Bedouin/The Nova Express, Cambridge (UK) Boat Race, May 18, 2001
From Aural Innovations #17 (September 2001)
Okay, it's difficult to be dispassionate about this one considering I started it. Andy Hudson did the work but I linked the people up. You may therefore be unsurprised to discover I thought it was great. Do I ever go to a bad gig, you may be asking? Well of course not! Why would you? I can't afford many gigs, I make bloody sure I go and see good bands. And Hawkwind of course, but just lately they've been on the nail anyway.
This sort of gets me onto the actual gig of which I speak, in that Alan Davey, who is Bedouin's main man and plays the bass and sings, is also in Hawkwind. But first, The Nova Express. Paul Simmons, their guitarist, had described them to me as noisy punk acid folk sort of stuff with female vocals, and that was all I knew as they took the stage except that the drummer looked like a dweeb but was apparently going out with the clearly personality-and brains-full singer. So I was quite pleasantly surprised to find that they sounded a lot like a punk band founded by and sung for by Tori Amos. The singer wasn't as good as Tori or anything but she sounded that way, and on an empirical scale she was pretty good. Everything from the jagged-edge gasping sigh through the achingly sweet melodic melancholy to the full-out teeth-bared punk bitch yell. But she had pigtails. And her other problem was being upstaged by Paul. He is really an excellent guitarist. Psychedelic doesn't cover it. He plays beautifully. And also riffs like a so-and-so. At different points, and sometimes even at the same ones. His technical ability may not be as good as say, Bari Watts or Steve Hillage, to name two psych guitar kings, but his diversity of styles is massive and he seems natural with it. He played one song with a bow. He also has a ruddy huge Orange amp which always helps. But she kept attention on herself when he wasn't soloing. Her face doesn't carry as much as her voice so watching her was slightly odd. Also she sang to the drummer a lot of the time so the audience had to look at her rear. Nice enough but that's not the point as far as expressing your words goes.
I did like her attitude though. Brought up there for no money worth mentioning to do a gig for a different band's slot, she had them do an Alchemysts number, so you can hear what that sounds like. When it's done properly. And they made several new fans. Their set-list, as she wrote it down, was: 2 Bit Punk/ Clone Star/ Electro (the Alchemysts number)/ False Ramblin/ Ten Lions/ She Moves through the Fair (yes that one, done in 4/4 with guitar breaks). So if you get a chance go see them, they're good. Album out some time soon.
Bedouin get better every time I see them. As I said to Alan. To which he said, 'That's the point, isn't it?' But they were bloody good. Bedouin sound, often, like a psychedelic Motorhead. Except that they occasionally attempt to sound vaguely Arabic, and their songs go on for longer and have more complexity. But in terms of speed and attack, they're in that space. With the synths up as well there doesn't come any more high-octane a brand of space rock than this. How it should be done. And they didn't disappoint. Danny Thompson isn't the best drummer in the world but he's good enough now. Glenn Povey isn't the greatest guitarist in the world but he's getting better than just being a Fast Eddie Clarke replica as he used to be and that was still quite good. Alan plays very well indeed as long as you're not one of these bass pedants who thinks that treating it like a guitar is a bad thing to do. He can't sing but neither can Lemmy (no small influence on Mr. Davey).
I think what's worth mentioning more than that they kicked our behinds brutally and that 'ya know, it's a good kind of hurt,' and things like that, that their sense of light and shade has developed in the years they've been on the road (which are, even in this line-up, beginning to approach three with no bloody album out yet - Alan's ideas about promotion are rather old-fashioned, he won't release an album until he has a good deal and he won't have his stuff up for download, which as we know basically radio play to targeted listeners as far as promotion goes, so there's naff-all product except CD-Rs going for a tenner with sub-album material on them... mmm.) and that they play more interesting stuff than Motorhead who nevertheless remain their closest point of comparison. So if that sounds good try and catch them. I did and I still hurt from moshing in a state of utter but uncaring fatigue. Album will be out in August, he says.
Set-list was, for those in the know about such things: LSD (Hawkwind number of Alan's)/ Say Goodbye to Babylon/ Rock Palace/ As Above So Below (this is such a good song)/ Air Space/ Elric Pt. 2 (Hawkwind again)/ One Moon Circles/ Demons in Denial/ Wings (another Hawkwind song transformed by the Bedouin arrangement)/ Sputnik Stan/ Dagger Dance/ Vision Quest// Chasing the Dragon. Which missed out nothing I wanted to hear except maybe 'Arioch' and 'The Call' but believe me I'm not complaining.
Reviewed by Jon Jarrett