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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Tuesday 28th February
I thoroughly enjoyed yesterday’s trip to Sweet guitarist Andy Scott’s place in the West Country, where I became the first outsider to hear the group’s new studio album. Though the fact that ‘New York Connections’ is a covers album is already in the public domain I’ve been asked not to divulge any significant details prior to its official release, which is still a few weeks away (that’s okay, I can ‘do’ confidential if I try hard enough!!). Suffice to say that the band have selected some tracks that will come as a complete surprise and others that probably will not, awarding them the full Sweet stacked vocal harmony treatment. Following the playback Andy, his batman Kevin Smith and I headed to a local watering hole for a tasty pub lunch and a wide-ranging discussion that touched upon vanishing Koi carp, the new Status Quo documentary, crop circles and, um… van hire adverts. I couldn’t resist sampling some of the local gut-rot scrumpy cider which helped me to doze for a large chunk of the train journey back to London. All in all, a fantastic day out and an experience to file under ‘childhood ambition realised’.
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Monday 27th February
The total sponsorship monies for my 10K run continues to escalate. Fresh from his work on the new Accept album, former Sabbat guitarist Andy Sneap has pledged a tenner. Referring to a fracas at the Hammersmith Clarendon way back in the 80s, when I was threatened by Virus’ heavily tattooed singer, then rescued from a nasty mauling by the intervention of Satan/Pariah/Skyclad guitarist Steve Ramsay, Sneap proved a memory as long as his hair with the comment: “Just imagine Henry Heston is behind you... You’ll be past that finish line in seconds.” I also raised a loud titter when fellow scribe Joel McIver dropped by the web page to offer a very metal £6.66… marvelous. Many thanks to everyone that has donated.
It felt a bit dirty supporting Liverpool in yesterday’s League Cup Final against Cardiff, the team that vanquished Palace in the semis, but what the heck. The trophy stays in England. Yessssssssssss! I’m happy with that.
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Sunday 26th February
I’m still giggling at that complete plum Mark Noble, who told the TV cameras it was “guttering” that Wet Sham didn’t get all three points again Palace in a game the visitors could easily have won. No, “guttering” is something else entirely. How many braincells...?! The game was watched by a rather full Ling Towers, strong booze washing down a mountain of bacon sarnies. I’m a bit peeved that Fat Sam Allardyce once again saw fit to take a pop at Super Dougie’s Palace, just ‘cos the ’Apless ’Ammers couldn’t beat them. What an ungracious, conceited twat. Fat Sam’s team will go up, but straight back down again. Sorry, Shammers.
Afterwards we made the most of the mild weather by retiring to the local park for a game of footie – Clan Ling (myself and Eddie) versus Clan Pudney (Neil and his son Luke) with Bob The Dog trying to assist the ‘home’ side whether possible, to the chagrin of our long suffering referee, Harj Kallah.
Once everyone had gone home, the remainder of Saturday night was spent playing the new Rock Candy edition of the ‘Time Tells No Lies’ album by Praying Mantis here in my office at full blast, followed by my newly acquired version of UFO’s ‘Seven Deadly’ on beautiful, double gatefold orange vinyl.... f**k the neighbours.
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Saturday 25th February
As some of you may know, I am set to undertake a 10K fun run in Crystal Palace Park a week tomorrow. Well, my race number has just arrived and so has the device that one ties into one’s shoelace to calculate the finish time. This being my first such event, and because I’m really only doing it for the heck of it, I had decided not to seek sponsorship. However, I was surprised to realise that the terms of my entry demanded 10 x £5 sponsors, so cautiously I asked a few close friends how they might feel about raising some cash for Breast Cancer charities (as somebody close to me is currently suffering the fallout of this awful disease). By lunchtime the total had reached £160… blimey!!! That was a bit of a shock! Should anyone else feel like chipping in to sponsor me in the fun-run and help out this extremely good cause, please click here.
