Dave's Diary
This journal of the comings'n'goings and musings'n'enthusings of Dave Ling will be updated daily
(except after nights of excess)

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Monday 31st May
I was already in despondent mood at Selhurst Park, busy registering my protest at the way the club appeared to be slip-sliding to oblivion, when **the text** arrived from my fellow supporter Neil Pudney. Had I seen the new statement from the administrator, he wondered? The answer being negative, I asked what had happened. “Fuck!” said Neil’s reply. “It’s too long to repeat here but basically says he have until 3pm tomorrow to make a deal with the bank [that owns the ground]. If that doesn’t happen, the players will be sold and the club liquidated.”
Feeling shellshocked, absolutely numb, I tried my best to join in the chanting; voicing my support for the TV cameras and newspaper photographers that were beginning to arrive. It was tough, though. My beloved football club was staring down the barrel. When some rogue fans broke through the turnstiles and ran into the ground, in a disbelieving daze I joined them. I went and sat at my usual season ticket seat on the lower Holmesdale Road stand. “Will this be last time I ever do so?” I found myself wondering. The fans were busy doing the club proud, letting off flares, clambering onto buildings and letting down homemade banners, one of which declared: “105 years of history: We won’t give up without a fight”. It was too much… I ambled off home, fully convinced that I would never again return to the hallowed area of SE25 in which I have spent so much of my life. Had a phone interview with Steven Van Zandt at 6pm not been scheduled a few days earlier, I’d have gone into the nearest off license and got obliterated.
I’m now back at my desk on online. Happy to say that my fellow Eagles fans have refused to give up the fight. Besides a concerted email and Facebook campaign, plans are being put into place for a demonstration outside the headquarters of Lloyds Bank (an offshoot of the Bank Of Scotland, the current legal owners of the Home Of Football), leaving London Bridge Station at 11am – four hours before the deadline. I’m just about to go into a Classic Rock production week which makes things rather tricky but, make no mistake, I will be there. This is the most important battle ever fought by Crystal Palace FC. We must win. The alternative is too chilling to contemplate.

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Sunday 30th May
I was annoyed to see Scumwall overturn their Play-Off hoodoo at the sixth attempt, delighting their mongoloid followers by wangling past Swindon Town after a solitary goal at Wembley. The way things are starting to look, the Knuckledraggers from the Den may be the only south London club in next season’s Championship. My beloved Crystal Palace recently made 29 non-playing members of staff redundant and administrator Brendan Guilfoyle says CPFC’s very existence is on a “knife-edge”, the ‘L’ word – liquidation – being used with terrifying regularity. In a bid to keep the club afloat for another month, Guilfoyle is trying to offload star midfielder Darren Ambrose to QP-Ha-Ha for a derisory £750,000 fee. Unsurprisingly, a demonstration takes place tomorrow at Selhurst Park. Though it’s a Bank Holiday here in the UK and I’ve got shedloads of work, you won’t find me anywhere else.
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Saturday 29th May
Bookending a long and stressful week, Joe Bonamassa’s epic gig at the Hammy Apollo offered welcome relaxation. To be honest, though I seem to spend lots of time at this site bemoaning the brevity of the shows I see, Joe was perhaps guilty of hanging around for just a little too long. For me personally, two hours and twenty minutes was half an hour more than necessary. But given that last night’s show was the biggest of the New Yorker’s career – its packed audience of more than 5,200 outnumbering the recent Albert Hall performance – he cannot be blamed for milking it. It was great to see past touring partner Ian Anderson join in for a pair of songs (the Tull classics ‘New Day Yesterday’ and ‘Locomotive Breath’) that included generous dollops of improv. Joking that he would be “willing to shine the [silver] suit” of the show’s star, Anderson seemed to share the audience’s fun. Highlights included a delicious ‘Sloe Gin’, the Jeff Beck Group’s ‘Blues Deluxe’, a marvelous version of ‘Young Man Blues’ (the Mose Alison tune popularized by The Who on ‘Live At Leeds’) and a sizzling encore medley of ‘Just Got Paid’ by ZZ Top and Zep’s ‘Dazed And Confused’. The set-list ran as follows: ‘The Ballad Of John Henry’, ‘Last Kiss’, ‘So Many Roads’, ‘So It’s Like That’, ‘If Heartaches Were Nickels’, ‘Further On Up The Road’, ‘Sloe Gin’, ‘New Day Yesterday’, ‘Locomotive Breath’, ‘Lonesome Road Blues’, ‘Happier Times’, ‘Blue And Evil’, ‘Three Times A Fool’, ‘Blues Deluxe’, ‘Young Man Blues’, ‘Woke Up Dreaming’, Medley: ‘Django’/‘Mountain Time’ and the encore of ‘Bird On A Wire’ and Medley: ‘Just Got Paid’/‘Dazed And Confused’.
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Friday 28th May
With Classic Rock twisting an arm behind my back to deliver a fairly sizeable feature, most of my past 24 hours were spent here are the PC. But after a story has occupied your every waking hour for the past couple of days, there’s a real sense of fulfilment when the editor-in-chief writes back and says: “Cheers for this. I like it a lot. A job well done”. To be honest, it makes me want to go off to the pub. Which, with Joe Bonamassa playing at Hammersmith tonite, seems like as good a plan as any. Next stop the Duke Of Cornwall in Fulham Palace Road.
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Thursday 27th May
Just like many fans of Accept, I felt it slightly dubious that the band had decided to reunite minus their talismanic, pugnacious frontman Udo Dirkschneider, to record a new studio album (the German act’s 12th in all). However, I was willing to give them a chance. So the offer of attending a playback of said disc – ‘Blood Of Nations’ (due in September) – during the afternoon before last night’s gig at the Islington Academy was too good to turn down. Along with a handful of other scribes, I sat in the venue’s balcony downing vodka and Diet Cokes as eight of the album’s ten songs assaulted our lugholes (apparently, the Jap version will contain two additional songs). ‘Beat The Bastards’ was a terrific start and ‘Teutonic Terror’, with its lyrics of ‘Six-string sabres’ and ‘Screams in the night’, was similarly bruising. By the time we got to the epic ‘Shades Of Death’, with its Metallica-esque intro (as Xavier Russell quite rightly pointed out), I began to realise than none of the five songs we’d been played could be described as duff. Newcomer Mark Tornillo, whom I’d seen with his previous band TT Quick in Cincinnati back in 1986, has a real foghorn of a voice and fits into the group surprisingly well.
