his classic mid – 1970s albums, such as my favourite L.

hillage adFirstly, memories of the venue came flooding back partly as I tried to work out in my head where Newcastle University Students Union Ballroom (or equivalent) might be these days. The last time I frequented said venue was during the 1980s witnessing great performances by bands such as Rip, Rig and Panic (featuring a fledgling Neneh Cherry, who had just left the Slits, and sometimes her father Don), Haircut 100 and The Cure. All of those concerts took place in the larger upstairs ballroom; a venue where I witnessed some great punk gigs during the 1970s including the Clash White Riot tour. (Tour advert from Steves site)

hillage picSome of the concerts including Sandie Shaw (rejuvenated by a collaboration with Morrissey at the time as I recall), Punishment of Luxury and the Au Pairs took place in a lower, smaller, hall named “The Canteen” (because that is exactly what it was during the day!). I was told that wheelchair access was via a lift through the students union building and the Co-op shop! Actually, those directions worked well and some helpful students directed me and my carer Jackie towards a lift which took us downstairs to the venue; I half recognised the hall, it may have been what I once knew as the Canteen. Anyway, sorry for going around the houses to say that we managed to get to the concert okay. However, by the time we arrived the hall was full and the best vantage point we could find was at the side of the stage. (picture of Steve from my ticket)

hillage 4Secondly, Steve Hillage, psychedelic guitar wizard and inventor of the “glissando guitar” as exemplified by Steve’s wonderful soloing on his reinvention of the Donovan classic “Hurdy-Gurdy Glissando”. I have seen Steve Hillage several times over the years and he always strikes me as a quiet unassuming guy, and yet he has in his own quiet way achieved so much and forged a rich career along the way. I first came across Steve Hillage when he was a member of Khan, an early psychedelic band who I think I saw supporting Caravan in the early 1970s. I then saw him as a member of Gong and as part of Kevin Ayres band.

He soon ventured out on his own and released a clutch of great albums including the aforementioned L. During this period, I saw him headlining Newcastle City Hall on a couple of occasions, supporting Queen at their free concert in Hyde Park and somewhat bizarrely, joining Sham 69 on stage at the Reading Festival, a concert that was marred by fights in the crowd, although Steve’s performance with Jimmy Pursey of Sham was meant to signify that progressive rock and punk/skinhead music can stand together (“If the Kids Are United”).

hillage 3Roll forward to the Steve Hillage band 2023 in concert. Shortly after we arrived the band took to the stage, with lots of colourful lighting, wailing saxophone and electronica/psych keyboard wizardry courtesy of Steve’s long-term partner Miquette Giraudy. I am unsure who the rest of the band were, but I suspect they consisted of some current members of Gong, who continue to perform without any original members but with the blessing of Hillage and founder member, the late great Daevid Allen. After some wonderful twirling, swirling sounds the music soon took shape and morphed into Steve’s cover of the Beatles “It’s All Too Much” from L.

hillage blueAn excellent start to an evening of great music mixing tracks from throughout the band leader’s career. Some I recognised, several not, but they all featured great guitar dexterity from Mr Hillage. One he introduced as a Kevin Ayres song, in tribute to his former band leader. I suspect there was also a Gong track or two in the mix. Steve stood quietly centre stage sporting a short haircut (very unlike the 1970s proto-hippie Hillage we all know and love) and an intriguing looking guitar with no top stock. Soon we were at the end which featured further excellent guitar on “Hurdy-Gurdy Glissando”. The first encore started with some techno psych leading into The Move’s “I Can Hear the Grass Grow”.

hillage 5As we left, the band came back for a second encore (I think from reports of other shows on the tour this may have been Jimi Hendrix’s “Are You Experienced?”). The lift we came down on didn’t seem to work anymore, however a friendly guy soon took us to another much smaller lift, which we squeezed into, arriving at a different part of the University. We followed a few ramps and soon found our taxi, waiting to take us home.

Support came from Utopia Strong featuring none other than Steve Davis snooker star (thanks to Terriersfan for pointing this out to me: see comment below)

Queen Hyde Park London 18th September 1976

Queen Hyde Park 18th September 1976
Support from Kiki Dee, Steve Hillage, and Supercharge.
queenracesThe last open air festival event I went to in the long hot summer of 1976 was Queen in Hyde Park. A group of us went down to London by train on a day return ticket, returning straight after the concert on the mail train which pulled out of Kings Cross at midnight. This was a free concert, which drew a crowd of over 150,000, and was organised by Richard Branson. The line-up consisted of Supercharge, Steve Hillage and Kiki Dee. Kiki Dee had just been No 1 in the charts with Elton John and their massive hit Don’t Go Breaking My Heart. There were lots of rumours about that Elton would join her onstage for the song, but he didn’t; instead she was accompanied by a life-size cardboard Elton figure, and we all had to sing the Elton parts with her. Steve Hillage was quite popular at the time, and was great on the day, lots of glissando guitar, and amazing psychedelic trippy versions of the Beatles’ All Too Much, and Donovan’s Hurdy Gurdy Man. There was a big fight in the crowd during his set. But the day belonged to Queen. It was quite a brave move headlining such a major event at what was still a relatively early point in their career, but they pulled it off and were as majestic as ever. Their set was relatively short, around an hour, because of curfew and time restrictions. Apparently Queen were prevented from returning for their usual long encore by the Police. This was just before they released the Day At The Races album. Freddy was amazing, although from where we were standing he was a tiny white figure shining across the massive sea of people (no big screens to watch in those days).
Setlist: A Day At the Races Intro; Bohemian Rhapsody; Ogre Battle; Sweet Lady; White Queen (As It Began); Flick of the Wrist; You’re My Best Friend; Bohemian Rhapsody; Killer Queen; The March of the Black Queen; Bohemian Rhapsody (Reprise); Bring Back That Leroy Brown; Brighton Rock; Son and Daughter; ’39; You Take My Breath Away; The Prophet’s Song; Death on Two Legs; Stone Cold Crazy; Keep Yourself Alive; Liar; In the Lap of the Gods… Revisited

