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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Wednesday 30th November
Over to Wembley Arena for last night’s gig by Alter Bridge, Black Stone Cherry and Theory Of A Deadman. I arrived nice ‘n’ early for a pre-gig chat with Dave Bryce (who some might know better as Sniffa from Mersey-based boogie-heads Spider), a huge fan of BSC. It was good to see the old fella again. This was my first sighting of Theory Of A Deadman, who are routinely dismissed by many as shameless Nickelback impersonators. Going against expectations, I liked ’em. Confident and feisty, they’ve got some good original tunes including my own favourite, ‘Bitch Came Back’, also throwing in excerpts of JJ Cale’s ‘Cocaine’ and ‘Paradise City’ by Guns N’ Roses during thirty inoffensive, efficient minutes.
In inviting Black Stone Cherry to share their stage, the headliners took quite a risk. The four-piece from Edmonton, Kentucky, have already topped the bill at Hammersmith and Brixton in their own right, as well as receiving kudos from Joe Elliott and David Coverdale of Def Leppard and Whitesnake here at Wembley three years ago. Their meaty, shit-kicking brand of Southern rock has a radio-friendly melodic edge, and they work every square inch of the playing area. It also helps that guitarist Chris Roberston teams a likable, down-home demeanour with a voice like the proverbial foghorn. Equally at home covering Muddy Waters’ ‘Hoochie Coochie Man’ as lampooning their Southern roots with ‘White Trash Millionaire’, or celebrating bedroom games via ‘Blame It On The Boom-Boom’, they went down so well that you’d have been forgiven for thinking that they were the night’s main attraction.
That Alter Bridge avoided being usurped says everything of their development over three albums and eight years. With lasers and plenty of pyro, this is the type of arena show that they’ve wanted to stage all along – no wonder they took the opportunity to film it as a DVD. More than ever before Myles Kennedy exudes confidence, following his near-Zep experience and a world tour with Slash’s band. The singer beams: “Good evening Wembley, I’m so happy I could just wet myself. This is what I dreamt about in my bedroom, playing air guitar with a tennis racket.” Along with the brilliant ‘Blackbird’, a two-song acoustic segment (‘Wonderful Life’ and ‘Watch Over You’) offered rare respite from the sonic brutality inflicted by Mark Tremonti’s guitar. This was a fabulous show from a band that now stands on the precipice of very big things indeed. Here’s the set-list: ‘Slip To The Void’, ‘Find The Real’, ‘Ghosts Of Days’, ‘Before Tomorrow Comes’, ‘Come To Life’, ‘All Hope Is Gone’, ‘White Knuckles’, ‘Brand New Start’, ‘Metallingus’, ‘Broken Wings’, ‘I Know It Hurts’, ‘One Day Remains’, ‘Coeur D’Alene’, ‘Buried Alive’, ‘Blackbird’, ‘Wonderful Life’, ‘Watch Over You’, ‘Ties That Bind’ and ‘Isolation’, followed by ‘Open Your Eyes’ and ‘Rise Today
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Tuesday 29th November
How annoying: Thanks to a fractured left wrist suffered in a fall, Ace Frehley has cancelled his upcoming UK gigs. I was really looking forward to his gig at the Islington Academy on Sunday night. I shall have to catch up on some TV instead. Talking of which, did anyone else see last night’s programme on Channel 4, Digging The Great Escape, which put together a modern-day team of engineers, archaeologists and RAF officers in a bid to contextualise the 76 allied airmen that escaped Stalag Luft III back in 1944? How on earth were they were able to dig such a deep tunnel through sand when today’s equivalents failed to do so with the help of cement? It was little short of mind-boggling. Today’s generation, they don’t know they’re born (cont’d page 338…).
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Monday 28th November
It’s not often that I attend a gig on a Sunday afternoon, but I’m glad that I braved dubious transport links to have witnessed a special showcase performance from Damian Wilson at central London’s intimate 12 bar Club. The British singer-songwriter, known for his work with Threshold, Landmarq, Rick Wakeman, Ayreon, After Forever, Headspace and many more, was promoting a newly released two-disc anthology of his solo work that’s entitled ‘I Thought The World Was Listening 1997-2011’. He had intended to perform alone with an acoustic guitar but at the last minute decided to embellish things with violin, cello and keys, which was a great move. Wilson has a rich and evocative voice and the ensuing two hours worth of storytelling and stripped down material from the album were both informal and utterly delightful. On two separate occasions (one of which was ‘Please Don’t Leave Me Till I Leave You’) things fell apart due to hysterical laughter and songs had to be halted and re-started, while Wilson’s fragile remake of Iron Maiden’s ‘The Evil Of Man U’… sorry, ‘The Evil That Men Do’… was simply fabulous.
Afterwards I had a quick root through the bargain racks at Fopp Records, picking up the re-mastered, expanded editions of Gary Moore’s ‘Corridors Of Power’ and ‘Victims Of The Future’ for three quid apiece… bargain!
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Sunday 27th November
You’ve no idea of my disappointment. I was at Selhurst Park for yesterday’s game between Crystal Palace and our second biggest rivals, Scumwall (a match that was televised in Sweden… indeed, I received many texts from Scandinavian friends revealing that eldest lad Eddie and I were spotted by the TV cameras just before kick-off). As is so often the case with local derbies, it wasn’t the greatest of games but Palace really should have seized the points when the first of quite a few penalty claims was finally awarded by the referee in the 72nd minute. To my utter disbelief and dismay the normally reliable Glenn Murray sliced horribly wide of the left post.
