There’s something rather special about the fact that Gong still endure after the death of Daevid Allen, and the line-up he endorsed continues to fly the teapot flag proudly. They have produced a couple of good studio albums since his passing, Rejoice! I’m Dead! (2016) and The Universe Also Collapses (2019), and live they have gone from strength to strength, so it seems natural that put on enforced hiatus from gigging, they should trawl through their tapes from the last tour and compile this live album.
Anyone who has seen the live show pre-pandemic will know what they are capable of, and this live album is a great document of the current band’s credentials. Recorded at Newcastle, Leeds and Nottingham on their last UK tour, bassist Dave Sturt has selected the best versions of each song in the set to compile this album, and unsurprisingly it sounds pretty awesome. It’s not quite the same as experiencing the band in the flesh, but it’s close, and that will do nicely.
The majority of the set list is understandably culled from those last two studio albums, but there are also ripping versions of two old favourites. You Can’t Kill Me kicks things off, an instant crowd pleaser for fans of the original band. It obviously doesn’t quite replicate the wonky charm of the original, but sonically it is streets ahead, and does Allen proud for sure. Ian East’s sax honkings and Kavus Torabi’s slightly unhinged vocals keep things pretty much in the right spirit, and the whacky ending makes me smile every time. In fact, it has to be said that Kavus Torabi is an inspired choice as figurehead and front man for the band, his whole persona perfect for the role. Rejoice! follows and is a wonderful celebration of Allen’s life in Gong, and typical of the way this band lock into a spacey psychedelic groove and jam. Their mutual understanding of where they are taking the track is a joy to listen to, and I doubt the song is ever quite the same twice. The same goes for most of the extended tracks in the set, and I imagine Sturt had quite a job picking his favourite performances of each song. Master Builder is the other old song, and it’s hard to imagine they could ever leave it out, as it is always a highlight and goes down a storm. Here it shows just how tight the band are. Cheb Nettles and Dave Sturt provide the underpinning rhythm foundation, and they fit together perfectly. The groove the whole band lock into is stunning, and fifteen minutes fly by way too quickly. The most ambitious song though has to be Forever Reoccurring from the most recent album, which is a long piece, but not merely an extended jam, it’s simply a long song with many different passages and changes along the way. It has a spacey atmosphere, with Fabio Golfetti’s glissando guitar central to that mood, and numerous changes of pace and unexpected turns. Again the band are so well drilled that they make the complex riffs and ensemble parts sound easy, and this song is destined to become another classic.
Drawing towards the closing songs, My Sawtooth Wake is another new song which totally validates the continuing story of Gong. Ian East particularly shines on this, with some truly inspired sax. He is controlled when necessary, but when allowed to let rip, he does so with wild abandon. Final track Insert Yr Own Prophecy is a prime example of how Daevid Allen’s creative flame is being rekindled in new and interesting ways. It is totally in keeping with the spirit he imbued in Gong from the beginning, whilst exploring different horizons.
So the current Gong produce a great live album; absolutely no surprise at all to anyone who has experienced them in recent years. For those who haven’t, just go and see them at your earliest opportunity, because they are one of the best live acts in the country at the moment, and this album proves it.
[Gong tour the UK throughout March, see the dates at the TPA UK Gig Guide HERE.]
01. What We Was (intro) (1:54)
02. You Can’t Kill Me (9:03)
03. Rejoice! (9:53)
04. If Never I’m and Ever You (2:40)
05. Kapital (4:22)
06. Master Builder (15:43)
07. Forever Reoccurring (22:39)
08. My Sawtooth Wake (12:44)
09. Insert Yr Own Prophecy (10:30)
Total Time –
Kavus Torabi – Guitar, Vocals
Fabio Golfetti – Guitar
Ian East – Saxophone
Dave Sturt – Bass
Cheb Nettles – Drums
Record Label: Kscope
Country of Origin: U.K.
Date of Release: 18th February 2022