The evening’s show was monumental. With tufts of hair peeking out from beneath a faithful cap and a leathery, weather-beaten torso hidden only partially by a leather waistcoat, Tornillo reminded me a little of Brian Johnson. Just like Jonno, who joined AC/DC from the long-forgotten Geordie, he has certainly come out of nowhere to claim his place in Accept. I’d like to have heard Tornillo’s voice a little higher in the mix but, my, what a job he does. To be honest, as the band fired off classic after classic, I feared they might’ve shot their bolt after half an hour but the songs kept on coming and coming. Comprising four encore tunes, the latter of which included a guest appearance from ex-Sabbat guitarist Andy Sneap (the producer of ‘Blood Of Nations’) on a dizbusting ‘Balls To The Wall’, the show lasted for more than two hours. Given the new album’s quality perhaps they could have done more than just ‘The Abyss’ and ‘Teutonic Terror’, and the solo sections were pretty tiresome, but very few Accept fans could find fault with the following set-list: ‘Metal Heart’, ‘Midnight Mover’, ‘Living For Tonite’, ‘Restless And Wild’, ‘Son Of A Bitch’, ‘Losers And Winners’, ‘London Leatherboys’, ‘The Abyss’, ‘Run If You Can’, ‘Teutonic Terror’, ‘Breaker’, ‘Bulletproof’, Guitar Solo/‘Neon Nights’, Guitar Solo, ‘Up To The Limit’, Bass Solo, ‘Demon’s Night’, ‘Turn Me On’, ‘Monsterman’ and ‘Burning’, plus ‘Princess Of The Dawn’, ‘’I’m A rebel’, ‘Fast As A Shark’ (complete with the brilliant ‘hi-de-hi-ho’ intro tape) and ‘Balls To The Wall’.
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Wednesday 26th May
A highlight of yesterday’s workload was an interview with John Garcia, who brings a tour called Garcia Plays Kyuss to Europe in the not too distant future. We chatted about his time with the desert rock behemoth Kyuss – a group I was lucky enough to see onstage a couple of times – his claims of justification in resurrecting the band’s legacy (albeit temporarily; the singer clarifies: “This is the closest thing you’re going to get to a Kyuss reunion – I don’t see that happening any time in the future”) and, of course, of his in-the-works solo project Garcia Versus Garcia. Never havening spoken to John before, I liked him immensely. Our chat felt nothing like an interview as he pre-empted my questions and proceeded to spill the beans about numerous special guests that are being lined up for the tour. “I’m letting a bunch of cats out of a lot of bags for you now,” stated Garcia, who also revealed he is taking a break from a veterinary career in order to facilitate all of this. I shall **definitely** be at the Electric Ballroom on July 6.
I’ve been playing catch-up two albums that have been out awhile. I’m happy to say that Anathema’s Steven Wilson-mixed newie, ‘We’re Here Because We’re Here’, lives up to its stellar reviews. I’ve also been playing ‘La Raza’ by Armored Saint, which vindicates John Bush’s refusal to return to Anthrax. Dave Lewis has also sent me the latest issue (#26) of his Zeppelin magazine, Tight But Loose, which features an interview with Francis Dunnery on the years he spent recording and touring with Robert Plant circa ‘Fate Of Nations’. No offence intended to Dave, but I find his magazine superb ‘toilet reading matter’; it’s great to dip in and out of whenever… er… how to put this delicately… time demands.
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Tuesday 25th May
My plans for yesterday included no less than two gigs in one night. I stopped off at the Crobar for a ‘secret’ appearance from Earache Records band Enforcer, whose album ‘Diamonds’ is an enjoyable NWOBHM throwback. Due to be at the Barfly for 9.15, I had one eye on the clock, so it was annoying that the alleged 7.30 start time came and went (along with several voddie ‘N’ Diet Cokes and a slammer or two). In between drinks the problem was explained by Earache’s PR Talita: Enforcer had arrived late at the venue and then gone off to find some food. Oh well… I had no time to hang around. Let’s jump on a bus to Camden.
Naturally, upon arriving at a rammed-full Barfly I find that Reckless Love are not going onstage till 10pm. I could’ve stayed to watch Enforcer after all! How exasperating! A vehicle for former Crashdïet frontman Olli Herman, Reckless Love released a rather good self-titled debut earlier this year. My buddy Xavier Russell’s online review says most of what you need to know about the gig. Personally, I loved the fact that Herman arrived onstage like some high-kicking Matalan pastiche of Diamond Dave, but Reckless Love’s material is patchy and the stage raps were a little irritating. “Oh my God, there are so many beautiful girls in the house tonight,” Olli exclaimed before ‘So Yeah!!’, adding: “We’d like to dedicate this next song to those few who aren’t that beautiful. They are just… yeah… [mumbles]… You know what I’m talking about; guys just do.” Oh shut up, man. You had all goddamn day to think before you opened that mile-wide gob of yours. However, it was **magnificent** to hear the album’s single, ‘Beautiful Bomb’, performed live at last.
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Monday 24th May
I’d read the reports of Saturday night’s H.E.A.T. gig in Nottingham; how the Swedish group only played for 45 encore-less minutes and there seemed to be a nasty atmosphere between the musicians and their singer, Kenny Leckremo. Thankfully, yesterday’s show at The Gaff was a more satisfying experience. We got almost a full hour of music and Leckremo laughed and joked with his band-mates, enquiring whether Jimmy Jay’s apparently borrowed instrument was functioning okay, then making a cruel quip: “No one ever hears the bass anyway!” This was my first sojourn to The Gaff. I was little disappointed that the venue’s sound took the edge off Eric Rivers and Dave Dalone’s guitars a little, but the place seemed adequate enough – for a small pub on the Holloway Road (requiring quite a journey across town for yours truly). I’m a big fan of H.E.A.T., whose delicious blend of melodic hard rock sounds like Europe, Bon Jovi, Journey and Whitesnake put through a blender. With their wondrous second album, ‘Freedom Rock’, due any day, those rumours of internal strife are deeply unfortunate. Fingers crossed, it’ll all blow over. Here’s the set-list: ‘There For You’, ‘Late Night Lady’, ‘Black Night’, ‘Straight For Your Heart’, ‘Bring The Stars’, ‘Everybody Wants To Be Someone’, ‘Straight Up’, ‘We’re Gonna Make It To The End’, ‘Never Let Go’, ‘1000 Miles’, ‘Feel It Again’, ‘Beg Beg Beg’ and ‘Keep On Dreaming’.
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Sunday 23rd May
It was the outcome that most genuine football fans wanted to see: the fairy tale of the Seasiders returning to the top flight for the first time in 40 years, at the expense of one of my most hated clubs, Cardiff Shitty. Fair play to Ian Holloway’s Tangerines whose exhibition of passing moves during yesterday’s Play-Off Final at Wembley merited a victory. Oh, how I laughed at the final whistle as the execrable Michael Chopra slumped to the turf in a flood of tears. It was the funniest thing I’d seen for… oooh, at least a week, when those Clowns fans turned on the waterworks of their own following a similarly hilarious Play-Off humbling.
