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)

Back to the Diary Archives

Thursday 30th June
Steve ‘No Relation’ Way and I enjoyed the induction evening of Eagles Fitter Fans, but having managed to shed two stone since the news of my divorce I fear I might’ve peaked too early; there’s a prize of an autographed, framed CPFC shirt for the participant that manages to lose the most weight. No matter, weighing in at 11 stone eight, my primary goal is no longer weight loss, more to do with finding a lifestyle that allows me to keep it off. The indoor part of the course takes place in a classroom hidden away in Selhurst Park’s Main Stand, a place I didn’t even know existed. Having arrived a little early, Steve and I wandered around the ground before the course began and took some photos of one another in the home dugout… great fun. Next week the hard work begins.
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Wednesday 29th June
Having eaten way too much junk food over the past 24 hours and supped enough Pimms to fill a small bathtub, it’s fortuitous that today marks the beginning of stage three of Crystal Palace’s Eagles Fitter Fans programme, a ten-week initiative held at the Selhurst Park Study Centre that allows its participants to train like the players to lose weight, learn about physical techniques for getting fit and also about diet and nutrition. The first two groups managed to lose a total of 352lbs between them, so far, which is the equivalent of just over 25 stone. So I’m told, the final week is taken up by an eleven-a-side game on the hallowed Selhurst turf. There’s also an opportunity to meet CPFC legends and current players in Q & A sessions… I can’t wait. Tonight is an induction-only evening, presumably some kind of weigh-in, so I’ve just been out for a run to burn off a little of the post-Oval… er… ovalness.
P.S. I’m relieved that Ace Frehley has added a London gig to his schedule in December as I’ve just realised that the ex-Kiss guitarist’s spot at the Hard Rock Hell clashes with the Eagles’ home game with Derby County. The thought of missing the Spaceman performing his 1978 solo album in its entirety would’ve been too awful to consider.
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Tuesday 28th June
It’s getting late and I’m just home from a rain-interrupted yet thoroughly enjoyable day’s play at The Oval. I’d already bought tickets to the 50-over game between England and Sri Lanka, but when the future ex-wife happened to win a pair worth £67 apiece, I decided to flog mine and take eldest son Eddie to his first live experience of leather on willow. The weather gods did their best to scupper the day, delaying the game’s start and eventually reducing things to 32 overs apiece after a mid-afternoon deluge that saw yours truly take root in the bar, sinking one ice-cold Pimms and lemonade after another.
The game?!? Oh yeah… the game. England thrashed the tourists in the first fixture of the series, taking several breathtaking catches and courtesy of some exemplary bowling (notably from Jimmy Anderson and Graeme Swann). The final margin of victory, 110 runs, flattered Sri Lanka, who at one point were reeling at 15-4. It was a great way for Eddie to have broken his duck, and I’m sure we’ll go again…
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Monday 27th June
Steve Lukather must be a happy man. Several months ago the Toto guitarist told me of a strong desire to erase the memory of a disappointing display from his band Toto at London’s Hammersmith Apollo in February ’05 through the performance of a bigger and better show at the same venue. “With that final incarnation [of the band], Bobby [Kimball] was really struggling vocally,” he said, before adding: “At Hammersmith there were technical problems and it was hard to listen to the some of the vocals.”
Well, last night Toto laid to rest the ghost of that piss-poor display. With Joseph Williams having replaced Kimball at the mic, they played a slick and deeply satisfying two hour-show, enhanced by perfect sound and great lighting. Lukather seemed to be having the time of his life, even introducing the band twice. This might have been due to embarrassing a few people on the stage with an exuberant declaration that Williams, who is the son of the Star Wars musical creator John, was “the only person ever to have seen the inside of John Williams’ penis.” Nevertheless, Joseph was in fine voice, and as Toto cruised through such aural delights as ‘Pamela’ and ‘Stop Loving You’ I swear that the earth almost moved. It was even possible to forgive them a slightly gratuitous version of Michael Jackson’s ‘Human Nature’.
Here’s the full list of what was played: ‘Child’s Anthem’, ‘Till The End’, ‘Afraid Of Love’, ‘Lovers In The Night’, ‘Somewhere Tonight’ (including Bob Marley’s ‘No Woman No Cry’), ‘Pamela’, the rarely performed ‘Lea’, ‘Gift Of Faith’, Keyboard Solos, ‘Africa’, ‘Human Nature’, ‘Rosanna’, ‘Georgy Porgy’, ‘Stop Loving You’ and ‘Home Of The Brave’, with an encore of the perennial ‘Hold The Line’. Check out Jason Ritchie’s similarly glowing review of the show here.
[Edit: One more thing I’ve just recalled about the Toto gig: Such was the enthusiasm of certain participants, it contained some of the most horrendously unforgiveable dad-dancing that I’ve ever witnessed. David Paich and Williams were so animated, so rhythmically uncoordinated, they made Thunder’s Danny Bowes look like John Travolta].
