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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Thursday 31st March
Last night I abandoned the chance of seeing Wishbone Ash (the Andy Powell variety) to visit the secondary school of my two sons for an optimistically entitled workshop called Adolescence Without The Anguish – How To Support Your Child’s Transition Into Adulthood Without Emotional Conflict. It was a bit of an eye-opener; most odd to be reminded of those hormonal times. The host invited us stand up and reveal the worst things that we had done as teenagers. There followed a tale about a lad stealing a tractor and driving it down a motorway at the age of 13. A meek-looking woman confided that she had run away from home for three weeks, aged 11. Me? All I could remember was almost pissing myself with laughter when my sister stabbed a prong of the garden fork through her foot. Have I really lived that timid a life? Maybe so… Anyway, the advice on offer was most useful. Everybody in the room shared a deep frustration at the obsession of their offspring with X-Boxes and online computer gaming. The lengths their kids would go to in order to spend time playing them astounded me. It was nice to know that I’m not alone in the belief that World Of Warcraft and the like are the Devil’s own spawn, sent to brainwash our civilisation into a state of obese, numb, uncaring oblivion.
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Wednesday 30th March
I had a good ol’ chinwag with Kip Winger just prior to last night’s friendly game between England and Ghana. It’s always a pleasure to talk with Kip, he’s been through so much turmoil in his personal and professional life that having come out the other side he’s in a really good place. As we discussed some of the factors that served to torpedo his career during 1990s, he confirmed the internet rumour that he wrote the song ‘Hell To Pay’, which appeared as a bonus track on the Jap edition of the ‘Pull’ album (also on ‘The Very Best Of Winger’, a 2001 anthology for which yours truly wrote the liner notes) in direct response to the abuse dished out to him by Metallica in their video for ‘Nothing Else Matters’… the one in which they threw darts at a post of him in their dressing room, remember? Its lyrics go:
    It’s sad but true, you tread on me
    As if nothing else matters
    My friend of misery
    Your struggle within
    Is that you believe you’re holier than
    The god that failed you

The same song later continues:
    And when you finally find what you’re after
    Is when your servant becomes your master
    Don’t you know there'll be hell to pay...

Kip also addressed the subject of Beavis & Butt-head, the animated MTV series in which a weedy kid called Stewart always used to wear a Winger T-shirt. Though it had such a devastating effect upon Winger (the band), Kip, who turns 50 in June, is very secure in his own musicianship and is highly amused by the recent decision to revive the show. “I’ve approved them using my name again,” he revealed with a laugh, “because at this point I’d have been offended if they didn’t.”
Although England-Ghana finished as a 1-1 draw, the visitors’ Asamoah Gyan deservedly cancelling out a first half strike from Andy Carroll on the verge of full time, it was a lively, competitive and enjoyable match – most unlike a friendly game.
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Tuesday 29th March
Having seen the band in Pittsburgh (see Diary, 17th December ’09) in all of its bombastic, arena-conquering glory, I had wondered how Trans-Siberian Orchestra’s live show might translate into smaller European auditoriums. Despite being restricted to a tiny fraction of the hardware the band has at its disposal, also the absences of guitarist Alex Skolnick, violinist Anna Phoebe and co-writer Jon Oliva, their debut UK appearance will nevertheless be regarded as a triumph. London’s Hammersmith Apollo was far better populated than I’d feared… indeed, though I personally didn’t clock eyes on him there were rumours of Brian May’s presence amid the inquisitive throng.
Unlike the Pittsburgh show, which for me personally was flawed by the clichéd sentimentality of TSO’s Christmas-themed repertoire, at Hammersmith the band were regaling us instead with ‘Beethoven’s Last Night’, their concept album from 2000, in its entirety. In principle, at least, the idea was sound. On CD, ‘Beethoven’s Last Night’ is recounted crisply and (fairly) succinctly in just under and hour and 15 minutes. Onstage, however, the tale of the composer that fights the devil for ownership of both his soul and a Tenth Symphony was strung out to five minutes short of two hours – a little trying at times. The individual performances of Al Pitrelli (Megadeth/Asia/Savatage), Jeff Scott Soto and the ex-Savatage trio of Chris Caffery (guitar), Johnny Lee Middleton (bass) and Jeff Plate (drums) were all worthy of admission alone, though there are no prizes for guessing that my own preference lies with the harder-edged side of TSO’s classical-symphonic-hard rock oeuvre. So the 160-minute gig’s final quarter, which besides a pyrotechnically enhanced rendition of ‘Carmina Burana’ included two Savatage classics – ‘Sleep’ (first heard on ‘Edge Of Thorns’) and ‘Chance’ (from ‘Handful Of Rain’) – the latter apparently at Jon Oliva’s personal request, was a very special treat indeed.