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Saturday 22nd May
Doncha just hate it when two of your favourite bands play on the same night? Yesterday’s conundrum was pretty annoying: Anathema at the Islington Academy or Transatlantic, the supergroup of members of Dream Theater, Spock’s Beard, Marillion and The Flower Kings, over at Shepherd’s Bush? Well, it had been nine years since Transatlantic’s last UK appearance (an amazingly OTT night at the Astoria), so I plumped for the latter. And what a great decision that turned out to be. Over the course of a sensational three and a half hours, Messrs Portnoy, Morse, Trewavas and Stolt, with help from Pain Of Salvation’s Daniel Gildenlöw, held the Empire’s attention in a vice-like grip. The first half of the show featured their current album, ‘The Whirlwind’, a record that Portnoy recently claimed makes Porcupine Tree’s 55-minute song ‘The Incident’ sound “like Bon Jovi”, in its glorious 77-minute entirety. After a short break the band returned for ‘All Of The Above’, the opening half-hour epic from their seismic debut album, ‘SMPT:e’. At this point, Portnoy took the mic for the chuckleworthy announcement: “We’ve now been onstage for more than two hours, and we’ve still only played two songs so far”. Now **that’s** what I call a prog-rock gig.
Towards the show’s end, Mike turned his kit over to Neal Morse and crowd surfed to the mixing desk and back, passing right over the heads of Nick Shilton and myself. I was laughing too much to offer a great deal of physical support as the boiler suit-clad percussionist travelled overhead, but it looked as though Mr Shilts, making the most of his ‘night pass’ from Mrs S, copped a good feel of Portnoy’s bum – or did I imagine it? The evening had gotten pretty surreal by then. Anyway, the gig was filmed for a full-blown DVD release so don’t lose too much sleep if you were unlucky enough to have missed it. Here’s the set-list: ‘The Whirlwind’, ‘All Of The Above’ (including excerpt of ‘Highway Star’), ‘We All Need Some Light’, ‘Duel With The Devil’, ‘Bridge Across Forever’ and ‘Stranger In Your Soul’.
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Friday 21st May
I’m looking forward to the weekend, as yesterday was my second successive 7am till 10pm working day. This ruled me out of attending the press screening of Porcupine Tree’s new DVD, Anesthetize, at the Prince Charles Cinema in Leicester Square. Bah!
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Thursday 20th May
Not that I’m complaining, but I’ve so much work that I had to cancel last night’s plans to see The Pineapple Thief at Bush Hall. It’s a shame as the band’s current album, ‘Someone Here Is Missing’ (Kscope Records), is an appealing, slightly edgy slice of prog. Ah well, there will be other times…
As I was transcribing my Down ‘N’ Outz story for Classic Rock, news broke that the band will be joined by none other than Ian Hunter on the main stage of the High Voltage festival for a separate, standalone set that the press release terms “a raft of classic rock songs and some special guest appearances”. So before submitting the article I had to get Mr Elliott on the phone to spill the beans, then make the appropriate changes to the text. No wonder my working day began at 7am and ended at just gone 10pm.
Over the past week I’ve read some idle, offensive and downright spiteful web chatter regarding the state of Bret Michaels’ health. Some whose lives will never achieve the merest fraction of what the Poison frontman has accomplished, dared to suggest that Michaels’ recent brain haemorrhage was nothing less than a bare faced publicity stunt. Granted, the speed of the singer’s apparent recovery did seem unusual. But now that Bret has been readmitted to hospital and diagnosed as suffering from a hole in the heart, I hope that some of those people will be ashamed of themselves.
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Wednesday 19th May
Grrr… 24 hours after my last visit, I arrived at the Islington Academy in time to catch Cauldron opening for Seattle-based progressive-metallers Nevermore and their special guests Death Angel – or so I thought. Some clever sod had moved the running times forward, presumably to allow Death Angel to play for a little longer – and Cauldron were completing their final song by the time I gained admission. How annoying.
From their legendary gig at the Hammersmith Clarendon (RIP) onwards, I’ve enjoyed numerous sightings of Death Angel. Although bassist Dennis Pepa and drummer Andy Galeon are no longer present, leaving frontman Mark Osegueda and guitarist Rob Cavestany as its sole remaining co-founders, the San Francisan thrashers still deliver the goods on old classics such as ‘Evil Priest’, ‘Seemingly Endless Time’ and ‘Kill As One’ – the latter which once featured on a demo produced by Metallica’s Kirk Hammett. Osegueda’s voice sounds a little raspier than before but a brand new song called ‘River Of Rapture’ whets the appetite for an album that was recently made with Trivium producer Jason Suecof. It was a nice touch to dedicate the set to Debbie Abono, the Bay Area legend associated with the likes of Exodus, Possessed and Vio-lence, who had passed away on the same evening as Ronnie James Dio.
Like Death Angel, headliners Nevermore were in Europe in advance of an as-yet unheard new release. Only thanks to the internet it seems that many of their fans are already familiar with ‘The Obsidian Conspiracy’ (due on May 31). “You seem to know all the fucking words to these new songs – I don’t know how,” deadpanned singer Warrel Dane, who went on to fluff the words to one of those tunes, ‘Emptiness Unobstructed’ and ask the band to play it over again. The show was being filmed, which really cranked up the audience’s reaction. At times such as ‘Inside Four Walls’ and the encore of ‘Enemies Of Reality’ their singing was so loud, it virtually drowned out Dane. For me, though, the show’s star was Jeff Loomis, the guitarist who turned in a series of quite exceptional solos. What he did during ‘The Seven Tongues Of God’ was flabbergasting. With three acts to accommodate, the set-lists were annoyingly compact (Death Angel’s ‘3rd Floor’ being a significant omission). I expect both of these bands to be back for longer, more satisfying gigs in the not too distant future. Until then, here’s the Nevermore song-list: ‘Beyond Within’, ‘The River Dragon Has Come’, ‘Your Poison Throne’, ‘Born’, ‘Emptiness Unobstructed’ (x2), ‘Inside Four Walls’, ‘The Seven Tongues Of God’, ‘The Termination Proclamation’, ‘This Godless Endeavor’, ‘The Heart Collector’, ‘The Obsidian Conspiracy’ and ‘Enemies Of Reality’.
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Tuesday 18th May
I’m still finding it hard to come to terms with RJD’s passing. Judging by the sheer volume of online tributes – go to Blabbemouth.net and do a search on his name! – I’m not alone. This one is among my favourites – the quote from Lars Ulrich left a real lump in my throat. Dom Lawson’s excellent blog at the Metal Hammer website also struck a chord. Bruce Mee, editor of Fireworks magazine has posted a terrific quote from an interview he did with Ronnie in 1990. Asked what he would like to be remembered for in 50 years time, Dio replied: “Oh, I’ll be dead by then and my bones won’t care. I have only tried to do one thing – be true to myself and true to the people who cared about me and have appreciated some of the music I have made in my life. I never set out to be someone who would be remembered, ‘Mr Wonderful’, only to enjoy myself in life and I’ve had that enjoyment by the music I’ve made and the people who’ve appreciated it. If they **do** remember me, I hope it’s just for caring.” We will, Ronnie. We will.