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Sunday 26th June
An appreciation of late night’s London gig from Cinderella was wholly dependent upon a keenness to worship at the altar, or conversely how much one wanted singer Tom Keifer to have succeeded. Keifer has undoubtedly been through the wringer these past few years, undergoing six surgeries to restore his once-proud voice and effectively having to re-teach himself how to sing. So nobody was too surprised when Cinderella performed for only around an hour and ten minutes. Shepherd’s Bush Empire went absolutely bonkers from start to finish, but I’m afraid I didn’t really share the enthusiasm of the diehards. Though the band – comprising the classic-era members guitarist Jeff LaBar, bassist Eric Brittingham and drummer Fred Coury – were water-tight, and of course there were obvious mitigating circumstances for Keifer’s heroic though sometimes below-par display, a 6/10 performance must remain a 6/10 performance. Here’s the set-list: ‘Once Around The Ride’, ‘Shake Me’, ‘Heartbreak Station’, ‘Somebody Save Me’, ‘Night Songs’, ‘The More Things Change’, ‘Coming Home’, ‘Second Wind’, ‘Don’t Know What You Got (Till It’s Gone)’, ‘Nobody’s Fool’ and ‘Gypsy Road’, followed by ‘Long Cold Winter’ and ‘Shelter Me’.
Following the show my friend Andy Beare and I ended up in – of all places – the St Moritz Club, a Wardour Street after-hours watering hole often frequented after nights out at the ‘old’ Marquee Club. Having spent so much time (and money!) there during the 1980s and ’90s and been absent from the place for so long, it was a slightly surreal and disconcerting experience. But that didn’t stop us from staying till they threw us out at gone 3am!!
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Saturday 25th June
Prior to today’s phone interview with their guitarist/keyboard player Robert Säll, I’ve spent a great deal of time getting to know the second album from Swedish melodic rockers Work Of Art. Titled ‘In Progress’ due to its lengthy and complex period of gestation and set to be released by Frontiers Records on August 26m it’s an absolute monster. Seriously… you won’t hear a better AOR song than ‘The Rain’ all year.
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Friday 24th June
Having passed it several times by car and promised myself that someday I’d make the time to take a closer look, I finally got a better view of London’s newly built Olympic Stadium. I was doing an interview with the band Vega at a photo studio nearby, so made a point of arriving there nice ‘n’ early. It looks extremely imposing – but then at cost of £537 million, so it should.

After the interview with Vega, which went extremely well, it was over to the Islington Academy for Night Ranger’s first UK show since 1985 (when they supported Foreigner at Wembley Arena). Thanks to the UK’s customs officers who detained the band for seven hours, the group’s delayed arrival at the venue set off a whole chain of annoying events. The show ran late, support act Airrace were nearly bumped from the bill and there was a good deal of grumpiness in the air (certainly from yours truly, who was still stuck outside the Academy mere minutes before Airrace began thanks to the Frontiers Records guest list turning up late).
Hampered by all sorts of sound issues and with Leon Lawson, probably best known for having played with Praying Mantis, depping for regular keys player Chris Williams, Airrace have played better gigs. Taking the stage without a soundcheck and forced to trim their set to 30 minutes, the band were limited to just seven songs (‘Two Of A Kind’, ‘Don’t Lose Yourself’, ‘Open Your Eyes’, ‘Promise To Call’, ‘First One Over The Line’, ‘You’d Better Believe It’ and ‘Brief Encounter’) but the packed crowd warmed to them once the balance levels were sorted and the annoying clicks and pops dropped out of the PA.
An interview with bassist Jack Blades in the new issue of Fireworks magazine had suggested that Night Ranger might play for two hours at this extremely rare UK appearance. Its circumstances killed that idea stone dead, and following a lengthy changeover by the time the band took the stage at 9.25pm the audience’s annoyance was threatening to boil over. Fortunately, a fabulous performance from the headliners quelled the mood. I could’ve done without the various solo spots or the inclusion of an acoustic song (‘LA No Name’) that only appears on the US band’s new record, ‘Somewhere In California’, the puzzling addition of snippets from ‘Hotel California’ and ‘Highway Star’ also serving to distract from the genius of one the night’s finest songs (‘Don’t Tell Me You Love Me’), but my… what a performance and what a reaction. After the final chords of ‘Sing Me Away’ rang out, the Academy stood and bellowed its unanimous approval. Blades is a wonderful, engaging frontman and I, for one, was thrilled by Night Ranger’s performance of the Damn Yankees classic ‘Coming Of Age’, though when Blades mentioned his name during its introduction there was brief but genuine fear that he would announce: “And here’s tonight’s special guest, Ted Nugent…”.
Yes, you can still rock in the UK. Night Ranger proved it. Here’s their set-list: ‘Rock And Roll Tonight’, ‘A Touch Of Madness’, ‘Sing Me Away’, ‘Somewhere In California’, ‘The Secret Of My Success’, Key Solo, ‘Sentimental Street’, ‘Eddie’s Comin’ Out Tonight’, ‘LA No Name’, ‘Goodbye’, Guitar Solo, ‘Lay It On Me’, ‘Coming Of Age’, ‘Four In The Morning’, ‘When You Close Your Eyes’, ‘Don’t Tell Me You Love Me’ and encores of ‘No Time To Lose’, ‘Sister Christian’ and ‘(You Can Still) Rock In America’.
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Thursday 23rd June
The friends of Leslie West have rallied around the Mountain guitarist following a recent amputation (see Tuesday). ZZ Top guitarist Billy Gibbons says: “Leslie will no doubt bounce back with his unusually bionic blitz of guitarosciousness. He will always be playing and standing on higher ground.” Perhaps improbably, mere hours after the surgery West appeared on the radio show of his old mate Howard Stern (link here), sounding unexpectedly chipper. I can’t believe that Stern had the cheek to ask West what had happened to the limb....
