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.
Wednesday 28th February
It was well worth the trip across ice-bound London to see Robin Tower and Sari Schorr at Islington's Assembly Room. For special guest Schorr, how better to introduce her new band members guitarist Ash Wilson and Bob Fridzema (the former King King keysman) than via a half-hour stripped down, drummer- and bass-less display as a trio? 'Demolition Man' and 'Damn The Reason' from her Mike Vernon-produced album 'A Force Of Nature' worked well in this new format, and despite an apparently broken wrist, Bad Co's 'Ready For Love' provided a great platform for guitarist Wilson.
We know what to expect by now from Trower, and he never disappoints. 'Too Rolling Stoned' would be a fabulous walk-on to just about any show you could name. Each year it's the same: slay 'em with a classic and seduce 'em with a few more recent tunes ('Returned In Kind' and 'Make Up Your Mind' are from the newie, 'Time And Emotion'). At around the halfway stage 'Day Of The Eagle' bleeds into the achingly brilliant and utterly timeless 'Bridge Of Sighs'. Once its ten minutes are over you know you've been in the presence of something Olympian. The dim lighting and bare presentation are in direct contrast to the pristine perfection of the sound.
Lost in concentration and still making those legendary gurning fish faces, Trower scarcely addresses the audience save for a few cheerful cries of, "Thank you, thank you very much", or to introduce his frighteningly young band. However, you can almost *feel* every note that seeps forth from that famous ol' white Strat. (The same one he uses throughout the performance).
With a show so rigidly formulated you may wonder why Trower-ites still make the pilgrimage year after year? The answer is, of course, that Robin is now 72 years young and cannot have too many tours left him at such a high level of performance. To these ears, after last year's over-praised mediocrity from Blackmore, the bloke from Catford is still the standard to be judged by. (Thanks to Richard Bolwell for the photo).
Tuesday 27th February
What a classy, entertaining night at central London’s swish Hospital Club in the presence of Ken Hensley. Promoting the new BMG collection ‘Rare & Timeless’ the former Heep keysman/guitarist brought an artillery of his best tunes, performed as originally conceived – alone at the acoustic guitar or keyboard. With Paul Newton, the band’s original bass player looking on from an intimately proportioned audience, the mood was warm and fuzzy. What a set-list – ‘Free Me’, ‘The Wizard’, ‘Wise Man’, ‘Rain’, a three-song medley dating back to what Ken called “a point where we were writing progressive fantasy music” (‘Illusion’, ‘Sweet Freedom’ and ‘Circle Of Hands’), ‘July Morning’, ‘Tales’ and, joined by his brother Trevor, ‘Lady In Black’.
One of the record’s new offerings, ‘Mine’, was stirring and emotional. Over the course of 95 minutes, given Hensley’s talk of refusing to live in the past, I had expected more than a solitary non-Heep tune. ‘The Return’ would have been a welcome addition. Or at a push its revamp of ‘Send Me An Angel’, maybe? Talking of which, Xavier Russell asked a great question about Ken’s time with Blackfoot, prompting the amusing explanation that Mr Medlocke and company asked him to play with them to “bring our sound into the 1980s and break out from the whole Southern rock thing”, only to find himself booked onto a tour that also featured Molly Hatchet and The Outlaws. The fun and laughter was tempered by some realism. When a fan enquired as to the health of Lee Kerslake, Heep’s long serving former drummer, Ken confided: “I heard from him yesterday, sadly he’s not doing very well otherwise he would be here tonight. If you are type of person that prays then please do so for Lee because he’s quite ill”. What an extremely sobering thought.
I'm currently rounding up the best new melodic rock releases for the April 3 issue of Classic Rock. So much great music – Bonfire, Issa, James Christian, American Tears, Burn, Perfect Plan, Johan Kihlberg’s Impera, Jari Tiura and Mood Groove – and faced with the usual problem… nine into five spaces just doesn’t go.
Monday 26th February
I’m still recovering from yet another heartbreaking day out at Selhurst as Palace took on Spuz. A point would have been very much deserved in the club's quest to stave off relegation. So near... but yet so far. Jammy tossers!