Not only had an opportunity of shafting our much despised neighbours been wasted, the miss meant that Palace have not found the net for almost 500 minutes of football. Aaaaaaaaaarghhhh! There was nothing to do but drink to numb the pain.
On the upside… my cockles were well and truly warmed by a brand newly released photograph of Francis Rossi and Alan Lancaster standing together on a corner of Meeting House Lane in South London’s Peckham (extremely close to Ling Towers, in fact). It would appear that the reunion of the Frantic Four is on… in whatever form it might take. I had to laugh that a wag over at the Quo message board just posted: “Brilliant – get the other two and we’ve got a band.”

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Dave Ling Online

Saturday 26th November
Last night was spent at Koko in Camden as the mighty Monster Magnet revisited their 1995 album ‘Dopes To Infinity’ in its entirety. Barring having met them briefly through their then-publicist Nik Moore at the Sonisphere Festival, I knew little of support act Turbowolf and, to be honest, for a while it didn’t seem obvious why the Bristol-based band were on the bill at all. Sure, they stamped their feet and made a rather fine shouty noise, frontman Chris Georgiadis also adding some interesting keyboard jabs. But then, three songs in, ‘The Big Cut’ mushroomed off into a full-blown space-rock freak-out and everything fell into place. Better still, the band only improved from there. Hmmm… remind me to pick up a copy of their self-titled debut album…
When the headliners last played in London, at the Music Machine back in November, I had felt they were slightly guilty of going through the motions, delivering a shorter than normal set and still seemingly licking their wounds after the apparently unexpected exit of Ed Mundell, the long-serving guitarist who has since formed a rather wonderful new group called 9 Chambers. Well, flanked by two red-hot guitarists, frontman and occasional six-stringer Dave Wyndorf may have gained a few additional pounds but also seems to have rediscovered his mojo… and then some. I doff my proverbial cap to the individual responsible for the masterstroke of performing ‘Dopes To Infinity’. Beginning with an 11-minute extended version of ‘Vertigo’, MM resisted the temptation to stick with the record’s original running order, wringing every ounce of drama and exhilaration from such gems as ‘Look To Your Orb For The Warning’, ‘Ego, The Living Planet’ (which saw almost the entire balcony holler out: “I talk to planets, baby!”) and a dark and super-heavy ‘Third Alternative’. A four-song encore pushed things to ten minutes short of two hours, but also set the seal on a truly triumphant occasion. Here’s what they played: ‘Vertigo’, ‘I Control, I Fly’, ‘Look To Your Orb For The Warning’, ‘Dopes To Infinity’, ‘All Friends & Kingdom Come’, ‘Ego, The Living Planet’, ‘Blow ’Em Off’, ‘Dead Christmas’, ‘Third Alternative’, ‘Theme From Masterburner’ and ‘King Of Mars’, followed by ‘Negasonic Teenage Warhead’, ‘Hallucination Bomb’, ‘Power Trip’ and ‘Spacelord’.
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Friday 25th November
Crikey, was it really eight years since my last visit to the upstairs annex of The Garage (for a gig by Ephel Duath and Mistress)? That’s pretty astonishing. Anyway, last night I accepted an offer to check out my first headline set from Four Wheel Drive, an excellent up ‘n’ coming UK act whose independently released debut album, ‘High Roller’, is quite popular here at Ling Towers. Said record has been available since 2009, so it’s no surprise that band have amassed quite a few tunes for their second album. Introduced as “the future of English rock ‘n’ roll” the Twickenham-based quartet play a spirited, rootsy brand of hard rock that has been likened to The Black Crowes, Airbourne and the Quireboys and they have been taken on for management by the same team that represents the mighty FM. We got songs from the album (‘White Lines’, ‘Big Fat And Ugly’, ‘Six Foot Poster’ and the AC/DC-esque set-closer ‘High Roller’) and quite a few others (‘Get A Move On’, ‘Ride It Like You Stole It’, ‘House On Fire’, ‘Get A Move On’ and ‘Looking My Way’) that will presumably surface on their sophomore release. Though they’re still some way off the finished article at present, there’s a true spark of future greatness about these guys and I hope that their promise to up the ante in 2012 becomes a reality.
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Thursday 24th November
I’ve finished reading Glenn Hughes’ autobiography, and I’ve no hesitation in recommending it to fans of the Voice Of Rock. Hughes and his co-author Joel McIver have done an amazing job of telling the bassist/singer’s fascinating and often sordid tale, from screwing David Bowie’s wife Angie to having a girlfriend stolen by band-mate Jon Lord, run-ins with drug dealers, and various barrel-scraping anecdotes (“I awoke covered in $1000 bills: I’d obviously fallen asleep counting my money. I spent $20,000 on blow and strippers in five days”) to the tome’s piece de resistance, six different drug relapses that took place between 1994 and 1997 and onto his current state of sobriety. Some of its admissions are incredibly courageous; I’m full of admiration for his bravery in placing them in the public domain, equally so of the headspace in which he now finds himself. There were many, many times when Glenn and I first became acquainted during which I feared he’d never make it, let alone achieve the seemingly impossible and regenerate his musical career. How pleasing it is to be proven wrong on both counts.
The second Steel Panther album, Balls Out’, is here. I’d expected the joke to have run out of steam by now, and I’m sure I’m far from alone in exasperation that the spoof hair rockers have become so much bigger than so many of the bands they ape, but I won’t let that get in the way of a good laugh! The album contains some tremendously funny lyrics, and any group that releases a song called ‘Just Like Tiger Woods’ (“Fertilising ladies in the neighbourhood”… “Grip that shaft like you know you should”… “Three holes are better than a hole in one”) is okay by me.