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Wednesday 22nd June
Regular readers of this page will know that, as a super-obsessed fan of Crystal Palace FC, I’m unable even to utter the name of our fierce rivals, Br***ton & Homo Albion, let alone set foot in the confounded place. So on earth what was I doing behind enemy lines, down on the South Coast, yesterday? Well, since hearing (and indeed reviewing) their album ‘Out Of The Pit’, I’ve wanted to check out the Canadian, female-fronted metalheads Kobra & The Lotus. The band, whose aforementioned debut record was produced by Kevin Shirley (Iron Maiden, BCC, Aerosmith, etc) and none other than ex-Goddo legend Greg Godovitz – the former having handled the vocals, the latter instrumentally – are due to play here in London on Sunday, but said gig happens to clash with the unmissable Toto at the Hammersmith Apollo. So I jumped onto a train and used the opportunity of a show at The Hydrant as an excuse to catch up with a few people including Claire Lloyd and Seven Webster from 7pm management, who represent the excellent Skindred among other acts.
Apart from my homeward-bound train sitting stationary at Preston Park for 45 minutes for no apparent reason, it turned out a fabulous evening. The vodka and Diet Cokes flowed over a tasty Thai curry. With several other bands booked, situation-wise the K&TL gig wasn’t ideal but barring a few sound gremlins the group’s 35-minute display matched expectations. Besides thundering through a cover of Sabbath’s ‘Heaven And Hell’ and a solitary track from ‘Out Of The Pit’ (‘Ballad Of Jane Doe’), Brittany Paige and company elected to preview four songs – namely ‘Aria Of Karmika’, ‘Dark Passenger’, ‘Nothing Good Lasts Forever’ and ‘Welcome To My Funeral’ – from a new album called ‘Visionary’ that’s due to drop later this year. On the evidence presented it’s likely to be a bit of a corker.
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Tuesday 21st June
I was at the Beaverwood Club in Chislehurst watching a rare UK club gig from Walter Trout when the texts began to pour in. No, not the ones about Bernie Marsden having jammed with Whitesnake on a couple of numbers down the road at Hammersmith… There was distressing news about Leslie West. Mountain’s mainman had undergone an amputation… Holy shit! The revelation served to remove the sheen from an excellent gig by the Troutmeister, and a decent warm-up set by the ridiculously named
“This is our first time here at the Beaverwood,” said Walter with a grin as he added: “I’ve been known to find some wood at the sight of an attractive beaver.” Haven’t we all, matey? Fair play to WT, who these days is accustomed to playing larger venues such as Shepherd’s Bush Empire, but slotted in last night’s show as a personal favour to Pete Feenstra, the promoter that booked his earliest British dates. Despite being cramped and sweaty, the band played for just short of two hours, with tour manager Andrew Elt – the same guy that was in Dutch band the Sleeze Beez?! – stepping up to contribute some excellent vocals during a song that I think was called ‘Lord Have Mercy’.
Feenstra took me back to the dressing room to say ‘hi’ to Walter. When I chastised him mildly for not having played ‘Life In The Jungle’, the title cut of his debut album from 1989, the guitarist replied he’d have done so had he known I was in the house. “It’s so tough to play everything; the other day I looked on my iPod and realised I had 250 of my own songs,” he explained, “and I don’t have all of my albums on there!” Afterwards, my friend Andy Beare and I stood around and sank some vodka and Diet Cokes, toasting the improved future health of Mr West.
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Sunday 19th June
Email from Danny Bowes, who has received a quantity of finished copies of Terraplane's 'The Singles Anthology' that were sent to him by Lemon Recordings for distribution to the other four ex-band members. "All good, apart from our hair and clothes on the cover, of course," the singer jokes,
"oh and the music...".
Talking of matters postal, my Saturday morning involved a visit to the local sorting office to collect a package from Eagle Vision that was too large for the letter box. It contained the CD and DVD of Bad Company 'Live At Wembley', a gig witnessed by my pal Steve 'No relation' Way and I last April, and 'Live At The Greek 1982' by the Doobie Brothers - a show filmed and recorded with Michael McDonald on vocals. Looks good.
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Saturday 18th June
Like many others that witnessed their debut UK tour, I was uncertain of my expectations regarding the Dio Disciples, a collective of former members of Dio (the band), plus much-travelled bassist James Lomenzo and the vocal pairing of Tim ‘Ripper’ Owens and Toby Jepson. They’d pleasantly surprised me at Download, but only for 30 minutes. How would the band fare over the course of a full show?
Fronted by RJD’s cousin, Dave ‘Rock’ Feinstein, The Rods were first up… **and I almost missed ’em**! I’d been told they were due onstage at 7.35, so imagine my surprise when I walked past the Islington Academy at five to seven and was informed they were on in five minutes! Though my heart went out to the New Yorkers, faced by a miniscule crowd and forced to curtail their first number when Feinstein’s guitar failed, their support set was nevertheless disappointing. Too many of their songs were crammed into medleys, and what was the point of allowing drummer Carl Canedy a solo with an hour-glass counting down their 40 minutes? No doubt about it, they played some fine material (including ‘Hurricane’, ‘I Just Wanna Rock’, ‘Evil In Me’, ‘Let There Be Metal’, ‘Born To Rock’, ‘Wild Dogs’, ‘Waiting For Tomorrow’, ‘Violation’, ‘The Night Lives To Rock’, ‘Nothing Going On In The City’, ‘Crank It Up’, ‘Power Lover’), but having waited 29 years to see them again since they opened for Maiden on the ‘Number Of The Beast’ tour, at the Academy the Rods were just too disjointed to really enjoy.
