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

Monday 31st March
Cool… Black Sabbath are to play an open-air gig in Hyde Park this summer, along with Motörhead, Soundgarden, Faith No More and many others. Might just have to get along to that!
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Sunday 30th March
I write this hampered by of the worst hangovers in living memory. Following the disappointment (and injustice) of losing in injury time at St James Park the previous weekend, Palace faced Chelski at Selhurst Park. Eldest son Eddie would later point out that Crystal Palace’s team cost a mere £8 million to assemble, their opponents a whopping £182.5m. So imagine my unadulterated shock and joy when the Eagles caused a sensation with a much deserved 1-0 victory thanks to an own goal from J**n T***y. With other results going our way, the unexpected three points could be utterly priceless at the season’s end.
In stark contrast to 24 hours earlier, night #2 of the Frantic Four at Hammy was a complete booze-fuelled knees-up. Roared on by a humongously loud crowd, the second show had the edge over the opening night. The set-list was identical but Rossi seemed to be enjoying himself, going so far as to introduce Alan Lancaster and John Coghlan and encourage a bit of crowd participation during ‘Most Of The Time’. Alas, it was all over too soon, and I returned to the Duke Of Cornwall for a few nightcaps. Walking back through the local park, refreshed as a newt and with a kebab in hand, was a rather bittersweet experience. My beloved footie club had humbled a team chasing the Premiership title and I was still buzzing after a wonderful, exhilarating display from Quo, but I knew that in less than 24 hours I’d be seeing them again for what will most likely be the very final time… I have no plans to witness the ‘current’ line-up (Quo Lite, Pantomime Quo, call them what you will) ever again. That would be like getting to exchange bodily fluids with the voluptuous redhead Joan from Mad Men, followed by a ‘horizontal night in’ with EastEnders’ own Heather Trott… er, no thanks!
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Saturday 29th March
Having seen the set-list well in advance, I’ll admit to approaching the first night of the Frantic Four’s residency at Hammersmith with an undercurrent of mild caution. Reports of earlier shows had indicated tighter performances and an improved degree of inter-group camaraderie, but the sheer unadventurous nature of the repertoire – ‘Caroline’ replacing ‘Don’t Waste My Time’ and a few extra minutes added to ‘Forty Five Hundred Times’ (plus a bar or two from ‘Gotta Go Home’) – presented a bit of a mental barrier for me. With hindsight it was plain unrealistic to have hoped for ‘Slow Train’ though it would’ve been easy to add ‘Paper Plane’ or ‘Mean Girl’, or even ‘Claudie’, ‘Softer Ride’, ‘Break The Rules’ or ‘The Mystery Song’. Despite indications to the contrary there was no sign of the much-loved ‘jig’ section in ‘Roadhouse Blues’, and retaining the same set-list (as near as dammit), the same Jackie Lynton intro tape and the same ‘Hello!’ album backdrop smacked a little of laziness.
All of that having been said, from my place in the third row of the Apollo’s balcony I thoroughly enjoyed the show. The decision to call time on the Frantic Four is borderline mystifying. Alan Lancaster looks far healthier than last time around, John Coghlan has shed some timber and Rick Parfitt’s hair has grown back and the band have become a well primed machine. I swear I even saw Rossi smile! The band members gave a great ‘Piledriver’-themed interview to The Quietus which closes with Parfitt addressing the reason for the decision to call it a day: “Getting the band back together was a platinum moment, it was shiny and wonderful. This time it will be gold, and I do not want it to go down to silver and then to bronze.” That makes sense, I suppose. But if they were to mix things up, make the experience extra special again, this line-up of the group could still have a rosy future. After his criticism of the first Frantic Four tour, Francis Rossi said: “Let’s do it again, but better” . To that I reply, what they *should’ve* said is: Let’s do it better and different.
Anyway… if you’ve not seen it, the set-list ran as follows: ‘Junior’s Wailing’, ‘Backwater’/‘Just Take Me’, ‘Is There A Better Way?’, ‘In My Chair’, ‘Blue Eyed Lady’, ‘Little Lady’/‘Just Take Me’, ‘Rain’, ‘(April), Spring, Summer And Wednesdays’, ‘Railroad’, ‘Oh Baby’, ‘Forty Five Hundred Times’ (including ‘Gotta Go Home’), ‘Big Fat Mama’, ‘Down Down, and ‘Roadhouse Blues’, with encores of ‘Caroline’ and ‘Bye Bye Johnny’. After the show, which I watched in an alcohol-free state, I was given I lift home to Catford by my buddy Steve ‘No Relation’ Way. Having sped around the South Circular I was back in my living room by 11.05pm – amazing! Time for an early night… today is gonna be humongous!!