In the evening, inspired by a great new album called ‘Omen’ that’s full of back-to-basics brutality, I went to see Max Cavalera and his band Soulfly. I wasn’t reviewing for anybody; I just fancied seeing them again. The Islington Academy was absolutely packed, and with the audience chanting “Blood! Fire! Hate! War!” as the band arrived onstage, it was clear this was going to be a completely OTT night. Cavalera got the crowd to form a circle pit, separated them down the middle and ordered the two halves to charge at one another in what’s termed a Wall Of Death – not for the frail or faint hearted. They played just two tracks from the new record (‘Lethal Injection’ and ‘Rise Of The Fallen’), but I loved the blitzkrieg rendition of Sepultura’s ‘Troops Of Doom’, plus the more expected ‘Refuse/Resist’ and ‘Roots’. Soulfly are now officially restored to my list of bands I’d go and see anytime, anyplace. Here’s the set-list: ‘Blood Fire War Hate’, ‘Prophecy’, ‘Back To The Primitive’, ‘Seek ‘N’ Strike’, ‘Lethal Injection’, Medley: ‘Fire’/‘Mars’, ‘Refuse/Resist’, ‘Doom’, ‘L.O.T.M’/Drum Interlude, ‘Warmageddon’, ‘Troops Of Doom’, ‘Unleash’, ‘Rise Of The Fallen’, ‘Roots’, ‘Jumpdafuckup’ and ‘Eye For An Eye’.
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Monday 17th May
How about this for a day of contrasts. My Sunday afternoon was spent in a West End pub with a gang of friends watching England’s cricketers thrash the Aussies by seven wickets to win the Twenty20 World Cup – the nation’s first tournament title in 35 years. You can imagine how good those voddie and Diet Cokes were tasting. I then dashed a few blocks away to Her Majesty’s Theatre, where Status Quo’s Francis Rossi was playing a solo gig. I’d been pleasantly surprised by Rossi’s solo album, ‘One Step At A Time’, which wasn’t the slice of lame Country & Western blandola expected by so many (indeed, someday I would love to meet Rossi in a bar, buy him a few too many drinks and discuss the solo album he’d **really** like to have made). But I digress. Taking the stage, Rossi looked so nervous he seemed on the verge of unleashing a chocolate underwear starfish. His 90-minute program began with a honky-tonk version of ‘Caroline’, mixing tracks from the album and various ‘off-the-beaten-track’ Quo oddities. With a six-piece band that included his son Nicholas and Quo bassist John Edwards’ lad on guitar duty, plus two female backing singers, the group was slick and well-rehearsed, and Francis’ nerves gradually seemed faded away. By the end the whole place was rockin’, despite the fact that someone actually forgot to turn down the house lights. The only really awful part was ‘Marg***ta T**e’, but attending a Francis Rossi solo gig and complaining about hearing that one is like sticking your head into a lion’s mouth and bitching about getting your nose bitten off.
Here’s the set-list: ‘Caroline’, ‘Claudie’, ‘All We Really Want To Do (Polly)’, ‘You’ll Come Round’, ‘Crazy For You’, ‘Old Time Rock ‘N’ Roll’, ‘Strike Like Lightning’, ‘Tallulah’s Waiting’, ‘Here I Go’, ‘Tongue Tied’, ‘Blessed Are The Meek’, ‘My Little Heartbreaker’, ‘Electric Arena’, ‘One Step At A Time’, ‘Marg***ta T**e’, ‘Rolling Down The Road’, ‘Diggin’ Burt Bacharach’, ‘Sleeping On The Job’, ‘Twenty Wild Horses’ and ‘Can’t Give You More’, followed by ‘Don't Waste My Time’. Switching my mobile on after the show ended, my contentment turned to dread, then stomach-churning sadness, as one text after another arrived. Ronnie James Dio had lost his battle with cancer. It was time to go to the pub and get even more blitzed.
Ronnie’s death feels like much more than the mere passing of a musician/hero. This morning I’ve been sitting at my desk, reading all the online tributes, playing his music and (I’m not ashamed to admit the fact) gently weeping. I was lucky enough to meet Ronnie many, many times. The inaugural occasion was during my very first trip to LA in late ’87. Lensman Tony Mottram and I were invited to a studio in the valley for an interview and photo-session. After Mottram’s pix were done, Ronnie and I decided to talk up on the studio’s roof. As I moved to switch on the tape recorder he said, ‘Dave, wait a moment’ and returned having borrowed a roadie’s tour jacket, explaining: ‘It can get chilly as the sun goes down – you don’t want to catch a cold’. That’s the kind of bloke he was, in my experience at least: Considerate, decent, eminently quotable… a first-class human being. Okay, the UK press knew all too well that we could push Ronnie’s buttons by making gags about his height, his lyrical obsession with rainbows or by mocking his fake dragon stage prop, and we did so – frequently. But there wasn’t a single one of us that would attempt to deny the man’s talent. While age took its toll on other vocalists of RJD’s generation, there’s no need to insult anyone’s intelligence by mentioning names, Dio kept on going and going, sounding as good as ever, even at the grand old age 67. The last time I saw him face to face was at Rockfield Studios last December, during the recording of Heaven And Hell’s ‘The Devil You Know’ album. We sat in the kitchen and shot the breeze about sports, music, TV and life in general. Ronnie had the knack of making you feel comfortable; that he was listening and interested in what you had to say. He was a lovely fella and a phenomenally gifted artist, quite probably the greatest hard rock singer of all time. I will miss him, though his music will live on.
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Sunday 16th May
Aside from another chance to see headliners Wishbone Ash, last night’s trip to Shepherd’s Bush Empire offered an opportunity to check out two fine support acts. Given that they include ex-members of Karnataka, Mostly Autumn and Fish’s band, I’d expected Panic Room to be a good deal proggier than they turned out. That having been said, the group’s songs are marvellously immediate, especially set-closer ‘Satellite’, and Anne-Marie Helder has just the belting type of voice to do them justice. Until last night, having watched them several times before with ill-concealed indifference, I’d pegged Mostly Autumn as a kind of wishy-washy female-fronted Celtic-tinged Floyd tribute band. Unfairly so, obviously. So I was unprepared for the luscious 60-minute Special Guest spot offered by Bryan Josh and company. In Olivia Sparnenn – tall, blonde, waifish and leggy with a crystalline, scintillating voice – they have just the frontwoman to succeed Heather Findlay. Somehow, someway, during a heavier than expected though rarely less than bewitching sixty minutes, something just clicked. And I’m glad it did so.
