Dave's Diary
This journal of the comings'n'goings and musings'n'enthusings of Dave Ling will be updated daily
(except after nights of excess)

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Friday 31st December
Last night’s gig from Black Country Communion was my final live show of 2010. Talk about ending the year with a bang! The Shepherd’s Bush Empire was full to bursting point with a crowd that roared the band on from the first, frantic ‘Phantom Of The Opera’-esque notes of opening number ‘Black Country’ to a much deserved encore of Deep Purple’s ‘Burn’. Having witnessed the quartet’s ‘behind closed doors’ live debut a few months back (see Diary, 21st September) and cheated a little by reading the reviews of the previous night’s performance in bassist/vocalist Glenn Hughes’ home town of Wolverhampton, I knew what to expect; most of the first album (including that superb remake of Trapeze’s ‘Medusa’), a track from guitarist Joe Bonamassa’s catalogue (‘The Ballad Of John Henry’), a Led Zeppelin classic (‘No Quarter’) in honour of drummer Jason Bonham’s dad John and that aforementioned rendition of ‘Burn’.
Given their lack of original material – a second album is to be recorded with producer Kevin Shirley early in 2011 – the quartet (completed by ex-Dream Theater keysman Derek Sherinian) did well to stretch the set to 105 minutes, without resorting to procrastination. Hughes sang like an absolute demon, forging a formidable rhythm alliance with Bonham, and anyone that may have presumed Bonamassa a little too cultured for such a group must have left the hall with such notions neatly scotched. I’d like to have heard a little more of Sherinian, whose contribution was largely buried in the mix (‘Too Late For The Sun’ and ‘No Quarter’ being rare exceptions). Talking to Hughes at the after-show bash, the singer acknowledged that particular problem but was pragmatic enough to admit: “This band is still something of a work in progress.” If BCC are **this good** after just a year of existence… well, the future looks bright as a supernova. Here’s the set-list: ‘Black Country’, ‘One Last Soul’, ‘Beggarman’, ‘The Revolution In Me’, ‘Down Again’, ‘Too Late For The Sun’, ‘Song Of Yesterday’, ‘The Ballad Of John Henry’, ‘The Great Divide’, ‘Medusa’, ‘No Quarter’ and a medley of ‘Sista Jane’/Drum Solo/‘Won’t Get Fooled Again (Snippet)’/‘Black Country (Reprise)’, plus ‘Burn’.
My travelling partners Steve ‘No Relation’ Way and his missus Kathy were among the many familiar faces at the ‘after-show’. Hughes and Bonamassa showed their faces for quite a while, as did the show’s special guest Joanne Shaw Taylor (who circumstances prevented me from seeing on this occasion). I had a very quick chat with Kevin Shirley, who seemed to be a decent dude. Lynne Jackaman of Saint Jude, Cliff Evans and Doogie White of Tank and Voodoo Six’s Tony Newton were all spotted trying to reach the bar – difficult given that Dave Lewis of Tight But Loose was busy holding court along with various acolytes. Naturally, the Classic Rock and Metal Hammer contingent was a healthy one, with Alex Milas, Neil Jeffries, Mick Wall and Joel McIver all showing their faces. It was good to see Mick Wall in ‘serious boozer’ mode, challenging everybody to down shots of Jägermiester or admit to being homosexual. After a few too many Jägers and Sambucas, Mick announced that my hair was looking “especially gay” on this occasion. So I took great pleasure in replying that at least I hadn’t dressed up as Father Christmas over the festive break… the ‘how-the-fuck-did-you-know-that?’ look on his face was an absolute picture. [Thanks to Dave Lewis for supplying that priceless l’il tidbit].
Happy New Year, everyone!
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Thursday 30th December
Just been to the Home Of Football to book eldest son Eddie’s season ticket for Crystal Palace’s 2011/’12 campaign, though at this point I’ve no idea which division the club is likely to be competing in. The Eagles’ results and performances have been pretty dismal of late, so relegation to League 1 remains a frighteningly real possibility. Meanwhile, when not in ‘tape transcript mode’ I’ve been spinning Foghat’s blues album, ‘Last Train Home’ (Angel Air Records) and ‘Live From Amsterdam’, the new CD/DVD from Alter Bridge (available via the DC3 Music Group). And following an e-dialogue with Khalil Turk of Escape Music I’ve just played Liar’s ‘Set The World On Fire’ album for the first time in many a long year. What a deliciously sophisticated slice of pomp-rock… it’s even better than I remembered!
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Wednesday 29th December
As expected, England’s cricketers have retained the Ashes. Jealous of those singing and drinking beer at the MCG, I stayed up to relish the final denouement, eyelids maintained by matchsticks, as Tremlett, Swann and Bresnan hoovered up the tail. The stats speak for themselves: Victory by an innings and 157 runs represents the biggest triumph over the Aussies since 1956. It was also the first time in history that Australia have lost by an innings twice in a five-test Ashes series. The odious Ponting to be sacked as captain sometime this morning?! Fantastically well done England, one final push in Sydney will finish the series off nicely!
