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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Saturday 31st October
Palace’s game against Preston has finished and I’m about to crack open the first drink of the day (no, I didn’t make the trip to Deepdale this season). Given that PNE are one of the Eagles’ bogey teams, also that we went behind during the game, a result of 1-1 draws no complaints from me.
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Friday 30th October
Although it’s been quiet gig-wise (next week will surely compensate), the past few days were busy. Ahead of Sunday’s New Progressives show in London, I spoke to Francis Dunnery who was a little annoyed by suggestions that he had enticed current It Bites frontman/guitarist John Mitchell to play on a double-album called ‘There’s A Whole New World Out There’ for less than wholesome reasons. “Provocative?” echoed Francis, “what do you mean?” Well, in procuring the services of his successor, some might see Dunnery as attempting to undermining the group’s continued existence without him. “Well, that’s absolute and utter bullshit,” he responded. “With me, it’s all about keeping things interesting. I thought it would be interesting to have John on the album – there were no ulterior motives. He also came up [to Cumbria] for my charity gig for kids with cancer, for which I am extremely indebted to him. The people who say these things… they’re the type of guys who download dwarf porn and jerk off over it. I’m not trying to unsettle anybody.” So there you have it.
Those that trawl the net for news will also be aware that the Down ‘N’ Outz, the supposedly ‘one night only’ group comprising Leppard frontman Elliott on vocals, rhythm guitar and piano, plus assorted members of The Quireboys, are recording an album of the songs they played whilst supporting Mott The Hoople a few weeks back. Though it’s pleasing, I didn’t see that one coming. The story broke this morning at the Classic Rock website [click here for details] after guitarist Paul Guerin blurted out: “I probably shouldn’t tell you this, but fuck it” during an interview about the QBs’ November UK tour. I always love to hear musicians saying those words, hahaha.
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Wednesday 28th October
Last night spoke to Michael Schenker to publicise a UK tour in December (though, oddly, its London date doesn’t take place till June 2010, at Shepherd’s Bush Empire). I’m a huge admirer of Schenker as a musician but, living in a world that exists in black and white with no shades of grey in between, he’s never been the easiest of subjects to interview – especially on the phone. Though I congratulated Michael on rebuilding his career after 2007’s shameful, drunken nadir, outside of advising all musicians to hire a lawyer he seemed to find it difficult to explain how he had cleaned up his act. When I asked whether he had gone into rehab or simply stopped drinking of his own accord he snapped back: “I don’t want to talk about that”. At the end of our chat, I asked about the rumour that he had had a physical altercation with his brother Rudolf at the Rock & Blues Custom Show during that aforementioned summer of shame. “That did not happen,” he stated, with apparent finality. But, having been in such a pitiful state, was there a possibility it might have taken place and Michael didn’t remember it? “No… that did not happen,” he reiterated stoically. Unwilling to let the matter drop so easily – though I did not personally see the alleged incident (I was starting to sound like Arsene Wenger), it was brought to my attention by several people involved with the festival – I wondered if that meant Schenker was calling these ‘eyewitnesses’ liars? Once again, all he would state was: “It did not happen.”
Afterwards I joined the rest of Clan Ling in watching a DVD of the new Star Trek movie, which stars Chris Pine as James T Kirk and Zachary Quinto as the younger Spock, with Leonard Nimoy reprising his classic pointy-eared role as Spock The Elder. With the cold, robotic nature of Schenker’s denial still floating around my head, I found myself contemplating the possibility that the guitarist has Vulcan blood pumping though his veins… or would such a suggestion be deemed as illogical, Captain?
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Tuesday 27th October
Okay, I’ve **finally** found some time to jot down a few thoughts about Firefest. Here’s the Ling verdict of the eight bands that played.

• Airrace – Despite going onstage at an unfeasibly early hour of 12.20pm (vocalist Keith Murrell chirruping: “25 years ago none of us would have been out of bed, let alone at a rock festival!”), the band had no problems in seizing the attention of a venue that only recently been opened to the public. The addition of an extra guitarist, ex-T’Pau man Dean Howard, has made Airrace a weightier proposition, though thankfully without diluting the band’s pomp-rock flavour. [8/10]

• The Poodles – Save for a few minutes at the Sweden Rock Festival a while back, I’d never seen these guys onstage before. Jakob Samuel’s vocals were at first a little lost in the mix, which obviously didn’t help. However, after a slow start and a lame jam to cover the singer’s gratuitous wardrobe change, the Swedes played my favourite song from their repertoire, ‘Metal Will Stand Tall’, and ended on a high note with a rousing ‘Night Of Passion’. [6/10]