Conversely, the Dio Disciples matched all expectations – and more. Owens really has the knack of interpreting RJD’s balls-out anthems, whilst Jepson stepped up manfully to handle more melodic tunes such as ‘Children Of The Sea’ and an excerpt of ‘Catch The Rainbow’. And when the pair worked together, delivering lines in tandem on ‘Stargazer’ and ‘Straight Through The Heart’, the result was truly marvellous. With ex-Rainbow Doogie White dropping by to perform ‘Long Live Rock ‘N’ Roll’ and ‘The Man On The Silver Mountain’, the Academy roared its approval for 105 minutes. It was hard to imagine anybody that cared enough to buy a ticket walking away without having enjoyed what they’d seen.
Here’s the set-list: ‘Stand Up And Shout’, ‘Holy Diver’, ‘Don’t Talk To Strangers’, ‘Egypt (The Chains Are On)’, ‘The King Of Rock ‘N’ Roll’, Guitar Solo, ‘Catch The Rainbow (Excerpt)’, ‘Stargazer’, ‘Neon Knights, ‘Straight Through The Heart’, ‘Children Of The Sea’, ‘Killing The Dragon’, ‘The Last In Line’, ‘Long Live Rock ‘N’ Roll’, ‘The Man On The Silver Mountain’ and ‘Heaven And Hell’, with encores of ‘Rainbow In The Dark’ and ‘We Rock’.
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Friday 17th June
This morning I was poised at the PC at 9am, awaiting the announcement of the 2011/’12 footie fixtures. Was the computer **finally** going to do me a favour over Firefest weekend, or pit the Eagles at home to Wet Sham or something similarly unmissable? There were whoops of joy as CPFC were paired with Ipswich Town at Portman Road, a ground I’ve visited many, many times. Nottingham here we come!!
Yesterday’s gig schedule offered another of those annoying clashes: the farewell UK performance of veteran Southern Rockers Doc Holliday at the Peel versus Neal Morse at Koko? Hmmm… It was a tough one. In the end, even though the Peel is (for me, at least) in the arse-end of nowhere, I decided that I’d just have to do my best to catch Morse at High Voltage instead.
Having been informed that Doc Holliday were onstage at 9pm, and with my eye set firmly on a train that was due to leave Norbiton for Waterloo at 11.06pm (with another overground journey still to follow), you can imagine my frustration as that time came and went; so did 9.15, 9.30 and 9.45. Proceedings finally began at 10.05pm, which meant missing the encores in order to catch the last possible train home… grrrrr.
Barring the odd small glitch such as a pub-rock stab at ‘Hey Bo Diddley’ that caused anxious glances at the wristwatch from yours truly, Doc Holliday were absolutely magnificent. Shame on all of those that stayed at home or in the pub instead of turning up to wave them off. Guitarist/singer Bruce Brookshire and company sounded amazing with a full and rich front-of-house mix, despatching one hook-enriched Southern gem after another – even a melodious version of the Marshall Tucker Band’s ‘Fire On The Mountain’. It was with great reluctance that I snuck out after a moving rendition of ‘Lonesome Guitar’ in order to avoid spending the night on the station. Here’s what was played: ‘Last Ride’, ‘Never Another Night’, ‘Bad Love’, ‘Fire On The Mountain’, ‘Magic Midnite’, ‘Moonshine Runner’, ‘Hey Bo Diddley’, ‘Trudy’, ‘Thunder ‘N’ Lightning’, ‘Redneck Rock ‘N’ Roll Band’, ‘Song For The Outlaw’, ‘Highway Call’, ‘Lonesome Guitar’. (‘Keep On Running’ was also on the set-list, but got dropped… presumably for curfew reasons).
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Thursday 16th June
Interviews-wise, it’s been a hectic couple of days. In a story to promote The Enid’s spot at High Voltage, Robert John Godfrey gave me some excellent quotes about the current state of the progressive rock scene, also his thoughts on the show’s running order. I bet that Mostly Autumn’s ears were burning. There was also an interesting conversation with Steve Von Till – primary school teacher by day and frontman of influential noisemongers Neurosis by night. A very lucid-sounding Michael Schenker has also just informed me that, should everything go according to plan, his brother Rudolf will fly into to HV and play ‘Rock You Like A Hurricane’ with him!! It’s a crying shame that Rudolf couldn’t bring the rest of the Scorps with him – they really should be on that bill.
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Wednesday 15th June
Having chin-wagged with Rob Halford and Glenn Tipton at the Golden Gods on Monday night, I was intrigued to spot yesterday’s clarification about the future of Judas Priest. The pair had spoken enthusiastically of a new Priest record that’s still in the writing stages, so their new statement is handy. “When we announced the farewell tour, we stated that it was our last major world tour. Nothing has changed — we didn’t say that it was the end of the band or that we were going to retire or the band was going to break up... just that it would be the last major world tour we would be doing, which is still the case,” reveals the press release, adding: “We have plans for a new album, plus possible future releases, and we would still consider doing the odd live show — if it is something special or for a great cause — but no more world tours.”