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Friday 28th March
A quick phone interview with Ginger Wildheart to begin the day… nice! We hadn’t spoken in a while and after ‘official business’ was taken care of we chatted for a while about his role as fill-in bassist for the near-legendary Starz gig at London’s Garage last December. It was great to hear him talk with such child-like enthusiasm (Yes, he’d love to do it again!). Ginger is a genuine music fan.
“Is there anybody out there that wants to rock...?” It’s here at last, the first of three boogie-tastic nights at London’s Hammersmith Odeon with one of my all-time favourite groups. And Wilko Johnson as the support act – killer!
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Thursday 27th March
Okay, I’m a wee bit flummoxed. John Wetton has just Tweeted about having emitted a “groan” whilst reading my “predictable” review of Asia’s new album ‘Gravitas’ in the current issue of Prog magazine. “So negative,” he wrote. “A pity, as everyone else seems to like it.”
Okay, hold on a minute, what part of “‘Gravitas could well mark a fascinating new start for Asia”, “Asia in their full-on pomp-rock splendour”, “a deliciously commercial hard rock tune”, “Asia 2014 have sacrificed none of their Downes-fuelled symphonic extravagance” and (in the tag-line), “even without Steve Howe, they remain a serious proposition” can possibly be construed as negative?!?
And as for everyone else seeming to like it… let’s remind ourselves what other critics said about ‘Gravitas’. It averages two out of five among posters at Progarchives.com (“I have heard every album that Asia has put out since their inception and I must say that ‘Gravitas’ is the band’s lowest point ever”), while Alan Holloway at RockUnited.com, who like myself is a huge fan of the group, called it “boring” and signed off with the line: “I’ve a feeling this will be [my own] biggest disappointment of the year.” Sputnikmusic.com went one further with the verdict: “Essential for those seeking a reliable cure for insomnia”, Melodicrock.com opting for: “A moped in first gear.”
Okay, rant over. On a happier note, those that continue dismiss hard rock as a dying genre should have been at last nite’s sold-out London stop on Classic Rock/Metal Hammer’s Lords Of The Riff tour. Monster Truck and Scorpion Child simply ruled the stage, and what a crowd response! I predict huge things for both groups.
Oh, and *huge* thanks to Liverpool FC for last nite’s fine 2-1 victory over Palace’s relegation rivals Sunderland. I kept in touch with the events at Anfield via a series of texts with eldest son Eddie. I’m appalled as anyone by the prospect of the Scousers (particularly the grotesque Suarez) winning the title, but there was huge relief as the final whistle blew some 20 minutes into Monster Truck’s set.
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Wednesday 26th March
I was watching House Of Lords at the Underworld last night and I clean forgot that their classic self-titled debut had a song called ‘Pleasure Palace’. It’s pretty obvious that James Christian has never visited Selhurst Park. Hahaha.
Naturally I arrived in time to check out ColdSpell, the Swedish hard rockers whose most recent album, ‘Frozen’, was a right ol’ corker. Offering buoyant, air punching, key-embellished choruses redolent of Whitesnake or, in the case of ‘Fight Till The End’, like Gary Moore in his hard rocking days, they hit the spot in no uncertain terms, blasting through ‘Angel Of The World’, ‘Keep On Believin’’, ‘Six Feet Under’, ‘Paradise’, ‘Living On The Run’ and ‘Eye Of The Storm’. Their hour flew by remarkably quickly.
For reasons best known to themselves, the headliners elected to kick things off by playing three songs without James Christian, their bassist handling lead vox instead… eh? When House Of Lords were good (viz ‘Love Don't Lie’, ‘I Just Wanna be Loved’, ‘Slip Of The Tongue’, ‘Sahara’ and some of the newer stuff) they were excellent, but those taped keyboards were an embarrassment. Under the same circumstances of such shameless, flagrant pretence I know that I couldn’t live with myself. And as for those bass, drum and guitar solos – all with taped accompaniment – I have but one word: ‘Gross’. All for the benefit of about 100 people, too.