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Monday 28th March
Making the pilgrimage to Birmingham for last night’s Manowar gig, their first witnessed on these shores since 1994, was the right thing to do.
A sold-out Academy roared its full-blooded approval from a classical intro and Orson Welles’ of declaration: “All hail, Manowar!” to the band’s departure from the stage and the farewell (taped) strains of ‘The Crown And The Ring (Lament Of The Kings)’.
Those that have seen the band’s appearances at European festival had warned me of all manner excessive verbiage from bassist Joey DeMaio, suggesting they may not have played too many of the band’s genuine ‘old faves’.
In fact, what we got was two hours and 20 minutes of lean, muscular metal, the group electing not justify their absence and all but ignoring the audience till the show’s denouement.
Manowar at Birmingham Academy

Beginning with an ear-splitting ‘Manowar', seven of eight newly re-recorded tracks from their debut album, ‘Battle Hymns’, were aired, DeMaio’s solo ‘William’s Tale’ following later. Rumoured to be 56 years old, Eric Adams still goes for – and hits! – all of the notes, and Manowar sport enough leather to give a member of PETA a coronary (no loincloths tonight!), they probably even wear socks made of chainmail. I kid you not. With a cry of “Wimps and posers, leave the hall!” during the song ‘Brothers Of Metal’, the show is completely ludicrous, but that’s the whole point. It’s a little disconcerting that De Maio – who fixes the crowd with a steely gaze as his fingers fly up and down the frets, later removing its strings in a gladiatorial manner, coiling them into little packages and passing them to the prettiest girls at the front during a feedback-strewn finale of ‘Black Wind, Fire and Steel’ – seems to take things as seriously as life and death itself, but that of course is his prerogative. Although one or two so-so moments creep in during the closing stages, we are nevertheless dealing with some of the finest songs in heavy metal… ‘Battle Hymn’, ‘Kill With Power’, ‘Sign Of The Hammer’, ‘Kings Of Metal’, ‘Heart Of Steel’, ‘Fighting The World’ and ‘Hail To England’ are so spellbindingly awesome, one is left scratching one’s head for a reason that a band this monumentally good dropped off our touring circuit for so long. My sources say this scandalous situation may be resolved before the year’s end, though right now that’s just conjecture.
Meanwhile, here’s the set-list: ‘Manowar’, ‘Death Tone’, ‘Metal Daze’, ‘Fast Taker’, ‘Shell Shock’, ‘Dark Avenger’, ‘Battle Hymn’, ‘Sun Of Death’ (Karl Logan Guitar Solo), ‘Brothers Of Metal Pt 1’, ‘Kill With Power’, ‘Metal Warriors’, ‘Heart Of Steel’, Bass Solo/‘William’s Tale’, ‘Fighting The World’, ‘The Sons Of Odin’, ‘Call To Arms’, ‘Sign Of The Hammer’, ‘House Of Death’, ‘The Power’ and ‘Hail To England’ (what else??!!), plus encores of ‘Kings Of Metal’, ‘Hail And Kill’, ‘Warriors Of The World United’ and ‘Black Wind, Fire and Steel’.
P.S. Check out the photo gallery here.
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Sunday 27th March
I’m off to Brum to see Manowar. Luckily the new issue of Classic Rock arrived yesterday, so I’ve plenty to read on the coach. Its cover story is the 100 Greatest Songwriters. Normally, like a lot of the magazine’s readers, I’m a little underwhelmed by these list-based features. But for my money when the artists make the choices – I did the interviews with Vinnie Paul (who elected to talk about Kiss), Carmine Appice (who praised The Police), Steve Overland (Desmond Child), Joey Tempest (Old Cov), Myke Gray (Ronnie James Dio), Danny Vaughn (Journey), Brian Tatler (Angus and Malcolm Young), Trevor Bolder (Free) and Pete Agnew (Chuck Berry) – then the interest stakes are raised by a significant margin. Anyway, the chariot awaits… Brothers, we ride to Birmingham…
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Saturday 26th March
I type at 5.45pm, a third bottle of wine newly opened. Domestically speaking it’s been a truly horrendous week, probably the worst I’ve ever known in my 32 years on this planet (cough!), so I’ve declared the ‘yardarm’ rule obsolete. It was rubbish anyway. After the embarrassment heaped upon my nation of birth by Sri Lanka in the Cricket World Cup – losing by ten wickets, FFS??!! – the Wales-England game was infinitely more satisfying; it was lovely to see that Olympian level twat Bel***my and the sheepshaggers (116th in the world rankings, let us not forget) put so firmly in their place with the bigger ball! Scumwall’s Morison as an international footballer? Don’t make me laugh… c’mon, the guy can’t even spell his own surname.