I had great pleasure in mailing a cheque to my friend Neil Pudney as payback for having booked the tickets for next summer’s one day international between England the Aussies at The Oval on July 1. As I turn another year older 24 hours later it can be my little birthday present to myself.
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Wednesday 23rd November
So… where was everybody?! My heart went out to The Quill and Coldspell who had travelled all the way from Sweden to perform for London’s rock community but were faced by an empty Barfly in Camden… and I mean shockingly empty; we are talking a maximum of 50 people – including the four bands featured on the bill. I’d been looking forward to seeing the UK’s Toxic Federation, whose ‘Distance’ album is rather good but performing with two stand-ins, including a temporary singer (why on earth do bands do that?!), I found them rather underwhelming in a live scenario. I nipped out for some nosebag which meant missing the next act on the bill but Coldspell were excellent… to these ears the night’s star turn by some considerable distance. With a high quality, good time Whitesnake-meets-UFO vibe (the riff to ‘Run For Your Life’ bore a certain resemblance to the latter’s ‘Rock Bottom’), their 45-minute set was lapped up by both… sorry, ‘all’… of those in attendance. The Quill have been called “very much classic rock and yet contemporary in the Foo Fighters/Queens Of The Stone Age vein”. It’s a good assessment of their musical charms, though I personally found the group a little too light on songs. Closing their set with ‘Bring It On’, they even had the balls to attempt an audience participation moment, which seemed a little tragi-comedic, but on the whole they were pretty good.
I’ve been having a grand old day playing various vintage albums from Mountain, beginning with ‘Climbing!’ (1970) and ‘Nantucket Sleighride’ (’71), followed by ‘Flowers Of Evil’ (also ’71). I’d clean forgotten how much I liked 1985’s ‘Go For Your Life’, which of course features former Uriah Heep man Mark Clarke on bass. And whilst on the subject of Leslie West, if you haven’t bought the Mountain guitarist’s excellent, star-studded current disc ‘Unusual Suspects’ yet... WHY ON EARTH NOT??!!
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Tuesday 22nd November
It’s tough to believe that 17 years have passed since the sad demise of my journalist colleague and friend Mark Putterford – a guy that I got to know pretty well as a fellow co-founder of the much-missed RAW Magazine. For a Spurs fan, Mark was a great bloke and his book on Phil Lynott, The Rocker, remains among the finest of all music biographies. Last night I joined a group of friends and luminaries including Mark’s wife Lynn, Malcolm Dome, Jerry Ewing, Phil Alexander, Xavier Russell, Rueben Archer of Stampede (a band that Puttz championed back in the day) and his lovely daughter Lauren, in the Crobar to re-tell some old war stories and raise a few glasses in his honour. That should probably read **a few too many**, as I’m feeling decidedly green around the gills. Just the way Mark would have wanted it… RIP, mate.
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Monday 21st November
[**Moan, grumble, bitch, gripe**]. Am still rather pissed off at the result of yesterday’s clash between Leicester City and my beloved Palace, which I listened to on BBC Radio London. Considering that the Eagles bossed much of the game till going behind against the run of play and then created several chances to equalise, the final score of 3-0 flattered the home side. Oh well… I’d have taken a point before the start of play. So long as we beat Scumwall at the weekend then I’ll be more than satisfied with the club’s progress this season.
I’ve started to read Joel McIver’s book on Glenn Hughes (see Diary, Tuesday 15th). No punches pulled – it’s rather good.
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Sunday 20th November
Last night I left the boys watching TV and playing computer games to make a flying visit to the Underworld in Camden. Having reviewed their album ‘Metalwar’ for Metal Hammer a while ago, I wanted to grab a sighting of Swedish all-female band Hysterica. Regrettably, my arrival was in time for support act Stuka Squadron – a more mediocre band you will struggle to find. I watched the first few numbers till they began singing a puerile song about drinking blood… ho hum. Some cider was required. Decked out in leather and fishnets, the feisty headliners looked like they’d come direct from an Anne Summers party. With a fondness of calling themselves the Sisters Of Steel and song titles such as ‘Girls Made Of Heavy Metal’, they come on like an oestrogen-changed version of Manowar… or maybe Womanowar, if you prefer (groan…)? Perhaps surprisingly they included just three tracks from ‘Metalwar’ (its title cut, ‘Halloween’ and ‘We Are The Undertakers’), focussing instead on material from a new album, ‘The Art Of Metal’, that’s due in February. I was extremely impressed by tunes that may or may not be called ‘Heels Of Steel’, ‘Force Of Metal’, ‘Riders Of The Century’ and a nice, dark keyboard-swamped one that is probably entitled ‘In Loving Memory’. Hope they come back to headline once the record’s out.
Here’s some good news: Following intense speculation, Gotthard have appointed Nic Maeder as replacement for Steve Lee, their lead singer who died in a motorcycle accident last year. The long-running Swiss melodic rockers are already recording a new album that’s due in the spring. A video for a song called ‘Remember It’s Me’ can be seen here. Maeder, who I gather is Swiss but was raised in Australia, seems like a decent appointment if you want my opinion (and even if you don’t!).
