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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Monday 30th June
Hahahaha... oh, hahahaha... hahahaha... hang on a moment while I have my sides sewn up. In preparation for the Euro Championships final, last night Mrs L and I cracked upon the bottle of Icelandic Reyka vodka that we'd brought home from Sweden Rock. The result was Spain 1, Germany 0. Oh, dear me. I haven't laughed so hard since Michael Portillo's 1997 General Election defeat. And just as I thought that no more pleasure could be derived from the result, hapless German keeper Jens Lehman appeared on the small screen, daring to blame the defeat on the referee, claiming the match was "fixed". Lehman's gobsmackingly poor sportsmanship really placed the proverbial tin-hat on a marvelous evening's entertainment, though the Spaniards really deserved their victory.
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Sunday 29th June
What an odd quirk of fate. Just as I'm trying to come to terms with Judas Priest's sprawlingly ambitious 'Nostradamus' double-set, a package from Marshall Law arrives. The Brummie bangers, who've made no secret of their adulation of Priest - I happened to stand a few feet away from singer Andy Pyke at Aston Villa Leisure Centre for a show on the 'Painkiller' tour and was amused to see him aping Rob Halford's every stage move - will be releasing a new album called 'Razorhead' in the autumn. Plastered with fiery twin-leads and built upon the kind of full-tilt, meaty riffs that Messrs Tipton and Downing used to write before breakfast, it's as gung-ho as 'Nostradamus' is serious.
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Saturday 28th June
So I've finally managed to track down a copy of Judas Priest's 'Nostradamus', the limited hardback edition complete with 48-page booklet. My first reaction is absolute bafflement. My second is to swallow deeply and play it again. 100 minutes later, I'm smiling (a little) but although the words 'career suicide' are no longer flashing before my eyes, confusion still reigns. What a courageous album for the band to have made. With those operatic vocals and symphonic arrangements - according to an interview in the latest issue of Hammer, everything 'orchestral' that you hear is actually KK Downing and/or Glenn Tipton on guitar or keyboards - they've really pushed the boat out. I'm gonna have to live with this one for a bit, I suspect...
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Thursday 26th June
As my head flopped onto the pillow, I knew that yesterday was one of those days in which plenty had been achieved. In the morning I conducted an enjoyable phone interview with Jean Jacques Burnel, The Stranglers' bass player, before heading off to Wembley for an equally pleasant and revealing face to face meet with Black Stone Cherry (who, of course, were the opening act on the Def Leppard/Whitesnake tour). After dropping by the Arena's box office to pick up some tickets for the London Masters six-a-side competition on July 19 - which sees my beloved Palace crossing swords with Chelski, The Arse, Spuzz, 'Arry's 'Appy 'Ammers and, um, Twatford - I soaked up the bright sunlight by the venue's fountain whilst absorbing an advance promo of Alice Cooper's new disc, 'Along Came A Spider', for a Metal Hammer album review (its return to The Coop's shock-rock sound of the 70s gets a big thumbs-up from me). With show-time still two hours off, I finally finished Life On Planet Rock, the autobiography of former RIP Magazine editor Lonn Friend. Despite - probably even because - Geoff Barton had called Friend "the worst kind of celebrity journo; the kind of guy who'd rather schmooze than scribble" in his Classic Rock review of said tome, I enjoyed Lonn's tale, the cautionary conclusion of which ends in separation from his wife and dire professional circumstances, tempered by bittersweet pride that his love of music is perpetuated by the family's next generation.
And talking of 'carrying on the flame', I'd like to have fallen in line with other reports that Black Stone Cherry gave the event's other two bands a good run for their money. However, because Live Nation's guest list turned up late I ended up missing their apparently triumphant opening spot - somewhat galling, as I'd been in the vicinity of Wembley since around two that afternoon! Coverdale's voice was croakier than a lorryload of Kermit The Frogs, but at least the drum solo had been culled from Whitesnake's set since Sweden Rock. Song intro-wise, however, David made me laugh when somebody threw an inflated rubber johnny onto the stage and he announced: "What's that, a condom? I haven't used one of those since I was four."
For my money, despite Joe Elliott's own vocal irregularities, Leppard were by far the superior band. Just like Whitesnake they sent the sold-out Arena into waves of warm-waving, shout-it-out-loud delirium. The best part came with an acoustic 'Two Steps Behind', followed by 'Bringin' On The Heartbreak' and a bristling electric conclusion. In a consummate display of arena rock showmanship, their success was sealed with exquisite versions of 'Hysteria' and 'Armageddon It'.
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Wednesday 25th June
Sometimes rock and roll dreams **do** come true, just when you least expect them. Unless you're a resident of the Croydon area and in your mid-forties, chances are you never heard of the Steve Boyce Band first time around. I never did. But last night I took great pleasure in attending a posh lig at the Hard Rock Café in central London that had been thrown in honour of guitarist/vocalist Boyce and his group. There was free drink and grub, and the band got onstage to play for an hour, (barring a one-off show to commemorate the death of their drummer) the first time they'd done so since calling it a day without fanfare of any sort almost 20 years ago. How did all of this happen? Well, several months ago they chose to enter a Virgin Radio competition, the prize for which was to support Eric Clapton in London's Hyde Park. And much to their astonishment, they only went and won it. I spend a lot of time in the company of musicians, sometimes even drummers, and let me tell you, I rarely experience such disbelief and unfettered joy.