Sunday 25th February
Returning from the day out in on the Hampshire coast it was a bit of a mad dash from Waterloo to Stone Broken's gig at the Assembly Hall in Islington, but somehow we made it in time for the last couple of songs by The Bad Flowers. The Cannock-based trio sounded pretty good, with a beefy but tuneful sound - wish I'd have seen a little more of them. Special guest Jared James Nichols was on kick-ass form with the irresistible boogie of 'Baby Can't You Feel It' a highlight. Closing with Mountain's 'Mississippi Queen' he just gets better and better.
Stone Broken's previous headline gig in London was at a pub called the Black Heart. Though they have supported several other acts as Glenn Hughes and Living Colour, headlining a venue such as the Assembly Hall represented a very big leap. How encouraging that the turnout was decent. They're a likeable band of triers armed a few rather good songs, and believe me, rising talent being so thin on the ground I'd loved to have walked away raving about their prospects but if I'm completely honest after around half an hour my attention began to wander. The material was simply too samey, and I snuck out before the encore (always assuming that there was one – and that’s likely because the rest of the crowd seemed satisfied by what they saw).
Saturday 24th February
As I type this I'm on board a train headed back to the fair city of Londinium.
Today we've been in Southampton for a gathering of Amanda's family members - 15 people in total. Lots of fun but very hard to remember the names! I'm using the 'dead time' to transcribe an interview with Francis Rossi... never off duty - that's me!
Friday 23rd February
Yaaaay! Steve Howe and Geoffrey Downes from Yes on BBC Breakfast Time to talk about the band's 50th anniversary celebrations! Very glad that I had a very rare lay-in as I got to see this in real time!
Think I'm gonna stay in bed for a while. You know your sports addiction has plumbed new depths when you stop work to watch the women's curling at the Winter Olympics.
Thursday 22nd February
With Amanda’s son Ewan down for the week we headed for the Underworld team-handed. Managed to get there in time for an enjoyable ‘special guest’ slot Marco Mendoza, the man brave/dumb enough to have been Thin Lizzy’s post-Lynott bass player and now a member of The Dead Daisies (his CV also boasts Whitesnake ,Ted Nugent’s band, Soul SirkUS and Blue Murder among others). At times there was more yakkin' than playing but Mendoza is a warm, humble and eminently likable host. With Micky Crystal of the Tygers Of Pan Tang cranking up the gee-tar, originals from the very decent new album ‘Viva La Rock’ stood alongside a slew of covers including Thin Lizzy’s ‘Chinatown’, ‘Hole In My Pocket’ (a song from Neal Schon’s ‘Piranha Blues’), ‘Higher Ground’ by Stevie Wonder and ‘Hey Baby’, the track the Nuge always used to let him sing live. That probably sounds disjointed… it wasn’t.
Having surfaced back in late 1980s, Little Caesar are still the grizzled, tattooed biker rockers you wouldn't mess with, and this time it looks like they've brought a couple of their sons as back up. They call their sound “bluesy, sweaty, sleazy, R&B-based hard rock ‘n’ roll” - accurate save for underselling a massive dollop of soul (remember, their biggest hit ‘Chain Of Fools’ was an Aretha Franklin cover, but ‘Time Enough For That’ and ‘In Your Arms’ show they can do it alone). LS are not precious about pushing their own material. Merle Haggard’s 'Mama Tried' popped up mid-set, and an encore added two further re-makes – ‘Nobody Said It Was Easy’ by the Four Horsemen (another band that Ron Young sang with in the 1990s) and the Faces’ ‘Every Picture Tells A Story’. A spontaneous jam with Jared James Nichols on ‘Rum & Coke’, a red-hot slab of boogie, was a welcome bonus.
Though the turnout wasn’t great, both Mendoza and Young voiced gratitude to those that made the effort on a cold Wednesday school night. The rock that we love is under threat from so many angles, it’s getting scary. “We know it isn’t easy; you’ve got kids and jobs, but after all these years to hear your applause is the greatest gift we could receive,” Young grinned. "Life is short, music is precious, thanks again for coming.” Amen, brother. (And can we have the new album's 'Vegas' in the set next time?)
Wednesday 21st February
Just back from the vets (again). I suspected that poor ol' Bob had been in a scrap with a fox but it seems he picked up some kind of parasite from the garden which proceeded to burrow under his skin, causing the poor blighter to scratch till he bled. He'll be okay now. The wound was shaved and cleaned and we've got creams, tablets, etc. "That'll be £185, sir." Do I not like that...