Meanwhile, Priest’s 21-song set-list from the Sauna Open Air festival in Finland looks pretty interesting, with the likes of ‘Blood Red Skies’, ‘Never Satisfied’, ‘The Sentinel’, ‘Victim Of Changes’, ‘Rapid Fire’, ‘Beyond The Realms Of Death’ and the mighty ‘Starbreaker’ all included. Very promising, I must say…
I’ve just received a finished copy of Terraplane’s ‘The Singles Collection’ from Lemon Recordings. I’m extremely happy with the way the project turned out, though the 19th Nervous Breakdance Mix of ‘If That’s Wha It Takes’, which features a rapper borrowed from the Culture Club family, hasn’t got any less cringeworthy. In the sleeve notes (penned by yours truly), Luke Morley reveals: “The first time I heard it, I laughed myself rotten…”, before a grinning Danny Bowes takes up the story: “…And then he realised it was on our record!” Terraplane were a band that I saw many, many times. I really hope that people buy ‘The Singles Collection’ as there are some vintage live recordings that could be released should some sort of demand reveal itself.
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Tuesday 14th June
I was happy to accept editor Alex Milas’ invitation to conduct the backstage acceptance interviews with the winners of last night’s Metal Hammer Golden Gods awards. This pretty much involves thrusting my tape recorder under the nostrils of a conveyor belt of rock and metal musos. It sounds glamorous, and of course having grabbed quotes from the likes of Rob Zombie, Rob Halford and KK Downing, Pepper Keenan and Kirk Windstein from Down, that’s pretty much what it is, though the process involves a certain amount of stress. Indeed, my determination to watch Twisted Sister’s live set meant that one of the winners (Brian Tatler from Diamond Head, who had collected Spirit Of Hammer) left the IndigO2 without supplying a quote. Luckily, I was able to catch Brian on his mobile this morning as he headed back to Stourbridge.
With my copy due by lunchtime, boozing was off limits. However, what little I saw (and heard) of the music and the actual awards ceremony was great. Alice Cooper got a few laughs by announcing the night’s final Golden God category to Rob Zombie with the words: “Previous winners include Lemmy, Zakk Wylde, Marilyn Manson… whoever that [last one] is…”. And, blessed with a fabulous live sound, Twisted Sister – who picked up the Inspiration gong – were utterly superb, running through ‘You can’t Stop Rock ‘N’ Roll’, ‘Shoot ’Em Down’, ‘We’re Not Gonna Take It’, ‘I Am (I’m Me)’ and ‘I Wanna Rock’. Though they went down an absolute storm I sensed a palpable air of anticlimax from the TS camp, Jay Jay French telling me that after Download, at which they’d been forced to cut two songs from their set, the band felt they had short-changed their fans by performing for less than half an hour at the IndigO2. “We’re so pumped up, we want to be out there for an hour and a half or even two hours,” he moaned. My reply – namely that 25 Twisted Sister minutes are better than 90 mins by just about any other band – seemed to cheer him up a little.
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Monday 13th June
Am back safely in the bosom of South London after my enjoyable jaunt to Castle Donington. Some of the return train journey was spent transcribing the final segment of a long phone interview with Leslie West. There simply are not enough hours in the day (cont’d Page 246…).
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Sunday 12th June
Am so glad that I decided to miss out the final day of Download – it’s peeing down as I type, preparing to head back to London.
My Saturday began with The Rods in the Pepsi Max tent at the unearthly hour of 11am. I’ll give them a [7] – it wasn’t the band’s fault that they had only 20 minutes to play, but the set-closing medley of golden oldies ‘Nothing Going On In The City’, ‘Crank It Up’ and ‘Power Lover’ was mightily impressive. Houston [6] still have plenty of work to do, I’m afraid. Heading over to the Jägermiester stage, Skin [7] played an excellent acoustic set which concluded with a version of ‘Look But Don’t Touch’ which was dedicated to yours truly by Myke Gray when he saw me lurking in the crowd. Oh, how I laughed!
The rest of the day was spent over at the Second Stage, which in purely meteorological terms was cold, windy and depressing. Luckily the bands that we watched there were, for the most part, great. Now into their second year at Download, Rock Sugar [6] specialise in ‘mash-ups’ of metal and pop tunes such as Madonna’s ‘Like A Prayer’ with ‘You Shook Me All Night Long’ by AC/DC. Former Loud And Clear mouthpiece Jess Harnell remains a fabulous singer and his band are amusing enough at first but the novelty wears off quickly. Dan Reed [7] reprised a few of his songs from the Network days, including ‘Cruise Together’, ‘Get To You’ and ‘Tiger In A Dress’. I’ve a sneaky feeling that their creator might even find his feet again if we give him enough time.
Dio Disciples [8] were far from the car crash that many will have expected. At times Tim ‘Ripper’ Owens sounds so much like Ronnie James Dio that it’s almost scary, and with Toby Jepson doubling up on ‘Stargazer’ and handling ‘Long Live Rock ‘N’ Roll’ alone, the Disciples successfully defused all accusations of trampling upon the heritage of a legend. Given his achievements with Judas Priest, it’s about time that Owens had his own impressionist show on BBC4.