This was like Almost Famous crossed with Jim'll Fix it, possibly with a hint of Celebrity Fit Club thrown in for good measure. Nobody was fooling themselves and saying, 'Let's jack in our jobs - this could be the start of something big'. The band's performance was really good, their enormous pleasure from being together again contagious. If further activity does ensue, just like this golden opportunity it'll be one big Brucie Bonus.
Sadly, I won't get to see the SBB with 'Slowhand' on Saturday though I will cross my fingers for them for 20 minutes during the mid-afternoon. Fairytale stories like this one don't come along too often.
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Monday 23rd June
Last night I returned to the IndigO2 for Queensrÿche’s ‘Operation: Mindcrime’ show. Gotta admit, I had my doubts that the Seattle band would do justice to one of the greatest concept discs of all time (I refer, of course, to the original album from 1988, though its 2006 sequel wasn’t anywhere near as shabby as most reviewers seemed to insist). Almost three hours later I exited the hall full of admiration for what I’d just seen. Presented in near-perfect surround sound and with a lavish theatrical stage show, QR had added a few Gulf War references and in a nice twist; we even discovered the identity of who killed hooker-turned-nun, Sister Mary. I won’t ruin the surprise, but it’s not who you might have expected. Likewise some of the songs, including ‘The Mission’, which now has a heavy keyboard treatment, had been given subtle tweaks to accentuate the sense of drama. In fine voice, Geoff Tate took centre stage as Nikki, a ponytailed, leather jacket-clad street junkie who is manipulated by the mysterious Dr X (voiced by Ronnie James Dio, whose image appeared on the screen during the showdown of ‘The Chase’) into assassinating corrupt politicians and public figures. Wonder how much he’d charge to dispose of Gordon Brown? Anyway, playing the role of Mary, long-time band associate Pamela Moore looked and sounded good enough to eat. To be fair, the show did dip a little in Act II. Who on earth thought it would be cool to get those doctors prancing around with giant syringes during ‘A Junkie’s Blues’?! The show’s ‘see-you-in-heaven’ conclusion was also just a little too twee, and to reach it we had endure Nikki’s extended bout of apparent soul-searching guilt the murdering of Dr X. This is just nit-picking, though, and Queensrÿche deserved every last roar of approval that brought them out again for encores of ‘Best I Can’, ‘Jet City Woman’ and ‘Empire’.
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Sunday 22nd June
With the clock ticking towards Def Leppard and Whitesnake's date at Wembley Arena this coming Thursday, I'm hearing that David Coverdale has taken the criticism of fans on board and revamped the band's set-list to include some older material. Here's the set-list they played in Manchester a few nights ago: 'Don't Start My Heart Again', 'Is This Lunch?', 'Slip Of The hip', 'Lie Down (I Think I Need To)', 'Frying In The Brain', 'Straight For The Bank', 'Pill Of The Night', 'Slow An' Needy', 'Lady Nip 'N' Tuck', 'Belgian Tom's Geriatric', 'Ain't Gonna Try No More', 'Here I Go Again (To The Toilet)' and 'Fortified Wine, Women And Song'.
Naaaaah, just kidding, though a spy that really did see the Manchester gig (hi Rich!) informs me that Coverdale repeatedly exposed his man-boobs onstage. "David kept calling them his 'Nipple Puppets', which really wasn't pleasant," claims my source, adding: "With all his talk of shagging, it reminded me of watching your Dad dancing at a wedding, but Whitesnake were actually better than I expected."
Still on the subject of set-lists, a few days ago I stumbled upon a report of one of the first concerts by Steve Priest's new incarnation of Sweet, which took place at the Whisky in LA. Here's what they played: 'Action', 'Hell Raiser', 'Blockbuster', 'Love is Like Oxygen', 'Windy City', 'Wig Wam Bam', 'The Sixteens', 'California Nights', 'Sweet Dream', 'Sweet FA', 'Turn It Down', 'Teenage Rampage', 'Little Willy', 'Fox On The Run', 'Ballroom Blitz' and encores of 'Set Me Free' and 'AC/DC'. Now **that's** something I'd have paid to see...
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Friday 20th June
Given that Jimmy Page and Robert Plant have already both investigated them live, and taking into consideration Classic Rock’s perhaps slightly rash prediction that ‘I Loved You’ will be the best debut album of 2008 (Geoff Barton reviewed it in ’07, but it was actually released in April), it was about time I got to grips with Big Linda… um, so to speak…. Better still, last night the London-based band were opening for Stone Gods, a group that I’m already a fan of. Re: Big Linda, I can now understand the fuss. As a collective they might look a little odd – clean-cut singer Rob Alder resembles a contestant from The Apprentice, the rest like they’ve walked straight from the set of One Man And His Dog – but their sound is rich and hypnotic. Alder uses not one microphone but two, the second cloaking his voice in swirling space-rock sounds, effectively adding an extra instrument to their already impressive armoury. Those Plant comparisons are perhaps most obvious during ‘Get It While You Can’, but as immediate as ‘I Don’t Even Like You’ and ‘Golden Girl’ might be, I enjoyed Big Linda best when they stretched out their final number ‘Windpower’ to a dreamy ten minutes long.