With amazing, clear sound from my vantage point in the balcony, Wishbone provided the usual first-class entertainment. To begin in a very cool way the band strolled onstage to join in with their intro tape of the classic song ‘The Pilgrim’. For me, the show’s highlights included a sparkling version of ‘Persephone’, the rarely performed ‘Lady Jay’ and the ever-magnificent set-closer of ‘Phoenix’, but it was reassuring to be reminded that the Ash still create new music of note with ‘Reason To Believe’, a catchy l’il ditty penned especially as a specially-written, downloadable single – their first every experiment in this format! Here’s what was played: ‘The Pilgrim’, ‘Driving A Wedge’, ‘Healing Ground’, ‘Sometime World’, ‘The King Will Come’, ‘Persephone’, ‘Life In Crisis’, ‘Lady Jay’, ‘Front Page News’, ‘Tales Of The Wise’, ‘Reason To Believe’, ‘Engine Overheat’, ‘Jailbait’ and ‘Phoenix’, plus an encore of ‘Blowin’ Free’.
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Saturday 15th May
With Andy Powell’s incarnation of the group playing in London tomorrow at Shepherd’s Bush Empire, and having been sucked into a nasty row over the sleeve notes I wrote for the soon-come anthology, ‘Sometime World: An MCA Travelogue’, Wishbone Ash are starting to take over my life. Last night I spoke to the band’s co-founding guitarist Ted Turner, who quit in 1974 just as they were about to become enormous, returning for a second spell from 1987 to 1994. Following a lengthy silence, Turner is gearing up to release his first solo album, ‘Eclektic Value’, and will make a guest appearance with Martin Turner’s Wishbone Ash at this summer’s High Voltage Festival. Despite being conducted by phone (Ted resides in Arizona) the conversation was easy-going and enjoyable. We laughed at the fact that, in a post-Ash meltdown, he bought a donkey and disappeared to Peru to find the Lost City Of Mu. Like you do… hahaha.
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Friday 14th May
After being blown away in Sheffield (see Diary, May 2nd), I was unable to resist the offer of attending another show on the Kiss tour. Sadly, my friend Steve ‘No Relation’ Way and I were snarled up in London traffic en route to Wembley and thus missed the support act, Taking Dawn. Steve, a keen amateur photographer (or so his missus tells me), had never seen Kiss before. As something of a veteran – one of my first ever concerts was at Wembley Arena… ulp… 30 years ago, with Girl as the support act – it was amusing to see his face light up as the show began, Messrs Stanley, $immons and Thayer being thrust dramatically into the air above Eric Singer’s drum podium during ‘Modern Day Delilah’. The set-list was the same, I think, though various kinks have been ironed out. For instance, in Sheffield (on the trek’s first nite), Singer was supposed to destroy a part of the lighting rig with a bazooka which failed to work. And at the performance’s climax, the video screens were meant to show Paul Stanley smashing his guitar – though he had to interrupt proceedings and demand: “Turn the camera on me, asshole.” At Wembley, however, everything ran like clockwork. Stanley seemed chattier than before and, from where I was stood in front of the mixing desk, the sound was absolutely magnificent. Equally irresistible was the gig’s pantomime element; I loved it when Paul announced: “We played in Sheffield” (Cue: booing), “We also played in Manchester” (a cacophony of cat-calls), “We played in Liverpool” (strangely, the volume seemed to reach its peak at this one), egging on the audience with every syllable. It was a crazy, crazy night… and I loved every second of it.
P.S. Further to Ronnie James Dio’s well publicised illness one of my first ever musical heroes, Sweet’s guitarist Andy Scott, has been secretly battling prostate cancer for the past few months. He is in remission, thank the Lord. A statement has been issued here. I was going to make a cheap gag about having the balls to go public, but it’s a subject that’s way too serious.
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Thursday 13th May
I’ve taken a short break from my Classic Rock duties to complete some copy for the Download Festival programme. In timely fashion, the postie has delivered some brand new audio goodies with which to accompany this task: a finished copy of The Enid’s ‘Journey’s End’ album, the new live disc from John Waite called ‘In Real Time’, Europe guitarist John Norum’s latest solo record ‘Play Yard Blues’ (which includes cover versions of tunes by Thin Lizzy, Frank Marino & Mahogany Rush and Mountain) and the comeback disc from long-lost UK AOR crew Moritz, a CD called ‘Undivided’. Soulfly’s newie, ‘Omen’, is also kicking my ass! Tell ya what, though, as I filed some words on Stone Temple Pilots I dug out my limited edition purple vinyl of the band’s 1994 album ‘Purple’… Jeez, it still sounds utterly brilliant. In fact, it knocks just about everything recorded by Velvet Revolver into a cocked hat.

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Wednesday 12th May
The blood chilled in my veins as the clock radio went off at 6am. The UK has a new Prime Minister, and he’s a Tory (albeit in coalition with the Lib-Dems). Given the flagrant inadequacies of Gordon Brown it’s no real surprise, though it speaks volumes of Cameron’s conceit and ineptitude that he couldn’t defeat the departing PM outright after the way that Labour has let this country down.
A portion of yesterday afternoon was spent engaged in conversation with Paul Stanley for Classic Rock. The Starchild was dignified in the face of some unusual probing, at one point remarking: “This is a very uncharacteristic interview for somebody like me in a publication like yours.” Can’t wait to write it up!
The news of Thin Lizzy’s new line-up – led by guitarist Scott Gorham, drummer Brian Downey and keysman Darren Wharton, and featuring Def Leppard’s Vivian Campbell on guitar, my old mate from The Almighty, Ricky Warwick, on lead vocals and guitar, and Marco Mendoza (Whitesnake/The Nuge) on bass – has been formally announced. I was among those that believed Gorham should have thrown in the towel after John Sykes walked away but you must admit, that combination looks pretty interesting, doesn’t it?
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Tuesday 11th May
Though it was broadcast several days ago, I’ve only just found the time to watch the first episode of the BBC’s series I’m In A Rock ‘N’ Roll Band, which focussed on the difficult art of being a frontman. I didn’t expect to write this after the lacklustre way the corporation handled its specials on progressive rock and heavy metal, but this time a good and thorough job was accomplished. With a wide range of new interviews from Alice Cooper and Siouxsie Sioux to Roger Daltrey, and using footage of Freddie, Jim Morrison, Ian Curtis of Joy Division, Cobain and the sadly still alive and breathing Liam Gallagher, the hugely entertaining programme concluded with Gene $immons taking a fairly warranted pot-shot at Radiohead’s Thom Yorke for his innate dullness – “Bleed through your ass; do something!!” – though why they interviewed $immons, who despite being a co-singer is not really Kiss’ frontman, seemed like cheating to me. Let’s hope that the other five parts are as good.