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Tuesday 28th December
My kids were disorientated to come downstairs and find me rolled up in a duvet on the couch, grabbing a few belated ZZZZs following the cricket. Thanks to another superb bowling display that saw the traditional thorn in the tourists’ side, Michael Hussey, despatched back to the hutch for a duck, England are on the brink of retaining the Ashes. The very idea of a first successful tour triumph in 24 years makes me so happy, it’s hard to sum up in words. The dominance of the Australians is now a thing of the past, something that’s beginning to dawn on their arrogant, petulant skipper and fair weather fans. The hosts haven’t had too much practise at losing these past few years. I suspect it’s something they’ll get used to.
[Edit: As a Crystal Palace fan, I’ve long since become accustomed to defeat. This afternoon, having taken the lead in the 2nd minute, the Eagles were poised to take three priceless points from a trip to fellow strugglers Bristol Shitty. However, in the last of five minutes of injury time the referee awarded the home side a dodgy pen. The match finished 1-1… Aaaargh; that’s the highs ‘n’ lows of being a sports fan].
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Monday 27th December
The seasonal break over, it’s time to get back to work. England’s continued success in the cricket is at least softening the blow. I watched the game till its lunch interval (1.30am London time), disappointed that Strauss and Cook surrendered their wickets so soon into Day Two. The Aussies’ bowling had certainly improved but Trott and Peterson were both starting to look comfortable enough. Shaky start aside, England finished on 444-5 at stumps, with an overall lead of 346. After the Aussies’ humiliating first innings total of 98, England should bat till lunchtime upon resumption of today’s play and then see what the bowlers can do. It’s unlikely they’ll repeat the feat within 44 overs, but should the playing surface start to crumble then spin-king Graeme Swann will play a crucial role.
I’ve begun my sleeve essays for the Rock Candy Records overhaul of the first three Strangeways albums. This morning I grilled the band’s original singer, Tony Liddell, before calling drummer Jim Drummond. Both were great interviews. Now all that remains is to integrate their quotes with those already supplied by guitarist Ian J Stewart and singer Terry Brock, adding some contemporary colour (my archive contains vintage interviews and reviews of the era) and Bob’s your uncle. With 4,000 words to file on each album, I expect it to be a time consuming though enjoyable task.
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Sunday 26th December
How disappointing, Palace’s Boxing day showdown with Norwich has been called off – what am I gonna do with my day now???!!!
Oh well, I enjoyed last night’s developments in the Ashes series. In one of the most one-sided displays I’ve ever witnessed, England won the toss and opted to bowl. A gi-enormous, shit-eating grin was plastered across my face as I turned in after Hussey lost his wicket, the Aussies teetering at 58-4 as rain stopped play. Woke up several times during the night worrying about the score, so to switch on the TV again a few hours later and see Strauss and Cook having accumulated 98 runs with no wickets down, the MCG five-sixths empty (apart from the Barmy Army) and the scoreboard reading: ‘Scores level’… well, I almost whooped with joy. This is very, very good. It’ll take something very, very special indeed to wrench The Urn away from English hands.
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Saturday 25th December
I’m in the doghouse again. Thanks to my back injury, now almost returned to normal, ten alcohol-free days had elapsed. So last night I journeyed into the West End for a festive swig with my journo pals Malcolm Dome and Jerry Ewing. With the Crobar closed we descended upon The Ship, once in tandem with the ‘old’ Marquee Club and the St Moritz nightclub a fabled cornerstone of Wardour Street’s very own Bermuda Triangle. Apart from one afternoon with my friends Caroline ‘Funky’ Gibbons and Cliff Evans of Tank a few years back, I’d not set foot in the place since the late 1980s. Being there again brought back some great memories – I’ll never forget being in The Ship with Malcolm on one particular evening when Kim McAuliffe strolled in. “Can I get you a drink, Kim?” Malc asked. “Oooh, yes please,” replied Girlschool’s singer/guitarist, “I’ll have a pint of wine.” With various shots glasses arriving and being emptied… well, you can probably guess the outcome. Though I lived up to my promise of being home by 9pm, Mrs L was less than amused when I almost fell into the living room Christmas tree. Ho hum, I slurred, it was all the fault of those bastids Malcolm and Jerry.
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Friday 24th December
I’m not the world’s biggest fan of Christmas. Why does it bring out the worst in people (myself included)? I’ve just returned from a quick trip to Tesco in Catford – needed to pick up one or two last minute items. So I joined the single basket queue, which seemed to extend from the checkout to the far side of Nuneaton. As it inched slowly forwards, I noticed some guy halfway up the line had a whole cartful of groceries… and nobody around him said a darned word. With the PA blaring such festive ditties as ‘Christmas Time (Don’t Let The Bells End)’ by The Dorkness, I could feel my blood begin to simmer. 15 minutes later it reached boiling point as I realised the sleighbell-festooned aural abortion that I was being forced to endure was none other than ‘It’s Christmas Time’ by Status Quo. Never before has the lyric of “And you let yourself go underneath the mistletoe” been more appropriate! Dear Lord have mercy! How the once mighty have fallen…
Thanks to my boozing buddy Hugh Gilmour, who raided the stock cupboard over at EMI, the postie has just delivered finished copies of Queensrÿche’s ‘Empire’ album (the two-disc edition, bolstered by a show from London’s Hammersmith Odeon in 1990), and ‘At The BBC – 1972’ by Hawkwind. Now **that’s** what I call a Christmas present!!