Although ex-Bush man Robin Goodridge had stepped in at the last minute for the ailing Ed Graham, just like last time I saw them at the Underworld back in January, Stone Gods provided excellent, pretension-free entertainment. Guitarist Richie Edwards is really coming into his own as a frontman, and despite the fact that the band’s debut album, ‘Silver Spoons And Broken Bones’, doesn’t drop until July 7, most of the crowd already know the excellent ‘Burn The Witch’, ‘You Brought A Knife To A Gunfight’, ‘Don’t Drink The Water’ and ‘Night Of The Living Dead’. During the encore, Edwards asked the Academy, “What time is it?” After his reply came back, he grinned: “It’s twenty past ten on a Thursday night, eh? That makes it heavy metal time, kids” before the Stone Gods romped through a faithful, neck-loosening rendition of Metallica’s debut album classic ‘Whiplash’. No, I’m not kidding. The buggers played it well, too.
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Thursday 19th June
Forgot to mention that before the Journey gig I dropped by the Planet Rock Radio studio. They wanted to interview me for an Iron Maiden documentary that goes out on Sunday. You'll probably know that the station was recently saved from extinction by music fan Malcolm Bluemel in conjunction with Black Sabbath's Tony Iommi, Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson, Gary Moore and Fish. What a relief that its future has been secured.
Last night I finally found the time to sit down, open a bottle of wine and watch a European Championship game from start to finish. Given the Scandinavian hospitality that Clan Ling had enjoyed not too long ago at Sweden Rock, also because the Russians had played a big part in England's absence from the tournament, I was rooting for Sweden, who needed just a draw to progress to the semi-finals. However, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and chums were undone by a deadly-looking Ruskie side that stuffed them 2-0 with the ease of taking a candy from a baby. It kinda made me grateful that England missed out on a potential second mauling from such worthy opponents.
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Wednesday 18th June
I'm happy to report that Journey's Hammersmith Apollo gig lived up to my lofty expectations. Arnel Pineda resembled (from a distance, at least) Steve Perry and, more importantly, sang just like him. The guy is a human dynamo with a voice of pure gold.
My heart went out to John Parr, who opened the show. Somehow Journey's crew contrived to leave the house music on during his first three numbers, which were performed with minimal lighting and accompanied by a drummer who had barely rehearsed with Parr's band. But John wasn't innocent of blame for the way things turned out, playing just two of his hits - namely 'Naughty Naughty' and 'St Elmo's Fire (Love In Motion)' - and including a tired medley of Fleetwood Mac's 'Oh Well' which drifted into 'Whole Lotta Love' and 'Walk This Way' by Aerosmith instead of 'Running The Endless Mile', 'Magical' or 'Treat Me Like An Animal'.
So thank the Lord that Journey's two-hour set made the trip to Hammersmith worthwhile. The new songs slotted right into the show, and despite my initial reservations Pineda appears to be the answer to all their problems. At one point Chris Squire from Yes wandered past, nodding stageward, smiling and remarking (about Arnel): "Every band should have one". I couldn't agree more. My worst fear is that given the shabby way the band treated Steve Augeri and then Jeff Scott Soto, I fear Journey will use his voice until it burns out, then discard their Philippino cabin boy like a used Kleenex before seeking the next sucker to exploit. Hope I'm wrong, but only time will tell.
Anyway, here's the set-list: 'Never Walk Away', 'Separate Ways (Worlds Apart)', 'Only The Young', 'Stone In Love', 'Keep On Running' (with drummer Deen Castronovo on vocals), 'Ask The Lonely', 'Who's Crying Now', 'Change For The Better', 'Lights', 'After All These Years', 'Mother, Father' (sung by Deen), Piano Solo/'Open Arms', 'Wheel In The Sky', 'Where Did I Lose Your Love', 'Chain Reaction', 'Wildest Dream', 'Edge Of The Blade', 'Faithfully', 'Don't Stop Believing' and encores of 'Escape' and 'Any Way You Want It'.
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Tuesday 17th June
Metal Hammer editor Alex Milas asked me to chaperone a band that was receiving an award at last night's Golden Gods Awards ceremony, which took place at the IndigO2, a short bus ride from where I live. It turned out to be Sharon Den Adel and Ruud Jolie, the singer and guitarist of Within Temptation, who were collecting the gong for Best Metal Label, on behalf of its traditional recipients, Roadrunner Records.
Obviously, those duties precluded me from seeing much of the awards, but the three of us made a point of watching Testament's live performance - which was MIGHTY!! - and we also saw Christina Scabbia of Lacuna Coil singing with Apocalyptica before I escorted Sharon and Rudd to the side of the stage to face the night's master of ceremonies, Oderus Urungus of GWAR, then onto a barrage of photo sessions and interviews.
By the time the work was over and it was safe to partake of a wee dram, I was dismayed to discover the free VIP bar exhausted of funds. No matter, a flock of ladies were offering free shots of Jägermiester. "Here, take two. three, four, as many as you like," one of them kindly suggested. Before too long I was wandering around with eight of their little test tubes in my grubby little paw. Well, as a South London boy I wasn't gonna trek across town to the after-show bash, so I figured it was time to make hay while the sun shone.