How good were Mr Big [9]? Very, very good indeed. With the solo spots trimmed back and Eric Martin in fine voice they pushed the day’s undisputed heavyweight champions – Twisted Sister (who else?) – to the final round, two songs from the new album (‘Undertow’ and ‘Around The World’) fitting snugly alongside ‘Daddy, Brother, Lover, Little Boy (The Electric Drill Song)’, ‘Green-Tinted Sixties Mind’, ‘To Be With You’ and ‘Addicted To That Rush’.
I’m as big a Cheap Trick [6] fan as just about anyone (well… unless your name happens to be Kim Gisborne), but the Illinois band blew it at Download. Beginning with a meandering, monotone rendition of ‘Gonna Raise Hell’ that ate up a quarter of their allocated 40 minutes they overlooked many of their best-known songs during a performance that seemed set to cruise control. CT’s last UK festival appearance was at Reading back in 1979; I thought they’d have pulled out all the stops. Sadly, I was mistaken.
“We haven’t been here since 1983 when some of you motherfuckers weren’t even a glimmer in your father’s nutsacks,” glowered Dee Snider. But on this occasion, the frontman had no need to offer out large sections of the crowd on the grounds on non-compliance. Even without make-up or stage costumes, Twisted Sister [10] strode in, grabbed the festival by the aforementioned testicular appendages and made just about everyone else on the bill look inept. Check out the set-list – ‘What You Don’t Know’, ‘The Kids Are Back’, ‘Under The Blade’, ‘Captain Howdy’, ‘You can’t Stop Rock ‘N’ Roll’, ‘We’re Not Gonna take It’, ‘I Am (I’m Me)’, ‘Burn In hell’ and ‘I Wanna Rock’ – and weep (with unadulterated joy).
Alas, it began to rain again just as Alice Cooper was about to arrive onstage and, having seen TS destroy Alice once before, I decided to head for the safety and warmth of the hotel bar. Okay, call me a lightweight. I can take it.
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Saturday 11th June
I’m dictating this diary to my butler from a penthouse suite at the Mayfair Hotel, Donington Park (ahem… actually my friend Harj Kallah and I are sharing a twin room at a dodgy Travelodge-type establishment in Sandiacre, a taxi-ride from the Download site). Having met up with my boozing buddy Bruce Osborne and his friend Jerry, most of our first day at the site was taken up by consumption of alcohol. Black Stone Cherry [7] suffered from a slightly poor sound but performed well. The current incarnation of Thin Lizzy [8], with new guitarist Richard Fortus (of Guns N’ Roses) taking the place of Vivian Campbell – who returned to guest on ‘The Boys Are Back In Town’ – rocked hard and surprised many. FM [8] played an excellent eight-song set – ‘Wildside’, ‘Face To Face’, ‘That Girl’, ‘Don’t Stop’, ‘Hard Day In Hell’, ‘Burning My Heart Down’, ‘Bad Luck’ and ‘Heard It Through The Grapevine’.
I felt sorry for headliners Def Leppard [8] who were faced by oppressive storm clouds and a thinning crowd. However, I’ve heard Joe Elliott sing much better than he did and despite being based strongly upon their ‘Pyromania’ and ‘Hysteria’ albums this 2011 show paled in comparison to the one from two years ago. It’s set-list ran as follows: ‘Undefeated’, ‘Action’, ‘Let’s get Rocked’, ‘Let It Go’, ‘Foolin’’, ‘Love Bites’, Bass Solo, ‘Rock On’, ‘Two Steps Behind’, ‘Bringin’ On The Heartbreak’, ‘Switch 625’, ‘Rocket’, ‘Hysteria’, ‘Armageddon It’, ‘Animal’, ‘Photograph’, ‘Pour Some Sugar On Me’ and ‘Rock Of Ages’, plus an encore of ‘When Love And Hate Collide’ that featured Keith Weir from the Quireboys/Down ‘N’ Outz on keys, and a hard-hitting ‘Wasted’.
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Friday 10th June
The work-rate remains demanding, but that’s the way I like it. Completed a final edit of my Chicago story for Classic Rock Presents AOR at 10pm last night, in time to submit it before this morning’s departure to the Download Festival… phew! I’ve also managed to buy an extra few days in which to deliver my Leslie West sleeve essay, which in turn allows me to contribute to the High Voltage Festival programme. It’s gonna be a frantic few weeks!
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Wednesday 8th June
This morning was spent engaged on a final edit of my interviews with Chris Squire and Geoffrey Downes of Yes, which will appear in the next issue of Classic Rock Presents Prog. I’m very pleased with it. Check out this quote from Squire on the fine art of songwriting: “I had spent the last couple of years encouraging Benoît [David, the band’s new singer] to get involved. He’d never really tried his hand at writing before. He wasn’t sure if he had any talent in that area so he was reluctant at first, but I told him to go out and get some copies of National Geographic magazine to nick ideas for lyrics. It’s not that difficult!”
I’m now transcribing three lengthy phone conversations with members past ‘n’ present of the band Chicago, namely current alumni keyboardist and vocalist Robert Lamm and trumpet player Lee Loughnane, also the group’s former bassist/singer Peter Cetera, the latter of whom gave me one of the most revealing and satisfying interviews that I’ve ever conducted. The results will be published in the forthcoming issue of Classic Rock Presents AOR. With the story due to be submitted before I depart for Download (if humanly possible), the clock is ticking… so enough of my yackin’ and back to the grindstone.