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Saturday 19th November
The Linglets and myself are alone for a weekend at Ling Towers. Although being home ruled me out of last night’s gig by Freedom Call, it was nice to switch off the PC after a phone chat with Sammy Hagar and settle down for an evening in front of the telly. Jeez… have you seen the state of Fatima Whitbread on I’m A Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here? Anyway, back to Hagar, who is such a brilliant guy to interview; he’s talkative, but not overly self-obsessed, and above all extremely likable. When I enquired whether he would be buying a copy of Van Halen’s new album – a question that for most artists would be a red rag to a bull – he delivered an articulate, well reasoned and entertaining response, explaining that, yes, he is dying to hear the album in question (“I might even be the first guy in line to get it”), but also that he hopes it won’t “tarnish” the group’s reputation. “If it’s great I’m gonna praise the hell out of it, but if it stinks I’ll criticise it the same way – they need to make a great record, and they’ve had all this time.” A classy guy, you will agree.
With a full league programme and no game for Crystal Palace (we play at Leicester City tomorrow), the day feels slightly strange. It’s lunchtime and I’m back from a mooch around Greenwich Market. Couldn’t find the new pair of boots that I wanted, though I dropped into the bargain basement at the Record & Tape Exchange and picked up some more vinyl and CD goodies, including a mint-condition LP entitled ‘Place Your Bets’ from 1979 by a guy called Tommy Morrison. The credit of ‘Produced by Paul Rodgers’ was what caught my attention, along with the presence of Rod De’ath, who played drums for Rory Gallagher during the 1970s. Making the day complete, I was thrilled to walk in the front door and find that the postie had delivered a full set of 180-gramme vinyl re-issues of the Mötley Crüe catalogue (thanks, Kas!).
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Friday 18th November
I was surprised to calculate that almost exactly two years have elapsed since my last sighting of Yes, which also took place at the Hammersmith Apollo. Since then, keysman Oliver Wakeman has been gently eased aside in favour of Geoffrey Downes (Yes politics… never dull!) and the band got around to releasing the Trevor Horn-produced ‘Fly From Here’, their first new album in a decade. During those 24 months we have also seen a significant improvement from Benoît David, the singer unearthed in a Yes tribute act called Close To The Edge. Compared to last time when the Canadian seemed almost embarrassed to be sharing a stage with his heroes, David now seems far more confident. This must be attributable in part to the excellence of ‘Fly From Here’, which was featured heavily – specifically all six suites of the record’s epic title track, which kicked off the performance’s second half. The retention of the same two numbers from the Horn-fronted ‘Drama’ (‘Tempus Fugit’ and ‘Machine Messiah’) must also have relieved the pressure to sound like Jon Anderson.
Seated slightly to the right of stage-centre, 14 rows back, and bathed in a blissfully perfect sound, the show’s two hours and 25 mins simply flew by. As my friend Paul Ging later commented, if Yes are to capitalise upon this situation, what must be done now is bang out another album while they’re on a roll – so long as it’s comparable in quality to ‘Fly From Here’. Anyway, here’s the set-list: ‘Yours Is No Disgrace’, ‘Tempus Fugit’, ‘I’ve Seen All Good People’, ‘Life On A Film Set’, ‘And You And I’, Steve How Guitar Solo (‘Solitaire’ and ‘Trambone’, a Chet Atkins cover), ‘Heart Of The Sunrise’, ‘Fly From Here’, ‘Wonderous Stories’, ‘Into The Storm’, ‘Machine Messiah’ and ‘Starship Trooper’, plus an encore of ‘Roundabout’.
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Thursday 17th November
Wow, I’ve been blown away by Arena’s new album, ‘The Seventh Degree Of Separation’ (Verglas Records). What an amazing slice of neo-prog rock! Their new singer, Paul Manzi, is bloody amazing.
And here’s something I thought I’d never write – the new Wolfsbane album, ‘Wolfsbane Save The World’, is also on heavy rotation here at Ling Towers. I especially love the track ‘Buy My Pain’, which sees Blaze Bayley roar: “They wanna crucify me” over and over again... lightening the load with a little with a Monty Python-esque: “Crucifixion...?!?”
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Wednesday 16th November
I’ve just got off the phone with Mick Box. Uriah Heep are in Siberia today – and **still** the guitarist sounds like man with ten score draws. Even down the telephone line I could almost feel the glare of his smile. A lesson to us all, and no mistake.
Last night was spent in front of the TV as England registered their second consecutive victory in a friendly in the space of half a week. Unlike the triumph over Spain, they deserved to beat a rather unconvincing Swedish side. The game ended 1-0, but save for some slapdash finishing and general below-par play in the final third – if Shiteon reject Bo**y Za***a can be a friggin’ England international, so can I! – the result would have been far more emphatic.
Far less welcome is the news that CPFC wonderkid Jonathan Williams, nicknamed ‘Joniesta’ for his Inesta-esque ability to control the ball at his feet, has broken a leg whilst representing Wales at Under-21 level. There goes the Eagles’ promotion push.
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Tuesday 15th November
Last night was spent at the Leicester Square Theatre in central London where Glenn Hughes gave a one-man show to promote his new autobiography, From Deep Purple To Black Country Communion, which on the evidence presented will be quite a racy little read. Besides performing acoustically – the first time he’d done so – and talking at length about his career, Hughes read out selected segments that detailed heart attacks, run-ins with shotgun-wielding drug dealers and, surprisingly (to me at least) relapses with sobriety. I thought I knew a lot about Glenn Hughes, but having made such a big deal about his cleanliness for so long I’d absolutely no idea that he fell ‘off the wagon’ several times during the late 1990s. He’s been sober for 14 years, he insists, but the hypocrisy of having made a living through singing a song titled ‘I Don’t Want To Live That Way Again’ (from an album called ‘Addiction’) obviously weighed heavy then and now, and performing it again all these years later as a finale to set the proper, Hughes choked up again, struggling to get through it. I was quite touched that Glenn would come clean with something like that and am looking forward to reading his book, which co-author Joel McIver is having despatched to Ling Towers. Thanks, Joel…
Elsewhere, Hughes spoke with fondness of co-writing Deep Purple’s ‘You Keep On Moving’ in David Coverdale’s flat above a Wimpy bar in Redcar, and how they both knew that Blackmore would hate it (“So David and I said we'd just wait till he [Ritchie] buggered off [and quit the band]”). With candour he then stated: “I wish he’d come back [to Purple] – I think they need him… I’m getting myself in a lot of trouble.”
