The Sellersville Theater (in Sellersville, PA) has always been one of my favorite venues. Its comfortable seats, classy décor, tasty concessions, and intimate atmosphere always provide a wonderful experience. In addition, Sellersville Theater specializes in booking relatively unique and obscure performances. On Sunday, August 21st, the theater delighted audiences with the three-act “Space Rock USA Tour.” Consisting of Hawkwind co-founder Huw Lloyd-Langton, Brainticket, and Nektar, it was an exciting and colorful night full of great music.
Huw Lloyd-Langton began the show with a 30 minute solo set. Audiences were treated to his charming English modesty and humor, as well as some truly amazing acoustic guitar work. He played several songs, including “So Long Waiting,” “Wind of Change,” “Hurry on Sundown,” and “Rocky Paths.” In addition, he surprised the audience with a rendition of Dave Davies’ “Death of a Clown.” Honestly, besides some inherent English charm, his voice wasn’t anything special, but his musicianship was astounding, and the way he mocked himself and his guitar (which refused to stay in tune) was endearing.
After an extremely brief intermission, Brainticket took to the stage. Although only keyboardist/flautist Joel Vandroogenbroeck was an original member, the entire band impressed. A sort of hybrid between ELP, Bigelf, and Black Sabbath, their psychedelic prog jams were complemented with some spacey projected visuals. While the band was never especially successful or popular, songs like “Like A Place in the Sun” and “One Morning” were met with praise from the audience.
Unfortunately, while the music was interesting and complex enough, Brainticket proved to favor spectacle over strong songwriting. Essentially, the band played intricate compositions as the female vocalist (who dressed as Medusa for added effect) spoke pointless, annoying passages. There was barely even a sense of melody, and her voice certainly wasn’t anything special. The band obviously wanted to include some otherworldly eccentricity, but really, they should just be an instrumental group and find something more productive for the singer to do.
Nektar headlined, and quite honestly, they put on one of the most exciting and intense shows I’ve ever seen. Founding members Roye Albrighton (guitar, vocals) and Ron Howden (drums) were joined by Peter Pichl (bass) and Klaus Henatsch (keyboards), and like all great bands, they played as four individuals locked into one mindset. Their setlist spanned their entire discography, including “Crying in the Dark,” “Doctor Cool,” “Dream Nebula,” “Desolation Valley,” “Recycle,” and “Where Are You Now?” They also played “Good Day” as an encore.
What’s truly remarkable is how well all of these songs fit together (considering that some were written decades after others). All of the musicians were in top form, and Albrighton played some of the best guitar work I’ve ever heard. And, contrary to so many other “space rock” groups (like the aforementioned second act), Nektar supplemented its hypnotic music with stellar songwriting. While Albrighton’s voice isn’t as good as it used to be, he still performed some wonderfully affective and catchy melodies. Overall, their performance easily exceeded expectations, and they received a standing ovation at the end of the night.
The “Space Rock USA Tour” at the Sellersville Theater was an amazing experience. The two opening acts were quite entertaining in their own way (albeit with some flaws), and Nektar was absolutely incredible. Most of all, celebrating the 40+ year career of a genre pioneering band in a venue packed with fellow fans made the show all the more special. Let’s hope that Nektar continue to create long after this tour is complete.