• Drive, She Said – Celebrating the 20th anniversary of their self-titled debut, singer Al Fritsch and keyboard maestro Mark Mangold hit the stage running to deliver an effective one-two punch with the Mangold-penned Touch ht ‘Don’t You Know What Love Is?’ and the title cut of D,SS’s second album, ‘Drivin’ Wheel’. Personally, I was sold (then again, I was wearing a T-shirt that featured the sleeve of the latter-named album), but as the show drew on via their own songs such as ‘If This Is Love’, ‘Hard To Hold’, ‘Maybe It’s Love’, also hits penned for Cher (‘I Found Someone’) and Michael Bolton (‘Fool’s Game’), a series of technical gremlins served to undermine the increasingly foul mood of Mark Mangold. [7/10]

• Romeo’s Daughter – Quite simply, Leigh Matty and company were one of the sensations of Firefest VI. 16 years away had diminished little of their variety or seductive quality, and learning via a text during ‘I Cry Myself To Sleep At Night’ that Palace had taken the lead against Nottingham Florist was as close to personal nirvana as it gets (Though, frustratingly, the Eagles a were to concede a second half equaliser). [9/10]

• White Sister – The Californians raced out of the traps with a trio of their best tunes, ‘Don’t Say That You’re Mine’, ‘Straight From The Heart’ and ‘Promises’, putting Drive, She Said’s aforementioned one-two combination into the shade. With two keyboard players on hand to ramp up the levels of pomp and circumstance, and the exquisite powerhouse delivery of bassist Dennis Churchill-Dries – whose voice is comparable to Dave Meniketti of Y&T, even adding a flourish of Tommy Shaw-esque drama during the wonderful ‘Save Me Tonight’ – the organisers’ decision to bring hire the band over for a second successive year was revealed as a masterstroke. [9/10]

• Crown Of Thorns – Former Plasmatics man Jean Beauvoir summoned all of his charisma to come on like a black version of his former producer/manager Paul Stanley as Crown Of Thorns seized what felt like (to yours truly, at least) distinctly unexpected glory. Frankly, COF have offered rapidly diminishing returns following a genre-classic debut back in 1994, but adhering to the material the fans love best – ‘Hike It Up’, ‘The Healer’, ‘Dying For Love’ and ‘Standing On The Corner For Ya’; the latter arguably the day’s finest ballad – paid off handsomely. [7/10]

• Honeymoon Suite – Although the Canadians had their fare share of disciples (including Newman’s Steve Newman, whose gleeful backing vocals threatened to puncture my left eardrum throughout the band’s Special Guest spot), many used it as an excuse to leave in search of food. Those that did so missed a real treat. The Honeymooners are unprepossessing and laid back almost to the point of being soporific, but songs like ‘The Other Side Of Midnight’, ‘New Girl Now’ and ‘Love Changes Everything’ compensate with ease for the rock star pizzazz the band lacks, and the Niagara Falls natives departed the stage to justified cheers. [8/10]