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Tuesday 25th March
What a great show from UFO in Southampton last nite! They mixed up the set-list a little and really seemed to be enjoying themselves – Moggie was hilarious with his chat about twerking, the perils of paying homage to Arthur Brown’s crown of fire, the Budget (“Hope you’re all enjoying your 1p off a pint of beer!”) and what sounded like a less than enjoyable time at the recent Hard Rock Hell AOR Festival in Wales (“Less Hi-Di-Hi, more The Great Escape!”). Thinking about it, it was probably the first time in more than three decades that I’ve watched the band sober (that’s me, not them! Hahaha). Here’s the set-list: ‘Lights Out’, ‘Fight Night’, ‘Wonderland’, ‘Let it Roll’, ‘When Daylight Goes To Town’, ‘Baby Blue’, ‘Pushed To The Limit’, ‘Makin’ Moves’, ‘Ain’t No Baby’, ‘Only You Can Rock Me’, ‘Burn Your House Down’, ‘Love To Love’ and ‘Rock Bottom’, with encores of ‘Cherry’, ‘Too Hot To Handle’, ‘Doctor Doctor’ and ‘Shoot Shoot’.
At the risk of sounding like a stuck record, which complete and utter plum decided that Y&T, Steve Hackett and now Black Stone Cherry should all play separate gigs in London on the same day??!! Words fail me...
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Monday 24th March
RIP Oderus Urungus of the Antarctica-based theatrical rockers GWAR, AKA Dave Brockie – seen here reviewing the singles for the pages of RAW magazine along with yours truly. Brockie was only 50 years old – no age at all when you think about it, and GWAR were always loads of fun live, covering their audiences in buckets of fake blood. Only last weekend I had read a really great interview with Dave in the pages of Metal Hammer in which he told of the time GWAR played a gig for a bunch of punk rockers at a squat in Holland. “They had all saved their vomit for a month in a big bucket and let it ferment,” he reminisced. “When we came out onstage they threw it at us, thinking we’d appreciate that. We didn’t. We bring our own vomit, thank you very much.” The world is a poorer place this morning. Here’s the Classic Rock website story.

Dave Ling Online

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Sunday 23rd March
What a kick in the teeth. All of the newspaper and web reports I’ve read confirm my own belief that Palace deserved a point from yesterday's game against Newcastle. With neither side having scored after 90 minutes, it was announced that three minutes of extra time would follow. It’s hard to sum up the sense of disappointment and dismay when the home side went ahead in the 94th minute. My gut informs me that a point lost could be crucial at the season’s end. Gutted, gutted, gutted… Not even a great, boozy night at Trillians and in several pubs along the quayside could paper over the hurt.
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Saturday 22nd March
…And we're off to St James’ Park. Today is all about footie, booze, catching up with friends, Trillians Rock Bar and blowing off a little steam. I’ve a box of Rose wine for the train journey and hope to finish the last few pages of Dave Lewis’ excellent book, Led Zeppelin: Then As It Was Knebworth 1979. Come On You Palace!
My Friday night was spent at the Underworld – briefly! Though my sons were in my custody I had made plans for a flying visit to Camden to check out Santa Cruz, who were opening for Voodoo Six. But there was bad news… just like last June (when the Finns supported Vega at the Barfly) I had a cancelled train, and they'd already begun by the time I arrived – FFS! The venue was rather full and I found a decent vantage point just as they played the excellent new single, ‘We Are The Ones To Fall’. The GN’R-esque ‘Lay My Love On You’ was dedicated to “all the laydeeeez” which generated some squeals. After just one more song (‘Aiming High’) they were gone, and it was time to head straight back to Catford again but it was enough to slam home the point that we will be hearing much, much more from these Nordic hair metal dudes…
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Friday 21st March
Look what’s just turned up in the post after I asked Derek Oliver for a set of the new Dokken re-masters on his label, Rock Candy Records. Derek, I love you… in a manly way, of course.

Dave Ling Online

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Wednesday 19th March
These days my music is just about all that keeps me going and/or borderline sane. I attend a lot of gigs. Tyketto and Bonfire at London’s Garage were as good as anything I’ve seen in a heck of a long time.
Support came from Summers, a young, twin guitar (i.e. keyboard-less) five-piece from Southampton who have some decent radio-friendly tunes including ‘Too Bad For Love’, ‘I Came Here To Rock’ and the Leppard-esque ‘What Every Girl Wants’. Once the soundman turned up the vox I really enjoyed them. It’s early days for the lads but at times their singer Crash Summers sounded so much like Joe Elliott that I chuckled aloud.