Steve Hillage Newcastle City Hall 1979

steveh1979 The last time that I saw Steve Hillage in concert was in 1979 at Newcastle City Hall. By then he had released seven solo albums, was several albums on from his classic L lp and the audience was dwindling a little. The things I remember most about Steve in concert are his epic performances of the songs from L and his use of what is termed “glissando guitar”. I wasn’t sure of the origin or meaning of the term so I googled it. Many thanks to Chris D from the seven string forum for explaining glissando guitar for me: “I think this got called “glissando guitar” first by Daev Allen from Gong, who as far as I know pioneered this technique. Steve Hillage also used this a lot. Glissando is the musical term meaning “slide” but glissando guitar isn’t “slide guitar” as you know it.The sound you get is a lush drifty synth/string effect, it sounds cool & is easy to do, although trying to explain it seems complicated”. It seems the technique involves removing the tremolo arm and jiggling it across the strings while using a wah wah pedal for effect. Whatever it is, it certainly gave a unique sound to much of Steve’s guitar work at the time.I have also been reading quite a lot about System 7, Steve’s latest band. I didn’t realise how influential he has been in the dance scene and it the acceptance of dance at Glastonbury. So I making myself another promise which is to try to see System 7 when the opportunity next arises. Support act for the 1979 tour was Trevor Rabin who would go on to join Yes. Typical setlist from the 1979 tour: “The Salmon Song”, “Unzipping The Zype”, “Hurdy Gurdy Glissando”, “Light In The Sky”, “1988 Aktivator”, “Unidentified (Flying Being)”, “UFO Over Paris”, “Activation Meditation”, “The Glorious Om Riff”, “Activation Meditation”, “It’s All Too Much”, “Electrick Gypsies”, “Talking to the Sun”

Steve Hillage Newcastle City Hall 1977

Steve Hillage Newcastle City Hall 1977
steveh1977 Steve Hillage toured a lot during the late 70s. I attended most, but not all, of the gigs he played in Newcastle during that period. He called at the City Hall twice in some years, and I didn’t catch all of those gigs. I did attend his 1977 concert at the City Hall, and pretty fine it was too. Steve was a guy of several faces: the quiet bearded hippy from Gong, the somewhat unlikely guitar hero who emerged during the late 70s, and he even popped up onstage at the Reading festival as a special guest of Sham 69, which was a very unlikely pairing (and didn’t go down well with some of the skinheads in the crowd, as I recall). stevehprog A further side of Steve has emerged in recent times, as the leader of electronic ambient new music visionaries System 7. During the years I am blogging about here, Steve was very much a guitar man, releasing a clutch of pretty fine albums, and playing some pretty good gigs. Support came from Glen Philips on this 1977 tour. The tour waa to promote Steve’s latest album Motivation Radio and the set was drawn from that album and his previous album L. I found a setlist from the Glasgow gig of the tour on the Glasgow Apollo site. I would imagine the set at Newcastle will have been similar to this: It’s All Too Much; The Golden Vibe; Unidentified (Flying Being); Light in the Sky; Radio; Aftaglid; Electrick Gypsies; The Salmon Song; Solar Musick Suite; Saucer Surfing; Searching for the Spark; Hurdy Gurdy Man; Hurdy Gurdy Glissando; Not Fade Away

Steve Hillage live in 1976

steveh1976 I first saw Steve Hillage live at a free concert in Hyde Park. That was in the hot summer of 1976, where he played on a bill headlined by Queen. I’d heard of Steve through his work with Gong, and seen that band at Newcastle once, but wasn’t really prepared for how good he was that day. The sounds of his psychedelic guitar work filled the park with great versions of Donovan’s Hurdy Gurdy Man, and the Beatles All Too Much. The line-up of Steve’s band that day was Steve Hillage on guitar and vocals, Clive Bunker (ex Tull) on drums, Colin Bass on (of course!) bass, Christian Boule on guitar, Phil Hodges on keyboards, Basil Brooks on synthesiser and Miquette Giraudy on synthesiser and vocals. This show was their live debut and pretty good it was too. I’ll blog separately about the rest of that day on another occasion. A group of us went down on the train with a day return. The line-up was Queen, Kiki Dee, Steve and Supercharge. Happy days. This debut performance was soon followed by release of the album L, which my mates and I bought through a “record club” that we ran at the time, where we took turns in buying an album, and then passed it around between us. L is a very strong album, with great swirling psychedelic sounds, Steve’s glissando guitar, and lots of rich synth sounds. By the end of the year Steve was headlining his own tour, and selling out concert halls up and down the country. A group of us went to his gig at Newcastle City Hall. Support came from Nova who were an Italian progressive rock/jazz fusion band based in London. This was the Electrick Gypsies tour which showcased tracks from L, with extended guitar solos. Pretty cosmic stuff, very much of its time, and great fun as I recall.