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Friday 24th February
It’s been a long week dominated by interview tape transcription, an arduous and repetitive process, so this afternoon I was happy to take a short break and conduct a phone interview Michael Kiske and Kai Hansen, the former Helloween pair who are now members of the band Unisonic. I must say, I’m rather taken with the Unisonic album – a fruity, melodic slab of heavy metal (due for release via Ear Music/Edel on March 23). Its title song is a bit of a steal of Twisted Sister’s ‘You Can’t Stop Rock ‘N’ Roll’ and ‘Stormbringer’ by Deep Purple, but hey… it’s great to hear Michael singing hard rock once again. Kiske and Hansen were both in talkative mood, which makes my job that much easier.
Anyway, I’m already looking forward to a great weekend of sport. Various pals have threatened to show up for a massive piss-up here at Ling Towers. A fry-up will line the stomach before the early drinking begins, then the Wet Sham-Palace match on Sky at lunchtime, England versus the Taffs with the oval-shaped ball, followed by the second T20 game between Eng and Pakistan. Bring it on…
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Wednesday 22nd February
Had you told me as a spotty, pudding bowl-coiffured teenager that someday I would be invited to guitarist Andy Scott’s country pile in the west of England for a sneaky preview of a new album by my favourite band, Sweet, then I’d probably have called you delusional. But incredibly, it’s actually happened. As I type this, preparing for a phone interview with Jonathan Davis of Korn, I’m spinning my vinyl of Zebra Records’ 1987 release ‘Hard Centres: The Rock Years’ – complete with Malcolm Dome’s sleeve notes – it still sounds absolutely bloody awesome.
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Tuesday 21st February
Having been decidedly unimpressed by ‘Tattoo’, its somewhat iffy first single, last week I finally managed to beg/steal/borrow a copy of the new Van Halen album ‘A Different Kind Of Truth’ (thanks a lot, Steve Hammonds!!). Commercially speaking the groups first album in 14 years went straight in at #2 in the Billboard Chart, but verdicts have been pretty polarised, Malcolm Dome attracting the ire of the haters for a critique at the Classic Rock website which claims “it’s OK, but no more”, while melodicrockcom’s Andrew McNeice awarded a mark of 98%. Though my schedule hasn’t allowed a whole lot of time to delve beneath its skin, ‘ADKOT’ received the thumbs up from yours truly on first spin alone. My rating lies somewhere between the two extremes (Ooops – Gary Cherone pun unintentional!!), though I suspect ‘Chickenfoot III’ will prove the superior record when all’s said and done.
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Monday 20th February
If Carlsberg made football results... Yesterday afternoon Br***ton & Homo Albion were thrashed 6-1 by Liverpool, conceding no less than three own goals in an FA Cup tie at Anfield – thus fulfilling an age-old tradition of Br***tonians scoring up the wrong end. The result meant utter, glorious, shameful humiliation for Palace’s loathed rivals. P.S. Poyet now states: “We’re not ready for the Premier League”. No shit, Sherlock!!!
Here we go again: Play… Stop… Rewind… Play – Yes, it’s set to be another busy week of interview transcription. For the very first time in my lengthy career as a music writer I’ve just used the word “obstreperous”. Given that the term means “resisting control or restraint in an unruly difficult manner; noisy, clamorous, or boisterous”, it’s perhaps no wonder that it cropped up in a story about Uriah Heep!! (Ashley Howe, please go direct to Pseud’s Corner... do not pass go, do not collect £50).
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Sunday 19th February
The result from yesterday’s clash at Selhurst Park: Crystal Palace 4, Twatford 0. In the wake of the Eagles’ first league victory of 2012, which ended a run of six winless fixtures and all but preserves the club’s status in the Championship for another season, I found myself in the Crobar, pounding down a few sambuca shots. Consequently, I’m feeling a wee bit poorly today.