Oh, take a look at what this idiotic plum from Muse has said. Though I tried to get into their music on several occasions I've never really liked those buffoons away. This is the final straw.
Tuesday 20th February
This afternoon I'm writing about Aldo Nova and the year of 1983 for Rock Candy magazine. I couldn't recall Aldo's contribution to the first Bon Jovi record, so dug out this l'il gem to check the credits. I’d clean forgotten that I'd got it signed at the band's legendary visit to the much-missed emporium Shades Records. Those were the days...
Sunday 18th February
My view of last night's concert from Adrian Vandenberg’s MoonKings at the Underworld? Yeah… it was good… at times very good, but there were too few moments that could be described as great.
Like others that I spoke to afterwards, I felt the show got off to an unconvincing start. Gradually, though, things improved. ‘Burning Heart’ by Vandenberg (the band) was a mid-set standout… I’d like to have heard more material from that group as the MoonKings have their share of fillers, a flaw laid bare by back to back versions of Whitesnake’s ‘Sailing Ships’ and ‘Judgement Day’. And then a drum solo… why?! At encore time they were joined by Nathan James of Inglorious for a rip-roaring ‘Here I Go Again’, opting to sign off with Zep’s ‘Rock And Roll’. The fella to my left who bellowed out: “Play your own fucking songs!!!” had a point.
Saturday 17th February
There was a slightly disappointing turnout at the Borderline forCurved Air, especially for a Friday evening in central London, but my... what a show. Let's face it, back in the ’70s few of us thought we'd still be seeing our favourite bands out there on the circuit, and fifty years later it can be a bit of a lottery. It had been six years since my last sighting of the band and with Sonja Kristina now in her sixties, I was cautious. There are occasional moments when she is engulfed inCurved Air's sheer instrumental force – guitarist Kit Morgan, tumbleweed-haired violin player Paul Sax and keyboard maestro Robert Norton mix nimble proficiency with dynamism; their theatrical gusto sufficient to power several wind turbines – but, overwhelmingly, she still delivers. The bloke behind me, who kept roaring out for ‘Situations’, didn’t get his wish, but it was great to hear so many tunes from the recently re-issued pair ‘Air Conditioning’ and ‘Air Cut’.
Thursday 15th February
I’m just home from a very unusual two-man gig from Damian Wilson and Adam Wakeman at the picturesque St Pancras Old Church. "This is the first time I've had a brassiere thrown at me during a concert in a church," marvelled Damian during the show. At that point we were just half an hour into proceedings. "Put it on!" shouted a guy several pews back. Damian did just that. Like I said, an odd evening... but great songs and a lovely vibe.
"Are you going to do a collection?" asked Adam when Damian ventured to back of church to welcome a few familiar faces. The set-list was based largely upon Damian’s solo repertoire and some Wilson-Wakeman originals, plus Adam’s version of 'Tapestries' (the title cut of an album recorded with his dad Rick) and a jazz-rock piano take on Black Sabbath’s 'Iron Man' (Wakeman was that band’s live keyboardist), also including 'Bring Him Home', a song Wilson used to sing in Les Misérables, and a stab at Iron Maiden's 'The Evil That Men Do' (luckily the verger didn't hear that one). Great fun!
Tuesday 13th February
As I type I'm at the gym, taking a break from an unbelievably hectic week of interview transcript for an hour long power walk, using the time to wrap up the final few chapters of this excellent book on the treadmill. The piece on the Beatles' first visit to New York (1964) and David Dalton's eyewitness account of Altamont ('69) are fascinating. Not even feeling the burn... much!
Monday 12th February
Having conducted a really enjoyable interview with Michael Amott for the pages of Classic Rock, I volunteered my services to Hammer as a reviewer for last night’s package of Arch Enemy, Wintersun and Tribulation at Koko. When Tribulation walked onstage caked in corpse paint I thought, ‘Hello, here we go – we know exactly what to expect here’. How wrong I was. Sure, the Stockholmites tick the usual dark and theatrical boxes but their music rejects black metal stereotyping, summoning gothic soundscapes and even entering the orbit of psych-space-rock. I shall be blagging a copy of their newest album ‘A Deeper Cut’ post-haste. Full credit of the headliners that Tribulation were permitted to present such an audio-perfect and visually alluring opening slot, also, of course, that they were not upstaged by their younger rivals. And as for Wintersun? No… it would be foolish to deny that the snow-capped epic Loneliness (Winter) is a bloody fantastic tune, but otherwise I didn’t really get it.