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Tuesday 7th June
Oooh look, the running times for the weekend’s Download Festival are up. In terms of stage clashes the only significant disappointment is that it’s almost impossible to watch FM **and** Alter Bridge on Friday evening. Trainspotter than I am, I’ve already pored over the list to determine the bands that I shall bust a gut to see, and they include: Def Leppard, FM, Thin Lizzy and Black Stone Cherry on Friday, followed by Alice Cooper, Twisted Sister, Cheap Trick, Mr Big, Dio Disciples, Dan Reed, Rock Sugar, Skin, Houston and The Rods on the Saturday. Besides Rob Zombie, H.E.A.T., Jameson Raid and a sneaky look at The Pretty Reckless, whose album I really liked (honestly!), there was little to tickle my fancy on Sunday’s bill, so it’s back to London a day early for yours truly…
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Monday 6th June
Much of yesterday was spent working on a hefty set of liner notes for the expanded edition of Leslie West’s forthcoming studio disc, ‘Unusual Suspects’, which arrives via Provogue Records on September 19. I’ve been allowed to hear a few of its tracks which feature such guest musicians as Joe Bonamassa, Slash, Billy F Gibbons, Zakk Wylde and Steve Lukather, and I’m happy to say that they rock.
In between bouts of tape transcription I began sifting through a newly acquired set of the recent Queen album catalogue re-issues (thanks a bundle, William R!). It’s amazing to think that until now I had never owned any of the group’s classic-era releases on CD, so this is a journey of rediscovery that I shall undertake slowly in order to maximise listening pleasure (Christ… that sounds like an advert for condoms, doesn’t it?!)
This is slightly off topic, but I was upset to read of the demise of singer/songwriter Andrew Gold (he of ‘Lonely Boy’, ‘Never Let Her Slip Away’ and ‘Thank You For Being A Friend’ fame) at the age of just 59 years. Gold’s 1976 album ‘What’s Wrong With This Picture?’ is a bit of a favourite of mine, and well worth picking up should you see it in the bargain racks.
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Sunday 5th June
There I was at a Wembley Stadium that basked in sunlight, with a handful of minutes to go till the kick-off of the England-Switzerland game. A chilled bottle of wine had been imbibed during the trawl across London from Catford, and with the evening’s triple-header from Journey, Foreigner and Styx still to come, I found myself blissfully wondering: “What can Mr Crapello and his overpaid oiks do to fuck up such a glorious day?” 90 minutes later, as I snuck out of the Stadium a few minutes early to avoid missing the start of Styx, with the score at 2-2, the answer was evident. England didn’t even start playing till going two goals behind to a Swiss side really should’ve been despatched with very little trouble. For those of us that still care about the fortunes of the national side, it’s **so** frustrating.
Having sprinted to the Wembley Arena box office, I took my seat in time for a 50-minute pomp-rock masterclass from Styx. With original bass player Chuck Panozzo returning to the stage several times, the Chicago band were like an aural juggernaut. Check out this stellar set-list for size: ‘The Grand Illusion’, ‘Too Much Time On My Hands’, ‘Lady, ‘Fooling Yourself (The Angry Young Man)’, ‘Miss America’, ‘Blue Collar Man (Long Nights)’, ‘Come Sail Away’ and ‘Renegade’.
Foreigner suffered a little from gear problems and their sound was a bit on murky side, but an hour’s worth of vintage material served to maintain the thrill factor. During ‘Cold As Ice’ Kelly Hansen leapt from the stage to run out into crowd, losing his security guard tail along the way and jumping up and down on seats but still returning to the mic in time for the next verse – very cool! The band have been playing pretty much the same set-list – ‘Double Vision’, ‘Head Games’, ‘Cold As Ice’, ‘Starrider’, ‘Feels Like The First Time’, ‘Urgent’, ‘I Want To Know What Love Is’, ‘Hot Blooded’ and ‘Jukebox Hero’ – for the past few years, but you’ll hear no complaints from yours truly.
Journey had to be a bit special, and thankfully they were. However, I’ll bet that whoever was responsible for triggering the audio vocal sample that rang out through the Arena during the changeover is no longer in gainful employ by the headliners. As if one ‘Tapegate’ controversy wasn’t enough! Anyway, the band included four songs from the impressive new album ‘Eclipse’, which I felt was just about right. The rest of their 95-minute set was dedicated to classic song after classic song. Since I saw him last on an indoor stage at London’s Hammersmith Apollo three years ago, Arnel Pineda has really grown into the role of fronting the band – as opposed to merely singing their songs. And what a great job he now does. Football might sometimes let you down, but for most of the time you can rely on the power of live rock music. Here’s the night’s final set-list: ‘Separate Ways (Worlds Apart)’, ‘Only The Young’, ‘Edge Of The Moment’, ‘Ask The Lonely’, ‘Send Her My Love’, ‘Resonate’, Guitar Solo, ‘Stone In Love’, ‘City Of Hope’, ‘Lights’, ‘Mother Father’, Keys Solo, ‘Open Arms’, ‘Chain Of Love’, ‘Wheel In The Sky’, ‘Be Good To Yourself’, ‘Faithfully’, ‘Don’t Stop Believing’ and ‘Anyway You Want It’, followed by an encore of ‘Lovin’ Touchin’ Squeezin’’.