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Saturday 18th February
Following a hectic day of phone interviews – I spoke to Halestorm’s Lizzy Hale, Brent Smith of Shinedown and the British-born, now Californian-based blues guitarist Philip Sayce – last night was spent at home, catching up on some crap telly. The Biggest Loser is an awful, awful TV show, yet I love the stupidity of its wobbly-bellied contestants who all seem to think that voting one another off the competition is the hardest thing they’ll ever do in the their lives – get real. It’s great to have The Walking Dead back on our screens again after its series intermission, and although I cannot work out whether it’s supposed to be a comedy or a drama the new season of True Blood just keeps on getting better. When a new run of Mad Men begins again for the first time since October 2010, you will have to prise me from my comfy living room chair.
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Friday 17th February
I’m a big fan of London-based melodic power metal DragonForce, having followed their career since they opened for Halford at the LA2 in 2000 under the name of DragonHeart. The only downside to DF is the complete plums that tend to attend their gigs. Take last night for instance. The band were playing a special intimate show at the 100 Club to preview their fifth album, ‘The Power Within’. You’d think that the fans would’ve been thrilled to have gained admission. Most of them were, but of course I found myself standing next to one complete tosser who’d come along purely to shout abuse. This brain-dead individual thought it was clever to keep bellowing: “Bring back the old singer!” (seemingly unable even to recall ZP Theart’s name). Undeniably, Marc Hudson has big boots to fill but as the newcomer introduced ‘Starfire’, this berk announced to his mates: “I can sing this better than that c**t,” before proceeding to prove that he singularly could not. Imagine my fury when I moved to evade his annoying presence, only to find the donut standing and his cronies next to me again. Grrrrrrrrrrr.
Anyway, the show was very good indeed. My interest piqued by a two-page story in the current issue of Metal Hammer, I made a point of catching the support act, Pythia. The female-fronted symphonic metalheads **do** perform in rather silly mock-warrior garb that includes leather body armour (very useful for deflecting arrows… not!), and Emily Alice Ovenden (also a member of The Mediaeval Babes) **does** have an operatic-style voice powerful and classy enough to complement her dark good looks. I shall make a point of tracking down the UK band’s new album ‘The Serpent’s Curse’.
No matter how wrecked they might get, DragonForce never fail to entertain. During their opening song, ‘Heroes Of Our Time’, Sam Totman stood behind Herman Li, directing slanty-eyed gestures and ‘wanker’ hand signals at his guitar counterpart, who responded to this challenge with yet another unfeasibly fast barrage of notes. Already comfortable in the band’s legendary mickey-taking culture, Marc Hudson grinned: “This song came out when I was 15 years old – I didn’t buy it then and I wouldn’t buy it now” as an introduction to ‘Black Fire’.
Perhaps surprisingly, the band opted to play just two new tracks in the 75-minute set; ‘Cry Thunder’ was debuted when they supported Iron Maiden last year, and sounds rather like Manowar with Thin Lizzy-ish guitar parts added (not a bad thing in my book), whilst ‘Lost Fallen World’ lived up to Hudson’s description as “the fastest song that DragonForce has ever written”. I’m really looking forward to grabbing a copy of ‘The Power Within’, which arrives via the band’s own Electric Generation Recordings on April 15. Here’s the set-list: ‘Heroes Of Our Time’, ‘Operation Ground And Pound’, ‘Cry Thunder’, ‘My Spirit Will Go On’, ‘Starfire’, ‘Lost Fallen World’, ‘Black Fire’, ‘The Last Journey Home’ and ‘Fury Of The Storm’, followed by an inevitable encore of their video game-popularised signature song ‘Through The Fire And Flames’.
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Thursday 16th February
OM-fuggin’-G... a watermarked audio promo of Iron Maiden’s live double album ‘En Vivo!’ (see Diary, February 1st) has just arrived from EMI Records by motorcycle courier. I almost kissed the poor fella! Kevin Shirley’s sound mix sounds absolutely amazing on my office Death Deck. Speaking of which… It’s interesting that Maiden are to turn the clock back to 1988 this summer with a series of North American shows based upon their ‘Maiden England DVD’, which was filmed on the ‘Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son’ tour. UK appearances are thus far conspicuous by their absence, but the press release’s closing statement of “Rest of world... we’ll see you next year!” is pretty encouraging.