By the way I was wrong about Savatage’s ‘Gutter Ballet’ (see Diary, March 11). It’s **not** as good as ‘Streets – A Rock Opera’. Time has a habit of doing funny things to the ol’ grey matter, doesn’t it?
P.S. And also by the way, the boys on the Palace bulletin board have **finally** come up with a user-friendly definition of the offside rule: It’s when a woman steps out of the kitchen. I’ve had just about enough to drink to find that amusing!
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Friday 25th March
With a big weekend of sport ahead, and being home alone for most of Saturday, I shall be putting up the St George flags to tune in for England's Cricket World Cup quarter-final with Sri Lanka. The nation's footballers also take on Wales in Cardiff in a Euro Qualifier at 3pm, so there's a strong chance that a libation or 27 might pass the lips.
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Wednesday 23rd March
I've been playing the second wave of Savatage re-issues which arrived today (both due via Edel on April 18). For me, the Florida group peaked with 1989's remarkable 'Gutter Ballet', the second album made with producer/mentor Paul O'Neill. In his notes, singer Jon Oliva states: "Paul was sending me to Broadway shows like Phantom Of The Opera, and we [as a band] were drawing off our influences like Queen, The Who, Sabbat and The Beatles. We were no longer just a heavy metal band, we were now ready to explore and grow." 22 years later, 'Gutter Ballet' remains a very special record indeed and I welcome its CD edition to my collection with open arms and trembly knees. Its re-issue companion is 'Power Of The Night', Savatage's major label debut from 1985, which I haven't heard it in quite a
while. It will receive a thorough reappraisal over the next few days.
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Tuesday 22nd March
My sympathies went to the courier that struggled up the path to Ling Towers yesterday, weighed down by a treasure trove of vinyl goodies. Darren Toms of Plastic Head had been kind enough to send a set of the new Thin Lizzy re-issues, all on 180-gram coloured vinyl. The label concerned has done a terrific job of presenting ‘Jailbreak’ (pressed up on grey), ‘Johnny The Fox’ (red), ‘Bad Reputation’ (white), ‘Live And Dangerous’ (blue), ‘Black Rose’ (crimson – what else?!), ‘Chinatown’ (yellow), ‘Renegade’ (red) and ‘Thunder And Lightning’ (clear) in deluxe gatefold sleeves. Though I’ve yet to bust them out of their clingfilm, all have apparently been re-mastered from the original tapes. For details go here.
In terms of brand new music, Michael Monroe’s ‘Sensory Overdrive’ is a superb piece of work. Administered a crisp and vibrant but very melodic edge by Jack Douglas of Aerosmith/Cheap Trick fame, the former Hanoi Rocks frontman and his current band – including Ginger of the Wildhearts, who plays a significant hand throughout, writing or co-writing all but one of its 11 tunes – has really delivered the goods, even roping in Lemmy Kilmister to join them on the brilliantly titled swagger-fest that is ‘Debauchery As A Fine Art’, country singer Lucinda Williams dropping by to add her altogether smoother tones to the radio-friendliness of ‘Gone Baby Gone’.
I’m still struggling to comprehend that Fabio Crapello has returned the captaincy of the national football team to chav scumbag John Terry ahead of the weekend’s Euro Championship qualifier against Wales. “I think one year's punishment is enough,” says the increasingly unhinged Italian head coach, who received widespread praise for taking Terry down to size following condemnation of the defender’s off-the-field behaviour. Now this bizarre U-turn. You know what? It’s an absolute farce that almost makes me feel ashamed to be English.
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Monday 21st March
All hail: My travel to and from the coming weekend’s Manowar gig in Birmingham is now booked. It’s hard to believe that 16 years have flown by since my last sighting of the Kings Of Metal. How exciting! I must ask Mrs L to wash and press my best loincloth. [Edit: Classic Rock have just accepted my pitch to them of a live review… back of the net!!]
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Sunday 20th March
Though I was gutted by Crystal Palace’s failure to overcome Derby County and suck them into the relegation mire, yesterday’s 2-2 draw was a thrilling encounter. Twice behind in the game, Darren Ambrose’s 88th minute penalty salvaged a precious point for the Eagles, who have not lost at Fortress Selhurst since October.
The rugby was equally disappointing. Playing against Irish in Dublin on St Patrick’s Day requiring a win to secure the Grand Slam was always gonna be tough. An emphatic 28-4 reverse means that England topped the final Six Nations table but, somewhat predictably, fell short at the final hurdle. Bah!
