Gong Bristol Academy 7/10
IF there was an award for the most elderly musicians ever to appear on the Academy stage, it's a safe bet that Daevid Allen (74) and his space whispering partner Gilli Smyth (79) would walk away with the, er, gong. Alas, only in world music and the blues do you get applauded for being very old, as critics assume wrinkliness connotes authenticity in these genres. And Allen's been around so long that Sixties hippies used to deride him for being a beatnik. The leader of Gong and many of its bewildering number of offshoots since 1967, he's been flying the (freak) flag for idiosyncratic jazz-prog-psychedelic-kitchen sink surrealism to occasionally diminishing returns ever since.
Then in 2009, the classic Gong line-up made an unexpectedly triumphant comeback with a great album, 2032, which was given a thoroughly modern production sheen by guitarist Steve Hillage, and a packed and memorable show at this very venue. Three years on, Hillage is gone again and the turnout is conspicuously smaller. Would the delicate yin-yang balance be shifted back in favour of Allen's acquired-taste pothead pixie whimsy? Mercifully not.
Driven by the excellent rhythm section of bassist Dave Sturt and drummer Orlando Allen (yes, he's Daevid and Gilli's son), Gong quickly get stuck in to a set of crowd-pleasing favourites. That said, the absence of keyboards and Hillage's soaring guitar is sorely felt. Rather disappointingly, we also get only one song from 2032 – though it is the fabulously metronomic, kosmische-style Escape Control Delete.
Allen models several of his trademark funny costumes, coming on as what appears to be a giant deformed sperm for Oily Way. Opium for the People from the band's Planet Gong incarnation is delivered with punkish aplomb.
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"You can't kill me," Allen asserts during the encore, and the evidence suggests he may well be right.