Save for allowing their drummer Harry Reischmann to play a seven-minute solo (!) in the place of absent standards ‘Ready 4 Reaction’ and ‘Champion’, special guests Bonfire were superb. Claus Lessmann still has a fine set of pipes and the set built brilliantly as they progressed through ‘Bells Of Freedom’, ‘Russian Roulette’, ‘Metal Mind’, ‘Hot To Rock’, ‘Don’t Touch The Light’, ‘Fantasy’, ‘I Am The Sword You Are The Stone’, ‘Give It A Try’, ‘Under Blue Skies’ and a rousing ‘Sweet Obsession’.
The headliners were celebrating their quarter-century anniversary, a fact that Danny Vaughn seemed very grateful for. “All of this clapping and singing along, it’s no longer about our egos,” the singer told the packed and highly vociferous crowd. “Now it’s part of the show; we want everyone to just let go of all the shit that’s going on outside in their everyday lives. That means the world to us.” Later on, ‘Sound Off’ – one of four selections from 2012’s highly underrated ‘Dig In Deep’ – was dedicated to “Justin Bieber, Miley Cyris, Britney Spears and Adam Lambert – all of the shit that we’re forced to listen to day after day after day. People download it because they’re mindless.” I couldn’t agree more. Here’s the set-list: ‘Burning Down Inside’, ‘Rescue Me’, ‘Faithless’, ‘Seasons’, ‘End Of The Summer Days’, ‘Sail Away’, ‘Here’s Hoping It Hurts’, ‘Meet Me In The Night’, ‘Dig In Deep’, ‘Lay Your Body Down’, ‘Sound Off’, ‘Standing Alone’, ‘Catch My Fall’, ‘Some Kind Of Wonderful’ (sung by drummer Mike Clayton) and ‘Wings To Fly’, followed by ‘The Last Sunset’ and ‘Burning Down Inside’.
En route to the garage I met Tobias Sammet of Edguy for a quick chat about his band’s new album ‘Space Police – Defenders Of The Crown’ (Nuclear Blast, April 21st). Sammet is riotous company and gives great quotage. When I informed him that ‘Rock Me Amadeus’, which Edguy have covered on the new elpee, is among the most annoying songs of all time he chirruped back brightly: “Of course it’s annoying – this band is annoying in a way; we’ve made a whole career out of that!” Honorary Englishman, and no mistake!
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Tuesday 18th March
The new issue of Classic Rock’s AOR magazine has arrived, with Derek Oliver’s epic piece on the making of the Journey album ‘Infinity’ (their debut with Steve Perry on vocals) as its cover story. I chipped in with a few interviews of my own - Frédéric Slama of AOR, Missing Persons’ Dale Bozzio, David Young and The Duchess from Space Elevator and a news stories on H.E.A.T. and Heaven And arth.
Here at Ling Towers it’s Prog magazine reviews day. Luckily, I’ve hooked three belters: Don Airey’s ‘Keyed Up’ (which includes one of the final recording by the late, great Gary Moore), ‘Disconnect’ by former Porcupine Tree/Steven Wilson live guitarist John Wesley (listen out for a cool cameo from Alex Lifeson) and Epica’s ‘The Quantum Enigma’. It baffles me when people say there’s so little great new music around, that’s bollocks!
The Frantic Four’s new tour begins tonight in Germany. I shall be dashing home from seeing Tyketto/Bonfire in Islington to check out the set list. *Please* let ‘Slow Train’ be included!!!
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Monday 17th March
It’s been a beautiful sunny day here in Sarf London. Angel Witch @ the Underworld 20.12.08 was the noisy soundtrack to lunchtime’s sweaty park run. Taking the imaginary ticker tape to ‘Angel Of Death’… perfect!
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Sunday 16th March
The stress of watching yesterday’s footie was getting to me so I needed a few pints of this tasty scrumpy, brought back from Minehead a few weeks ago. *Sluurrrrrrps!*

Dave Ling Online

The result was a hard-fought 0-0 draw. Though the Eagles had two good chances to have won it at the death, a point was a very useful result – especially as most of the other results were favourable. Thank you Everton. Thank you Southampton. And fuck you very much to the Geordies, who succumbed lamb-like to the league’s basement side Fulham.
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Saturday 15th March
This afternoon my heart will be in Sunderland… I wish I could’ve been there for such a crucial game. Meanwhile, down in the championship's bargain basement there’s a big relegation battle between Scumwall and Clowntown Pathetic… to determine the identity of South London’s Number Two. Goddamn it, if only they could both lose.
My Friday was taken up by phone interviews with Clutch’s Neil Fallon and A Jay Popoff, lead singer of the Orange County pop-punks Lit, who are about to play a 15th anniversary British tour for their ‘A Place In The Sun’ album. I prepped by bunging on said CD… hadn’t heard it aeons and it was much, much better than I remembered, especially the group’s biggest hit, ‘My Own Worst Enemy’.