Whatever anyone thinks of Hughes as a person, even at 60 he still matches his epithet as The Voice Of Rock. Steve ‘No Relation’ Way and I sat in silent, gobsmacked admiration whilst he articulated a section of tunes by Trapeze (‘It’s Only A Dream’/‘Seafull’, ‘Coast To Coast’, ‘Will Our Love End’, ‘What Is A Woman’s Role?’) and Purple (‘Holy Man’, ‘You Keep On Moving’), before moving into his solo years (‘From Now On’, ‘I Don’t Want To Live That Way Again’, ‘This House’, ‘Frail’, ‘Too Late To Save The World’, ‘Imperfection’, ‘Satellite’) and four tunes from the second Black Country Communion album (‘Crossfire’, ‘Little Secret’, ‘Faithless’ and a well deserved encore of ‘Cold’). A very special evening.
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Monday 14th November
I was among the overwhelming majority of those that thoroughly enjoyed last night’s Opeth gig at Brixton Academy, but the exasperated cries of “fuck off!” and “play some metal!” that apparently rang out at the back of the stalls confirmed that the Swedes have reached something of a career impasse.
It’s fair to say that their über-progtastic strains of new album ‘Heritage’ have not been universally well received, so the decision to feature five of its selections in a 12-song display that also included three acoustic tunes – completely overlooking the hugely popular ‘Blackwater Park’ and ‘Ghost Reveries’ records – was a typically stubborn, decidedly high-risk gamble.
The quintet performed brilliantly, stretching tunes out to improbable lengths and displaying the artistry of a master painter, but the pacing of their two hour display left something to be desired; indeed, even when they delved back to the golden oldie ‘Still Life’ album it was for a slowburner called ‘Face Of Melinda’.
For my money, a rampant version of ‘Hex Omega’ that ended the set proper was the only time they sounded like a heavy metal band all evening.

Don’t get me wrong: Mikael Åkerfeldt remains one of the most fascinating artists in the current hard rock scene, also one of its most likeable frontmen (When a fan shouted: “I want your babies”, his response of: “I’m not sure about the genes – you’re pretty ugly” was brilliant) and I’ve no qualms whatever with Opeth’s new direction, but it will be interesting to see how many fans the band shed with ‘Heritage’ and, more importantly, the amount of new ones they succeed in bringing on board as replacements.
Oh, and a quick word of praise for support act Pain Of Salvation, the fellow Swedes that feature an equally contrary figure in the shape of singer/guitarist Daniel Gildenlöw, also an unsung hero of the progressive supergroup Transatlantic. Having crafted one of the finest prog-metal releases of 2011 in ‘Road Salt Two’, their eight song warm-up set was absolutely superb. Here’s hoping they come back soon as headliners. They seemed to have enough fans in the crowd to justify such a move.
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Sunday 13th November
Well, I certainly got full value from my One day Travelcard. My Saturday morning began by taking eldest son Eddie to his bowling club, before nipping over to Olympia for the huge Musicmania Record Fair. Picked up one or two goodies, including a mint ‘best-of’ LP of Blood Sweat & Tears and some cheapo CDs, but most exciting of all was spotting (from a distance) a certain James Patrick Page out on vinyl safari, looking slim and happy, hair tried back into a neat ponytail.
I dashed back to Charing Cross to meet Eddie who’d been home for lunch, and together we headed over to Wembley Stadium for the evening’s friendly between England and Spain. We had the most amazing seats, just a few feet away from the England dug-out, from where Stuart Pearce could clearly be heard barking out orders whilst Fabio Crapello maintained his usual more dignified role. Incredibly, England took the lead against the reigning World and European champs and managed to hang onto it, though frustratingly they did so in the 47th minute while I was still returning to my seat from a little half-time refreshment! The Spaniards upped the stakes after the break and it says much that they enjoyed 71% of possession compared to England’s 29% (the ‘total passes’ statistic of Eng 350, Spain 872 is even more damning still), but at the end of the day it’s goals that count!
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Friday 11th November
I’ve spent most of the last 48 hours wearing down the ‘stop’, ‘rewind’ and ‘play’ buttons on my tape recorder, transcribing approximately 5,500 words’ worth of interviews from the Classic Rock Awards, which are now viewable at the magazine’s website. Considering the hurried nature of the way they were conducted I’m pretty happy with them, especially the ones with Jeff Beck and Roger Daltrey.
