When venerable Gong leader Daevid Allen passed away last year following six decades at the helm of this pioneering psychedelic warhorse, many assumed they couldn’t continue without him. However, thanks to a chance meeting facilitated by snooker legend turned successful prog-rock DJ Steve Davis, Allen personally chose singer/guitarist Kavus Torabi as his successor, and urged the band to continue their voyage. So here they are, back on the road with their first post-Allen album, the winningly titled Rejoice! I’m Dead! Allen would be proud, as their wild, eccentric spirit remains undimmed.
Whereas their contemporaries Pink Floyd eventually became bloated and rich, Gong never wavered: they’re still the real psychedelic underground deal. Their swirling stew of progressive rock, avant-garde jazz, proto-punk and quirky English pop is a marvel to behold.
Looking like Elliot Gould on a cosmic journey of self-discovery, mushroom-haired, flying saucer-eyed Torabi is a charismatic centrepiece. He looked utterly thrilled, as well he should.
Aided by multi-instrumentalist Ian East’s undulating flute, the undoubted highlight was an arrestingly lengthy piece, presumably titled The Day James Galway Lost His Mind, which began with a mesmeric eastern-via-Jupiter drone before exploding into a thundering prog-punk freak-out.
Impressive new offerings such as The Unspeakable Stands Revealed and the ecstatic title track from Rejoice! (“I’m dead, at last I’m free”) merged seamlessly with cult favourites such as Eat That Phone Book and Camembert Electrique.
Despite being almost 50 years old and containing no original members, Gong are still energised and vital. Longer may they roam.