There were plenty of interesting people around. I chatted to Max Cavalera, who I hadn't seen in many years. Likewise Metal Blade Records boss Mike Faley. John Davis, the brains behind the Hard Rock Hell Festival (which won Event Of The Year), also provided entertaining company. Still relishing his sobriety, Ace Frehley made a concerted effort to avoid the drunken throng with a low-key arrival. In stark contrast, Saxon's Biff Byford was once again in side-splitting form, but I spent a big chunk of the evening talking to Girlschool, who'd found a way of reversing their red guest wristbands to make them look like white ones, thus entitling them to free booze. A very proud Kim McAuliffe told me some interesting news regarding the band's upcoming 30th anniversary album - it will feature a plethora of special guests, including Tony Iommi, Ronnie James Dio, Lemmy and Phil Campbell from Motörhead, 'Fast' Eddie Clarke and a couple of members of Twisted Sister. How cool is that?!

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Monday 16th June
When it comes to the album of the month for June, there’s no doubt. It’s Journey’s ‘Revelation’ every step of the way. Like most people, I was highly dubious regarding Neal Schon and company’s decision to bring in the untried Steve Perry soundalike Arnel Pineda as lead vocalist. But Holy Cow, the Philippines-born newcomer sounds absolutely awesome on the record. Looking forward to seeing whether they can do it onstage at tomorrow’s gig in London.
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Saturday 14th June
Hello, I’m home from the Download Festival. Only really fancied the first day. Much as I would like to have seen Testament, Ace Frehley, Alter Bridge, Saxon and a few more, the idea of standing around in a field full of 60,000 Offspring and Lostprophets fans didn’t appeal at all (especially following the consistent levels of entertainment that were experienced so recently at Sweden Rock). In fairness, I had a lot of fun. My friend Harj and I supped a bottle of vodka (sweetened with orange juice) during the train ride from St Pancras to Loughborough, spilling the remainder all over us both as our shuttle bus wound through country lanes en route to the site. Alas, we were too late for Stone Gods, AKA The Darkness With The Asshole Removed, so found a comfy perch in the backstage bar until the arrival of Motörhead. As ever, Lemmy and company were good value for money. Besides 'Dr Rock', 'Stay Clean', 'Metropolis', 'Killed By Death' and all the rest, 'Ace Of Spades' featured a guest appearance from much-missed former guitarist Würzel The Bastard.
Kid Rock’s no-show meant an extra 15 minutes for Judas Priest, who'd only been scheduled to play for an hour and a quarter. Unfortunately, Rob Halford wasn’t in great voice and if anyone had suspected Priest would blow the headliners off the stage, they were very much mistaken. Whatever anybody thinks of Gene $immon$ as an individual, Kiss are still capable of putting on a first-class show. Like Halford, Paul Stanley is no longer able to hit the high notes, his attempt at ‘I Was Made For Loving You’ sounding like a tabby cat being strangled. But, hip replacement or no hip replacement, the über-camp Stanley continues to simper and cavort around the stage like the archetypal, oversexed rock ‘n’ roll tart of old. Defiantly referring to the show as ‘Donington’ (as opposed to ‘Download’), Paul is every bit as likeable as $immons is unsavoury.
The first half of the show was dedicated to the ‘Alive’ concert double-set from 1975, though ‘Firehouse’, ‘Watchin’ You’ and ‘Rock Bottom’ were mysteriously left out. If, as seemed to be the case for the less partisan fans, this material was a little obscure for popular taste, then $immon$ lightened the mood by breathing fire at the end of ‘Hotter Than Hell’, and Tommy Thayer ably recreated Frehley’s old ‘rocket-firing guitar’ trick, while Eric Singer’s kit was made to ‘levitate’ during ‘100,000 Years’. The final song, ‘Rock And Roll All Nite’, was accompanied by a billowing tickertape storm, and the band taking their places on elevated platforms at the sides of the stage… incredible stuff. You wanted an encore? You got 40 minutes’ worth, including $immons$ spitting blood and ‘flying’ up to the gantry for ‘I Love It Loud’ and Stanley swinging out over the audience to sing ‘Love Gun’. Old tricks, admittedly, but they still work just fine.
Here’s the Kiss set-list: ‘Deuce’, ‘Strutter’, ‘Got To Choose’, ‘Nothin’ To Lose’, ‘Hotter Than Hell’, ‘C’Mon And Love Me’, ‘Parasite’, ‘She’/Guitar Solo, ‘100,000 Years’ (including Drum Solo), ‘Cold Gin’, ‘Let Me Go Rock And Roll’, ‘Black Diamond’, ‘Rock And Roll All Nite’, ‘Shout It Out Loud’, ‘Lick It Up’ (incorporating The Who’s ‘Won’t Get Fooled Again’), Bass Solo/‘I Love It Loud’, ‘I Was Made For Loving You’, ‘Love Gun’, ‘Detroit Rock City’.
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Friday 13th June
Last night I met up with Ian Mansell, an old boozing buddy from the Marquee Club days, for the first time in… oooh… at least a decade. As veterans of White Lion’s historic residency at the old Wardour Street watering hole, we were both keen to check out singer Mike Tramp’s new incarnation of the band (sadly, our ‘catch-up’ meant I only caught the last three songs by support act Crimes Of Passion, though I enjoyed what little I saw). Despite being one of the few UK journos to write positively about WL’s comeback disc ‘Return Of The Pride’, also somebody that likes Mr Tramp a great deal as an individual, I concede that the show got off to a somewhat tepid start. The first half hour was spent coming to terms with the absence of guitarist Vito Bratta, whose sonic arpeggios and all-round X Factor were so integral to the original group’s soundscape. To Jamie Law’s credit, he resisted the temptation of attempting to copy what had gone before, though the distinct lack of fizz didn’t help my sense of mild alienation. ‘Wait’, the band’s MTV-inspired breakthrough hit, was where it all began to make sense.