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Friday 14th March
The end of another hectic week approaches: phone interviews with Luke Machine from Maschine and Steve Hillage, followed by a get together with the usual curry and beer gang in the West End (still no beer for me though…).
After Classic Rock boss man Scott Rowley’s recent epic Facebook about the merits of US cult series Breaking Bad I ventured into Fopp Records at Cambridge Circus and bought series 1-3 for £20. Scott claims to have watched it “six months after everyone else” but here in my little bubble on Planet Ling I am so far behind the times, it’s almost hilarious.
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Thursday 13th March
I’ve only got one gig this week, though luckily it was by Transatlantic, the progressive rock supergroup that feature members past ‘n’ present of Dream Theater, Spock’s Beard, Marillion and the Flower Kings. That’s enough for three shows by almost any other group you could name!
In town to promote their fourth album, ‘Kaleidoscope’, the band were augmented by Ted Leonard of Spock’s Beard, who did an excellent job in the auxiliary role usually filled by Daniel Gildenlöw, turning in a whopping set that clocked in at two hours and 40 minutes long – no wonder that in between outrageous bouts of showboating (the drummer actually employs a roadie to remove his stool – and quickly put it back – freeing up maximum room to leap around!), Mike Portnoy quipped: “Welcome back my friends to the show that never ends… well, you knew what to expect when you bought a ticket!” The size of the crowd confirmed his theory, no bother.
Unsurprisingly, ‘Kaleidoscope’ was well represented in a display of first class musicianship. From my place in the balcony the sound was just about perfect and towards the night’s end the Forum accompanied Neal Morse loudly during an uplifting ‘We All Need Some Light’. I loved it when, during ‘Ride The Lighting’, the band launched into a Metallica riff and the sleeve to the album of the same name was projected behind them – proof that they *do* have a sense of humour. An encore featuring abridged versions of ‘All Of The Above’ and ‘Stranger In Your Soul’ set the seal on an almost faultless evening… if you ask me Morse and Roine Stolt’s unaccompanied bout of guitar noodling was pretty superfluous. Here’s the set-list: ‘Into The Blue’, ‘My New World’, ‘Shine’, ‘Whirlwind’ Medley: ‘Overture’, ‘Rose Colored Glasses’, ‘Evermore’, ‘Is It Really Happening?’ and ‘Dancing With Eternal Glory’, ‘Beyond The Sun’, ‘Kaleidoscope’, Guitar Duet, ‘We All Need Some Light’ and ‘Black As The Sky’, followed by ‘All Of The Above’ and ‘Stranger In Your Soul’.
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Tuesday 11th March
Here is a meteorological announcement: There’s a strange bright object in the sky but the receipt of the live albums from their 2 x festive shows (‘Back To The Black Country’ and ‘The Xmas Show Live 2013’) has turned the afternoon quite Thunder-ous. I really don’t mind because, as this clip confirms, Sir Daniel of Bowes and company really are one of the best live bands out there.
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Monday 10th March
I really enjoyed this evening’s phone interview with a true hard rock legend, Joe Perry of Aerosmith. A fascinating guy… very thoughtful. Surprisingly generous with his time, too.
Obviously, the focus of our conversation was the Boston band’s forthcoming open-air gig on London’s Clapham Common, which takes place this summer and also features Joe Bonamassa and Thunder and many other names, though we also spoke about the possibility of new music from Aerosmurf, the mixed response to their last studio record, ‘Music From Another Dimension!’ (which I reminded him wasn’t quite the “raw, nasty, tough rock album” that he had predicted!) and the guitarist’s fire-and-ice relationship with fellow Toxic Twin, singer Steven Tyler. Great fun…
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Sunday 9th March
After a disappointing day at footie (and being forced to watch The Voice when I got home), thought I’d try a bottle of two of a drink that’s all the rage right now. It seemed rude not to indulge in some Prosecco. I liked the stuff and shall be having it again. The second bottle might have been a mistake though…
Palace’s home game against Southampton was decided by a single mistake – inevitably by a loose header from ex-Saint Jason Puncheon. The Eagles’ spirited display had deserved a point and with the season’s end screaming towards us I'm struggling to work out where many more wins will come from. It’s gonna go right down to the wire…
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Saturday 8th March
I’m enjoying a nice bit of It Bites before I head off to Selhurst Park for this afternoon’s game between Palace and Southampton. What a fuggin' great band!!! The sun’s come out, too, so I’m off for a park run. Amazing!