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Thursday 23rd December
I’ve had some emails enquiring about my favourite albums of the past year. Although we are invited to submit our choices which are then collated into one enormous list, unlike Metal Hammer and Prog, Classic Rock doesn’t print the individual selections of each writer. So I’ve pooled my favourites submitted to each magazine into one cross-genre Top 30. For those that give a shit, here goes:

1) Unruly Child – ‘Worlds Collide’ (Frontiers)
2) FM – ‘Metropolis’ (Riff City)
3) Iron Maiden – ‘The Final Frontier’ (EMI)
4) Black Country Communion – ‘Black Country Communion’ (Mascot)
5) Nelson – ‘Lightning Strikes Twice’ (Frontiers)
6) Scorpions – ‘Sting In The Tail’ (Sony)
7) Ratt – ‘Infestation’ (Roadrunner)
8) Accept – ‘Blood Of The Nations’ (Nuclear Blast)
9) Alter Bridge – ‘AB III’ (Roadrunner)
10) Slash – ‘Slash’ (Roadrunner)
11) The Union – ‘The Union’ (Payola)
12) Bachman & Turner – ‘Bachman & Turner’ (Cadiz Music)
13) Ihsahn – ‘After’ (Candlelight)
14) Asia – ‘Omega’ (Frontiers)
15) H.E.A.T. – ‘Freedom Rock’ (Stormvox)
16) Hawkwind – ‘Blood Of The Earth’ (Eastworld)
17) Helloween – ‘7 Sinners’ (Nuclear Blast)
18) Raven – ‘Walk Through Fire’ (SPV)
19) Spock’s Beard – ‘X’ (Mascot)
10) The Enid – ‘Journey’s End’ (Operation Seraphim)
21) Airbourne – ‘No Guts, No Glory’ (Roadrunner)
22) Taking Dawn – ‘Time To Burn’ (Roadrunner)
23) Avenged Sevenfold – ‘Nightmare’ (Warner Bros)
24) Triptykon – ‘Shatter’ (Century Media)
25) Giant – ‘Promise Land’ (Frontiers)
26) Anathema – ‘We’re Here Because We’re Here’ (KScope)
27) Joe Elliott’s Down ‘N’ Outz – ‘Vol 1’ (Mailboat)
28) Meat Loaf – ‘Hang Cool Teddy Bear’ (Mercury)
29) Christopher Amott – ‘Follow Your Heart’ (Megaladon Arts)
30) Motorpsycho – ‘Heavy Metal Fruit’ (Rune Grammofon)

(Just for the record, Motörhead’s ‘The Wörld Is Yours’ and ‘Sons Of The North’ by Black Spiders both count for 2011).
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Wednesday 22nd December
The snow is almost gone, and my back pain is also evaporating. I’m hopeful that tomorrow’s chiropractor appointment will be the last. Apologies to those that usually receive Christmas cards from me. The deadline came and went with me sitting in a hard backed chair, using a bowl to piss in ‘cos the toilet was out of reach. Normal service will be resumed next year.
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Tuesday 21st December
Already committed to leaving the house for a trip to the chiropractor, I decided to brave the snow – which has turned to ice – and head through central London for The Enid’s gig at the Union Chapel (the kind offer of a lift home from Steve ‘No Relation’ Way also played its part; my back injury is still painful, and I was dreading the thought of slipping over and making things worse).
Despite the dodgy acoustics of the Union Chapel, the show was extremely good. Many bands claim to be unique but few actually match such a boast. The Enid’s fusion of classical sounds and rock music is daring, exciting and utterly unparalleled. Last night’s gig included a guest appearance from co-founding former guitarist Francis Lickerish, who also performed a warm-up set on the lute (!!!). The two-hour display also introduced the Decibelles – a group of all-male group of backing singers! – and a four-piece horn section, with Sean Montgomery filling out its final stages on the chapel’s church organ. When everyone except the backing singers joined together on ‘Fand’, a celebrated piece from 1977’s ‘Aerie Faerie Nonsense’ album, the effect was very special indeed. And only a band as individual as would throw in a couple of Christmas carols to make the night complete. If you are unfamiliar with the symphonic delights of The Enid then do yourself a favour and buy a copy of their new album ‘Journey’s End’ or check them out here. Meanwhile, here’s the set-list: ‘Spring’, ‘Space Surfing’, ‘Malacandra’, ‘Shiva’, ‘The Falling Tower’, ‘The Last Judgment’, ‘In The Region Of The Summer Stars’, ‘Childe Roland’, ‘Fand’, ‘God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen’, ‘O Come All Ye Faithful’ and ‘Golden Earrings’.
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Monday 20th December
The Dream Theater soap opera rumbles on. It’s come to light that Mike Portnoy, whose contract with Avenged Sevenfold recently expired, enquired about the possibility of rejoining the group, only to be rebuffed – by their lawyer. “Sadly, they declined my offer… they didn’t even tell me themselves,” says MP at a posting on his web forum. He sums up: “So now the fans can please stop asking me to go back to Dream Theater… I tried, and the door is now shut. The ball is in their court, not mine.” With an as-yet unnamed replacement now confirmed, it’s perhaps unsurprising that the band refused his plea. But the fact that Portnoy would crawl back, then go public with the news of being spurned, hardly bodes well for a long-term reconciliation.