So I nipped to the Underworld for a gig by The Pineapple Thief, a prog band from the Westcountry. This was a slightly odd experience as although they’d drawn rather sizeable crowd, I didn’t bump into a single person I knew. Not only was I starved of conversation, it also meant (gasp!)… no beer roadie! You had to admire the band’s lush sound texture, though for me the 100-minute set sagged towards its middle with too many acoustic-based tunes. And at times they were also just a little too Porcupine Tree-ish, though I raise my metaphorical hat to the fella that was dressed as a penis, complete with outsized testicle attachments at his feet. Had he been hired by the band to portray some kind of esoteric statement, I wondered, or was he perhaps a Clowntown Pathetic fan, registering dismay at his club’s latest, hilarious capitulation to the footballing colossus that is Dagenham & Redbridge? F**ked if I know… Anyway, here’s the set-list: ‘God Bless The Child’, ‘3000 Days’, ‘Wake The Dead’, ‘Different World’, ‘All I Need To Know’, ‘My Debt To You’, ‘Counting The Cost’, ‘Part Zero’, ‘Preparation For Meltdown’, ‘Show A Little Love’, ‘So We Row’ and ‘Too Much To Lose’, with encores of ‘Nothing At Best’ and ‘Snowdrops’. If you’re attending next month’s Blackfield gigs, I suggest you arrive nice ‘n’ early.
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Saturday 19th March
The chiropractor says that the back injury is a brand new ailment, as opposed to a repeat of the problems I had at the tail end of 2010. Some additional muscle-strengthening exercises that should prevent it from returning, he reckons. I pray that he’s right!
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Friday 18th March
Awoke full of trepidation after my back injury’s unexpected return mission. Though the pain was all but gone, I felt like I’d done 12 rounds with David Haye. Scheduled an appointment to visit my chiropractor tomorrow and got on with the stuff I needed to do. Still managed to keep an eye on England’s must-win game against the West Indies in the Cricket World Cup. Batting first, Strauss’ men set their opponents a meagre-looking target of 243. The wicket-toppling conclusion, which saw Swann and Tredwell offer a masterclass in spin bowling as England edged home by 18 runs, was yet another fabulously entertaining advert for the 50-over game. England are extremely unlikely to win the tournament, but they have been unmissable in this World Cup.
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Thursday 17th March
Ouuuuuuuuuuccccccchhhhhhhh! I’ve had a recurrence of the back problems that made my life such a misery during the run-up to Christmastime. I’ve absolutely no idea what caused the pain to return. One minute I was ascending the stairs of the Borderline, laughing and joking following an enjoyable gig by female-fronted blues-rockers Saint Jude, the next it felt like somebody had stuck a blade into the small of my back. Even remaining upright remained a problem (issues of verticality were not exactly aided by the fact that I’d been drinking since 5pm, first at a meeting to discuss the second issue of Classic Rock’s AOR magazine, then afterwards at the Crobar, right next door to the Borderline). Fortuitously, a good Samaritan was at hand. My friend Neil Jeffries dashed into a nearby chemist to buy some painkillers and helped me to struggle gingerly down Charing Cross Road, ensuring I got back to Catford Bridge station in as close to one piece a possible – thanks Neil, you are a gent.
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Wednesday 16th March
Despite having vowed never to return to the Scala, my least favourite London venue, I was in the crowd for last nite’s banquet of female-fronted symphonic metal from Dutch bands Epica and ReVamp. I’d requested to review the gig for Metal Hammer whilst laboring under the belief that the show was taking place at the Garage. After getting the green light and being asked to do some interviewing whilst I was there, it would’ve been churlish to have backed out – but I still hate the place and its booming, unforgiving acoustics.
I’m a big fan of ReVamp’s self-titled debut, and having chatted to her pre-show was even more impressed by the presence of valkyrie-like Floor Jansen, who towers at a colossal six feet and three inches tall and boasts an operatic voice that can charm the birds from the trees. The band’s music is a little darker and heavier than that of Jansen’s previous group After Forever, and their songs are for the most part excellent. Frankly, their 45-minute set – which comprised ‘Here’s My Hell’, ‘In Sickness 'Till Death Do Us Part 1: All Goodbyes Are Said’, ‘Fast Forward’, ‘Break’, ‘Sweet Curse’, ‘In Sickness 'Till Death Do Us Part 2: Disdain’, ‘Million’, ‘Kill Me With Silence’, ‘Head Up High’ and ‘In Sickness 'Till Death Do Us Part 3: Disgraced’ – was over way too fast.