The thinner than expected crowd was another source of frustration, though Tramp’s honesty (“We are all holding on to that last flame of rock ‘n’ roll, but as long as I still have long hair they won’t take it away from me”) must have endeared him to those that bothered to turn up, as did a run of well-performed classics such as ‘Tell Me’, ‘Broken Heart’ and ‘Hungry’. Given the absence of ‘Fight To Survive’, ‘Lights And Thunder’ or even the new album’s ‘Live Your Life’, the cover of the Golden Earring classic ‘Radar Love’ caused my heart to sink. Before the final number, Tramp took time to explain Bratta’s absence, explaining that “from day one the door has been open” for the errant guitarist to re-join, also that the next time the pair’s paths are due to cross will be “in a courtroom”. “For 17 years he has chosen not to reach out to the fans or open his fucking mouth, to explain his story,” sighed the Dane. “I just wish the man would have some fucking balls because I’m sick and tired of answering questions [on his behalf]. I’m not stealing anything from him. He’s sitting at home making the same kind of money as I am, but every band has one bitter motherfucker. No matter what, the music of White Lion will go on until the day you don’t want it anymore.”
For what it’s worth, initial reservations aside, I’m right behind Mike's quest to preserve the group’s legacy. Here’s what they played in London: ‘Goin’ Home Tonight’, ‘Little Fighter’,‘Love Don’t Come Easy’, ‘Lonely Nights’, ‘Set Me Free’, ‘El Salvador’, ‘All The Fallen Men’, ‘Wait’, ‘Dream’, ‘Tell Me’, ‘Broken Heart’, ‘Hungry’, ‘Living On The Edge’, ‘The Road To Valhalla’, ‘Lady Of The Valley’, ‘Radar Love’, ‘When The Children Cry’ and ‘Sangre De Cristo’.
P.S. Still on the subject of Golden Earring, can’t recall whether I mentioned the Dutch band (much beloved of Sir Steve of Harris) have lined-up two rare UK shows next March. Just try keeping me away from the Shepherds Bush Empire show.
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Wednesday 11th June
Yesterday was one of those annoying instances when a painful decision must be made. Glenn Hughes at the Astoria, or REO Speedwagon's show at the IndigO2? In the end, knowing that Hughes (and mysterious 'Friends') will be at the Rock & Blues Custom Show in July, I went for the latter option.
This morning, with the benefit of hindsight, I'm left wondering why Kevin Cronin and company bothered to come back so soon after last June's poorly attended bash at Hammersmith Apollo. The IndigO2 crowd was similarly sparse, which probably explains why they slashed 15 minutes from an almost identical set-list. Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed the chance to watch REO again - Cronin is a balladmeister par excellence, and 'Back On The Road Again' remains among my all-time fave tunes - the sound was excellent, but, but. what was the point? Really?
Here's the song-list: 'Don't Let Him Go', 'Take It On The Run', 'Keep Pushin', 'Find Your Own Way Home', 'That Ain't Love', 'Tough Guys', 'Can't Fight This Feeling', 'Dangerous Combination', 'Son Of A Poor Man', 'I Needed To Fall', 'Time For Me To Fly', 'Back On The Road Again', 'Keep On Loving You', 'Roll With The Changes' and an encore of 'Ridin' The Storm Out'.
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Monday 9th June
Well, we're back from Sweden Rock. Alas, yesterday's return flight from Malmö was delayed by two hours, which prevented me from heading off to the Scala to see Sabbat (who, according to guitarist Andy Sneap, were going to perform their 'Dreamweaver' album in its entirety - grrrrr).
I cannot speak highly enough of what I experienced during the past few days. Swedish rock fans were friendly and courteous. Their country was clean and beautiful, without a sign of graffiti. And the show itself, well, it puts Download to shame. If you ever get the chance to go - grab it with both hands.
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Sunday 8th June
I awoke with a kingsize hangover on the morning of Sweden Rock's fourth and final day. Getting to shoot the breeze with Ken Hensley in the hotel reception compensated a little for the fact that I'd decided to watch Ratt instead (purely because the American rodents hadn't played the UK since 1990). Obviously, I didn't tell him that!!
Lizzy Borden began at the ludicrously early time of midday. For a fair-skinned critter like myself, with the Swedish sun directly overhead, the temperature was reaching roasting point. If the LA group's cod-theatrics seemed slightly incongruous in glaring sunlight the quality of such slickly-performed anthems as 'Be One Of Us', 'Sins Of The Flesh', 'Tomorrow Never Comes' and 'Me Against The World' gradually disposed of the crowd's torpor. If they **had** to do cover versions I'd rather have heard 'Live And Let Die' by Wings instead of 'Born To Be Wild', though the set-closing sprint through Rainbow's 'Long Live Rock 'N' Roll' was decent enough.
Though distinctly undervalued in Britain, Gotthard's high-quality melodic hard rock was perfectly suited to the main stage. Blessed with a voice that Coverdale would envy and the stage moves to match, Steve Lee is equally adept at yearning ballads ('The Call', 'Let It Be') and arena-friendly rockers ('Master Of Illusion', 'All We Are'), and after bouncing through 'Lift U Up', the Swiss band's combination of gourmet cheese, enthusiastic polish and hard graft deserved an encore.