However, here’s some **excellent** news. Manowar have confirmed their first gig on British soil in 17 years. The US group, who recently re-recorded their all-time classic ‘Battle Hymns’ debut, will bring the Black Wind of their decibel-charged live assault to Birmingham’s Academy on March 27, with more dates to be confirmed. Be still my beating heart! I’ve seen Manowar onstage many, many times. Besides being responsible for some of my favourite albums, of course they are a journalist’s delight. I loved it when, in 1994, bassist Joey DeMaio was asked to describe grunge music and replied: “Is there a word for something that’s beneath shit?” For more of the same, go here. [Edit: It’s been revealed that Manowar will be playing ‘Battle Hymns’ in its entirety at Birmingham. Nurse! New loincloth please! This one appears to be soiled…]
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Sunday 19th December
Humph… during the past 24 hours England slumped to defeat in the Test Match, Palace upheld their reputation as the worst away side in the league by leaking three goals at Nottingham Florist (with both Darren Ambrose and Pablo Counago retiring injured from the game) and I ended up missing Skin’s farewell gig at Nottingham Rock City. Dosed up to the gills on painkillers, there’s no boozing for yours truly in the foreseeable future and the next few days will be spent collating new invoices and chasing unpaid bills. Am I down in the fucking dumps? Well, what do you think?!
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Saturday 18th December
Ah, some precious reading material! Having spent most of the last few days glued to a wooden living room chair whilst keeping my spine straight, the arrival of Classic Rock’s standalone Motörhead special and the new issue of Prog (with Genesis as its cover story) are the literary equivalent of manna from Heaven. My 6,000-word Q&A interview with Lemmy Kilmister reads rather nicely; I particularly like his statement of: “When Motörhead leaves, there will be a hole there that just can’t be filled. That’s fine with me; it means I’ve achieved what I set out to do – which was to make an unforgettable rock ‘n’ roll band.” And so say all of us…
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Friday 17th December
Just returned from a treacherous trip through the ice and snow to the chiropractor. The good news is that I haven’t slipped a disc, as I was beginning to fear. It’s a sprain. With the right treatment I should be walking again without pain by Christmas. Consequently, tonight’s Hawkwind gig is off the menu and although the chiropractor popped the offending vertebrae bone back into its socket, he also advised me to give the weekend’s proposed trip to Nottingham “a swerve” should I wish to make any sort of speedy recovery.
So I’m here at my desk once more, wading through several hundred emails. The Third Test Match appears to be slipping away from England, setting the Ashes series up for a thrilling finale, but I’ve taken enormous cheer from the fact that the Big Four of thrash-metal – Metallica, Slayer, Anthrax and Megadeth – will pool forces for a UK appearance at the Sonisphere Festival on July 8.
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Thursday 16th December
With my back feeling ever so slightly better, I had cleared the decks for a Wednesday afternoon piss-up: a booze-fuelled Christmas West End luncheon in the company of some writer, designer and record label colleagues. After a hectic few weeks, I felt that I deserved a bit of a blow-out. Disaster struck as I sat in the bath. Shooting pains from the base of the spine, right up to my shoulders. As I exited the water, my legs buckled. For what was probably 20 or 25 minutes but felt like an hour, I lay on the bathroom floor, whimpering in pain, staring up at the bowl above my head. Very undignified, but no one was home to help me.
Dunno how I managed to gain my footing, don my faithful CPFC bathrobe and take pigeon-steps down the garden path towards my office… but somehow these things were achieved. Emailed my intended dining/boozing partners and then, much to my distress, found that I couldn’t get out of my leather chair. Had to sit and wait, shivering, and playing a DVD of The Sweet at the Marquee Club in 1986 (thanks for which to DL website regular Michael!) for Mrs L to bring in some extra strength painkillers. This was very worrying indeed. Travel to and from Palace’s weekend game at Nottingham Florist has been booked and paid for, likewise a match ticket, and I’ve been hoping to kill two birds with one stone by being at Skin’s farewell gig at Rock City during the evening. Right now, those plans seem ridiculously far-fetched.
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Wednesday 15th December
Here’s some great news. Future Publishing have given the green light for a second issue of Classic Rock Presents AOR. It’s expected to go on sale in early March 2011. I’ve been playing Mr Big’s comeback disc, ‘What If…’, for the past couple of days, also the newie from John Waite, called ‘Rough & Tumble’. Both are highly recommended.
Meanwhile, those annoying back problems persist. In fact had I not been committed to a pre-show interview with John Wetton and Geoff Downes, the pain might have dissuaded me from attending last night’s Asia gig at the Forum. The group’s current album, ‘Omega’, stands head ‘n’ shoulders above the original line-up’s lukewarm comeback opus, ‘Phoenix’, so it’s nice to be able to report that they included no less than five of its choices (‘I Believe’, ‘Holy War’, ‘Through My Veins’, ‘Finger On The Trigger’ and ‘End Of The World’) in the show, better still to report that this morning I cannot get one of those songs – ‘Holy War’ – out of my head. Along with the best pair from ‘Phoenix’, namely ‘Never Again’ and ‘An Extraordinary Life’, this means that, with the exception of two songs in Steve Howe’s guitar solo (‘Lute Concerto In D Major’ and ‘In The Course Of The Day’), almost half of the group’s current set is drawn from 2008 and beyond.