Epica were promoting their current album, ‘Design Your Universe’, which has been a favourite at Ling Towers since it came out in 2009. I love the way they mix the deathly growls of guitarist Mark Jansen with the more harpy-like affectations of the flame-haired Simone Simons. It took the soundman some time to reach a mix that was satisfactory, but the crowd lapped up every last symphonic lick. When the band burst into ‘The Imperial March’, a metallic remake of Darth Vader’s theme from Star Wars, I must’ve grinned like the proverbial loon – though my intense state of happiness was also due to text updates informing that Preston North End were stuffing Scunthorpe by 3-0 in a bottom-of-the-table clash that allow a little temporary breathing space for my beloved Crystal Palace.
At encore time there was another extra treat, Floor Jansen and Simone Simons pooling their talents for an astonishing duet to soar majestically through ‘Sancta Terra’, from Epica’s previous album, ‘The Devine Conspiracy’. Here’s the full set-list: ‘Samadhi (Prelude)’/‘Resign To Surrender (A New Age Dawns, Part IV)’, ‘Sensorium’, ‘The Obsessive Devotion’, ‘Unleashed’, ‘Martyr Of The Free World’, ‘Fools Of Damnation’, ‘Cry For The Moon’, ‘Imperial March’, ‘Tides Of Time’, ‘Blank Infinity’ and ‘Consign to Oblivion’, plus encores of ‘Sancta Terra’, ‘Quietus’ and ‘The Phantom Agony’.
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Monday 14th March
Too much of my time is spent sitting here at my desk, awaiting interview calls from musicians. For instance, last Friday night Vinnie Paul of Hellyeah was supposed to ring at 9pm UK time to discuss his lifetime love of the band Kiss. So I stayed sober throughout the evening, only for his publicist to explain that Vinnie had no cell-phone reception… was it possible to conduct the interview 24 hours later? Well, okay. Only on Saturday night, the same situation unfolded. I refrained from drinking alcohol all afternoon and evening, plumping myself down before the desk at 9pm. No call from Vinnie… FFS!! Waited till 10.15 in case there’d been a misunderstanding with the time differences before huffily returning to the house. Logging on Sunday morning, an email from the PR said: “Yesterday was Vinnie's bday and it's been a little hard to pin him down. Going to try for tomorrow at the same time.” However, the saga wasn’t over yet. Nobody had accounted for the clocks going back Stateside, and Vinnie rang at 8pm – by my estimation an hour early. Luckily, we **did** hook up and the drummer reminisced fondly of the way he and his brother Dimebag Darrell would put on make-up and dress in Kiss costumes to play the group’s songs in their bedroom. Paul also told a great story about the time Pantera toured with Kiss in South America in 1997. “We were flying from Mexico to Chile and it was my birthday,” he related proudly. “Kiss were up at the front of the plane and we were in business class but they all came back and sang happy birthday to me, complete with four-part harmonies, to make me feel like a 14-year-old kid. It was the greatest moment of my life!”
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Sunday 13th March
So the worst kept secret is rock ‘n’ roll no longer ‘off the record’: According to the Classic Rock website the Dorkness are back together are five years away – complete with an original rhythm section that includes Frankie Poullain, the idiotic bass player who once made a complete tool of himself with the statement: “Mötley Crüe’s ‘Dr Feelgood’ and ‘Girls Girls Girls’ are great songs, but listen to their Greatest Hits – there’s less quality songwriting there than [on] our debut album.” At least one summer festival appearance is imminent. Ho hum. You can give me Steel Panther any day of the week. My only hope is that that this won’t spell the end of the vastly superior Stone Gods.
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Saturday 12th March
Due to pressure of work and the fact that I begrudge their club my ticket money, I wasn’t at Loftus Road for this afternoon’s game between QP-Haha and Crystal Palace. The result of 2-1 to the home team was disappointing as, despite having defender Paddy McCarthy sent off, Palace had hauled themselves back into contention through a goal by James Vaughan. The radio commentator also said that we had a cast-iron penalty denied towards the end. Bah! At least Sheffield United and Scunthorpe both suffered heavy defeats of their own, which only aids CPFC’s goal difference as the season reaches its nail-biting conclusion. The precarious situation of the Eagles becomes at a little more tolerable when juxtaposed with that of our South London neighbours Clowntown Pathetic, whose 0-1 home defeat to Brentford means they have now taken a solitary point from the last 21. A skim through their fan forum, Charlton Life, brings hilarious results. ‘Are we the worst team in London?’ wonders one saddo. ‘There are some very tough games coming up – we could even get relegated (again),’ says another. Should you believe in karma like I do, the OTT celebrations of their fans on the day they sent Palace down are biting them in the ass… harder than ever.