It's been seven years since Blue Öyster Cult last released anything new, which is pretty tragic for a group that were once so important. Deprived of a voice, they are reduced to trotting out perfunctory renditions of 'Cities On Flame With Rock 'N' Roll', 'Astronomy' and the evergreen
'Godzilla' and '(Don't Fear) The Reaper'. An entertaining distraction was BÖC's mild needling of and the evolutionary primates that followed them.
"What a great day for a rock show. when I'm done, I'm gonna go and watch Ratt," teased Eric Bloom playfully. The remark reached Stephen Pearcy, who twice referred to the Cult with mock sincerity during his own group's set. Recovering from a slightly rushed start, Ratt purred through more than 20 songs, winding up with an air-punching 'Round And Round'. Don't leave it so long next time, fellas.
With a wheeze and a splutter, the Rock And Roll Machine eased back into life. Canada's Triumph hadn't played together for two decades, something their lumpen versions of 'When The Lights Go Down' and 'Lay It On The Line' failed to hide. However, as confidence grew the show improved. Guitarist Rik Emmett wasn't shy of the high notes on the songs he sang, and save for a superfluous re-make of 'Rocky Mountain Way' by Joe Walsh, they went on to fulfil the expectations of the most demanding fan. My own favourite was the classic 'I Live For The Weekend', though the epic 'Blinding Light Show' was divine. The good news is that the band have promised a world tour next year if they "don't end up killing" one another in Sweden.
Avantasia's 'The Scarecrow' might turn out to be one of the year's best records, but sadly their live performance just didn't hang together. How jumbled could things be when band-leader Tobias Sammet introduced 'Serpents In Paradise' as being about "penises going to heaven"? The brainchild of the Edguy frontman, who dubs their style "metal opera", Avantasia is supposed to be a star-studded coming together of disparate talents. No disrespect to Gamma Ray's Kai Hansen, who depped for Alice Cooper on 'The Toy Master', or to Bob Catley of Magnum, who sang 'The Story Ain't Over' and 'Shelter From The Rain', but with Rudolf Schenker of the Scorps another absentee, the rest of the cast had more in common with The Three Tenners than The Three Tenors.
And so, reluctantly, to the final band. Poison hadn't deigned to visit Europe since their ill-fated spell with Richie Kotzen, back in 1993. With CC DeVille on guitar again, I'd been dying to see them, but they raced through their set with such haste it felt like they couldn't wait to board the flight home. Allotted an hour and a half, Poison arrived late and finished early, their 75 minutes eaten up by an intro tape, encore gap and lame solos from DeVille and drummer Rikki Rockett. Very much a case of: Wham bam, thanks for the $$$, ma’am. Most of debut album 'Look What The Cat Dragged In' was aired, and 'Every Rose Has Its Thorn' still stands up marvellously, but after so long away it felt like taking the piss to include two songs from 2007's disposable 'Poison'd!' covers album ('What I Like About You' by the Romantics and Tom Petty's 'I Need To Know'). It was, in truth, a disappointing end to an otherwise inspirational week.

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Saturday 7th June
Tesla began Day #3 of Sweden Rock with a triumphant set that overturned memories of an atypically flaccid display at last year’s Hard Rock Hell. In baking hot sun and with crystal clear sound they ran through the cream of their catalogue, throwing in a cover of UFO’s ‘Rock Bottom’ for good measure. There really are few better frontmen than Jeff Keith, and what a joy to watch a musician deriving such pleasure from his vocation. Sticking largely to the set they’ve played since reconvening last May, the Toby Jepson-fronted Fastway rendered a good thing better still by adding a buoyant ‘All I Need Is Your Love’.
Sadly, Shakin’ Street were well into their stride by the time I reached the Zeppelin Stage. I hadn’t expected Ross The Boss, the ex-Dictators/Manowar guitarist, to be with them, but there he was churning out the riff to ‘No Compromise’. The foxy Fabienne Shine sports a different size of leather pants these days though the glint in her eye whilst singing ‘I Want To Box You’ suggests she still turns a trick or two… just as well as there’s a new album on its way.
Having seen Ace Frehley at the Astoria back in April, it was time to grab some nosebag before The Poodles introduced their new guitarist Henrik Bergqvist. Didn’t get a chance to watch a whole lot of their set, though ‘Metal Will Stand Tall’ was a titanic example of cartoon-ish, sugar-coated glitter-pop. The long-awaited Carcass reunion took place on the Sweden Stage. Sadly, the soundman did the band’s complex grindcore no favours whatsoever for the first 15 minutes. Then, during ‘Corporeal Jigsore Quandary’, it clicked into place. To my considerable amusement, the ever-sarcastic Jeff Walker even dedicated ‘No Love Lost’, from the brilliant (and recently re-released) ‘Heartwork’ album to my good self. Amid gentle digs at the Gothenburg groups that followed in their wake, Walker called guitarist Bill Steer “the man that said he’d never do this”, adding: “then again, so did I.” Original Carcass sticksman Ken Owen came close to death after slipping into a coma a decade ago. “Unfortunately, he’s still with us,” deadpanned Walker as a badly impaired Owen was assisted onto the stage to pootle around on Arch Enemy loanee Daniel Erlandsson’s kit for a minute or two, receiving a wave of affection and respect in return.