Am also working on a Melodic Rock column for the December 7th issue of Classic Rock and I simply cannot stop playing the new albums by Vain (‘Enough Rope’ on Jackie Rainbow Records) or Beggars & Thieves (‘We Are The Brokenhearted’, Frontiers, December 5th). Both fully deserve to be its lead review, indeed Vain’s newie is a mere gnat’s testicle away from being as good as their legendary debut release from 1989, ‘No Respect’. But of course that’s impossible – I may just have to toss a coin…
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Thursday 10th November
A great time was had by all at last night's Classic Rock Awards (known officially as the Classic Rock Roll Of Honour) - the event’s seventh year of existence. Though regrettably it meant missing a live performance by the night’s star turn, Jeff Beck, once again I was on duty in the backstage area, dashing around and conducting interviews with as many of the winners and guest presenters as possible. It’s not every day of the week that you can claim to have shoved a tape recorder under the noses of such icons as Beck, Roger Daltrey, Rudolf Schenker, Klaus Meine, Ian Gillan, Ian Paice, Roger Glover, Glenn Hughes, Lemmy, Brian May and Roger Taylor, Peter Frampton and Jerry Shirley, Michael Monroe and Duff McKagan, Ian Anderson and Roy Harper, Nicky Wire of the Manics, Michael Starr and Stix Zadinia from Steel Panther and winners of the Best New Band category Vintage Trouble.
It was great to ask Brian May whether Lady Gaga really is going to join Queen and, with his spouse Anita Dobson doing so well on Strictly Come Dancing, if there’s any chance that May himself might someday appear on the show. The withering look on the guitarist’s face quickly confirmed the answer to the latter query. Voicing the thoughts of many CR readers and visitors to this site I took the chance to remind Rudolf Schenker and Klaus Meine in the most emphatic of terms that the Scorpions have yet to appear in the UK on their Final Sting farewell tour. Meine informed me that the band are hoping to play the next year’s Download Festival. As I headed for the next interview I told the pair: “Don’t you dare leave us without saying goodbye”. Biff Byford from Saxon, who was standing right next to us, turned round and with all his blunt Yorkshire cynicism, said: “He says he loves you now, but he’ll call you a cunt in the paper tomorrow.” Brilliant.
As is par for the course, the event ran well past its intended finishing time. With the Ling coffers emptier than usual at the moment a minicab was out of the question; this meant taking a night bus home from Trafalgar Square. Ho hum. After a night of such glamour, it felt a little strange heading back to Catford in such circumstances, but them’s the breaks I guess…
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Wednesday 9th November
Last night was spent at Blackfoot’s gig at the Beaverwood Club in Chislehurst. My previous sighting of the evening’s opening act, The Stone Electric, a rootsy four-piece from Austin, Texas, took place several months ago at the same venue. On that occasion I came away thrilled by them. Guitarist Austin Crow has fabulous feel, tone and phrasing but during a set that closed with a cover of ‘Jumping Jack Flash’ his sister Noni seemed to be struggling second time around, her Joplin-style voice at times sounding hoarse and croaky.
Nobody had expected to see Rickey Medlocke, still a member of Skynyrd, but had I known that Charlie Hargrett, Medlocke’s six-string partner was also to be absent, leaving Blackfoot with a solitary original member – bassist Greg T Walker – then I’d probably have considered staying home. At times during a topsy-turvey 90-minute display this permutation of the group sounded like an adequate Blackfoot trib band, at others... Well, suffice to say that I wrote ‘horrid, horrid, horrid’ in my notebook. ‘Good Morning’ is a great way to begin just about any set but, even before getting into the issue of whether or not his voice suits the material, former Lynyrd Skynyrd/current Skinny Molly guitarist Mike Estes simply doesn’t project enough, and the idea of playing three consecutive cover versions (‘Wishing Well’, ‘Morning Dew’, ‘I Got A Line On You’) simply sucked, as did the drum solo that followed shortly thereafter. And whoever allowed Greg to sing – and I use the term ‘sing’ loosely – a song of his own (‘Great Spirit’) was poorly misguided. File under: ‘brave attempt gone badly wrong’. Here’s the set-list: ‘Good Morning’, ‘Wishing Well’, ‘Morning Dew’, ‘I Got A Line On You’, ‘Baby Blue’, Drum Solo, Bass Solo/Instrumental Jam, ‘Great Spirit’, ‘Fox Chase’, ‘Left Turn On A Red Light’, ‘Dry County’, ‘Rollin’ & Tumblin’’, ‘Flyaway’, ‘Train Train’, ‘Highway Song’ and encore of Robert Johnson’s ‘Crossroads’.
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Tuesday 8th November
“If you love the blues then you’ve come to the right place; I’ve loved that music since my dad took me to see Muddy Wasters and John Lee Hooker at the age of three,” Kenny Wayne Shepherd told a packed Koko last night during a slow and juicy version of ‘Shame, Shame, Shame’, though significantly he also added: “But not everything we do is straight blues – we like to rock ‘n’ roll every once in a while.”
It was a great summation of the 34-year-old guitar hero’s live show. The line-up that recorded his rather fine current disc, ‘How I Go’, featured Stevie Ray Vaughan’s Double Trouble rhythm section of bassist Tommy Shannon and Chris ‘Whipper Layton, though for the current road trip Shannon’s place has been taken by none other than the much-travelled Englishman Tony Franklin of The Firm/Blue Murder fame. With long-serving vocal foil Noah Hunt still still boasting a set of silver tonsils and ‘The Reverend’ Riley Osborne (Willie Nelson) tinkling those keys, KWS’s band was smoking, offering moments of rootsy bar-room solemnity during a version of John Lennon’s ‘Yer Blues’ and rocking up a storm with ‘Butterfly In A Hurricane’, ‘True Lies’ and a fearsome, almost heavy metal attempt at Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Oh Well’. After this one-off showcase gig I’d go and see them again anytime, which is just as well as there are very strong rumours of a full-blown tour next year. Here’s the set-list: ‘Never Lookin’ Back’, ‘Butterfly In A Hurricane’, ‘Nevermind’, ‘Come On Over’, ‘Yer Blues’, ‘Déjà Voodoo’, ‘Come On Over’, ‘Shame, Shame, Shame’, ‘King’s Highway’, ‘True Lies’, ‘Backwater Blues’, ‘While We Cry’, ‘Oh Well’, ‘Blue On Black’ and ‘I’m A King Bee’, plus an encore of ‘Voodoo Chile’.