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Saturday 4th June
For the last few days I’ve been busy absorbing the new album from Yes. ‘Fly From Here’ is the band’s debut with new singer Benoît David and features a returning Geoffrey Downes of Asia, who took over from Oliver Wakeman during the recording process (at the instigation of the prorject’s producer Trevor Horn – as I learned during yesterday’s phone interviews conducted with Chris Squire and the aforementioned Downes). I’m extremely impressed with ‘Fly From Here’, the first studio album from Yes in ten years. It’s released by Frontiers Records on July 1 here in Europe.
With nowt to do on a Friday evening, I finally found the time to watch the first part of the BBC’s documentary Queen: Days Of Our Lives. Including previously unseen footage, including the band’s first ever TV appearance (which was thought to have been wiped) and interviews with Brian May and Roger Taylor, plus vintage reels of Freddie Mercury and John ‘Mr Invisible’ Deacon, it did a decent enough good job of telling the band’s story. I do like the fact that May has finally stopped dying his hair.
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Friday 3rd June
Though I’ve been making a determined attempt to stay off the booze, the prospect of Century Media Records’ launch release celebration of Arch Enemy’s ‘Khaos Legions’ album and the newie from In Flames, ‘Sounds Of A Playground Fading’, was too good to ignore. The invite told us to expect free booze, Texas hold ’em poker tables, Nordic bar canapés, heavy metal music and Swedish hostesses. Well, okay… if you really insist!! I’d never played poker before so therefore had no idea why the pile of chips in front of me kept on growing, but beginner’s luck never lasts and once my ‘fortune’ had evaporated, the rest of the evening was spent propping up the bar, supping voddie and diet cokes and gossiping with industry chums. It was a terrific evening – just the slice of good cheer that I needed.
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Thursday 2nd June
I’m on news ‘n’ reviews duty once again! Just as the final pages of Classic Rock’s June 22 issue are hovered up, it’s time to submit my latest reviews for Classic Rock Presents Prog. The weather is piping hot, the postie has just delivered finished copies of the pair of double-pack Tokyo Blade re-issues (‘Blackhearts & Jaded Spades’ and ‘Ain’t Misbehavin’’ and ‘No Remorse’ and ‘Burning Down Paradise’) for which I wrote the sleeve notes, and with Martin Popoff’s hefty new book Black Sabbath FAQ: All That’s Left To Know On The First Name In Metal having thudded onto the doormat, it’s turning out a beautiful day!
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Wednesday 1st June
Among the first pieces of advice offered by friends that had been through their own divorces were: “Try to steer clear of power ballads for a while.” Last night I flew firmly in the face of such sage counsel by attending Richard Marx’s gig at the Royal Albert Hall. Despite Marx’s near-legendary sentimental streak, the show’s more than two hours flew by with nary a moist tear-duct nor even a trembling lip. 21 years had passed since the Chicagoan singer/songwriter last trod the Albert Hall boards, but although there were quite a few empty seats and boxes the affection and sincerity that flowed between the artist and his devout followers was unmistakable.
The show had been billed as an ‘electric’ performance but Marx began alone with an acoustic guitar for a couple of numbers before bringing on a four-piece female string section. It was frustrating that ‘Don’t Mean Nothing’ was performed in such a low-key style, but what the heck. His 1991 hit ‘Hazard’ was prefaced by a lengthy and amusing explanation of the song’s genesis – Marx had believed it was “the dumbest, lamest thing” ever, his wife Cynthia reckoned it was a sure-fire smash… having recorded it “just to prove her wrong”, some “five and a half months later it was a Number One in 13 countries” – and a new and unreleased tune called ‘Save Me’ was delivered in tandem with a video screen performance featuring Marx’s three sons, who are budding musicians and/or writers. To be honest, I felt that unplugging his acoustic guitar, heading out into the crowd to sing ‘Always On Your Mind’ (a tune penned with Vertical Horizon’s Matt Scannell) without the benefit of a microphone was one of the most futile things I’ve ever witnessed in all my years of attending concerts; for most of us inside the cavernous Albert Hall, Richard was completely inaudible.
Luckily, the backing band arrived onstage during the closing stages of the following song, ‘Through My Veins’. Although Marx’s Osama bin Laden joke was dreadful, his self-deprecating banter was much better and the show’s climax (including ‘Don’t Mean Nothing’, ‘Should’ve Known Better’ and ‘Right Here Waiting’) was little short of breathtaking. Here’s what was played in full: ‘Endless Summer Nights’, ‘Keep Coming Back’, ‘When You’re Gone’, ‘One Thing Left’, ‘Hazard’, ‘Save Me’, ‘Hold On To The Nights’, ‘Now And Forever’, ‘Always On Your Mind’, ‘Through My Veins’, ‘Take This Heart’, ‘Angelia’, ‘Over My Head’, ‘Satisfied’, ‘When You Loved Me’ (a brand new composition), ‘Better Life’ (covered by Keith Urban), ‘This I Promise You’ (popularised by N Sync), ‘Don’t Mean Nothing’ and ‘Should’ve Known Better’, plus encores of ‘The Way She Loves Me’, ‘Everybody’ (once again recorded by Keith Urban) and ‘Right Here Waiting’.
P.S. The monthly amendments to the YouTube and Playlist pages are up.