Zero to Infinity
A Night At The (Invisible) Opera : Fin Costello, Hammersmith Palais, London 07/05/2000
I have been listening to Gong since 1976 but for many years never thought I would get to see them live. However since the 1995 25th anniversary gigs the band have been playing fairly regularly in various interesting shapes and forms. The last tour in (I think) 1998 was particularly brilliant with Pierre Moerlen on drums and Professor Sharpstrings on synths and guitar. It was a little disappointing to find that neither is currently playing in the band but oh boy was this gig brilliant. Not necessarily better or worse than the last tour, just different and totally wondrous.
The immediate impression upon walking into the venue was that this was going to be a cool gig. Day Glo Om and Ying Yang backdrops coupled with various gauze screens and large hanging balloons (onto which images would later be projected) created a great atmosphere and the audience, some in fancy dress, were clearly 'up for it' as were we.
The support act 'Witch' served up some festival style heavy-ish rock. It's clearly acceptable to be a self-righteous pagan but not a self-righteous Christian. Not my cup of (mushroom) tea really but good all the same and quite warmly received
As soon as 'Witch' left the stage we were treated to some beautiful ambient sounds courtesy (I think) of Professor Steffy Sharpstrings. The gig started here and the continuation of these sounds right up to the appearance of Gong really served to raise the atmosphere. This one was going to be gooooood!
- Gong May 7th 2000 (as described on the Snapper site):
- Daevid Allen: Bi-focal Vocals, Lewd Guitar and Glissando
- Gilli Smyth: Vocals, Chants and Deep Space Whisper
- Didier 'Bloomdido De Grasse' Malherbe: Deva Delights & gnome presence
- Mike Howlett: Mesmerizing Cosmic Bass
- Theo Travis: Jazzy Sax and Flute Salad
- Chris Taylor: Space Funk Drummering
- Gwyo Zepix: Keyboard Magick and Cynthia-Size-A
Enter Gong themselves beginning with a number of tracks from the new album 'Zero To Infinity', these like the other new tracks played on the night sounded really great live and the gig got off to a flying start (almost literally). About 10 minutes however the fun really began as the band entered one of the many deep, deep trance-funk zones that we were to be treated to. This was it, we were there in the zone and there we stayed until the last notes of the encore (and for a good while afterwards).
The current band is exploring deeper funk grooves than either the Pyle or Moerlen driven incarnations, these are truly glorious. Also the addition of Gwyo Zepix (!?) in keyboards has really added harmonic weight to the sound as well as lots more twiddle blips than have been in evidence in recent years. With no guitarist other than Daevid (although Gwyo played rhythm guitar on Oily Way and I think one other number) it was left to Mr Alien to assume the lead guitar role in his own unique style. Daevid is certainly no technician (but no slouch either) and basically plays it as he feels it. The results are usually a lot weirder than Hillage or Steffy and often quite brilliant. Overall the sound was deeply funky, highly spacey and I think the closest thing I have heard to being in a tent with Thandoy / Kharma Kanix in the early 80's. Groovesomely brilliant and totally zonal!
Mention must be made of Mr Aliens costumes. Starting off in a decorated white boiler suit looking like Pete Townshend after too much acid Daevid then treated us to a white, partially fluffy, winged affair decorated with CD's which made him look like a sort of outer space Elvis. The last outfit I remember (there may have been another) consisted of a shiny sequinned one piece suite overlaid with a white and very fluffy waistcoat. Wonderful stuff and of course totally silly. At the time of writing there are some pictures at the Snapper site.
I can't name all of the tracks that they played now but the generous helping of 'Zero To Infinity' numbers, particularly the aforesaid funky grooves really served to add variety to the set after several tours consisting almost entirely of old favourites. The material from the new album sits alongside the original Teapot trilogy better than anything Daevid and the band have produced since 'You'.
Here are a few of the tracks I am pretty sure they played in no particular order: You Can't Kill Me, Zero the Hero & the Witches Spell, Witch's Song, Radio Gnome Invisible, Oily Way, Outer Temple, Master Builder (final climatic number), Foolefare, Magdalene, Infinitea, The Invisible Temple, Tropical Fish, Yoni On Mars
I haven't mentioned all the band members but suffice to say they were all brilliant but particular mention must go to Howlett and Taylor for laying it down so deep and Bloomdido for being his usual genius self.
So there you are. That's how I remember it. Brilliant, but of course you had to be there. If you are into Gong and haven't got 'Zero To Infinity' yet then get it post haste. If you have never heard them then buy 'You' first.
Love you Baaaaby!