So with all of this new material to consider the band’s shows must be escalating in length, right? Well… not so, actually. Since the regrouping of the original line-up in 2006, if anything they have become shorter. Gigs in London have tended to hover at around the 125/130-minute mark. Last night, though they were supposed to perform two hour-long sets, both lasted for exactly 53 minutes. Call me Mr Picky, even Mr Trainspotter – I won’t argue. But with so much new material lodged in the set, some hits/catalogue gems were sadly missed. It was great to hear them revive Wetton’s über-ballad ‘The Smile Has left Your Eyes’, performed initially as a duo by John and Geoff, before the rest of the band returned for its big, dramatic climax, though the likes of ‘Wildest Dreams’ and ‘Here Comes The Feeling’ were conspicuous by their absence. As much as Asia should be applauded for making a big artistic statement in proclaiming ‘We are not living in the past’, they shouldn’t overlook what the audience has paid to hear. 10-15 minutes more of older material would have elevated this show from a solid eight-and-a-half out of ten to just short of flawless. Here’s the set-list: ‘I Believe’, ‘Only Time Will Tell’, ‘Holy War’, ‘ Never Again’, ‘Through My Veins’, Steve Howe Solo, ‘Don’t Cry’, ‘The Smile Has Left Your Eyes’, ‘Open Your Eyes’, ‘Finger On The Trigger’, ‘Time Again’, ‘An Extraordinary Life’, ‘End Of The World’, ‘The Heat Goes On’ (including Drum Solo) and ‘Sole Survivor’, plus ‘Go’ and ‘Heat Of The Moment’.
P.S. Whilst wallowing in my own self-pity, I neglected to mention the tragic suicide of Stuart ‘Woolly’ Wolstenholme of Barclay James Harvest. ‘Woolly’ had been suffering from depression for quite a while but nobody knew how bad the situation had become. RIP to a supremely underrated talent and, by the accounts of those that knew him, a thoroughly decent human being.
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Tuesday 14th December
I don’t know what I’ve done to my back, but by Christ it hurts. Something went ‘ping’ as I stood up from my desk at the end of yesterday afternoon, preparing to head off to see Argent at the Forum. As the old song goes I decided to ‘tough it out’ and persist with my plan for the evening, fingers crossed firmly that a pass for the venue’s balcony (where there are seats) would await me.
Thankfully, I **was** allowed upstairs and the pain gradually subsided as the music enveloped me. Thoroughly enjoyed my first sighting of the reunited Curved Air. Sonja Kristina still has quite a voice, and although drummer Florian Pilkington-Miksa is their only other founding member, with violinist Paul Sax filling the role vacated by Darryl Way, a 45-minute set included stirring versions of ‘It Happened Today’, ‘Melinda’, ‘Propositions’ and their Top Five hit ‘Back Street Luv’. Next up, Martin Turner’s Wishbone Ash used their 40 minutes with equal intelligence, keeping the banter to a polite minimum and purring through ‘The King Will Come’, ‘Warrior’, ‘Throw Down The Sword’, ‘Blowing Free’, ‘Living Proof’ and ‘Jailbait’ with supreme aplomb. As a consequence, I suspect that all those unfamiliar with the delights of MTWA will have made a mental note to check them out as headliners.
Having missed Argent’s return to the stage at last summer’s High Voltage festival made me all the more determined to be at this Forum show. After 36 years apart, who knew when – if ever? – such an opportunity might be repeated? Though a little light on quantity, the quartet delivered all the expected quality levels, basing a 75-minute display on their 1974 release ‘Encore: Live In Concert’ and bolstering things with songs they’d written for themselves and others. Russ Ballard sang ‘I Don’t Believe In Miracles’, a tune associated with Rod Argent’s Zombies partner Colin Blunstone, magnificently – which must have felt odd with Blunstone seated before him in the crowd. Meanwhile, keyboardist Argent delivered the Zombies classic ‘She’s Not There’ respectably well (it’s a fabulous song, but although Rod wrote it, Blunstone has made it his own). I liked the way that Argent kept getting ever so slightly hot under the collar each time he introduced ‘Since You Been Gone’ (a hit for Rainbow) or ‘God Gave Rock And Roll To You’ (a Kiss concert favourite) with the uncharacteristic exclamation of: “WE DID IT FIRST!” It was a great, great show as you’ll see from the following set-list: ‘The Coming Of Kohoutek’, ‘It’s Only Money (Pts 1 & 2)’, ‘Keep On Rollin’’, ‘Rejoice’, ‘I Am The Dance Of Ages’, ‘Be Free’, ‘Sweet Mary’, ‘Liar’, ‘She’s Not There’, ‘I Don’t Believe In Miracles’, ‘Since You Been Gone’, ‘Hold Your Head Up’ and ‘God Gave Rock And Roll To You’.