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Friday 11th March
FFS! It’s looking as though England will be returning home from the Cricket World Cup even before the knockout stages. This afternoon’s humiliating two-wicket defeat to Bangladesh in Chittagong means that it’s win or bust against West Indies next Thursday. Frankly, the latter is what Strauss and company deserve.
Licking my wounds, I’ve taken consolation from a rather large packet of CDs. The Savatage re-issue campaign is finally underway. Defying the laws of sequence, Edel Records have chosen to set things rolling with ‘Streets – A Rock Opera’ from 1991, plus a two-on-one of ‘Sirens’, the Floridian band’s 1983 debut and ‘The Dungeons Are Calling’, a six-song mini album that followed two years later (the latter pair was recorded together, explains singer Jon Oliva in his sleeve essay). Though my own favourite ’Tage album remains 1989’s princely ‘Gutter Ballet’, hearing these albums on CD for the first time makes me feeling hugely nostalgic. I’ll never forget the band’s performances at the ‘old’ Marquee in Wardour Street in January 1986 (which ended with a thunderous rendition of Samson’s ‘Earth Mother) and a later appearance at the Marquee in Charing Cross Road in November ’91. Great days indeed!
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Thursday 10th March
Last night my friend Andy Beare and I had mutually agreed upon “a bit of a quiet one”, by our usual standards at least, whilst visiting the Beaverwood – a great little club in Chislehurst that specialises in gigs by blues artists. However, one can of cider on the bus led to a couple of pints during the first of two sets from Erja Lyytinen, another during the interval and some more during the second half, plus a snifter for the road in the bar afterwards… followed by the inevitable kebab.
Despite the audience being a little standoffish at first, the show was rather good. Lyytinen is a petite brunette from Helsinki. Apart from a very slight accent her music slanted towards traditional American blues. She sings and looks good and, boy, can she play that slide geetar?! Once Erja and the Beaverwood had reached an understanding that they liked one another – odd, given the Finn had played there twice before – the touch paper was lit. Her version of Elmore James’ ‘It Hurts Me Too’ was great and following it with ‘Steamy Windows’, a Tony Joe White tune popularised by Tina Turner, only served to turn up the heat. When she went walkabout in the crowd during ‘Skinny Girl’, all last remnants of formality flew out of the window.
Afterwards, Andy and I were introduced to Lyytinen and her co-guitarist Davide Floreno in the bar. She seemed lovely. When I told her that I’d enjoyed the show enough to consider pitching a review to Classic Rock, Erja smiled and disappeared, returning with a hand-written set-list that even included writers’ credits. Aw… what a nice gesture! And definitely worth holding onto if her career takes the upwards curve I expect. And in case you wondered what she and her band played, here goes: ‘The Road Leading Home’, ‘Voracious Love’, ‘Don’t Let A Good Woman Down’, ‘Crowes At Your Door’, ‘Mississippi Callin’’, ‘Grip Of The Blues’, ‘Can’t fall In Love’, ‘Not A Good Girl’, ‘No Place Like Home’, ‘It Hurts Me Too’, ‘Steamy Windows’, ‘Everything’s Fine’, ‘Skinny Girl’ and ‘Oil And Water’, plus an encore of ‘Soul Of A Man’.
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Wednesday 9th March
Oh, what sheer unrestrained joy. Prior to Palace’s home game with Cardiff Shitty, I had remarked that I expected my beloved Eagles to return to the relegation zone by the end of last night. In fact, a ludicrous back-heel from Fulham loanee Kagisho Dikgacoi clipped the wings of the promotion-chasing sheepshaggers, sending Selhurst Park into a mixture of shock and potty ecstasy. Watching it live from the Holmesdale Road stand, it looks as though Dikgacoi’s shot, which rebounded off the post and trickled over the line, happened by complete accident. On TV, however, it’s easier to believe he meant it. Regardless, this all-time great Palace moment is responsible for creating a four-point cushion above the relegation trapdoor. There is a fucking God.
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Tuesday 8th March
Some new names have been added to the bill of Classic Rock’s High Voltage Festival, including John Lees’ Barclay James Harvest, the von Hertzen Brothers, Black Spiders, Neurosis, Electric Wizard and the excellent US hard rockers Rival Sons. Arguably the most interesting selection is Skin, who despite having played a farewell tour that was almost completely ruined by December’s snowstorms – Neville lost his voice for several of its shows and many ticketholders that didn’t own their own personal snowploughs were unable to make it – have agreed to play one final outdoor gig (and two warm-ups!). Works just fine for me!!