Of course, the whole point of the programme was to illustrate the ego necessary to front a successful group, though it was Jon Bon Jovi that left the sickliest taste in the mouth. “In a movie, I’m [the equivalent of] the bass player; I do my part and I’m told to leave,” he admitted (of course he is; JBJ is the acting equivalent of Alec John Such, who according to legend didn’t even play on some of the early Bon Jovi records). Never one to over-egg the pudding, the ever-modest singer then took great pains to point out his role within the ranks of Bon Jovi. “In the band, I’m Tom Cruise, I’m the director, the producer, the action hero, the star, the whole deal,” he boasted. Yeah Jon, but don’t forget you’re **still** only Bon Jovi’s most second talented member.
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Monday 10th May
Well, blow me down – the rumours are true. Joey Belladonna, the vocalist of Anthrax between 1985-1992 and 2005-2007, has joined the US group for a third time. Belladonna and not John Bush will front the ’Thrax for this summer’s tour commitments, including a spot at Knebworth Park’s Sonisphere Festival, after which the band begins work on their first new studio album in seven years.
With 31 days to go till the start of the World Cup, the sun is finally shining here in London. Last night was spent sifting through a huge pile of magazines brought from a friend who is downsizing his collection. After working on the title since its inception in October 1986 till the entire editorial staff quit to instigate the much-missed RAW magazine two years later, then having returned as a freelancer during the late 1990s, I thought I had a pretty decent, almost complete, set of Metal Hammers. Not so. Joe Geesin was happy to sell me around 100 issues that were missing (thanks a lot, Joe!).
And talking of people named Joseph, here’s a nice photograph of myself with Mr Elliott, taken during my recent trip to Sheffield. Many thanks to CR lensman Kevin Nixon for sending it. Incidentally, Joe and the Down ‘N’ Outz have been added to the bill of the High Voltage Festival, which just keeps on getting better and better.
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Sunday 9th May
Despite having friends that support both Chelski and ManUre, I’ve no real interest in the outcome of the battle for the Premiershit title (i.e. which club currently can afford to buy the best players). So this afternoon I decided to take my two lads to the cinema. Iron Man 2 was something the boys had expressed interest in, and it had some AC/DC songs in it to keep me happy. Job’s a good ’un. So imagine how I felt when, just as the lights dimmed, some spotty oiks behind us started chanting, “Come on Chelsea”. I almost turned around and berated them: “If the sodding game means that much to you, why the fuck are you not at home watching it instead of ruining my afternoon?” Plastic fans – the type that have never been to O*d Tr***rd or St**ford Br**e – there’s nothing worse. Shooting is far too good for ’em, if you ask me.
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Saturday 8th May
Have just opened a box of white wine after ten-man Leeds came from behind to seize the final League 1 automatic promotion place. Thus, Scumwall and Clowntown must face the lottery of the play-offs. A pox on them both. Come on Huddersfield and Swindon, do your job!! Later in the evening it was great to see England’s cricketers (well, the three South Africans and that Irish fella Eoin Morgan) trample the Proteas into the ground in the 20twenty World Cup. We are on course for the semi-finals, brilliant!!
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Friday 7th May
People tend to stare at me disbelievingly when I tell them I am not a fan of HammerFall, or as I prefer to call the corny Swedish power-metal combo, HamAwful. Until last nite, I’d only seen the band once before many years ago, having walked out very early indeed during a gig at the Underworld. Listen, I like a lot of bands that could hardly be termed as original. However, the aforementioned Underworld show was a thinly-veiled exercise in Naming That Riff. To me, they were especially appalling.
Well, last nite HamAwful returned to London and I figured I’d give them another go, especially as I wanted to check out both of their support acts. Having been an acquaintance of their vocalist Paul Kettley since his days with the band Noussommes, and after giving their album ‘Pray For Calm… Need The Chaos’ a positive review in Metal Hammer last summer, I was keen to see whether the Bruce Dickinson Show-approved Tribe could cut it onstage. Well, the answer is ‘yes’. With their debut record having been produced by Heaven’s Gate guitarist Sascha Paeth (whose expansive resume features Angra, Kamelot, Rhapsody and Edguy) and featuring a vocal cameo from Amanda Somerville of Epica, Avantasia and Mob Rules fame on two of its songs, it was inevitable that the Yorkshiremen would sound considerably more raw and basic in a live scenario. And so it proved. However, Kettley is a very fine singer in the Rob Halford vein, and despite relying upon sampled keys Tribe went down extremely well with the crowd. For Tribe, as I see it, the only way is up.
Just like the headliners with whom they share a common nationality, Dream Evil are a walking, talking, headbanging cliché. The difference is that Dream Evil have a repertoire of amazing songs, also a sense of humour. As if to underline these points they proceeded to trot out a pounding 45 minutes’ worth of them, one after another; ‘Immortal’, ‘United’, ‘Made Of Metal’ (who could possibly resists that side-splitting lyric of “My soul, my blood, my life/I am so fucking metal and so is my wife”?), ‘Crusaders’ Anthem’, ‘Bang Your Head’, ‘Heavy Metal In The Night’, ‘The Chosen Ones’, ‘Chasing The Dragon’ and the national anthem of all things gumbified, ‘The Book Of Heavy Metal’. Sensational stuff.
So, did I reappraise my opinion of HammerFall? No, not really. Despite my best intentions, I ended up in Tribe’s dressing room for a big chunk of the headliners’ set. But what little I saw of frontman Joacim Cans and company left me resolutely unmoved. They will play again at the High Voltage festival in July; I guess I’ll have to give them another try there instead (schedule permitting, of course).
P.S. Better late than never, this month’s Playlist and YouTube sections have been updated.
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Thursday 6th May
Yesterday I conducted two hugely enjoyable interviews for the Download Festival programme, hooking up by phone with Aerosmith guitarist Joe Perry and Biff Byford of Saxon. Byford is always irrepressible but Perry was in particularly jubilant mood. Having reclaimed his band after their much-documented problems of the past year, the guitarist sounded focussed and excited. Though he wouldn’t tell me exactly what was said, Joe told me all the Toxic Twins needed to do in order to circumnavigate the roadblock was a very small exchange of dialogue with singer Steven Tyler. Now, that’s a conversation I wouldn’t have minded overhearing.
Having penned its sleeve essay, I was pleased that EMI Records sent me a finished copy of Thunder’s six-disc boxed set ‘Live At The BBC (1990-1995)’. There’s some song duplication, of course, but most Thunder fans will want to own these 61 previously unreleased tracks. As the actress said to the bishop, it’s a fine, fine package.
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Wednesday 5th May
There’s frustrating news regarding Heaven & Hell’s summer tour. Still recovering from treatment for cancer, Ronnie James Dio will not be well enough to undertake the group’s itinerary, which was to include a spot at Classic Rock’s High Voltage Festival. Better to be safe than sorry, that’s what I say. Don’t rush it, Ronnie, just get well soon.