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Sunday 12th December
With Palace’s home game against Hull now moved to a 5.15 KO thanks to Sky TV, it was ‘farewell’ to my plans of partaking in yesterday’s Quireboys and Dan Reed gig at the Forum. The visitors were hovering two points and just a couple of places above the Eagles, so the game offered a chance of climbing out of the dreaded bottom three. How this did not come to pass I’ll never know. Everton loanee James Vaughan missed a chance that Stevie Wonder could have put away, and during the second half the Tigers’ net seemed to lead a charmed life. After a bright 20-minute start, Hull were the most appalling team I’d seen at Selhurst this season… a 0-0 draw represented nothing less than two points dropped. Afterwards I headed for a local Indian restaurant with my CPFC buddy Kev Denman, his lad Jack and my own eldest boy, Eddie. Washed down by a few pints, a chicken tikka vindaloo, a mushroom pilau and some onion bhajis almost succeeded in making us feel as though the game didn’t happen. But not quite.
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Friday 10th December
Mrs L had booked last night out, joining her pals from work in a bit of festive nosebag. This meant I was unable to attend any of the three shows that tickled my fancy: Enuff Z’Nuff at the Borderline, Meat Loaf at Wembley or, at a push, Pure Reason Revolution at my least favourite London venue – the Scala. Such matters became irrelevant when Classic Rock asked whether I was available to do a phone interview with John Petrucci of Dream Theater, to promote the band’s spot at the High Voltage Festival. Um, yes please! I think I can manage that! In the end, there was plenty to talk about, including the revelation that the band has finally selected a replacement for Mike Portnoy. For story go here.
P.S. Not before time, the Playlist and YouTube sections have been overhauled. To those that give a shit about such matters: Sorry for the delay. It’s been a bit bonkers here, to say the least.
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Thursday 9th December
Uggggh, I’ve been struck down by the 24-hour man-flu that’s doing the rounds. It prevented me from going to Wembley Arena for last night’s Taste Of Chaos festival – annoying because I’d been looking forward to seeing Buckcherry, Papa Roach and Halestorm (headliners Disturbed are not really up my alley, to be truthful). Instead, I found myself in my office at 8pm, nose streaming and eyes doing an impression of Niagara falls, trying in vain to finish my feature on Pallas. In the end I conceded defeat and was in bed for 9pm, only to realise I was too congested to sleep. Not very pleasant at all.
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Wednesday 8th December
With no gig in London and the Leeds-Palace clash having ruled me out of this year’s Hard Rock Hell festival, I happily accepted the offer of a lift to that place down on the south coast that no true Crystal Palace fan can name, for UFO’s gig at the Concorde 2. In the end, quite a few of my mates made it there, Neil Jeffries, John Dryland and myself in one car, Andy Beare and a bunch of drunken loons in another vehicle, with Steve ‘No Relation’ Way bringing up the rear (as is his fetish). Following a discussion at the Classic Rock Awards a local lad, Nigel Glockler, was also going to join us but eventually ended up over in Lincolnshire working on drum tracks for Saxon’s new album… shame.
There was little traffic on the way down, so I dropped by the Merch desk to say a quick ‘how ya doing?’ to long-suffering webmistress Kate before catching the tail end of Voodoo Six’s opening set. Improved by the addition of new frontman Luke Purdie, the Steve Harris-approved combo have made great strides with their current album ‘Fluke?’. I was just in time to hear what I consider to be its best song, the excellent ‘Live Again’.
Given my criticisms of Helloween’s set-list (see Monday 6th December), some might call me hypocritical in praising a performance that remains based upon the immortal double-live set ‘Strangers In The Night’, with just two songs (‘Saving Me’ and ‘Hell Driver’) representing the current line-up with Vinnie Moore on guitar. Like many UFO fans, I crave some gems from the Tonka Chapman era. Judging by conversations that Neil J had with Phil Mogg and Andy Parker, it’s a subject that the band are currently reviewing. Meanwhile, I have rarely heard UFO play (and indeed sing) any better than they are doing right now. The addition of the rarely performed ‘Lights Out’ favourite ‘Try Me’ was such a truly magical moment that Mogg’s minor lyric fumble rendered an irrelevance (check out YouTube footage of it here, likewise those renditions of Cherry’ and ‘Ain’t No Baby’ from ‘Obsession’ were superb. Crucially, the band seemed to be having as much fun as the packed crowd, Moore and bassist Barry Sparks playing their instruments behind their heads during ‘Too Hot To Handle’. At encore time they returned to the stage and fooled around with ‘Riders On The Storm’ by The Doors, which was amazing. In fact all the show really lacked was Mogg dedicating ‘I’m A Loser’ to the town’s shambles of a so-called football team – now that would’ve made my night! Anyway, here’s the set-list: ‘Saving Me’, ‘Mother Mary’, ‘Let It Roll’, ‘I’m A Loser’, ‘This Kids’, ‘Cherry’, ‘Hell Driver’, ‘Try Me’, ‘Only You Can Rock Me’, ‘Love To Love’, ‘Ain’t No Baby’, ‘Too Hot To Handle’ and ‘Lights Out’, encores of ‘Rock Bottom’, ‘Doctor Doctor’ and ‘Shoot Shoot’.