Meanwhile, much of the last day or two has been spent getting to know the forthcoming conceptual It Bites album, ‘Map Of The Past’ (due via Inside Out Music on March 26), with a 500-word review for the next issue of Prog magazine in mind. New underwear pls... It’s a right little beaut. (That’s eight words… just 492 to go!)
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Wednesday 15th February
Like many others, presumably, I’m upset by the news that the next issue of Classic Rock Presents AOR (#6, which hits the stands on February 28), will be the last in the title’s present format. A “giant-sized Yearbook/Bookazine” is planned for later this year, possibly in September, but so far as the bi-monthly mag goes, that’s it… kaput. Don’t ask me why the plug was pulled, it’s probably a conversation for the bar (though it’s no great secret that I was opposed to the title of ‘AOR’ from the off, and of course the usually high cover price must have played its part)… The word ‘Gutted’ is a bit of an understatement.
Considering all of the above, a thunderous pat on the back is due to the staff of Fireworks magazine, the 50th issue of which (which features Amy lee of Evanescence on the cover) has thumped onto the mat at Ling Towers. Well done to all concerned; the magazine’s contributors do not receive financial reimbursement for their efforts, instead they are happy to share their love of music and keep the scene alive in the purest possible sense. Check out an interview with Fireworks editor Bruce Mee here.
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Tuesday 14th February
No, the postie didn’t bring me a Valentine’s Day card yesterday, but I’m still smiling thanks to the receipt of a certain voicemail – :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) – even after Crystal Palace contrived to throw away a 2-0 lead at Brizzle City, drawing a game that they had seemed destined to have won, or at least taken a point from. This was a major disappointment as until facing the Eagles, BC had quite literally become a team that couldn’t have scored in a brothel with the aid of Ron Jeremy’s private bits, at least since flogging their best player Nicky Maynard to Wet Sham.
Most of the day was spent in the habitual ‘play-stop-rewind-play’ formation, transcribing my recent phone interviews with Steve Morse, Neal ‘No Relation’ Morse, Casey McPherson and Dave LaRue, AKA the members of Flying Colors that are not named Mike Portnoy, for an upcoming story in Prog magazine. I must say that Flying Colors’ album (self-titled, set to be released via Music Theories Recordings on March 26), is a right little belter… sounding nothing like Deep Purple, Dream Theater or Spock’s Beard, but full of intelligent-sounding, very immediate material, or as the press release quite rightly puts it: “Virtuoso musicians and a pop singer joining together to make new-fashioned music the old-fashioned way”.
Prog magazine had commissioned me to review last night’s London show from Pain Of Salvation. Luckily I arrived at the Garage in good time to see support act Cryptex, an often bass guitar-less and endearingly bizarre trio from Salzgitter, Germany, whose debut album ‘Good Morning, How Did You Live?’ has received many favourable critiques. Exchanging their instruments, or simply dropping the bass altogether, one minute they were brandishing what appeared to be a mini-glockenspiel during the track ‘Alois’, the next manic frontperson Simon Moskon produced a didgeridoo to introduce ‘Gypsy’s Lullaby’. I thought they were great, and the Garage seemed to agree.
Daniel Gildenlöw and company were making a swift return to the UK after supporting Opeth last November, pepping material from their current release ‘Road Salt Two’ with unexpected catalogue gems such as ‘Enter Rain’ from ‘Scarsick’ and ‘The Perfect Element’ album’s Ashes’; selections that Gildenlöw called “songs we never thought we’d play live, not because we didn’t want to do so but because they’re very difficult [to perform].” Not that musicianship nor quality vocals are areas that Pain Of Salvation should feel the need to fret about. With Luke Machin of The Tangent making a guest appearance on guitar during ‘No Way’, the band were on top form, though I must confess my attention started to wander during some of their more drawn-out tracks. Anyway, here’s the set-list: ‘Softly She Cries’, ‘Ashes’, ‘Linoleum’, ‘The Deeper Cut’, ‘1979’, ‘To The Shoreline’, ‘Chain Sling’, ‘Ending Theme’, ‘Stress’, ‘Kingdom Of Loss’, ‘No Way’ and ‘Enter Rain’, plus encores ‘The Physics Of Gridlock’ and ‘Sisters’.