Last night was spent at the Underworld in Camden. Formed four years ago from the ashes of the foolishly named The*Ga*Ga*s, support act Slaves To Gravity delivered a hit and miss opening set. On the bright side, the tone of guitarist’s Mark Verney playing was immaculate though some of their songs lack any sort of cutting edge. The Londoners’ amiable confidence was contagious; if only the rest of their material had been as outstanding as the parting gift, ‘Good Advice’.
Yesterday’s date was the London stop-off of the first ever headline tour from Black Spiders. There are few groups that I’d wish to see perform five times in a little over a year, but the evolution of this fine band’s gloriously anarchic blend of metal, boogie and bar-room rock has been something to behold. Till now my previous experience of Black Spiders has been limited to one-off gigs and support slots with the likes of Stone Gods, The Wildhearts and Airbourne, so this 60-minute performance – comprising ‘By My Own Hand’, ‘Stay Down’, ‘Just Like A Woman’, ‘Hey Baby I Like It’, ‘What Good Is A Rock Without A Rollergirl’, ‘St Peter’, ‘Man’s Ruin’, ‘Meadow’, ‘Kiss Tried To Kill Me’ and ‘Blood Of The Kings’ – was the longest I’d seen them play. When choosing a highlight of their repertoire it remains a toss-up between ‘St Peter’, from the first self-titled EP, and the brilliant ‘Kiss Tried To Kill Me’ (which has a memorably idiotic chorus of “Kiss tried to kill me/It was Gene not Paul/Kiss tried to kill me/It wasn’t Ace’s fault”), though the likes of ‘Meadow’ and the thunderous ‘Blood Of The Kings’ confirm this group has infinitely far more to offer than mere madcap novelty.
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Tuesday 4th May
Not being an i-phones user, lengthy periods of being away from home offer pluses and minuses. On the downside, with yesterday being a Bank Holiday and having spent a long weekend in Sheffield, 600-odd emails pinged away as the PC spring back into life. Glenn Hughes had written to congratulate the Eagles on staying up (“You are not supposed to be in League bloody 1”), his message also offering reassurance that, despite rumours to the contrary, “all is good” with the band he formed with Joe Bonamassa, Derek Sherinian and Jason Bonham. “We are all very chuffed about the album,” says GH. “It's definitely my return to rock ‘n’ roll.”
A **huge** pile of mail awaited my return. I’ve been playing the two simultaneously-issued, star-studded Avantasia albums, ‘The Wicked Symphony’ and ‘Angel Of Babylon’. Both sound great, and the track that features Klaus Meine (‘Dying For An Angel’) is bloody superb, though compared to 2008’s ‘The Scarecrow’ there’s a little more padding. Just like GN’R’s ‘Use Your Illusion’ twin-set, a trimmed-down single disc would’ve been far more effective. A CDr of Skin’s anthemic new single, ‘Stronger’, also gets the thumbs up from yours truly.
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Monday 3rd May
I’m back home in South London, feeling hoarse from singing, hung over and emotionally drained. I’ve watched Crystal Palace in pressure situations many times before, but somehow the relegation games are even more stressful that potential promotions. That feeling in the pit of your stomach is just a little more acute. Yesterday morning I awoke in Sheffield, having dreamt all night about the relegation clash with Wednesday that was about to take place (there was a particularly odd one about being in a pub with Palace captain Shaun Derry – who I’ve never met before – because we had both forgotten the game was happening). After some slups of white wine to whet the whistle, I had brekkie with Paul Elliott and then hooked up with a carful of mates that had driven up from London.
The area around Hillsborough was impossibly full; you couldn’t even get through the doors of the pubs, let alone to the bar. So whilst my pals Steve ‘No Relation’ Way, his delightful missus Kathy and our elderly friend Len went off for nosebag, the letters F-O-R-T-I-F-I-C-A-T-I-O-N were top of my own list. I was **not** going to watch this sober. I found a supermarket and bought a huge bottle of white wine, then sat and drained it, tramp-style, in a park adjacent to the ground. Save for the distant singing of both sets of supporters, the only noise was the quacking of ducks. The tranquillity only ratcheted up the tension. Feeling very alone, I almost rang my son Eddie and said: ‘Don’t worry, whatever happens there’s always next year’. And then I remembered the club has only enough cash for two weeks more. I almost wept.
For a neutral, the game must have been amazing. Almost 6,000 Eagles had travelled up from London and they did the club proud with some of the best singing I’ve ever heard. Earlier in the season, the fans adopted a song that comes from European football. Sung at lung-bursting volume, its galvanising effect upon the team has been amazing. Without exaggeration, at certain games (away to Watford and Derby, for instance), it has become our unofficial ‘twelfth man’. Once again the words were roared out:

We love you
We love you
We love you
And where you play we follow
we follow
we follow
'Cause we support the Palace
the Palace
the Palace
And that's the way we like it
we like it
we like it
Woaah woaah woaaaaah...

Needing to avoid defeat to stay up – Wednesday had to win – the Eagles transported the Leppings Lane End to Cloud Nine by taking an early advantage, Alan Lee nodding in from a 24th minute Darren Ambrose corner. The Owls got back into the game just before half time. From where I was stood it looked as though Leon Clarke had fouled Danny Butterfield before curling a shot past Speroni, though having seen it on telly the ref was right to let play continue. The funniest thing was that Clarke’s goal celebration – kicking an advertising hoarding – saw him stretchered off. What a dozy prick. When Sean Scannell pulled the ball back for Ambrose to restore Palace’s lead, the result – and Palace’s Championship status – had looked safe. I assume full responsibility for what happened next. I took a photo of the scoreboard which read: ‘The Owls 1, Crystal Palace 2. 77 mins’. So of course, it was in the script that Wednesday would equalise with three minutes to go. One more goal would send CPFC down, instead of the home team. How on earth we managed to hold steady for the remainder of the game, including five minutes of injury time, I’m still unsure. But hold on we did, and Palace’s dramatic survival was sealed.
The scenes on the pitch, which included defender Clint Hill being chased and beaten by a gang of irate Wednesday-ites, and deputy boss Dougie Freeman having to interrupt a live TV interview with Shaun Derry to propel the skipper to safety down the tunnel, were a disgrace. Outside, too, police horses and dogs attempted to quell the fury, a chopper flying overhead. Luckily, we were out of the danger zone fairly quickly.
Heading back down the M1, with mobile phone service resumed, my faithful ol’ Nokia chattered with excited congratulatory texts (including a lovely one from Joe Elliott, saying he hoped I’d enjoyed my weekend in his home town). Somewhere just off the M25, Steve, Kathy, Len and I stopped off for a quiet drink, still attempting to absorb the enormity of the rollercoaster we’d just experienced. I firmly believe had Palace lost the game and dropped down a league, the end of my beloved football club was nigh. Never before had a large glass of house white wine tasted so sweet.