• FM – Despite all the love that had existed in the room for all of the previous bands, nobody was going to steal the headliners’ thunder. In what was just their third gig since reuniting two years ago, FM kicked off with their meaty new single ‘Wildside’ (an appetiser for a new album, ‘Metropolis’, that finally drops next year) and settled down for a mixture of crowd-pleasing favourites such as ‘Face To face’, ‘That Girl’, ‘Dangerous’, ‘Burning My Heart Down’, ‘Blood & Gasoline’, ‘Bad Luck’ and the timeless ‘Frozen Heart’. There was no sign of the hinted-at guest appearance from original guitarist Chris Overland, but with newly-arrived axeman Jim Kirkpatrick, whose style lends itself more to the British group’s melodic roots than the more blues-based era that followed, such a cameo was not missed. Shall we draw a veil over the encore, which saw various reprobates dragged on from the wings to participate in a version of Prince’s ‘Purple Rain’, stating instead that the show finished with drummer Pete Jupp’s promise that FM **will** tour in 2010? Yes, that might be a wise move. [9/10]
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Monday 26th October
I’ve just received a terrific email from FM’s Merv Goldsworthy, who is still heartily amused at having been being impersonated by yours truly at last weekend’s Firefest. “I’ve read couple of reviews of the gigs, and guess what?” asks the bassist. “There’s no mention of the set we played, the crowd reaction or how well Stiv [Overland] sang; all they talk about is the PINK SUIT!!!!! Do you realise that all those years of great journalism are now wasted? In future all you will be remembered as is the guy who got up onstage in front of 1400 people wearing a pink suit! F**ing priceless! But that is the power of the pink suit!!”
With some hideous YouTube footage the event now posted online, I’m starting to realise why Merv consigned his own version of the controversial garment to the back of the wardrobe.
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Sunday 25th October
Just home from the Firefest – what a truly fantastic day’s entertainment; well worth missing the Palace-Forest game for. I’ll waffle a bit about the music once my brain-cells have realigned. For me, the piece de resistance came during FM’s encore, a cover of Prince’s ‘Purple Rain’, when Kieran Dargan and the Firefest team pulled a gag by dressing up as the band in its 80s incarnation. Along with Dennis Churchill-Dries and Rick Chaddock from White Sister, Romeo’s Daughter’s Leigh Matty and ARFM Radio’s Steve Price, I joined the band on the Nottingham Rock City stage for a bout of alleged ‘backing vocals’; complete with a pink suit, frilly white shirt and wig, I was transformed into Merv Notworthy, the line-up rounded out by Pete Juggs (Sue Ashcroft), Didge Miserable (Phil Ashcroft), Chris Overworked (Tony Marshall) and Steve Overweight (Dargan). The looks on FM’s faces – they had no idea it was going to happen – were an absolute picture. It was either a classic AOR moment, or something we should face a firing squad for… I’m still not sure.
In keeping with tradition, the show was followed by copious amounts of alcohol. Merv Goldsworthy was incredulous not only at the pink suit display but the amount I put away in the hotel bar. When I stumbled into the reception area this morning to settle my bill, looking ashen and sounding hoarse, Merv gazed at me and grinned: “Dave Ling… man of the match”. Almost as much as finding the Rock Candy Records re-issues of Airrace’s ‘Shaft Of Light’ and the self-titled debut from Montrose sitting on the mat to greet my homecoming, that comment made my day.
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Saturday 24th October
Last nite I went to see the Jay Tamkin Band at my local rock venue, the Anchor in Lewisham. The place was fuller than on my previous two visits, with a somewhat unlikely-looking crowd. Armed with a terrific debut album of soulful blues-rock called ‘Sorted’, Tamkin is a self-confident and gifted 22-year-old guitarist/vocalist from the West Country. Sadly, he has since replaced the group that played on the record and was being backed by a group of musicians that had never performed his material before. So what ensued was a 105-minute set of largely improved tunes that Jay had made up earlier in the day, with a nucleus of tunes from ‘Sorted’ (including ‘Love Don’t Keep Me Down’). It wasn’t anywhere near as bad as that must look in black and white. The audience of south London drinkers, which looked like it wouldn’t have been seen dead a rock gig, went absolutely bonkers… I had to stifle several laughs at the dad-dancing – no, make that granddad-dancing – that erupted in front of the makeshift stage; loved the portly old fella that was using his walking stick as a guitar – even playing it behind his head.
Anyway, I’m off to Firefest. Back in a coupla days…
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Friday 23rd October
Much of today has been spent getting to grips with ‘The Whirlwind’, the long-awaited third studio album from Transatlantic, the pure-prog project that feature members past ‘n’ present of Dream Theater, Spock’s Beard, Marillion and The Flower Kings. DT’s Mike Portnoy recently boasted to me that ‘The Whirlwind’ – 77 minutes and 56 seconds of music broken down into 12 individual suites – makes “Porcupine Tree’s 55-minute song [‘The Incident’] sound like Bon Jovi by comparison”, and it’s certainly one of the most expansive pieces of work I’ve had the pleasure of hearing. Sadly, my advance promo does not include the record’s second disc, featuring remakes of ‘The Return Of The Giant Hogweed’ by Genesis, Procol Harum’s ‘A Salty Dog’ and the Santana classic ‘Soul Sacrifice’ among others, though in a bid to avoid piracy the band have dropped silly messages into a few of the instrumental passages, the best of which being Neal Morse’s deadpan comment of: “I suppose you are trying to listen to the new Transatlantic album, ‘The Whirlwind’, but some annoying guy keeps speaking to you in the middle of the music”. Très droll…