Even on a Sunday night Koko was rammed to the rafters. Coming on like a blue and white-haired banshee, Arch Enemy’s latest singer Alissa White-Gluz commands every inch of the stage, breaking from her growls to deliver the power-ballad ‘Reason To Believe’ in a clean, strong, purposeful voice. It was a real show-stopper, channelling Amott’s love of Dio-fronted Sabbath. By the time the band closed their set proper with ‘We Will Rise’ from the Angela songbook, the venue was bouncing from dancefloor to the very top of its balconies. A three-song encore – ‘Avalanche’, ‘Snow Bound’ and ‘Nemesis’ – sent us all back out into the bitter cold, smiling and uncaring.
Oh bollocks, what terrible news about Glenn Tipton. Judas Priest's co-axeman has been afflicted by Parkinson's Disease and is to step down from the band as a touring member, his place going to Andy Sneap, who helped to produce the band's excellent new album, 'Firepower'. With KK Downing long gone, this means that Priest's legendary twin-guitar team is a thing of the past. Andy Sneap is a great replacement - also an old friend of yours truly from his days with Sabbat - but this feels like very much like the end of an era. Which of course it is.
Sunday 11th February
No… I DON’T want to talk about the friggin’ football – okay?
Saturday 10th February
Last night was spent at YouTube HQ London for a fabulous hour in the company of The Temperance Movement – an intimate performance before an audience of less than 50 people to promote the new album, ‘A Deeper Cut’, which drops in a few days. I’ve yet to hear said disc but loved the material that was previewed, especially ‘The Way It Was And The Way It Is Now’, which Phil Campbell introduced as "a tip of the hat to the Faces". In such close proximity to the singer it was hard to avoid his dodgy dad dancing (though I tried), especially during ‘Ain't No Telling’. The ants-in-the-pants routine suggests that the retirement of past champion Daniel Bowes must be imminent. Either way, I can’t wait to explore ‘A Deeper Cut’. As if the reminder was necessary, TTM have got soul, they've got groove and above all they've got substance. (Live photography was verboten, which I must say was very refreshing… but here’s a snap of the set-list. Oh, and the show wasn't streamed live, so don't bother looking - it was filmed for future use).
Friday 9th February
Last night Accept gave a lesson in how not only to survive a reunion, replacing a key member in the process, but to go one further and actually prosper in a new guise. Surprise surprise, it’s called ‘the power of the song’. The German band has made four albums since getting back together in 2009, former TT Quick growler Mark Tornillo taking the place of Udo Dirkschneider. Out on the road they have refused to simply rely on their catalogue. Last night at a sold out Koko the crowd ate up and devoured ‘Stalingrad’, ‘Pandemic’ and ‘Shadow Soldiers’ with the same ravenous enthusiasm reserved for ‘Restless And Wild’, ‘Breaker’, ‘Princess Of The Dawn’, ‘Fast As A Shark’, ‘Balls To The Wall’ and ‘Metal Heart’. 21 songs were played in a little over two hours, almost half of them culled from the post-reunion catalogue and without a murmor of protest.
My own fave of the newies was a ditty that Accept could have written for me – ‘Analog Man’, with its chorus of “I'm an analog man, in a digital world” and the telling line: “Don't need no wifi, just want my hi-fi”. Fabulous, gatefold sleeve-approved stuff.
The show was, in a word, brilliant. How Accept shoehorned a stage-set designed for theatres onto Koko's somewhat cramped stage I'll never know. The band were having fun, too. "This place is cool, just like the Muppets' theatre,” Tornillo laughed. “Where are the two old heckling guys?" If you really must know, sir, Malc and Xavier were in the bar at the back. And there was no heckling going on… they loved it, too!
So sad to hear the news of Pat Torpey's death. I saw Pat with Mr Big at Shepherd's Bush Empire just a few months ago and there was so much love in the room for the guy. I wonder whether the tragedy will also bring Mr Big to an end as Eric Martin was recently quoted as saying that should this happen he would leave the band.