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Monday 7th November
I’ve finally finished reading Herman Rarebell’s memoirs, And Speaking Of Scorpions... (see last Thursday’s Diary). Unexpectedly, after a final soul-searching chapter during which he owns up to being a plum throughout his life, I’ve warmed to ‘Ze German’... just a little. But my all-time favourite quote about Rarebell will always be the one given to me by Scorps guitarist Matthias Jabs during a 1999 interview (i.e. after the drummer quit): “I don’t know how we made it this far without being rhythmic.” Kinda says it all, really…
Next year’s UFO tour dates are out: Quite a few are within travelable distance… Cambridge (March 15), Milton Keynes (March 23), that unmentionable place on the south coast that begins with ‘B’ (April 3) and London’s Forum (24 hours later). Can’t wait!
On a sadder note, the upcoming dates from Airrace (supported by Vega) will be the group’s final performances. This is due to guitarist Laurie Mansworth’s commitments to his son’s band The Treatment. It’s annoying but hardly surprising – The Treatment have just been all over mainland Europe with Alice Cooper and have their own headline tour, and there are only so many hours in a day.
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Sunday 6th November
My Saturday afternoon was spent listening to a radio commentary of Crystal Palace’s game in Cardiff. The Eagles enjoyed good possession and until the 60th minute when the home side took the lead against the overall run of play sounded good value for at least a point. Alas, Kenny Miller’s goal ended a run of more than 10 hours without conceding – close to 600 minutes of football, that’s a club record – and the game finished 2-0. Bah!
And so it came to pass that Manowar played their first show in Londinium since the year of Our Lord 1994. The gig concerned offered a mixture of positives and negatives. I couldn’t get away without mentioning that with its balcony closed off and the stalls less than bursting at the seams Brixton Academy was considerably emptier than I’d expected. At 30 notes for a T-shirt, the merch prices were nothing less than extortionate. The encore-less set was also half an hour shorter than the one I saw eight months ago in Birmingham (see Diary, March 28th). Where the heck were ‘Heart Of Steel’ and ‘Kill With Power’?! And why was there an intermission???!! That’s not very heavy metal, is it?
Nevertheless, moments of divine inspiration abounded during the 110-minute display. For a band that’s known for their heaviness and power, Manowar never scimp on the hook-lines, however ludicrous. Even many hours after returning home in unguarded moments I still find myself singing along to such lyrical gems as: “True metal people wanna rock not pose/Wearing jeans and leather, not crackerjack clothes” – that one always makes me smile. Anyway, here’s the set-list: ‘Manowar’, ‘Death Tone’, ‘Metal Daze’, ‘Fast Taker’, ‘Shell Shock’, ‘Dark Avenger’, ‘Battle Hymn’, Guitar Solo, ‘Brothers Of Metal, Pt 1’ and ‘Hail To England’, followed by ‘Hand Of Doom’, ‘Call To Arms’, ‘Thunder In The Sky’, ‘Hail And Kill’, Bass Solo, ‘Warriors Of The World United’, ‘Kings Of Metal’ and ‘Black Wind, Fire And Steel’.
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Saturday 5th November
In common with many of those that attended last night’s Iced Earth gig in London, I returned home in a grumpier than usual mood. Basically, as a consequence of the Islington Academy’s regular staging a club night, resulting in a strict 10pm curfew, Jon Schaffer and company played a much shorter than usual set (or so the official line tells us… why then, I wonder, did the show finish just after 9.30?) And if IE were really so strapped for time then why were openers Fury UK apparently allowed to play for an additional 20 minutes, covering a no-show from special guest act White Wizzard (another bitter blow, BTW)?
Frustratingly, reflecting the quality of ‘Dystopia’, their tenth studio record, the music performed by Iced Earth was uniformly excellent. Given the myriad line-up changes during IE’s convoluted 27-year existence it was perhaps a case of tempting fate for Stu Block to utter the words: “I looks like I’m going to be singing with these guys for some time”, though the friendly pinch of the newcomer’s posterior by his boss suggests he’ll be okay for a little while yet. Able to cover the techniques of his predecessors Matt Barlow and Tim ‘Ripper’ Owens, the former Into Eternity frontman seems an extremely valuable addition to this long running US heavy metal band.
When, after a little under an hour, Block introduced ‘Tragedy And Triumph’ as the night’s last song, the response was catcalls and boos of disbelief. Two further songs were performed, including a rousing rendition of the 15-minute, multi-part epic ‘Dante’s Inferno’ from their 1995 album ‘Burnt Offerings’, but there was no disguising the audience’s dissent as they filed towards the exit. No wonder; fans in Belgium and Holland got five more songs, and those that saw show in Bristol also got their money’s worth. An additional 15 minutes would have made all the difference. Here’s what **was** played: ‘Dystopia’, ‘Angels Holocaust’, ‘Slave To The Dark’, ‘V’, ‘Stand Alone’, ‘When The Night Falls’, ‘Damien’, ‘Dark City’, ‘Anthem’, ‘Declaration Day’, ‘Tragedy And Triumph’, ‘Dante’s Inferno’ and ‘Iced Earth’.
