Gong, Ozric Tentacles – The O2 Ritz, Manchester – 19th November 2023
“My guitar is a spaceship,” sings Gong’s Kavus Torabi within a few moments of cranking down on the exquisite riff from the song of the same name on their new Unending Ascending album. A cursory glance at said review will reveal our dewey-eyed passion for said song and said riff. Worth the ticket price alone? We’re easily, and quickly, satisfied.
Ed Wynne of The Ozrics also has his own spaceship disguised as a guitar, designed to give a kick start into the stratosphere, as he later leads his troops in a set of Erpsongs and with Chrissy & Rick from The Blackheart Orchestra spotted in the room, it’s a star-studded gathering, here to experience the transcendental psychedelic experience, the fruit salad lights and a clear affinity between two bands who’ve toured together regularly of late.
The tour sees the two bands taking turns to ‘headline’ – no ego tripping here – just what Kavus calls “a psychedelic temple in the heart of rainy Manchester,” greeting the beautiful people. Manchester gets Gong opening and after the ‘spaceship’ launch, the set winds wonderfully around modern Gong with a nod to the past
The band of Torabi, Nettles, Sturt, East & Golfetti (incidentally, the longest running line up of the band) continue to do justice to the legacy. Truly living up to the philosophy of unending and ascending; the new music is smart and immediate; Tiny Galaxies offers the quirky Beatles-y alternative to the psychedelic pallete, yet the set is peppered with lengthier workouts that give the opportunity for immersion and experimentation. Rejoice! is the first before a thundering My Sawtooth Wake that crosses into heavier Porcupine Tree/Anethetise areas and assorted angular and jazzy diversions. The latter leads into a no less intense, but infinitely more restful Through Restless Seas I Come that swirls and serves as a reminder, should one be necessary, to the genius of Daevid Allen. The inspiration and spiritual guide for all things going, his presence still hangs watchfully over the current outfit.
The legacy is served by dipping back into Radio Gnome territory and the band is joined by Sakia Maxwell creating a visual spectacle before the ever-evolving slideshow in the background and soundtrack all around. In a “For one night only” finale we’re asked to “Choose Your Goddess” – the finale also of Unending Ascending, where we come full circle with another monster riff. It rounds off a fantastic set “and the Ozrics still to come!” – Kavus sounding as excited as we are. The lights go down and the band leaves the stage in the shadows – no triumphant bows or encore shenanigans.
You can see why Gong and the Ozric Tentacles are a well-matched pair. The Ozrics also refuse to stand still and lean on the comfort of a healthy legacy. Like Gong, they have brand new music – Lotus Unfolding – and are keen to fit as much as they can into their set. And to keep the theme running, they too open with Green Incantation from the new record,
The rhythmically busy Burundi Spaceport and the title track sit as comfortably as anything that’s gone before and may be to come, in the Ozric library. The pastoral visions blend with a soft oriental feel on the latter; a perfect match for the title as the screen plays out a colourful display of images that unfurl and merge.
Weaving a Rock coat of many colours (or at least as many as Ed and Silas bear on their outfits) – space, progressive, electronic, ambient, psychedelic – the pair of keyboards adds textures to the lead lines of a musician who rarely features when it comes to ‘best of’ polls, yet delivers typically mind expanding lead lines that complement the synth doodles.
New song integrated, the crowd pleasers are out in force as the Ozrics head into the classic Erpland, acknowledged by the crowd and Ed alike. Kick Muck is driven by a thumping bassline while we confirm what one Ozrics aficionado online has seen fit to comment on – the best version of Sloosh ever heard on this tour. It’s certainly an uplifting finale, pumping and pulsing and maybe eve
A fabulous and unquestionably value-for-money double bill. Don’t be surprised seeing the two bands teaming up again for a third round of psychedelic riches..