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Tuesday 7th December
A double helping of joy – England have taken the Ashes series by the balls, winning the Second Test by an Innings and 71 runs. And there’s more – the headliners of the second High Voltage Festival have been announced. Dream Theater will play their first UK gig without Mike Portnoy at London’s Victoria Park on Sunday July 24, whilst Judas Priest top the bill 24 hours earlier in what is bound to be an emotional farewell performance. Weekend tickets are very reasonably priced at £99. For details go here.
P.S. Having spotted my Diary entry about watching FM without the benefit of beer goggles (see Thursday 2nd December), Merv Goldsworthy has fired over an email. “And now you know the truth,” he says, “we’ve never been any good – you’ve always [just] been hammered.” Touché!
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Monday 6th December
The snow is largely melted, so I decided to travel across London to the Forum for yesterday’s gig by Helloween and Stratovarius. The night began with Italy’s Trick Or Treat who sported silly trousers and party confetti, a helium-voiced singer and a DragonForce-ish sound. I wasn’t really sure whether they intended to be taken seriously till a ridiculous, faithful cover of Cyndi Lauper’s 1980s pop hit ‘Girls Just Wanna Have Fun’ left the audience in no doubt.
Stratovarius’ forthcoming album, ‘Elysium’ (their second with new guitarist Matias Kupiainen) has been on heavy rotation at Ling Towers this past week – it’s definitely gonna surprise a few people that thought the Finnish/Swedish group were doomed without Timo Tolkki. ‘Darkest Hours’, a song from said opus, went down rather well, but with its release more than a month away nobody blamed Strato for blazing through an hour-long ‘best-of’ set that included ‘Phoenix’, ‘Legions’, ‘Eagleheart’, ‘Hunting High And Low’ and ‘Paradise’.
Helloween are a band I’ve fallen in and out of love with on many, many occasions. Right now they are in a rich vein of form, the current album ‘7 Sinners’ being one of the German group’s finest to date. So why, then, were just two if its selections (‘Are you Metal?’ and ‘Where The Sinners Go’) included in a set that lasted for an hour and 40 minutes? I left the Forum completely baffled. A string of ‘Keeper Of The Seven Keys’-era perennials such as ‘Eagle Fly Free’, ‘March Of Time’, ‘I’m Alive’, ‘Future World’ and ‘Dr Stein’ kept the fans happy enough but cannot have been much fun for the group to play for the millionth time. Sure, they’re great songs, and – let’s be clear about this – Helloween played them marvellously, but the band’s set-list is definitely in danger of stagnation. On top of this, there was way too much patter from Andi Deris and the various solo spots only enhanced my frustration. Here’s what was played: ‘Are You Metal?’, ‘Eagle Fly Free’, ‘March Of Time’, Guitar Solo, ‘Where The Sinners Go’, ‘Steel Tormentor’, Drum Solo, ‘I'm Alive’, ‘A Handful Of Pain’, Medley: ‘Keeper Of The Seven Keys’/‘King For A Thousand Years’/‘Halloween’ and ‘I Want Out, followed by ‘Ride The Sky’, ‘Future World’ and ‘Dr Stein’.
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Sunday 5th December
Thanks to the generosity of Martin Darvill, who manages Uriah Heep and Martin Turner’s Wishbone Ash among others, I witnessed yesterday’s game between Leeds and Crystal Palace from the warmth of a hospitality box at Elland Road. Eating roast lamb before game and being amid a gang of very vocal Leeds fans were rather unusual experiences, especially as Palace took the lead very much against the run of play right at the end of the first half. It had looked as though the Eagles would undeservedly take home all three points till leaking two late goals – the third time the defence had capitulated in the final 10 mins (the others being Sheff Utd and Boro away) to turn winning positions into agonising defeats. To say that I felt sick would be a significant understatement.
Despite ice and snow, the travel to and from Leeds, in a car with my Leeds-supporting pal Neil Jeffries, was extremely pleasant. On the way up, as I swigged at a bottle of Limeade and vodka, we played Kevin Shirley’s new 2010 remix of Deep Purple’s Come Taste The Band’, which is superb, ‘The Wild, The Willing And The Innocent’ by UFO and Nazareth’s ‘No Mean City’. The return journey was filled by both discs of the expanded ‘Earth Vs The Wildhearts’, and we were back in London almost before I knew it.
Thanks in particular to the efforts of Messrs Cook, Strauss and Pietersen, things are going fabulously well in the Test match. Across the last two innings, England have walloped a whopping 1,067 runs past the Aussies for the loss of just five wickets – nice work by anyone’s standards.
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Saturday 4th December
How ironic that Arctic gales and four or five inches of snow would keep me away from a gig by Frost*, though that’s what happened yesterday. I did consider trying to make the trip to the Islington Academy, but after my miserable experiences in getting to and from gigs by Steve Hackett and FM, very quickly realised that I’d had a bellyful of snow.
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Friday 3rd December
With Gatwick closed, yesterday’s trip to Aberdeen was well and truly off, so I chatted with Graeme Murray and Paul Mackie by phone instead. The guys had wanted to hook up by webcam but I’m such a Luddite, Ling Towers isn’t equipped with the technology to have done so. When they heard that I was recording our conversation onto a cassette… well, I felt their laughter was a little uncharitable. It was a very good interview, though, and the band’s new album, ‘XXV’, is a worthy successor to ‘The Sentinel’.