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Monday 13th February
Managed to get in some running over the weekend. On Saturday afternoon I completed ten laps of the local park – beating my existing record by two complete circuits. When I reached nine laps it had seemed silly not to get into double figures. So the training for next month’s 10K fun seems to be going according to plan.
Much of yesterday afternoon was spent braving ‘bus replacement services’ as I attempted to cross London by train to hear a few tracks from Vega’s forthcoming second album. Singer Nick Workman was laying down some final vocal parts with John Greatwood, the producer/engineer of their highly regarded debut ‘Kiss Of Life’. I heard about a half-dozen tunes in various states of completion. Knowing my aversion to the band, Nick joked: “There’s much less U2 on this album. It’s more like Coldplay.” In fact, what they played me was quite a bit more guitar-orientated, with just two tracks (‘Skin Deep’ and ‘Hands In The Air’) that could legitimately be described as AOR/melodic rock. Indeed, several hours later and one of the songs, ‘White Knuckle Ride’, is still bouncing around my brain. That has to be a good sign…
P.S. My boozing buddy Mark Taylor has posted a fine (if ever so slightly drink-sodden) overview of the recent Great British Rock And Blues weekend in Skegness. Read it here. Obviously, names and details of certain alleged events have been amended to protect the innocent. Is it even possible to be “professionally lubricated”??!! Ahem…
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Sunday 12th February
The cancellation of yesterday’s game between Crystal Palace and Doncaster left me with something of a loose end. After writing a few reviews and doing a bit of interview transcription I headed into Lewisham for a mooch around the shops, returning home with a bit of a literary bargain. Raising Hell: On The Rock ‘N’ Roll Highway is a beautiful, deluxe hardback book of b/w photos from rock’s long-lost golden age: images of The Who, The Eagles, Rod & The Faces and many more. Its pix and road-flavoured anecdotes, courtesy of celebrated lensman Tom Wright, are accompanied by a foreword from Pete Townshend and usually sell for twenty notes – more than enough to persuade yours truly to remove his wallet and part with three hundred and ninety-nine heard-earned pennies. I cannot wait to read it…
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Saturday 11th February
I’m still attempting to regain my composure after last night’s excellent gig from Dream Theater at Wembley. Okay, the rows of empty seats on the opposite side of the Arena suggested that Hammersmith Apollo would have been a more suitable venue this time around but DT have headlined this cavernous hall twice before, and what they proceeded to serve up over more than two hours suggested that they will do so again in the future, once the furore over the exit of drummer, songwriter, co-producer and all-round driving force Mike Portnoy is a thing of the past.


As proven at last summer’s High Voltage Festival and on the album ‘A Dramatic Turn Of Events’, newcomer Mike Mangini is the perfect replacement for Portnoy. His solo last night was truly monstrous, and I’m somebody that usually abhors such gratuitous excesses. Also, as an attendee of DT gigs since the Marquee Club back in 1993, I’ve never seem them in such a relaxed and contented mood. In a very poor impression of a British accent, singer James LaBrie beamed: “We’re having the best time of our frickin’ lives up here”, a pointed reference to days gone by.
