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Hillage, Steve: Live at the Gong Unconvention

Although not quite as well known as, say, Peter Gabriel, Jon Anderson, or Roger Waters, Steve Hillage is still a legendary progressive rock musician. As the guitarist for Gong during their "Radio Gnome" trilogy (Flying Teapot, Angels Egg, and You), as well as a successful solo artist, his sounds and techniques have been praised universally for decades. On Live at the Gong Unconvention (recorded in 2006), he and his band continue to impress thanks to their inviting, carefree vibe and technical prowess. It's a modest yet strong celebration of his work.

The set begins with "Hell Dawn," a undemanding yet involving three chord song that's highlighted by an intense guitar solo. Truthfully, Hillage's melody and vocals are extremely amateurish, but that's fine considering how interesting the timbres are. He continues by putting a fiercely psychedelic spin George Harrison's "It's All Too Much." Of course it doesn't rival the original, but it is a worthwhile alteration. Afterward comes "Aftaglid," an intricate jam that Hillage describes as surf music. It begins with echoed guitar lines before evolving into a masterful jam that perfectly exemplifies what made the Canterbury scene so amazing.

"Solar Musick Suite Part 1" is a multifaceted, dynamic journey that feels superbly vintage and exploratory, while "These Uncharted Lands" bleeds emotion with its affective guitar work and core melody. "Palm Trees" bursts with optimism and starry sounds, which is quite a contrast to the funky and mysterious "Unzipping the Zype." In addition, Hillage introduces each piece, as well as engages in some banter with his band, making the experience feel a bit personal and encompassing.

As for the DVD, it includes the performance and two interviews. Visually, the show is pretty basic; the camera angles change a bit, but that's about it. On the other hand, though, this means that viewers can see the band playing the entire time (there aren't any unnecessary distractions). As for the interviews, they're quite interesting. Hillage discusses his origins, music, and the like with humility and confidence. One gets the impression that he'd be a lot of fun to hang around with at a bar.

Overall, Live at the Gong Unconvention is a straightforward concert and behind-the-scenes collection. Musically, the band is in top form, recreating wonderfully psychedelic English music that makes you want to pull out all of your classic Nektar, Camel, Caravan, and yes, Gong albums. Hillage seems delighted and unassuming both on stage and off, which makes listening to him speak just as engaging as listening to him play.

Track Listing

1) Hell Dawn
2) It's All Too Much
3) Aftaglid
4) Solar Musick Suite Part 1
5) The Salmon Song
6) These Uncharted Lands
7) Palm Trees
8) Unzipping the Zype
9) Healing Feeling
10) Solar Musick Suite [Live with Gong at Hammersmith Palais, London]

Added: June 21st 2013
Reviewer: Jordan Blum
Related Link: Steve Hillage at Prog Archives
Hits: 1820
Language: english

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