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Progressive Rock Concert Reviews

Huw Lloyd Langton

Live Newcastle-under-Lyme April 11th, 2003

Review by Bruce Stringer

Sometimes, against all odds, there are people who not only manage to perform well in their given field but offer unique insight into their developed techniques. Last Friday's Lloyd-Langton Group gig, just outside Stoke-on-Trent, was indeed an event of insurmountable obstacles and bad timing. Huw, bass player Kenny Wilson and drummer John Clark arrived just before 8:30pm to find that not only was the PA sent away just minutes beforehand, but the gig had been cancelled. Reason being, supposedly, that the venue operator and promoter had figured because the band was running late they not going to show and, thus the gig should be cancelled. And to top it all off, Huw had just broken his arm.
Any other act would have probably just thrown the towel in there and then, however Huw insisted on slinging his arm up and playing. Slinking on the edge of the drum rises - as only Huw could do - what transpired through the course of the evening was an interesting set of extended and improvised pieces.

This was my third meeting with Huw in as many years and each time Huw has always been the warm, kind and generous individual that one might expect. This was my first time meeting John Clark who sat in one corner with sticks in hand furiously keeping time on his lap in deep concentration. Kenny Wilson was the comic relief of the trio and, like John, a genuinely nice guy. It was no wonder Huw's most impressive material comes from his work with these guys, as was demonstrated in the all-too-brief sound-check when John and Kenny burst into a pumping version of 5/4.

During Huw's level check, he attempted Rocky Paths and some other bluesy guitar parts, playing along with a cover tune that was playing through the front of house speakers. His fluid motion was really a treat to see again.


Armed with his trusty Epiphone through a Trace Elliot combo, Huw was obviously in pain and not able to move his arm too far outside the confines of the 7th fret to about the 15th. Travel weary after spending almost all day on the road in traffic jams, the LLG made their way onto the stage.

I confess that this "Waiting For Tomorrow" is one of my favourite Hawkwind tracks (along with Solitary Mindgames) and it was a nice opener to the set. I was always a little disappointed that Huw's vocal pieces were not more prominent in the band's material, considering some of the lacklustre pieces the Hawk's were releasing in the 1980's. With fingers barely able to hold string to neck and a few odd bum notes, the guitar virtuoso suddenly clicked and the magic was there.

Vocally, there was a relaxed mood that fit in well with the counterpart of Kenny and John's tight rhythm section. Less "spacey" than Hawkwind, the three-piece line-up was able to open up and relax without being cluttered by the swirling synth sounds that sometimes detracted from some of the better Hawkwind material. This enabled them to be more dynamic in their roles and really bring the volume down when required, for the subtle nuances.

The lyrics of Wind Of Change always demonstrated to me that one must be able to work with the constant change that is inevitable in everyday life. And this is exactly what the LLG did. After a slightly rough start, the pace picked up and Huw was able to utilise the constraints, playing on some of the themes and mantric runs that he is known for. Past-life swindles may have dealt Huw a blow with his third (?) broken arm in this last two year period but players like him simply do not just give up. This was reflected in the grimacing facials and pained contortions that Huw displayed during his solos. Jokingly, I wonder: if the wind changed would his face stay like that?

From the Night Air album comes Lonely Man, my least favourite of the night by deduction only, (as Night Air as an album does in fact rate quite high with me). I was in a North London guitar shop before our first meeting 3 years ago and the Spanish retailer mentioned that Huw was the "Keith Richards of Hawkwind". Upon our actual meeting Huw came across as a very shy, kind, introverted character who could easily be mistaken as subject of this song (although, with Marion, his wife, by his side I could hardly imagine that he would be this lonely man). This piece extended out nicely as a big, bluesy jam and allowed the rhythm section to unfold and explore.

Talk To You, is an older jam song that Huw has only recently released on Chain Reaction for the first time (besides a live version from the bootleg Outside The Law LP) and is a great, funky little number with its held back rhythmic pattern. Always managing a smile and a quick word to the audience, Huw's brave face kept the uplifted mood from ever turning, even when he had to briefly re-learn the main guitar parts an octave higher to suit his slung-up arm position. Huw even quipped that it's not a break idea to break your arm if you're a guitar player.

With Huw's parts an octave higher and a focus on the bass and drum interaction, the song delved into very interesting territory. Dipping into a funky little bass solo, Kenny took centre stage and played some really aggressive lead lines, a la Jaco Pastorius and Stanley Clarke. John's stop-start stick work really cut through and gave Huw the space to experiment wherever his hands would allow him to go.

"Hurry On Sundown…See what tomorrow brings" It had always been a surprise to me that Huw often performed this song as part of an encore. According to the man, himself, one of his most favourite periods within the band was with the line-up of the original, self-titled album and I suppose, from a nostalgic perspective, fits in as a nice rounding off to some of the more complex musical pieces. Once again, due to restrictions Huw spent a brief moment working the song and some of his guitar parts out in a different key, whilst chatting to the eager crowd. Kenny burst into Dave Brock's old number, carried by John's tight-but-loose 12/8 percussive beat and Huw's choppy rhythm and distinct vocals.

Huw ended the show with a croaked "Thank you", possibly feeling a lot worse than he looked: all smiles and polite to the core. Very Dylan-esque in his approach to the evening, sitting on the drum riser, Huw managed to entertain and amuse the audience without losing any enthusiasm from them.

At times looking like an old blues band with Mr Lloyd-Langton seated like a pale Muddy Waters, the guys really rocked out and brought a particular youthfulness to the songs. With shouts of "Huwey" and whistles throughout the end of the night, I am quite sure that all that were there had a great time.

It was indeed a pity that the group weren't able to perform 5/4 or some of the other more intricately timed pieces, but what they did offer was itself an altogether enjoyable set. I would have liked to have heard some material from the Time, Space & LLG album or possibly other, quirkier numbers like Candle Burning (from Night Air) or Freedom (from Chain Reaction) but the trio did what they could with the available facilities. Of course, this performance was indeed a unique experience and would have no bearing on other gigs, especially concerning track selection.

I have often thought how interesting it would be to see Huw play some of his solo acoustic material alongside a set of LLG material, as I was lucky enough to have Huw play an acoustic version of Solitary Mind Games for me after our interview last year. Interestingly, that could be an idea for a future CD release: a mixture of acoustic and electric, full-band material live in concert?
This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2003 Year Book Volume 3 at lulu.com/strangesound.
 
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