Joe Elliott wasn’t kidding when he warned Classic Rock that Def Leppard’s tour with Whitesnake would be “competitive”. The difference in priorities was easy to see. While Leppard were out to entertain, David Coverdale was hell-bent on force-feeding us with the new ‘Good To Be Bad’ album. Effing and blinding like a geriatric Tourette’s sufferer (“This one goes back fucking years and years; all you young ones, you probably weren’t even fucking born”), Coverdale vainly attempted to preserve his voice with a variety of procrastination techniques; solos for guitarists Doug Aldrich and Reb Beach and drummer Chris Frazier, lengthy band introductions and the inevitable crowd participation segment of ‘Ain’t No Love In The Heart Of The City’ (amazingly, in this instance, the audience was ‘Ready ‘N’ Willing’ but patently didn’t know the words). Of the eleven actual songs that Whitesnake performed, no less than four – ‘Best Years’, ‘Can You Hear The Wind Blow?’, ‘All I Want All I Need’, ‘A Fool In Love’ – came from ‘Good To Be Bad’. When they did play a vintage song, ‘Ain’t Gonna Cry No More’, it was reduced to a limp acoustic pastiche. By contrast, Leppard also mined their own latest disc, ‘Songs From The Sparkle Lounge’, but gave the fans exactly what they wanted, a conveyor belt of glittering hits ‘Rocket’, ‘Animal’, ‘Foolin’’, ‘Mirror Mirror’, ‘Love Bites’, ‘Photograph’, ‘Rock Of Ages’ and the classic ‘Hysteria’ sealing a night of triumph.
Back at the hotel, Mrs L and I sat in the bar until sunrise, demolishing a bottle of Bacardi with Brian Robertson and his manager Soren Lindberg whilst attempting to set a Guinness Book Of Records entry for talking the most utter puerile bollocks in the history of mankind. We succeeded, of course…
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Friday 6th June
With around 25 bands performing each day across four different stages, the Sweden Rock organisers do their best to rule out clashes of style and mostly manage it well enough. The only times I bit my tongue were when the schedules of Ratt and Hensley/Lawton’s Live Fire and Testament and Derringer happened to collide. Unlike so many other festivals, the show runs like clockwork with rapid changeovers, and is largely asshole-free. The only time I saw somebody throw a bottle at the stage all weekend was during Tesla’s set (and even then, Jeff Keith caught it and smilingly remarked: “I love beer, but not like that”). With Sebastian Bach failing to show up due to flight problems, here’s what I watched on Day #2.
Given that singer Ralf Scheepers almost replaced Rob Halford, it was appropriate that Primal Fear performed on the day headlined by Judas Priest. With powerful, hummable song arrangements that gleam like chrome in the sunlight, their set was a revelation. Though complete unknowns in the UK, Denmark’s Volbeat are phenomenally popular on mainland Europe. Influenced by Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and Megadeth, their dark, rhythmic hard pop is extremely catchy, but if it all gets a little too testosterone-charged there’s always the mildly boogie-fied blues of Omar & The Howlers over on the Rock Stage. For 70 minutes of their allotted hour and a half, Coheed & Cambria were utterly mesmerising. Despite bursting into Iron Maiden’s ‘The Trooper’ midway through, the show was slightly flawed by a space-rock jam and seemingly interminable drum solo.
Back together for the first time in 32 years, the classic Derringer line-up delivered an immaculate, incendiary display of foot-stomping hard rock. “One of our favourite things about being together again is that we’ve still got hair,” chuckled Rick Derringer, introducing one of the finest songs played all weekend, “and we’re ‘Still Alive And Well’.”
As dusk settled behind the Zeppelin stage, guitarist Vinny Burns played with Dare once more. Burns and singer Darren Wharton lock in a manly embrace after two numbers, which is touching. In the proverbial game of two halves, the band filled the first half of their set with the ethereal Celtic-flavoured fare they recorded during the late-90s before older songs like ‘Abandon’, ‘Into The Fire’ and ‘The Raindance’ lit my own personal powder keg. After a re-worked version of Thin Lizzy’s ‘Emerald’, that band’s ex-guitarist Brian Robertson walked out to add spice to ‘Jailbreak’ and ‘Rosalie’.
How feeble was the band attempting to pass itself off as Electric Light Orchestra? Inexcusably so. A motley array of old gits who’d had the honour of playing with the wisely absent Jeff Lynne, they administered the cabaret treatment to ‘Telephone Line’, ‘Turn To Stone’ and, appropriately, ‘Hold On Tight To Your Dream’. Sadly, to tap a line from ‘Mr Blue Sky’, I’ll end up remembering ELO this way.
What about headliners Judas Priest? Well, their set-list was a bit of a mess. Opening with ‘Prophecy’, they included one other song (‘Death’) from the new ‘Nostradamus’ album and threw in several wild cards (‘Between The Hammer And The Anvil’, ‘Eat Me Alive’). If ‘Living After Midnight’ was a glaring omission, ‘Dissident Aggressor (from 1977’s ‘Sin After Sin’) softened the blow. Rob Halford’s voice isn’t what it once was, but for the most part it sounded okay – better, certainly, than on certain nights on the band’s last tour – and he was brave enough to attempt ‘Sinner’. They receive a cautious thumbs-up from yours truly.