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Friday 7th March
Aw, I just woke up and realised that I’m not interviewing Robert Plant after all today. It was a bloody dream. That’ll teach me for reading Dave Lewis’ incredibly thorough book Led Zeppelin – Then As It Was At Knebworth 1979 so close to bedtime. But seriously, what a darned good read…
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Thursday 6th March
Here’s a segment of my recent interview with California Breed’s Glenn Hughes who, at the close of our conversation signed off with the words: “You are speaking to the most grateful man you will interact with this year. My football club [Wolverhampton Wanderers] might be in the third division, but coming back from the death of Black Country Communion to something as wonderful as California Breed, I’m happy beyond belief.” After thanking me for decades of support the Voice Of Rock then spoiled it with: “Hate to say it… maybe I’ll see you in the Championship next year.” I don’t fucking well think so, matey – CPFC are staying up!!!
Anyway, spring appears to have sprung and I’ve just arrived back at Chateau Ling after a cool interview with Eric and Erik from H.E.A.T. at the Columbia Hotel, a building with plenty of personal history for yours truly. It was at the hotel’s bar that RAW magazine got off the ground in its earliest days, and the guys enjoyed hearing the tale of the night the Sebastian Bach invited the whole crowd of the Marquee Club back for a drink after Skid Row’s quasi-legendary gig at the same venue. They were both top fellas and I’ve been playing the new album ‘Tearing Down The Walls’ twice or thrice a day since it wormed its way under my skin. It’s not as instant as ‘Address The Nation’ to me, but it *is* a real grower…
Last night was spent watching England’s narrow win over Denmark in a friendly at Wembley. A poor-to-middling display, if you ask me. On such evidence, Hodgson’s men will do well to get past the group stages.
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Wednesday 5th March
A great night was had at last night’s Uriah Heep DVD concert shoot at Koko. The finished results are sure to look and sound brilliant, and as predicted the set-list was expanded to include two brand new songs (‘Can’t Take That Away’ being one of their famous 12-bar blues shuffles and ‘One Minute’ a hook-laden mid-paced anthem), both of which bode bloody well for a studio album that’s now 100% completed, Bernie Shaw revealed from the stage. At encore time the band repeated ‘One Minute’ for the benefit of the cameras, and surprisingly the entire crowd was able to sing along to its chorus – a sure sign of a bloody good chewn. Now that bass player Davey Rimmer has been confirmed as a full-time member of the group, it was nice of Mick Box to have roared: “This one’s for our Trev [Bolder]” as an intro to ‘Between Two Worlds’. The unnerving similarity between the last album’s ‘Nail On The Head’ and the Gap Band’s disco track ‘Oops Inside Your Head’ remains a sizeable mental hurdle but Heep really are such a great live band that I could watch them every nite of the week. Lucky old Scampi, the band’s lighting engineer and tour manager, who gets to do exactly that and is paid for the privilege! Anyway, here’s the set-list: ‘Against The Odds’, ‘Overload’, ‘Traveller In Time’, ‘Sunrise’, ‘Stealin’’, ‘I’m Ready’, ‘Between Two Worlds’, ‘Can’t Take That Away’, ‘One Minute’, ‘Nail On The Head’, ‘Into The Wild’, ‘Gypsy’, ‘Look At Yourself’, ‘July Morning’ and ‘Lady In Black’, followed by ‘One More Minute’ (reprise) and ‘Easy Livin’’.
I still cannot believe that I met the legendary Judas Priest drummer Les ‘Feathertouch’ Binks at the after-show bash. It makes me want to start the day with this.
P.S. I’ve updated the Playlist and YouTube pages as usual.
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Tuesday 4th March
After being informed that the guest list was full, I’d all but given up on the hope of last night’s gig from Blackberry Smoke. Just I trudged through the front door of Ling Towers the call came that my name would be included after all, so my trusty overnight bag was dumped and I zoomed across to the Islington Academy.
As a last minute addition to the bill Nashville’s own Cadillac Three opened the show in fine style, dishing up a half-hour of gritty but tuneful Southern rock. I was especially impressed by the title cut of the band’s ‘Tennessee Mojo’ album and the plaintive, irresistible ‘White Lightning’. Song-for-song they were as good as the headliners, and the crowd loved them. Am looking forward to seeing them play a full set.
With their pronounced Aerosmith/GN’R-ish swagger Million Dollar Reload were somewhat out of place on such a spit ‘n’ sawdust orientated bill yet the Irishmen commanded a strong reception as they belted through ‘Under Your Skin’, ‘Livin’ In The City’ and ‘Bullets In The Sky’.