Wednesday 7th February
Few bands derive such a sense of deep, wide-eyed, apparently unexpected joy from performing live as those mighty metallic Canucks, Anvil. It’s always great to see them here in London. Back out on the road for a just-issued 17th album, ‘Pounding The Pavements’, the set-list exhumed ‘Ooh Baby’ from their very first record back in 1981 along with a selection of fresh tracks. ‘Bitch In The Box’, Doing What I Want' and the Motörhead-esque ‘Ego’ all deserved their spots up against opener ‘March Of The Crabs’ (performed, as ever with frontman/guitarist Lips Kudlow out in the crowd, surrounding by headbanging looonies - check out his face upon spotting yours truly!), ‘666’, ‘Mothra’ (complete with multi-speed sex toy used during a slide solo) and the all-time great ‘Metal On Metal’. Following the success of their real-life rockumentary, Anvil! The Story Of Anvil the wheel has turned and with cinematic luvvies expunged Anvil’s followers are almost exclusively rock and metal fans. "That movie changed everything, man,” Lips grinned introducing ‘This Is Thirteen’. “I'm very, very happy to say that I haven't done a fucking food delivery in ten years.” Nor will he for quite a few more. And, having broken the Underworld's curfew, what an inspired, unexpected choice of encore: an Anvil-ised 'Born To Be Wild'. Well, Mars Bonfire *was* Canadian... Kudlow’s logic is a law unto itself, lol…
Tuesday 6th February
The latest issue of this fine magazine just dropped through the letterbox... looks like another great read! For those that are unaware, Rock Candy is the baby of ex-Kerrang! scribe Derek Oliver and features the scribblings of many veteran scribes from the 1970s and '80s, reflecting the golden era of hard rock. I'm very proud indeed to be a contributor. More details are here. Reading this new issue remind me... I must pick up Noel Monk's book on Van Halen.
Monday 5th February
l cannot believe that Palace didn't win yesterday's game against the Toon - 62% of the possession and 14 shots in the second half alone, but the ball just wouldn't go into the net. Gaahhhh! Here's the moment that Luka Milivojevic converted a penalty to grab a point.
Sunday 4th February
Don't expect me to make any sense for quite a while. Eddie and I have just arrived at our usual pre-match haunt and I'm plagued by an unquenchable thirst! Palace play the Magpies in a couple of hours... COY-fuggin’-P!
Saturday 3rd February
I'm a little late to the party, I know, but I *really* enjoyed my first live sighting of RavenEye at a packed-to-the-rafters Dingwalls.
Though the British power-trio’s ‘Nova’ was a creditable enough debut release it cannot hold a candle to the turbo-charged intensity of their live show. Strong choruses, fiery guitar work and vocals and a hooligan rhythm section… what’s not to love? These guys have massive potential.
What an awesome 90-min phone interview with Pete Agnew for the sleeve essay of Nazareth's upcoming 50th anniversary boxed set. My sides are aching...
Friday 2nd February
I'm very much enjoying a bit of a space rock-meets-prog-meets metal Friday morning, reviewing ‘The Best Of Ayreon Live’, the new double live album from Ayreon for Metal Hammer. 16 lead singers... 28 songs… two hours of music... A host of stars including Floor Jansen (Nightwish), Damian Wilson (Headspace), Hansi Kursch (Blind Guardian), Tommy Karevik (Kamelot), Anneke van Giersbergen (Vuur), Marco Hietala (Nightwish), Jonas Renkse (Katatonia) – in a word: wow.
Thursday 1st February
I had feared that the transfer window would pass without action from the mighty Eagles… but… it’s a big welcome to the mighty Crystal Palace, Alexander Sørloth. Just 22 years old. A big, strong forward; very mobile and fast despite his size, he looks skillful too, and knows where the net is. If the Norwegian can make the step up, that £9m is a bit of a bargain. Amanda thinks there should be a terrace song about him that involves shotguns (clue: what's his surname) but, well... let's leave that to the Holmesdale Fanatics. COYP! For those that might care, here are the February updates at the Playlist and YouTube pages. Oh, and here's early contender for song of the year.