Offering six brand new selections, including ‘Beneath The Surface’ in a two-song acoustic interlude (its unplugged counterpart being ‘The Silent Man’), the set-list was an absolute joy, delving all the way back to ‘When Dream And Day Unite’, 1989’s very first (LaBrie-less) debut for ‘A Fortune In Lies’. ‘War Inside My Head’ and ‘The Test That Stumped Them All’, from arguably the group’s darkest and heaviest album, 2002’s ‘Six Degrees Of Inner Turbulence’, were followed by an exquisite solo from John Petrucci, a spine-ting appetiser for ‘The Spirit Carries On’, the guitarist’s afterlife-themed masterpiece from the conceptual ‘Metropolis Pt. 2: Scenes From A Memory’ record, released back in 1999. At times, Dream Theater were so absolutely bloody magnificent that I found myself inadvertently shaking my head in awed appreciation. “We’ll keep coming back for as long as you want us to”, grinned LaBrie after they’d blitzed through an encore of the Metallica-esque golden oldie ‘Pull Me Under’. This story ain’t over, no sir…
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Friday 10th February
It had been quite a while – five years, I was astonished to discover – since my last sighting of Canadian band The Trews, so the offer of a few free drinks at an intimate showcase soiree at the 12 Bar Club, followed by additional bevvies at the Crobar, seemed like a bit of a no-brainer.
Before the onset of such shenanigans I conducted a cool face to face interview with Ken Hensley, who’d flown into town from his place in Spain to oversee the final mix-down and fadeouts of his forthcoming album, ‘Love & Other Mysteries’. We sat and chatted in the cafeteria of Metropolis Studios over a few cups of tea – a great way to pass an afternoon. Hensley looked in fine condition: There are a few additional lines on the face but he still has that impressive barnet of his, and, blimey, he can talk for England…
The Trews showcase was a lot of fun. Quite often these events are a little uncomfortable. The band is uncertain of the audience, who tend to reciprocate. Nobody really knows whether or not to clap. Throw in the fact that The Trews – a household name in their homeland – had been shoehorned onto a stage the size of a bigger-than-average living room table and were expected to play in an unplugged stylée. Throwing in a few sound gremlins along the way, unease was excusable. And yet the band have some wonderful songs, and when they harmonise together the combination of their four voices is quite hypnotic. They purred through six tracks – ‘Hope And Ruin’, ‘Misery Loves Company’, ‘Poor Ol’ Brokenhearted Me’, ‘If You Wanna Start Again’, ‘Ishmael And Maggie’ and ‘Hold Me In Your Arms’ – before guitarist John-Angus MacDonald enquired: “Do you guys want us to do another song or should we stop?” The answer was an unequivocal ‘keep on going’, and, as a request from the crowd, they fired off ‘No Time For Later’ before calling it a night. A rather good one, at that…
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Thursday 9th February
For the past week a pre-release CD of Halestorm’s second album, ‘The Strange Case Of…’ has been lodged in my Death Deck ahead of its official unveiling on April 9. Metal Hammer have commissioned me to interview their singer Lzzy Hale, so it was only natural that I took my place among an absurdly loud and enthusiastic crowd at the Roundhouse as the Pennsylvanian quartet did a sterling job of warming up an audience gathered to worship their Roadrunner label-mates, headliners Shinedown.
Three quick-fire songs was all it took for their brand of hard-driving, hook-laden brand of rock ‘n’ roll to get the crowd leaping around. Wearing a very short pair of shorts (I just happened to notice that, ahem...) and covering every inch of the stage, Hale flirted with the Roundhouse for all she was worth, pouting: “You got me all hot and bothered – now what are you gonna do about that?” as an introduction to the new album’s ‘Freak Like Me’. No doubt about it, Lzzy has a gutsy, powerful voice that’s well suited to two cover versions; Skid Row’s ‘Slave To The Grind’ and an acapella rendition of Heart’s ‘Crazy On You’ (the rest of their set comprised ‘Love Bites (So Do I)’, ‘It’s Not You’, ‘Dirty Work’, ‘American Boys’, ‘Familiar Taste Of Poison’, Drum Solo and ‘I Get Off’). I’m sure Halestorm will be back before too long, and I definitely won’t be missing them.