“I hope you’ve all come to boogie, baby!” hollered Charlie Starr before one of the evening’s most rollockin’ tunes, ‘Six Ways To Sunday’. Well, we did our best but the Academy’s main room was uncomfortably full, with scarcely enough room to scratch an itch let alone perform a hoedown. Following last year’s UK debut at an equally crammed Barfly, I really enjoyed seeing (and hearing) what they could do on a decent sized stage. It soon became evident that Blackberry Smoke are the real deal. Starr informed us that ‘Sleeping Dogs’ was a true story about a presumably violent incident that took place in a bar in Austell, Georgia. Maybe some cotton-picking son of a gun tried to take a comb to the lead singer/guitarist’s facial hair, who knows? However, the song bled into a fantastic, leisurely version of ‘Midnight Rider’ which set the place on fire. Later on they repeated the reaction by dropping in on the Muddy Waters-popularised ‘Got My Mojo Working’ during ‘Freeborn Man’. You know you’re onto a winner when you watch a band for 95 minutes and it feels like their played for a fraction of that time. Here’s the set-list: ‘Leave A Scar’, ‘Like I Am’, ‘Six Ways To Sunday’, ‘Good One Comin’ On’, ‘Pretty Little Lie’, ‘Crimson Moon’, Medley: ‘Sleeping Dogs’/‘Midnight Rider’, ‘Everybody Knows She’s Mine’, ‘The Whippoorwill’, ‘Shakin’ Hands With The Holy Ghost’, ‘Up In Smoke’, ‘Ain’t Got The Blues’, Medley: ‘Freeborn Man’/‘Got My Mojo Working’, ‘Restless’, ‘One Horse Town’ and ‘Ain’t Much Left Of Me’, with an encore of ‘Living In The Song’ and ‘Shake Your Magnolia’.
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Monday 3rd March
I’m back from an excellent lightning visit to Newcastle. During a smooth northbound train journey I managed to finish the last third of an excellent book titled Raising Hell On The Rock ‘N’ Roll Highway by Tom Wright, a writer, photographer and former tour manager for The Who and many more. Pete Townshend, who wrote its foreword, credits Wright with great importance in the Who’s formation which was enough for me to open my wallet. For a while Wright was the manager of the legendary Grande Ballroom in Detroit and his book has a great, really well written chapter about that era in his life which covers the MC5, the Grateful Dead, Zeppelin, Arthur Brown and many more. It’s recommended to fans of that halcyon era of music.
Arriving on Tyneside early afternoon I met Paul Ging, the Classic Rock writer from the North East who was kindly allowing me to kip at his place. After a nice lunch we found a pub to watch the second half of the League Cup Final. Believe me, there was no better bar to have been propping up as Man City came from behind to thrash and humiliate the Toon’s hated rivals, Sunderland. Glasses of wine began to flow. Via my mate Kev Denman, who was at the game, news came in that Palace were losing against Swansea. However, there was deep, unmitigated joy – comical to all of those in the pub, I’m sure – as Glenn Murray’s coolly taken late penalty rescued a priceless point.
After a couple more cold ’uns at the rock bar Trillians, we bowled up at Brofest – a three-day celebration of the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal – a wee bit later than anticipated but… shall we use the phrase ‘well-oiled’? What an incredible scenario, bullet belts and long hair were mandatory; if you didn't have a Witchfinder General back patch signed by all of the original members you might as well have been a One Direction fan.
Wearing Angel Witch T-shirts – odd, given the Canadian whippersnappers were scarcely been born when that band played the ‘old’ Marquee – Cauldron were winding up as we arrived. “We’d like to bring Mantas [from Venom] onstage” they cried excitedly, and as the guitarist plugged in and rocked out to ‘Die Hard’ Paul quipped: “That’ll bring the age level up a bit!”
Praised by Lars Ulrich in current issue of Classic Rock’s ‘cult heroes’ section, special guests Jaguar were amazing. The annoyingly frantic Jamie Manton might be a bit of a show-off, bouncing around the stage on a pogo stick and chattering like a deranged speed freak, but he’s also an undeniably awesome singer. ‘Feel The Heat’ had not played live for an incredible 32 years, and ‘Power Game’ proved beyond doubt that Jaguar can still compete at a surprisingly high level.
