LIVE REVIEW: Ozric Tentacles and Gong Live at The Globe, Cardiff (10th March 2024)

The psychedelic prankster bus pulls into Cardiff, dropping off Ozric Tentacles, Gong and The Fruit Salad Lightshow at The Globe, for one night only.

With two legendary bands on the bill, there was always going to be a good turnout, so we made a point of arriving nice and early to try and bag ourselves a seat with a view on the balcony. However,  ten minutes before the doors opened, there was a queue halfway around the block. It was like being a teenager all over again. But the fanatics gathering tonight are light on hair and heavy on the wrinkles.

When the doors finally open we have a legend stamping our hands. He’s an anonymous looking gentleman who had his fifteen minutes of fame back in the sixties, when he played saxophone with Welsh legends Amen Corner. He has been managing bands and promoting gigs for a number of years now.

We head straight upstairs to grab a spot on the balcony, but it is already full. Grrr. So we head downstairs which, considering the doors only recently opened,  is already filling up. The fact that Ozric Tentacles are on first might have something to do with this.

The tour is a ‘double header’ with Ozric Tentacles and Gong taking it in turns to headline.  Whilst I’m here to see the Ozrics, I can’t argue with Gong’s status as long-time psychedelic legends.

I might have turned out for a Gong gig, we will never know, but the Ozrics were playing and I will grab any opportunity that I can  to see them live – and have done for almost four decades. I was not going to miss this gig. They have consistently been one of my favourite bands since I first discovered them back in the mid-eighties.

The Ozrics always put on a good live show, but that experience is always ramped up when they have the Fruit Salad Light Show in da hood to fry your eyes as well as your ears. Seeing that they were set up on the balcony ready to join the trip helped broaden an already mile-wide grin.

Like a fan boy, I made my way to the front of the stage to ensure I was in a good spot to grab some decent photographs of the band, and waited for them to hit the stage.

The line up has fluctuated enormously since they first started jamming some forty one years ago. The only constant has been Ed Wynne: guitarist, keyboard twiddler, drum programmer and all-round mastermind of the band. His son, Silas, has been on keyboards, synths and guitars since 2009 and Silas’ partner, Saskia, has been with the band on flute since 2021. The three of them have done a lot of gigs lately simply going out as Ozric Tentacles Electronic Set, but tonight we have a full band in front of us including the return of Vinny Shillito on bass, for his third stint with the band and new boy Pat Garvey on drums.

The band have a huge back catalogue and I can’t think of any tunes they have released that I do not love. But because all tracks are instrumental, complex and weave their way in and out of different dimensions, they can be hard to identify at times. You can’t wait for the chorus and pick up on a lyric and think – Ah, that’s Stoned Love or whatever, because there are no choruses. Or indeed any lyrics. Then throw in the fact that with different lines ups, the passage of time and a penchant for improvisation, a tune recorded in 1986 is not going to sound like it did back then.

Outside I hear someone refer to what they do as psychedelic jazz, because of all the nifty improvisation. It sounds nothing like jazz, but I get where that thought has come from. It is blissed out, trippy, psychedelic rock that has one toe dipped into the psy-trance pool. Hence them being loved by hippies and ravers alike.

However. Some of the early tunes stand out because you remember falling in love with those riffs. And some of the tunes will be familiar because you have just been listening to the new album on the way down in the car. Therefore I’m fairly confident that the first number was Green Incantation from the new (2023) album Lotus Unfolding.

Erpland and Eternal Wheel from 1990’s Erpland Album follow and I am happy. I’ve had my money’s worth, anything else is a bonus.

Lotus Unfolding, Burundi Spaceport from the new album follow and I’m pretty sure Sploosh is there towards the end. Don’t hold me to any of this, like I said,  it’s all a swirling psychedelic soup with an amazing light show sprayed all over the top.

And there’s no getting around the fact that by the end of the set the venue is ridiculously full. Unpleasantly full. Although this might be me finally accepting that I’m getting old.

The Ozrics set draws to a close and I’m floating on air. They didn’t disappoint. They were as psychedelic as you can get on Pepsi Max. We head out into the street for fresh air. Everyone is agreeing that the set deserved a five out of five on TrippyAdvisor.

Next up Gong. By the time we get back upstairs the room is full and I’m not up for barging my way to the front for photographs. We park ourselves next to the speakers at the bottom of the stage and feel our teeth rattle from the bass.

Gong have been around a while. A long while. Since before Amen Corner were topping the charts. 1967 to be precise. Over that time they have had numerous line ups and several name changes, such as Planet Gong, Gong Maison and  Mother Gong.

Probably the most consistent member over the years was Daevid Allen. Sadly he passed away in 2015 meaning the current line up doesn’t feature any original members. Tonight’s guitarist,  singer, front man, Kavus Torabi, wasn’t even born when the band released their first album.

I’ll stick my hand up and say, dispite the band having been around forever,  and me being a big fan of all things psychedelic, I’ve never really paid a great deal of attention to the band. I’ve been aware of them, obviously,  but for some reason I’ve not been drawn to them.

I’m in a minority though. There’s a reason the room is still rammed. An appreciative crowd far more familiar with the Gong thing than this droog is eagerly lapping them up.

It would be silly for me to try and name the songs in the set. I couldn’t tell you Flying Teapot from Intergalactic Cafetiere, but I’m immediately taken by their furious start. They are more rock and roll and less psychedelic than Ozrics, but they get the foot tapping and head nodding with some chunky riffage. It was always unlikely I would think they were better than The Ozrics, not that it is a competition,  but I can see why this is a double headline tour.

I eventually left the venue a) well pleased to have caught the full Ozric live set up for the first time in ages b) with a thirst to check out the immense back catalogue of Gong. And c) relieved to be out of that psychedelic sardine tin.

A night to be remembered.