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Monday 7th March
Yesterday’s Cricket World Cup game between England and New Zealand offered truly amazing entertainment. Despite having been dismissed for a paltry 171 with five overs to spare, causing commentator ‘Beefy’ Botham to quip: “England’s scorecard has so many ones and zeros, it looks like an international dialling code”, Strauss’ men bounced back to edge over the line by 6 runs in a thrilling climax. I’m so glad that I elected to stay home watch it instead of schlepping over to the Orpington Record Fair instead.

I spent some of this afternoon talking to Jay Jay French of Twisted Sister, whose daughter Samantha was diagnosed with a generative condition called Uveitis eleven years ago, aged just six. This disease eats away at their eyesight of around 30,000 children; for reasons yet to be ascertained, mainly female ones. French has spent the last three years putting together a range of dazzling pink customised instruments, his goal to raise money and boost awareness of this cruel ailment. For details go here.
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Sunday 6th March
Though Palace’s defeat at Burnley had seemed almost inevitable, the depressing results of the other basement clubs almost knocked the stuffing out of me. It took herculean amounts of effort to walk out the door and head across London to see Peter Frampton at Shepherd’s Bush Empire. Having joined my friends Neil and Louise Pudney at the crash barrier a mere three rows from the front of the stage, this determination was richly rewarded. The sound was immaculate and Frampton played for almost three hours, smiling and cracking gags during a show that oozed bubbly cordiality. Having won a Grammy for his 2007 instrumental album ‘Fingerprints’, Peter is in a good place right now. “I was a bit worried about singing again on my new album,” he told us, referring to the current ‘Thank You Mr Churchill’, and adding: “I thought I’d been given my Grammy for shutting up.” Said disc was well represented by tracks like ‘Restraint’, ‘Vaudeville Nanna And The Banjolele’ and ‘Asleep At The Wheel’. However the decision to play six vocal-free tunes (if you include a rendition of Soundgarden’s ‘Black Hole Sun’, its chorus section delivered via the trusty talk-box) was a tad excessive. Pre-empting November’s return visit to celebrate to celebrate the 35th anniversary of the timeless ‘Frampton Comes Alive!’ and backed by a faceless but scarily efficient four-piece band that included the return of the excellent Stanley Sheldon who played fretless bass on ‘…Alive!’, the 60-year-old purred through such vintage gems as ‘Lines On My Face’, ‘Baby, I Love Your Way’, ‘Shine On’, ‘All I Want to Be (Is By Your Side)’, ‘Show Me The Way’ and ‘Do You Feel Like We Do?’, before encoring with Humble Pie’s ‘I Don’t Need No Doctor’ and ‘While My Guitar Gently Sleeps’.
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Saturday 5th March
I’m still buzzing after last nite’s gig at the Borderline. Each the show’s three acts were billed to play for 45 minutes. Given the overwhelming response to their debut album headliners Houston were adjudged the top dogs, of course, but I have to say that Vega and Serpentine pushed the Swedes every darned step of the way, possibly even overshadowing a performance that was never really destined to match the critical furore of those gushing reviews.
Vega are fronted by ex-Kick singer Nick Workman and feature the Martin brothers – guitarist Tom and keysman James – who have penned material for House Of Lords, Ted Poley, Danny Vaughn, Issa, Harry Hess and Khymera among others. I enjoyed their debut album, ‘Kiss Of Life’, despite a tendency to veer off into U2-flavoured territory, but onstage the group’s songs really took on a life of their own, notably the über-ballad ‘What It Takes’. Rounded out by a mascara-toting, shag-permed bassist who looked like he had strayed onto the wrong tour bus, Vega have a short-haired image that fits their music to a tee. If they play their cards right, they could have a great future. Here’s their set-list: ‘Into The Wild’, ‘Staring At The Sun’, ‘One Of A Kind’, ‘What It Takes’, ‘Hearts Of Glass’, ‘S.O.S’ and ‘Kiss Of Life’.
Since releasing last year’s debut album ‘A Touch Of Heaven’, Serpentine have parted company with Tony Mills of Shy/TNT fame. Given that Mills played such a big role in their album, also that he has such a charismatic vocal style, some must perhaps have foreseen Serpentine taking a tumble. The appointment of the exceptional Matt Black, a helium-voiced singer from the tribute band circuit (Black fronts Six Of The Best, also featuring musos from the likes of Tyketto, Paradise Lost and Ten) has placed them on a very solid footing. Introducing a couple of impressive-sounding new songs, ‘’Philadelphia’ and ‘Cry’, they cruised through the cream of the debut – also featuring ‘A Touch Of Heaven’, ‘Lonely Nights’, ‘Let Love Rain Down’, ‘In My Blood’ and ‘Whatever Heartache’, Black’s intoxicating voice leaving the audience drooling. Who’d have believed it was their first ever gig??!!