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Friday 4th November
Off to the Camden Underworld, where the pairing of Swedish pop-punk act Royal Republic, who’ve been described as a cross between The Hives and Rancid, and Tracer, a raucous-sounding classic hard rock band from Australia, was perhaps strange. The venue was sold out and as Andy Beare quite rightly noted, ticket-holders were split into two neat categories: current readers of Kerrang! in their twenties congregated to adore the headliners, and bus pass-wielding listeners of Planet Rock Radio, drawn by Tracer’s video single ‘Too Much’. Given the previous statement and some equipment issues that blighted bassist Leigh Brown, Tracer did extremely well. Applause grew steadily throughout their 30-minute display, which offered echoes of Soundgarden, Deep Purple and QOTSA – the latter especially apparent during ‘The Bitch’, and their final offering, ‘Walk Alone’, included a sizeable snippet of Sabbath’s ‘War Pigs’. I’d love to see them play their own set.
The Underworld went completely bonkers for Royal Republic’s blend of spiky-topped bonhomie and (alleged) humorous banter, but as you’ve probably already gathered I thought they were pretty abysmal. While frontman Adam Grahn’s jokes caused others to fall onto the floor clutching at their ribs, I found him a bit of a smug tosser, and has a more puerile song than ‘I Can See Your Underwear Down Here’ ever been written? Possibly not… As for their mercifully truncated version of ‘Ace Of Spades’… well, I’ll say no more. Bizarrely, however, a branch new composition called ‘You Ain’t Nobody Till Somebody Hates You’ was one of the night’s best songs, so maybe there is hope for Royal Republic after all?
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Thursday 3rd November
I’ve been wading through a review copy of And Speaking Of Scorpions..., the autobiography of Herman ‘Ze German’ Rarebell. It’s truly awful. The drummer’s self importance drips from every page. Was there any need to have slated Girlschool as a “horrible” support act? “Mentioning them in this book might be the most publicity they have ever received,” claims Rarebell, who labours under the falsehood that Girlschool (who he describes as “horrid”) “pretty much vanished from the face of the earth” after opening for the Scorps… eh?! So what’s behind this treasonable act of mean spiritedness, Herr Rarebell? Did one or all of the ladies prick that humongous ego of yours by declining an amorous advance? Curiously, he also takes similarly gratuitous verbal swings at other opening acts such as Mama’s Boys, Fastway, Jon Butcher and Joan Jett – what a pillock.
BTW, for anyone that cares, the Playlist and YouTube pages have been updated.
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Wednesday 2nd November
Eldest son Eddie and I were among the crowd at last night’s game between Crystal Palace and Portsmouth, which finished goalless. Although it saw the Eagles extend their unbeaten run in all competitions to eight matches, truth told it was a pretty non-descript match.
During the afternoon I popped into the Record & Tape Exchange and picked up a fantastic bargain. I stumbled upon a mint vinyl copy of ‘So Fired Up’, the only album by the Louisiana-based band Le Roux that had eluded me till now, for a mere 50 pence. It features Fergie Frederiksen, later of Toto, on vocals and includes the song ‘Lifeline’, later covered by Uriah Heep on ‘Raging Silence’. A nice l’il addition to the collection, if I say so myself…
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Tuesday 1st November
Although I’ve attended thousands and thousands of concerts, there were only a handful of times when I had front row seats; The Firm at Hammersmith in 1984 springs immediately to mind, as does Quo at the same venue two years earlier. So it was great to turn up for Steven Wilson’s show at Shepherd’s Bush Empire and find that I’d been allocated just about the best seat in the house – almost dead centre in front of the evening’s star attraction. Check out the pix I took. My friend Jerry Ewing also had front row seats, but for some reason was surrounded by some empty spaces. When the Porcupine Tree/No Man singer/guitarist saw this saw this, he took great delight in asking: “What’s up, Jerry? Did all four of your dates fail to show up?” Brilliant…
Steven Wilson

Despite being SW’s debut tour as a solo performer the show was superb. Then again, with a backing band that featured former Kajagoogoo/Ellis Beggs & Howard bassist Nick Beggs, Dream Theater auditionee Marco Minnemann on drums and ex-Stone Roses, Asia, Steve Hogarth guitarist Aziz Ibrahim, how could it not have been? Oddly, and for reasons that only Wilson will know, the first half-hour of the performance was conducted from behind a translucent safety curtain. I was left wondering whether SW was making some Pink Floyd ‘Wall’-esque statement, indulging himself in a Wacko Jacko-style oxygen tent moment, or whether it was all down to Nick Beggs, who as we all know is just ‘Too Shy’ (That bad joke comes © Mark Palmer of Roadrunner Records – don’t blame me).
The 115-minute set was an excellent mix of material from SW’s two albums, though naturally it was the most recent one, ‘Grace For Drowning’, that provided its meat and potatoes. Things climaxed with ‘Raider II’, a 20-minute piece that flitted between sax-fuelled jazz freakouts and a full-on metal riff-a-thon that saw our hero headbanging like he was still a member of his teenaged NWOBHM-influenced group Paradox. Its encore of ‘Get All You Deserve’, which saw Steven don a gasmask (as per the ‘Insurgentes’ album cover) was equally fabulous. Here’s the full set-list: ‘No Twilight Within The Courts Of The Sun’, ‘Index’, ‘Deform To Form A Star’, ‘Sectarian’, ‘Postcard’, ‘Remainder The Black Dog’, ‘Harmony Korine’, ‘Abandoner’, ‘Like Dust I Have Cleared From My Eye’, ‘No Part Of Me’, ‘Veneno Para Las Hadas’, ‘Raider II’ and ‘Get All You Deserve’.