Inciting the wrath of organizer Andy Copping (who Tweeted: “Fuck those guys! I can’t deny it!”) Brent Smith unzipped his trousers and took a piss on protocol by announcing that Shinedown will be at Download this summer. On this performance, they deserve it. Smith has lost some weight since the Floridian band were last in the UK two years ago – I saw them back then at the Islington Academy – and his voice is in considerably better shape though perhaps he could still do with some salads and a few laps of his local park (a la Ling). Encouraging the audience to shake hands and high-five those to the left and right of them, Smith’s between-song patter was cheesy enough to have coated a hundred thousand pizzas, but his band forge a remarkable connection with their audience. Often derided as modern rock, onstage they pack a whopping metallic punch, heading back to the dressing room after ‘.45’ to a squalling wall of guitar and bass feedback. And at the other extreme their cover of Skynyrd’s ‘Simple Man’ confirmed a softer, more sensitive side. The hysterical reaction to songs such as ‘The Crow And The Butterfly’ and ‘Second Chance’ was little short of astonishing. I kid you not, there were people exiting the venue with tears in their eyes. If Smith can be persuaded to cut back on his yakking, this remarkable band will have the world at its feet. Here’s the set-list: ‘Sound Of Madness’, ‘Enemies’, ‘Devour’, ‘If You Only Knew’, ‘Cyanide Sweet Tooth Suicide’, ‘Adrenaline’, ‘Save Me’, ‘The Crow And The Butterfly’, ‘Diamond Eyes (Boom-Lay Boom-Lay Boom)’ and ‘.45’, with encores of ‘Bully’, ‘Simple Man’, ‘Second Chance’ and ‘Fly From The Inside’.
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Wednesday 8th February
The snow almost completely gone, thankfully, though here in South London the temperature still hovers at around the zero mark. Over the last few days preparations for next month’s 10K run have had to be moved indoors. On Monday evening, whilst sweating it out on the exercise bike in my office, I listened to Def Leppard’s ‘X’ – a record that, along with ‘Music From ‘The Elder’’ by Kiss, appears in the current issue of Classic Rock’s list of The 50 Worst Albums Of All Time. Sorry, but I find that quite unfathomable. I’m a big fan of both of these albums. ‘X’ may have been written by hitmakers for Britney Spears, Pink, The Backstreet Boys, Westlife and Celine Dion but is full of wonderful songs such as ‘Now’, ‘Unbelievable’ and ‘Long Way To Go’. Back in August 2002 Classic Rock called it “commendable, occasionally inspired and always entertaining” and it came third in the critics’ Top 20 of that year, so should we seek skeletons in the closet then Leppard’s grunge album, ‘Slang’, would have made a much better choice? Anyway, rant over.
Back to last night and I did eight laps of the park – a personal record. Listening to a live recording of The Union’s gig at Islington Academy enlivened the experience considerably but it was so darned cold that when the earpiece fell out, my fingers had become so numb that replacing it was quite impossible. That’s a bit silly, isn’t it?
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Tuesday 7th February
You know that a good day is in store when you come downstairs to make the kids’ sandwiches, switch on Paul Anthony’s Planet Rock Radio breakfast show and the first thing you hear is the opening chords of Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band’s immortal ‘Hollywood Nights’. I must play my vinyl of the ‘Stranger In Town’ album, or perhaps better still Seger’s ‘Greatest Hits’ CD, later on. And with the snow all but melted, I may even be able to head out to the park for my first run in a few days. Hurrah!
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Monday 6th February
How utterly embarrassing: Pakistan have just completed a humbling 3-0 whitewash over England… claiming the final match by 71 runs after the tourists had bowled out the home side for 99 runs on the first day. Pathetic – that’s all I can say.
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Sunday 5th February
Brrrrrr… as I type Catford is covered beneath a layer of snow. Judging by the commentary of yesterday’s 0-0 draw between Boro and the mighty Eagles, the game took place in freezing cold conditions that must have resembled one of those Christmas snowglobes. Freedman’s men enjoyed the lion’s share of the possession (56% vs 44%), forcing more shots on goal than the home side, but simply could not break the deadlock. The club has now failed to triumph in five consecutive league matches since the start of the current calendar year, which is becoming slightly worrying.