Houston arrived on the stage like conquering heroes, frontman Hampus Hank Erix sporting a dressing gown emblazoned with his name and shadow-boxing like an auditionee for the lead role in the next Rocky sequel. While many of the six-string parts on the Houston album were performed by Tommy Denander, onstage the Swedish band features two petite Abba-style female guitarists – one blonde (Filippa Naessil), the other brunette (Helena Alsterhed) – both of whom it must be said are far easier on the eye than Mr Denander (“Tommy is a great bloke,” agreed Kieran Dargan as we chatted at the bar, “but he’s got seven arses”). Most of Houston’s album was aired, including ‘One Chance’, ‘Chasing The Dream’, ‘Give Me Back My Heart’, ‘Truth Slips’ (with shared vocals from Alsterhed), ‘Misery’, ‘Under Your Skin’, ‘Hold On’, ‘1000 Songs’ and ‘Pride’, plus an encore of ‘Your Love’, a much-covered song from The Outfield’s debut album, ‘Play Deep’. At times Hank’s vocals left a little to be desired, but along with the band’s charm the enthusiasm of the audience carried them across the finish line with ease. It was, in short, a faith-affirming night of melodic hard rock. As Serpentine’s Matt Black so rightly pointed out: “Thee bands for eight quid? I could buy a house for that in Barnsley. No, only kidding… I could buy two!”
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Friday 4th March
The 100 Club turned into a thespian tea party for last night’s gig by the Heavy Metal Kids. The presence of the band’s new singer John Altman (AKA Nasty Nick from EastEnders) had spiced up the guest list and actresses Rula Lenska and Vicki Michelle from ’Allo ’Allo were among the crowd, along with the fella that played Detective Sergeant Jim Carver in The Bill (or so I’m told). Another ex-EastEnder, the actor who played Mehmet, was also spotted skulking around.
Following HMK's previous London gig at the Garage, I expressed some reservations regarding Altman’s ability as a frontman (see Diary, 12th Nov 2010). I’m happy to say that improvements have been made. He’s certainly injecting a little more personality into his performance. ‘Hangin’ On’, the opening track from the band’s self-titled debut album was dedicated to Colonel Gaddafi, and on a musical level the band were incredibly tight and fired-up. If they can write an album that’s as consistent as their excellent new song, ‘Uncontrollable’, they’re in with more than a fighting chance. I’ve still got my doubts about Altman, though. The shoes once occupied by the flamboyant Gary Holton are extremely large, and John is doing his growing up in public…
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Thursday 3rd March
In sporting terms, it was a bit of a JFK moment. Where were you when England’s Ashes-winning cricketers slipped up on a banana skin marked ‘Ireland’ in the World Cup? I’d kept tabs on the game throughout most of the day – one of the joys of being self-employed is that you can sit and transcribe a tape in front of the TV and nobody complains – but I was standing outside a pub at London’s Cambridge Circus, gazing forlornly at its TV screen, when the winning runs were struck. Like the England team, who had seen defeat racing towards them like an unstoppable freight train, I was gobsmacked. Well played to the Irish lads but England’s fielding and bowling were an absolute bloody disgrace.
Next stop – a room full of drunken Irishmen. Yes, seriously. I’d been invited to a press reception for a new version of Rory Gallagher’s film ‘Irish Tour ’74’. Little did I realise until Gallagher’s manager/brother Donal stood up to address the gathering that yesterday would have been Rory’s 63rd birthday. Jesus… where on earth does the time go? I remember attending a Rory Gallagher gig at London’s Queen Mary College in 1981, meeting the great man and getting autographs on my copies of ‘Calling Card’ and ‘Photo Finish’ (both of which are still treasured today). Anyway, the new version of ‘Irish Tour ’74’ is breathtaking – a real time capsule of its era. Painstaking restored over the course of a year, it will include various bonus features including a documentary and footage from a Japanese tour. You can definitely put me down for one of those. Oh yes.
Afterwards, everybody stood around in the venue’s foyer admiring a selection of Rory’s guitars (and a mandolin) which had appeared in the movie – including his iconic sweat-stained trademark Strat – as pints of Guinness were raised (I stuck with white wine) and mini-hamburgers munched upon. It was a great, nostalgic night. It’s tough to believe that Gallagher has now been dead for 16 years.
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Tuesday 1st March
There’s not much to report but it’s the first day of a new month, which means the Playlist and YouTube pages have been given their regular overhaul.