Epic Studios, Norwich November 30, 2022
by Brian Warden
“Welcome to the weird world” is the first thing uttered tonight by Ozric Tentacles guitarist and founding member Ed Wynne.
This double-header collaboration has seen the running order flipped for the second half of the tour, meaning the Ozrics are opening proceedings here.
After first song O-I, the rhythmic keyboard melody of Erpland fills the air with some of the crowd still making their way into the venue – perhaps unused to a headliner taking the stage so early in the evening. But those already here are enjoying the first opportunity in some years to see a live Ozrics show.
The set varies from ambient numbers to hard rock, driven by Wynne’s versatile guitar playing. The four core members of the band create a large, spacious sound and are joined occasionally by flautist Saskia Maxwell.
And it’s fun on stage, with bassist Brandi Wynne – who is centre-stage throughout – belly-laughing between songs with the other members of the band.
On the large screens, ever-changing visuals of mystical landscapes and geometric shapes are evocative of the early 90s festival scene and they form a large part of the whole show.
The unreleased Lotus Unfolding marks the halfway point of the set, and after that there’s a strong dub influence before the anthemic, up-tempo and heavy Sploosh!, which proves to be the last song before the Ozrics make way for Gong.
The contrast between these joint headline acts is immediately apparent.
In guitarist and lead singer Kavus Torabi, Gong have an animated focal point. Pulsing guitars drive forward his whirling vocals, again partnered with the continuously morphing visuals and lights.
But there doesn’t seem to be the same connection with the audience at the start of the set as there was with the Ozrics – perhaps because of the change in dynamics.
Early on, Torabi assures us that “leaving this world is nothing to be worried about – it will feel like taking off an old, uncomfortable pair of shoes”.
Longstanding Gong fans might have heard similar deep advice down the years, but it seems to be met with mildly confused acceptance by some of the others present.
As with the Ozrics earlier, the style varies as the set goes on. The heavy Kapital is followed by the syncopated Rejoice!
My Sawtooth Wake brings another change in the mood as a chugging riff is punctuated by sections of airy psych, with Torabi’s vocals accompanied by saxophonist Ian East.
And by the time Maxwell, who was on stage earlier with the Ozrics, returns to add her vocals later in the set, the room has been won over.
“It might be the nicest stage we’ve ever played on,” says Torabi at one point, before getting all deep again. “It all led to here…” he muses.
Tonight is a nostalgic trip for many of us, but those new to this experience will find it fitting that the end of the show includes My Guitar Is A Spaceship.
Welcome to the weird world, indeed.