At 3pm I sat before the TV, fingers firmly crossed, as we learned the nation that would host football’s World Cup in 2018. As the clocked ticked down towards the decision, the bookies narrowed the odds to favour England. I almost barfed when Sky Sports News cut away to Stadium MK where Pete Winkelman, a man with whom I’ve previously had some unpleasant dealings, was beside himself with excitement and smugness. “Milton Keynes is going to be a World Cup venue! The champagne’s on ice!” he beamed as the reporter returned viewers to the studio. The decision eventually went to Russia, which has huge problems with stadiums and travel, instead. As my blood boiled, the only miniscule crumb of consolation was that the champers bubbles were probably sticking in PW’s throat.
Over at the Ashes, England got off to a flier in the Second Test, thanks to ducks from Katich and Ponting. I got up at 6am to watch their last four wickets tumble as the innings ended for just 245. England absolutely murdered the Aussies on day one, and Ponting’s tantrum at the close of play was just the funniest thing ever.
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Thursday 2nd December
Despite the fact that Gatwick Airport had been closed all day, there was still an outside possibility that my trip to Aberdeen (to interview Pallas) would still take place. Unfortunately, as I walked back over Honor Oak Park, one of London’s highest geographical points, in a blizzard at 1am after FM’s Christmas Party, such theories seemed laughable. However, the dangerously slippery pavements vindicated my decision to have stayed clear of the demon brew at the Islington Academy. This was quite probably the first time I’d ever caught FM sober in maybe fifty or sixty previous sightings… ulp!
Given the praise that many of my friends have heaped upon them I’d been dying to taking a look at Four Wheel Drive, a young rock ‘n’ roll-based band from Twickenham. They’ve certainly got some decent songs and heaps of potential, though bassist Jamie Lailey should lose the fake Yank accent and they might want to take a look at the fact that AC/DC have already released their song ‘High Roller’ under its original title of ‘Rocker’. Only kidding; they’re a really good live act, and I’ll deffo be seeing them again…
Given the departures of keysman Toby Sadler and bassist Dave Boyce, it felt slightly odd to see a line-up of Airrace that featured only singer Keith Murrell and guitarist Laurie Mansworth from its best-known incarnation. Boyce’s replacement is the group’s original bassist Jim Reid, one of those players that stands there and concentrates on what he does. Maybe I’ll get used to it, I don’t know. However, despite a nonexistent sound mix in the earliest stages, Airrace’s mixture of tracks from ‘Shaft Of Light’ (‘Caught In The Game’, ‘Open Your Eyes’, ‘Not Really Me’, ‘Promise To Call’, ‘First One Over The Line’ and ‘Brief Encounter’) and previews of tunes intended for next year’s second album (‘Call Me Anytime’, ‘You’d Better Believe It’ and ‘Enough Of Your Loving’) hit the spot as best they could.
Though the Academy was sold out, the weather had prevented almost half of the audience from venturing outside. So it was inevitable that the atmosphere would suffer a little – especially given that the band’s most recent show on the same stage had set the bar at almost Olympian levels. FM played brilliantly and Steve Overland sang manfully, despite a heavy cold, even duetting with the delightful Leigh Matty on an encore of Tom Petty’s ‘Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around’, but for me the night lacked a certain something (and before you say it, I don’t mean alcohol). Here’s what they played: ‘Wild Side’, ‘Face To Face’, ‘That Girl’, ‘Don’t Stop’, ‘Only The Strong’, ‘Blood And Gasoline’, ‘Hollow’, Medley: ‘Metropolis’/‘Over You’, ‘Hard Day In Hell’, ‘Burning My Heart Down’, ‘Bad Luck’ and ‘Heard It Through The Grapevine’, plus ‘Frozen Heart’, ‘The Other Side Of Midnight’, ‘Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around’ and ‘American Girls’.
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Wednesday 1st December
Siberian tradewinds are causing havoc in London. Last night’s trip to see Steve Hackett at Shepherd’s Bush Empire took more than two hours in one direction, the homeward-bound journey lasting for more than three. The platform indicators gave no information whatsoever as I stood on London Bridge station awaiting the 22.25 to Catford Bridge via Hayes, teeth chattering and nose buried in Mark Blake’s excellent new book Is This The Real Life? The Untold Story Of Queen. Said cattle truck finally pulled in at midnight, though ground to a halt at Lewisham where we were told a bus connection service awaited. Did it turn up? Did it fuck. I got to bed at 2am, feeling just like a block of ice.
Was the misery of the journey worth the gig? Yes, definitely. Hackett had played the same venue 11 months earlier, so there were always going to be strong similarities to that performance (for set-list see Diary, 15th November 2009), but whilst ‘Spectral Morning’s was dropped this time around due to time constraints the addition of the Genesis classics ‘Watcher Of The Skies’ and ‘Carpet Crawlers’ was a brilliant bonus. As mooted, there were also two special guests in the shape of Porcupine Tree’s Steven Wilson, who played on the final part of ‘Shadow Of The Hierophant’ (a tune from Hackett’s solo debut, ‘Voyage Of The Acolyte’), also returning to the stage for an encore finale of ‘Clocks – The Angel Of Mons’, plus Asia’s John Wetton, who played guitar and crooned along to ‘All Along The Watchtower’.