The hotel bar was stuffed with members of Saxon, Dare, Tesla, Primal Fear, Ace Frehley’s band and Crucified Barbara, alongside Brian Robertson and Kai Hansen. Brian Wheat and Frank Hannon played me a demo of a new Tesla song on Wheat’s laptop, which sounded great. Thrilled by my Metal Hammer review of the band’s show at Shepherds Bush Empire, Saxon’s Biff Byford was in convivial mood (read: ‘pissed out of his head’, indeed he later wrote in his own blog: ‘I got myself a large wine, turned around and tripped over Dave Ling’… slight exaggeration). I’ve never known Biff to be such pleasant, effervescent company. As the sun rose, I tried to sneak out of the bar and back to my room. “Are you reviewing the festival?” challenged Byford. When I replied in the affirmative, he forced another vodka into my hand and demanded: “Well, leave us the fuck out. You couldn’t beat the one you just wrote. You’re on a roll, don’t burst that bubble.”
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Thursday 5th June
Here’s a quick appraisal of Sweden Rock 2008, Day One. An excited Clan Ling flew out of Gatwick on Tuesday evening to arrive in Malmö at around midnight. From there it had looked a relatively easy drive to the site, which we understood was in Sölvesborg (with the hotel close nearby). Both of these facts turned out incorrect, and at 4.40am we were still driving around the Sölvesborg seeking somebody – anybody! – from whom to ask directions. As we finally got to bed at our luxurious spa-side accommodation in Ronneby Brunnspark, 45 minutes down the road, the sun was well and truly in the sky. Luckily, Day #1 was something of a dress rehearsal for what was to follow (this year is the first time that Sweden Rock has run for four days). So we sat around and drank with my Swedish pal Stefan Johansson as a steady build up of punters arrived at the site.
Even at such an early stage, it became apparent that (hefty bar prices aside) Sweden Rock is a heaven on earth for serious fans of rock music. A procession of incredible long-lost T-shirts passed by, including Oxen Killer, Elixir, Kick Axe and even Classic Rock magazine… I favoured my Phantom Blue jobbie, in honour of Michelle Meldrum (RIP). Korplikaani’s crazy, harmonium and violin-fuelled hoedowns caused an early evening stir, but Airbourne were the first real group worthy of serious attention. Their shamelessly AC/DC-inspired boogie really hit the spot, vocalist Joel O’Keeffe sealing the crowd’s approval by scaling scaffolding at the side of the stage, ascending as far as the lighting rig with guitar dangling dangerously from his side. One slip and he’d have been a goner.
The tuneful melodic power metal of local lads Sabaton went down better still, though to these ears it all sounded just a little too by-numbers. The band I’d really been waiting for was Satyricon, who closed the main stage just before midnight. The long-running Norwegian duo really is among the very few acts still doing anything remotely interesting with black metal anymore, and if ‘Havoc Vulture’, ‘Repined Bastard Nation’, ‘To The Mountains’ and ‘The Pentagram Burns’ sounded great in the chilly night air, then the dark edginess of new single ‘My Skin Is Cold’ simply ruled.
With time to kill before the coach returned to the hotel, there was time to catch the final few songs of Sweet Savage, who were on in the Gibson tent. ‘Lady Of The Night’ and ‘Killing Time’, the latter famously covered by Metallica, had the place rocking like no-one’s business, though I seemed to be alone in thinking that segueing into Thin Lizzy’s ‘Whiskey In The Jar’ by dint of shared nationality was perhaps a little gratuitous.
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Tuesday 3rd June
London is being doused in a persistent sheen of fine rain. So it's good job that I depart for the Sweden Rock festival, where the temperature is expected to be lodged in the mid-80s, in several hours. Having spent a while poring over the running times, my one frustration is that Ratt and Ken Henley and John Lawton's Live Fire are both due to play at the exact time, on different stages (of course). That's a tough one to call. Anyway, here are this month's Playlist and YouTube.
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Monday 2nd June
here's disappointing, though not wholly unexpected, news for Palace followers. Despite having professed to be a CPFC fan and promised to sign a senior contract on May 31, Academy protégé John Bostock has turned his back on the club that discovered him to sign a big money deal with Tottenham Hotpsur instead. With Chelski, Man Ure and Spanish giants Barcelona also sniffing around the 16-year-old, who made his debut for the Eagles against Watford last term, I wasn't naive enough to expect Bostock to pledge a lifelong allegiance to Selhurst Park, but to flee the nest **this** soon reeks of greenback fever. And Spurs? SPURS??!! The club that did such a terrific job of nurturing another of our kid wonders, Wayne Routledge. The lad Bostock has been poorly advised in my opinion.
Still on the subject of 'the beautiful game', last night Mrs L and I drained a large bottle of vodka whilst savouring the extended season finale of Lost, then watching the late-night televised friendly between Trindad & Tobago and England. It was men against boys as Capello's team romped home to triumph by three clear goals, with energy to spare. T&T were so shamefully abysmal that even the hapless Jermain Defoe - international football's equivalent of Stevie Wonder - had no problems in planting two past them... which says plenty.
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Sunday 1st June
Just home from a record fair. Almost strained my bloody back in carrying a shopping full bag of goodies, including Joni Mitchell's double live album 'Shadows And Light', 'Sneak Me In' by Lucifer's Friend (sadly, John Lawton's not on that one), a 1974 obscurity from a band called Fallenrock (for a measly quid I'll take a chance on just about anything released by Capricorn Records), Venom's 'Official Bootleg' and a Frankie Miller oldie that I didn't have.