And meanwhile, still in the realm of all things ice-cool, it seems that Bill Ward, having complained of an “unsignable” contract in an ‘open letter’ to his band-mates and fans, may not be participating in this summer’s Black Sabbath reunion – a rather sad state of affairs. Various rumours and actual percentages are being thrown about by those that cannot have a clue of what’s really happening, but as a co-founder of the band it doesn’t seem as though drummer Ward is being treated particularly fairly. I could go into a bit of a rant with my opinions on this subject, however the Thrash Hits website has already posted a summation that’s pretty hard to improve upon. It’s rather long but well worth reading, so click here.
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Saturday 4th February
It’s lunchtime and I’m back in my office just in time for the radio commentary of Crystal Palace’s game up in Middlesbrough. A big chunk of my morning was spent involved in an illuminating interview with Alan G Parker, the director of Status Quo’s new movie. Parker is a fascinating, talkative individual who has been somewhat miscast as a punk rock purist. He was responsible for making the film Who Killed Nancy? and also managed Stiff Little Fingers for a number of years, but Alan is also covered in tattoos of Kiss, Mötley Crüe, Slade, Thin Lizzy and many, many more. His passion for rock music is quite contagious. From what he claims, his documentary will do the Quo proud when it’s released in October. Obviously, it would be unprofessional of me to divulge the most important parts of the conversation but as a fan of the Frantic Four I walked away from our rendezvous full of optimism for what the coming months might bring.
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Friday 3rd February
Lots of fun was had at last night’s Spinefarm Record showcase gig over at the Garage in North London, where admission to see three up ‘n’ coming bands cost a mere ten quid… supreme value for money in this day and age. Ahead of their support slot with Steel Panther, Cambridge-based whippersnappers The Treatment got things underway with a kick-ass 35-minute audio assault that not even various equipment and sound issues could derail, delivering the highlights of their debut album ‘This Might Hurt’ before closing with two explosive covers, ‘Way Of The World’ by More and, rather splendidly, a yobbish rendition of Slade’s ‘Get Down And Get With It’ that almost caused my jaw to hit the floor. If anything, the sound seemed to deteriorate for London’s own Jettblakk, whose strong-arm display included the likes of ‘Get Your Hands Dirty’ and the excellent ‘Two Hot Girls’. I’ve begun warming to Jettblakk and like the rest of their fans am dying to hear album #2, which by all accounts isn’t too far away.
Though the Garage was pretty full by the time the headliners arrived, the appeal of Reckless Love continues to elude me. Having been left underwhelmed by the Finns’ UK debut at the Barfly back in May 2010, to these ears at least their second album also turned out a damp squib. ‘Beautiful Bomb’ is a wonderful tune that wouldn’t have been out of place on Headbangers’ Ball in the mid-80s but all the high kicks in the world (courtesy fast-talking blonde bombshell frontman Olli Herman) cannot mask a dearth of quality material. Somebody that I was sharing a drink with as Reckless Love played has just reminded me that I called them “an Aldi version of Van Halen”. Harsh but fair, I think.
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Wednesday 1st February
Yesterday evening was spent at a central London press reception/playback of ‘En Vivo!’, Iron Maiden’s latest live audio-visual recording, filmed back in April before 50,000 raving South American loonies. Preceded by a typically blunt intro from the band’s manager Rod Smallwood, a selection of tasty nibbles (hotdogs, veggie burgers and fries) was washed down by a wines and beers as the attendees were shown an 88-minute documentary, Behind The Beast, that accompanies the main feature. As a long-term fan I found the practical inner workings of the The Final Frontier World Tour rather interesting, especially the customizing of their now legendary Boeing 757 plane, Ed Force One. Also, of course, the crowd scenes and Kevin Shirley’s astonishing audio sound-mix, were nothing less than stunning. However, the biggest laugh was saved till the closing moments of Behind The Beast. Only guitarist Adrian Smith could finish circumnavigating the globe several times on such an utterly triumphant tour, then turn around and with a perfectly straight face inform a camera crew: “It’s time to put a few shelves up; go away and do some painting and decorating.” ‘En Vivo!’ arrives on March 26.
For those that care, the Playlist and YouTube pages have been updated.