In Concert at the Chrystal Ballroom, Portland Oregon, September 12 and WOW Hall, Eugene, Oregon, September 13
Lineup: Daevid Allen, Gilly Smith, Mike Howlett, Steffi Sharpsprings, Didier Malherbe and Pierre Moerlin.
Many bands come and go. Few ever really stay around, for a medium sized run. And on occasion, one band stands out as a Redwood Giant might... they will not only not die and fall, but they will get stronger and better.
Such was the case in this tour by this veteran band. And it showed. Although one might have liked a bigger crowd in Portland, a town not known for its progressive music or attitudes, in Eugene, in a much smaller hall, with seemingly more people in it, this band showed both audiences why they are so magnificent, and won't go away... it's hard to imagine that this band could have a better, or tighter feel in earlier days. When comparing these two shows to many others in their many live performances, this trip is the one that deserves to be distributed. If anything, it is the audience that really got a treat, so inexpensively.
In Portland, a much larger city, the band had the luxury of playing into the night, in a hall where the band sounded magnificent, but poor acoustics appeared to interfere with the band's monitors, although I don't think that the majority of audience members cared, or bothered to worry about it.
Still the band showed some new fans that this band could rock, and play with the very best of them. The show was tight, and the many musical breaks and stops were in the finest of shapes, more than once leaving an audience aghast. And it may have been the solidness of drummer Pierre Moerlin that made the difference in this tour. This was a very confident, and alive band, that showed that it had the experience and the ability to do its thing. One could not ask for much more, other than a request for some new material. It seems that the GONG trilogy is the main interest, but the old interest may be holding back a new audience that may not relate to the old material, or understand that which Daevid Allen is trying to say or accomplish.
For both shows, it is really hard to say which musician stood out the most out of the group, but suffice it to say that Pierre Moerlin displayed why he one of the world's best drummers, by not only time keeping a band, but helping it display its musicianship, in areas, where most bands nowadays could never even attempt. Also in fine form this time around, and perhaps a little looser and having more fun, was Mike Howlett, who seemed to be on a big fly high hour in Eugene. In Portland, it appeared that he was not as outgoing, but in Eugene, there were no stops, and this man showed why he is such a valuable asset to the steadiness and music of GONG.
In Portland, the band had a more relaxed time schedule and was able to play just about anything that they had in their sights, pretty much giving the Portland audience a show that will not soon be forgotten. It had loudness when it needed it, punch when it was required and the sensuousness when it was mandated, thus displaying why this band does not
fit into a commercial level of music. Sadly, the Eugene show with the supporting bands started way TOO late, and forced the band to cut their set almost 45 minutes, and prevented an encore, or the blasting of the OM Riff.
It's hard to ask of a band to do much better than this, but in many ways, this tour is an indication that GONG is doing very well, and that they may be rounding into form as a group. The ever present, Gilly, Didier, and Steffi, rounded out the evening with moments of their own. For once, in this line up and tour, the show was so strong, that one could bypass the actual need for a keyboard player, in order to free Steffi to play his sharpstrings a little more, but to his credit, he handles the keyboard and guitar duties extremely well. In the previous tour, the band did not sound as alive and dynamic as it did this time, and the difference, is as promising to this pair of ears as any hope has ever been. GONG needs to survive, and should, for it really represents, not an age of doogoody stone heads, but a musical display of attitude and moral significance, in a world of musical industry that does not regard music as its first commitment.
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