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Sunday 2nd May
Despite a serious lack of Zzzzzzs I somehow made it down in time for yesterday’s breakfast, donning my Crystal Palace replica shirt just in case Rick Savage was still around. He had disappeared but, hilariously, a couple of residents and a member of the hotel’s catering staff actually mistook me for Leppard’s bassist (“Could you sign something for my grandson?” – believe it or not, I know of other less scrupulous journos that would have gone along with it, just to prevent their toast from going cold).
With plenty of time to kill before the evening’s show from Kiss, I wandered around the shops and sat in Sheffield city centre’s Peace Park chuckling away at John Otway’s hilarious new book, I Did It Otway (Regrets I’ve Had A few). After meeting up with Paul Elliott, a much-travelled journalist who now combines those duties with being a publicist for Kiss, we visited a local record store and I couldn’t resist buying some cheapo vinyl. Paul had some business to attend, so I headed over to the Arena alone. Did a quick interview with the show’s opening act, Taking Dawn, for the programme of the Download Festival and then found a nice spot just in front of the mixing desk from which to watch the show. Having seen them cruelly emasculated by an inept soundman whilst opening for Airbourne at Hammersmith a few weeks ago, it was reassuring to hear Taking Dawn complete with audible guitars. They went down pretty well with the headliners’ crowd, too.
However, armed with magnificent sound and a visual delivery that is second to none, Kiss were absolutely unstoppable; they are nothing less than a juggernaut of a band. The three songs aired from ‘Sonic Boom’ (‘Modern Day Delilah’, ‘Say Yeah’ and ‘I’m An Animal’) were received respectably enough, and with a full half-hour of encores the band pulled out all the stops. Given the way Paul Stanley struggles to sing ‘I Was Made For Lovin' You’ these days, I was a little surprised that it retains its place in the two-hour set, but overall there was very little to bitch about (would be nice to hear them do ‘I Want You’ again someday). Here’s the set-list: ‘Modern Day Delilah’, ‘Cold Gin’, ‘Let Me Go, Rock And Roll’, ‘Firehouse’, ‘Say Yeah’, ‘Deuce’, ‘Crazy Crazy Nights’, ‘Calling Dr Love’, ‘Shock Me’, Guitar and Drum Solos, ‘I'm An Animal’, ‘100,000 Years’, Bass Solo, ‘I Love It Loud’, ‘Love Gun’, ‘Black Diamond’ and ‘Detroit Rock City’, followed by ‘Lick It Up’, ‘Shout It Out Loud’, ‘I Was Made For Lovin' You’, ‘God Gave Rock ‘N’ Roll To You II’ and ‘Rock And Roll All Nite’.
Post-show I accepted Paul Elliott’s offer of a drink at Kiss’ hotel. Guitarist Tommy Thayer and especially drummer Eric Singer proved to be terrific company, telling some hilarious stories about ‘feeding the demon’ (Gene $immons’ famous addiction to groupies) and plenty more that I could not possibly get into here. Unlike $immons, Paul Stanley signed a few autographs outside the hotel as he arrived and then came to sit with our party awhile – seemed like a most agreeable fella.
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Saturday 1st May
I’ve had some surreal days in my time, but the past 24 hours take the biscuit. After hearing a few tracks from Tarja Turunen’s album (she’s recorded an **unbelievable** cover version; wish I could tell you about it, but I’m sworn to secrecy), I headed off to Sheffield. “It’s a charity gig” is all I’d been told of the show I was about to see at City Hall. Turns out the event was a posthumous tribute to Dave Kilner, a well-respected and influential local deejay who’d played his part in the rise of many Sheffield groups. With Def Leppard scattered all over the globe, Joe Elliott had called upon the Down ‘N’ Outz, the band he formed to support Mott The Hoople at Hammersmith, to join the show’s extremely varied cast.
Arriving at the hotel, I did a fabulous interview with Elliott and nailed some other quotes from assorted members of the Quireboys, who have played on the Down ‘N’ Outz’s studio record (for details go here), which I can confirm will be titled ‘My Regeneration’. A couple of glasses of white wine were imbibed during the chat with Mr Elliott, and afterwards, as I prepared to head off to City hall, he knocked on my hotel room door, believing it to be that of QBs guitarist Paul Guerin. Realising his mistake, Joe simply grinned and said: “Oh well, a least I know where to come for a shag later on”. Ulp!
The show was utterly bizarre. As I arrived, Heaven 17 were onstage. John Parr performed a three-song acoustic set. Then came Tony Christie, who crooned with what was left of a once-proud voice through ‘Avenues And Alleyways’ and **that song**. Impressionist John Culshaw sounds more like Ozzy Osbourne than Ozzy does and was quite amusing. Leppard bassist Rick ‘Sav’ Savage then sang a duet with his young daughter Jordan, who revealed a gorgeous voice on a version of Taylor Swift’s ‘Tim McGraw’. With Savage on bass for much of the set (though Ronnie Garrity took over towards the end), the D‘N’Os played a selection of Dave Kilner’s favourite material, opening with a terrific version of Elton John’s ‘Funeral For A Friend’/‘Love Lies Bleeding’. As covered by Mott on ‘Shouting & Pointing’, Vanda and Young’s ‘Good Times’ got the whole of City hall on its feet (even the sizeable ‘blue rinse’ contingent), a three guitar-attack enhancing a kick-ass version of Queen’s ‘Tie Your Mother Down’. Leppard’s own ‘Animal’ set the scene for ‘All The Way From Memphis’. Sadly, Elliott was unable to persuade Gene Simmons, who along with other members of Kiss was lurking backstage, to join a backing vocal choir for a rousing finale of ‘All The Young Dudes’.
Then it was back to the hotel bar. ‘Sav’, who still looks the same as he did in 1987, came over to our table and offered to buy a round. When I revealed myself as a Crystal Palace fan, up a few days early for the weekend’s relegation decider with his beloved Wednesday, he scuttled away pretty sharpish. I, on the other hand, remained in the bar until (cough) 5am. By this point, Elliott had brought down his iPod and a pair of huge speakers. With Joe’s Mobile Disco blaring out the likes of Mud, SAHB, T.Rex and Showaddywaddy, I made the mistake of asking whether he had anything by The Sweet. “HAVE I GOT ANY SWEET?!” he roared back, and before too long Brian Connolly’s unmistaken voice was filling the room. One of my final memories of the night, apart from asking the night porter to help me find my room, was dancing – yes, dancing! – to one of the Sweet classics, it might have been ‘Blockbuster’, glass of wine spilling all over the carpet. Oh, mercy me.