This journal of the comings'n'goings and musings'n'enthusings of Dave Ling will be updated daily - except after days of stress and nights of excess.
CAPTAIN’S LOG, STARDATE 31st DECEMBER 2019
Apologies for the latest bout of extended radio silence, folks. Much has changed in my life since the last Diary post back in the middle of August. Firstly and most importantly, for the first time ever I am no longer a resident of London.
No… I am not bloody well retiring.
Yes… I will continue to attend gigs in London and elsewhere.
And yes… of course I will still undertake my fortnightly trips to Selhurst Park. They will take a little longer to complete, that’s all.
The lovely Amanda and I have exchanged the hubbub of England’s capital city for a brand new, more peaceful, mortgage-free existence by the coast, in Hastings - or to be more precise, St Leonards-on-Sea. The metaphorical path that took us here was beyond nightmarish, but I’m happy to say that we have landed in a beautiful, recently built detached dwelling that comes with plenty of storage for my collection of LPs, CDs, magazines, T-shirts and memorabilia, plus a massive garden and even a pool. My game-plan is a very simple one: to work a little less than I’d been doing and as a consequence to enjoy things more, and to use my extended leisure time to get back into shape with some much-needed exercise. The locale presents some *amazingly* picturesque places in which to run. I’m just sorry that Bob The Dog was unable to make the trip with us (see the entry for September 13) – I know that he’d have loved this place.
The Diary resumes tomorrow, January 1, 2020. In the meantime I’ve filled in some gaps by cherry-picking a few choice moments from the past few months.
It’s good to be back…
Wednesday 25th December
Well, Gentling Towers-on-Sea is looking like a real home. The warmest of Christmas greetings from Amanda and I go out to all of our family and friends. Xxx
Sunday 22nd December
I was too young to see the Brian Connolly-fronted Sweet; it’s still tough to forgive my folks for preventing me from attending the Hammersmith 1978 show. But your first love is always the deepest, and last night’s gig-going calendar of the year closed with a triumphant display from guitarist Andy Scott’s newly retooled line-up. More hirsute than ever before, Scott is 70 years old but he attacks these much-loved bubblegum time-pieces with a vigour and focus that deserves immense credit. Unlike some of his predecessors, former Cats In Space singer Paul Manzi is hands-free in the role, which leads to greater mobility. Manzi was the most animated I’d seen him in various groups… he’s gonna be fantastic in the role. Likewise, Steve Mann of Lionheart appeared energised and enthused by his apparently temporary return to Sweet, throwing shapes at the front of the stage in a way that Michael Schenker Fest is unable to accommodate. Another Lionheart man, bassist Lee Small is a lead singer in his own right. No coincidence then, that the step-harmony vocals in ‘The Six Teens’ were the best I’d heard them.
For several years now, Scott had threatened to up the ante in the heaviness department, only to back down. Frankly, he had been in danger of turning into the boy… well, the man… who cried wolf. Of course it was understandable: with so many hit singles that demand inclusion, why risk alienating the audience?
Now, finally, Andy has lived up to his word. In terms of the set-list, little had changed except the axing of the acoustic section and the return of ‘Turn It Down’ from the ‘Desolation Boulevard’ album. The difference lay in the delivery. Sweet 2019 set upon the likes of ‘Set Me Free’, ‘Burn On The Flame’, ‘Turn It Down’ and a raucous ‘AC/DC’ which saw Scott and Mann staging a guitar battle, like starving butcher’s dogs dismantling a particularly tasty bone. However, Andy was growing increasingly frustrated at the De La Warr Pavilion security’s wish to keep the audience seated. As fans boogied in the aisles to ‘Teenage Rampage’ he roared: “Leave them alone!” Commencing the next song ‘Wig-Wam Bam’, Scott announced: “Listen, we’re here to have a good time… if you want to stand up and dance, FUCK THEM!” Bexhill needed no second invitation.
With there being talk of a new Sweet album in 2020, Scott must do anything possible to nail down this incarnation of the group, finding a way to include multi-instrumentalist and ace songwriter Mann amid his Schenker and Lionheart obligations is imperative. It’s too special become a mere stopgap in this band’s glorious history.
Saturday 14th December
Flying Colors from a front row balcony seat overhanging the stage at Shepherd's Bush Empire. My final London concert of 2019, and what a way to end a year of what has often felt like inspirational gig-going.
Flying Colors are a band and I hate to single out anybody, but what a joy and a privilege to be able to watch Steve Morse from such close proximity. Mostly, though, it was about the songs - and what an embarrassment of riches is presented by these five individuals. At their outright poppiest, with a ditty like 'Love Letters', this exceptional outfit could seduce the coldest of hearts but it's when they drag things down to a whisper with 'You Are Not Alone' that they *really* succeed in raising gooseflesh and moistening the tear ducts.
What a truly wonderful night this was. I cannot wait to see the DVD that was being shot.
Wednesday 11th December
'The Big 3-0 Tour' hits Shepherd's Bush Empire. FM celebrating their 1989 album 'Tough It Out', Dan Reed Network dinking it up with 'Slam' and Gun revising 'Taking On The World'... what's not to love? And thanks to our London-based pals Simon & Jude for allowing Amanda and I to stay in the guest room, thus avoiding the dash for the final train back to the coast. I love this selfie of myself, Dan The Man and Brion James, and a few days later I was surprised to find the other piccie of two of my fave bass players, Merv from FM and the DRN's Melvin Brannon II... I'd forgotten taking it!
Friday 6th December
Uriah Heep’s first concert at my new local venue in Bexhill - I hope it won’t be their last. The band were a wee bit frustrated by the fact that on this occasion the De La Warr Pavilion was seated (it doesn’t have to be)… but what a dazzling performance. An imaginative mix of tracks from their current, 25th studio set, ‘Living The Dream’ ('Grazed By Heaven', the title cut, 'Take Away My Soul' and 'Rocks In The Road’) and pit-stops from their expansive catalogue; 'Too Scared To Run', 'Rainbow Demon', 'Gypsy', 'Look At Yourself', 'July Morning' and 'Lady In Black', followed by an encore of 'Sunrise' and 'Easy Livin'’. I will never tire of hearing those sublime multi-part harmony vocals and it's patently obvious that Heep still get a kick out of what they do. The fact that it happened to be bass player Davey Rimmer’s 51st birthday awarded the night an extra sense of fun.
Afterwards we accepted an invite to the dressing room where Bernie Shaw was in barman mode. Jokes, banter and strong drink flowed like the proverbial waterfall. With next year marking Heep’s 50th anniversary, you will be hearing a lot more from this most excellent and durable of bands.