And so to the moment I’d been waiting for… the return of Vardis. Did the boogie-metallers disappoint? Did they f**k!! To the sound of disbelieving cheers drummer Gary Pearson’s daughter Stacey welcomed her “rock god dad” to the stage for a first live appearance in 27 years. Visually the trio are all but unrecognisable – sporting a sensible haircut that negates the use of the once-familiar talcum powder storm, guitarist Steve Zodiac no longer goes barefoot onstage, either – but close your eyes and it was like you were back in the 1980s. The hour-long set included three tunes from the ‘Vigilante’ album, soon to be on CD and iTunes for the first time, but dwelled mainly on the classic years. “Is it too fast for ya?” Zodiac asked, catching his own breath after ‘Gary Glitter Pr 1’, and smiling: “It is for us.” The more sedate ‘The World’s Insane’ offered a welcome change of pace, and by the time the trio closed with a wonderful ‘If I Were King’ any possible doubts about their rebirth were extinguished. Here’s the set-list: ‘Let’s Go’, ‘Out Of The Way’, ‘Destiny’, ‘Dirty Money’, ‘Gary Glitter Pt 1’, ‘The World’s Insane’, ‘Situation Negative’, Medley: ‘Don’t Mess With The Best (‘Cos The Best Don’t Mess)’/‘Radio Rockers’, ‘Loser’, ‘Learn How To Shoot Straight’ and ‘If I Were King’.
Afterwards, Paul and I accepted an invitation from Irene, the band’s legendary manager, to visit the dressing room. It was great to catch up with everyone. Here’s the pictorial evidence: L-R: Some handsome devil, Steve Zodiac, Gary Pearson and Terry Horbury. Please note: No alcohol was harmed in the taking of this photograph.

Dave Ling Online

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Sunday 2nd March
Another 7am start; finish off those Lynyrd Skynyrd sleeve notes, a quick park run (time allowing) and off to Newcastle for the Vardis reunion gig at Brofest (also featuring Jaguar, Blitzkrieg and Atomkraft). All in a day’s work!
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Saturday 1st March
Black Stone Cherry at Koko. Two words: ‘hell’ and ‘yeah’! And yet for yours truly last night’s gig at Koko was alcohol-free. With a weekend of fervent tape transcript ahead I’ve been sat here at the PC since 7am… yeah, it’s a glamorous life!
No two ways about it, having attended their shows since they supported Hinder back in 2007 I’m a huge fan of BSC. It’s been great to watch them climbing the ladder so steadily. Clocking in at just under two hours long, last night’s gig at Koko was an intimate ‘One Night With’-type gig, complete with fan-requested set-list and question and answer segments. It served as an emphatic reminder of why the four-piece from Edmonton, Kentucky are feted as heirs to a Southern rock crown still held by Lynyrd Skynyrd. In a set crammed with regular favourites and such rarely performed tunes as ‘Ghost Of Floyd Collins’, ‘Devil’s Queen’, ‘Big City Lights’ and ‘Drive’, we also got two hear ‘Me And Mary Jane’ and ‘Fiesta Del Fuego’, a pair of excellent-sounding selections from the forthcoming fourth album, ‘Magic Mountain’ (due on May 5th via Roadrunner Records). The band also teased the crowd with snippets of ZZ Top’s ‘Just Good Paid’ and ‘Roadhouse Blues’ by the Doors.
Truthfully, the audience Q&As were largely redundant as it was almost impossible hear what people were shouting out, especially when they did so from the balconies, but Koko roared with laughter when, having been asked “What cowbell do you use?” drummer John Fred Young replied: “The one off my cow!” The band are heading back later this year for what’ll be their biggest tour of the UK to date. In a recent Classic Rock interview, guitarist Ben Wells told me: “When I think about the size of the gigs we’re doing, I’m already getting nervous about it all.” Till then here’s the set-list: ‘Rain Wizard’, ‘Me And Mary Jane’, ‘Ghost Of Floyd Collins’, Medley: ‘Roadhouse Blues’/‘Yeah Man’, ‘In My Blood’, Question & Answer Session #1, ‘Devil’s Queen’, Medley: ‘Just Got Paid’/‘Soulcreek’, ‘Such A Shame’, ‘Blind Man’, ‘Big City Lights’, ‘Peace Is Free’, ‘Drive’, Drum Solo, ‘Hell & High Water’, Q&A Session #2, ‘Things My Father Said’, ‘Fiesta Del Fuego’, ‘Backwoods Gold’, Q&A Session #3, ‘White Trash Millionaire’, ‘Blame It On The Boom Boom’, Q&A Session #4, ‘Lonely Train’ and ‘30 Seconds Of Death Metal’.