Transatlantic were responsible for one of the most awesome gigs I’ve ever seen, at London’s Astoria in November 2001, whilst promoting their stunning debut album, ‘SMPTe’. I also wrote a feature with all four band members that appeared in #14 of Classic Rock. As a throwaway closing gambit I wondered whether Mike, Neal Morse, Roine Stolt or Pete Trewavas would consider quitting their day-jobs to devote all 100% attention to Transatlantic if ‘SMPTe’ **really** took off. I’m still not sure whether Trewavas was taking the piss when he flustered back… “Errr. Cor, blimey. Can I give you my answer in a sealed envelope? That’s tough. It’s obviously one of those things and I’m sure it’s crossed everybody’s minds. I don’t know…”. Cutting and pasting it again a decade later, one can only wonder whether life on Planet Marillion really was so tough back then?!
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Thursday 22nd October
My dad has been at Ling Towers helping (‘guiding’ would be a more accurate description) the assembly of two sets of metal shelving to house the vinyl goodies that had been accumulating on the floor of my office. To accommodate these towering steel beauties I was forced do a little rearranging. Oh, the amazement at the stuff I dredged up. I hadn’t seen my Roxx Gang promotional plastic back scratcher for aeons (the Floridian band’s 1988 album ‘Things You've Never Done Before’ included a song called ‘Scratch My Back’), nor the stopwatch Epic Records sent me for the release of ‘The Final Countdown’.
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Wednesday 21st October
I’ve yet to read the reports of last night’s game, but the score of Leicester 2 Palace 0 was hugely disappointing. It made me realise that we are a dour mid-table side that’s capable of grinding out the odd shock result yet cannot claim a place among the pacemakers of the Fizzy Pop league. Missing this Saturday’s home game against Nottingham Florist will **almost** be a blessed relief after the mundanity that the club has served up of late.
There were a couple of e-complaints regarding yesterday’s negative comments about Gene $immons… “C’mon, Dave, surely you know what to expect from Gene by now?”, “If he’s a sex-god in his own mind, why is it your problem?”, etc, etc. I won’t retract a word. I remain a huge fan of kiss, but $immons still reminds me of an awful, befuddled geriatric who sits in the corner of a nursing home, drooling and jerking at his wrinkled old chicken of a penis every time a woman walks past, amid endless boasts about his bank balance.
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Tuesday 20th October
As you may have surmised from the delay in my postings, I’ve been incredibly busy these past few days. Last night’s plans to attend Tarja Turunen’s gig in London were overruled for an extended stay shackled to the PC, and it looks like I’ll have to give tonight’s Skindred date at the Electric Ballroom a miss. Oh well, when you’re freelance it’s churlish to gripe about such things. There’ll be time a-plenty for fun this weekend at the Firefest.
P.S. Today marks the fifth birthday of this web diary. The spewing of my thoughts in such a manner has been a great deal of fun, but there would be no point in doing so unless they were being read. So thanks a lot to everyone that took the time to drop by.
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Sunday 18th October
I had way too much work to justify a visit to Cardiff City’s new ground, so broke from transcribing interviews and writing review to listen to BBC Radio Wales’ commentary. Considering the Bluebirds have been scoring freely of late I was content with a point from a 1-1 draw.
I hardly expected to say this but the new Kiss album, ‘Sonic Boom’, has been a frequent visitor to the Ling Towers death deck. During the past few years I’ve developed such an intense dislike of Gene $immons – is there a more odious, conceited, wig-wearing dick-wipe in rock ‘n’ roll? – that, as hard as I fought, it rubbed off on my perception of the band’s music. So thank the Lord that Paul Stanley’s hand was on the tiller for ‘Sonic Boom’. $immons’ self-aggrandising is a big part of the record, of course, but it’s easy to skip through the likes of ‘Yes I Know (Nobody’s Perfect’ (with its oafish lyric of “Ma-ma-maybe I come awfully close”), focusing instead on solid gold killers like Stanley and Tommy Thayer’s ‘Never Enough’.
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Saturday 17th October
Having relished last Saturday’s abbreviated display on the Progressive Nation tour, also enjoyed my interview with Damon Fox at Wembley (check out this cool photo), I had been counting the minutes until my chance to see Bigelf as headliners. So a few liveners were imbibed en route to meeting my buds Kev Denman and Mark Baker at the Barfly in Camden.
A story I saw in the Evening Standard almost made me piss myself with laughter and disbelief. The Metropolitan Police have identified a new ‘terrorism hotspot’ in London. Amazingly, it’s none other than Selhurst Park. For this reason anyone inside or outside Crystal Palace’s stadium can be searched without grounds for suspicion under Section 44 of the Terrorism Act 2000. Fuck me sideways! With attendances down to around 12,000 each week, surely the suicide bombers are setting their sights on more profitable targets? Next thing they’ll be claiming that Osama has bought himself a season ticket in the Croydon Advertiser Stand.
Anyway, Bigelf were as stellar as I’d been hoping. Concentrating on their latest disc ‘Cheat The Gallows’ they conjured up the spirit of 1970s rock like few other acts I’ve heard before. Despite being stuck behind two towering banks of keys, Damon Fox is a charismatic frontman and Ace Mark’s guitar soars, caresses and dive-bombs in all the right places. I cannot wait till they make a promised return visit in early 2010 – hopefully they’ll get to play for longer than an hour and a quarter, though the encore of Pink Floyd’s ‘Have A Cigar’ was a very welcome surprise indeed. Here’s the set-list: ‘The Evils Of Rock & Roll’, ‘Neuropsychopathic Eye’, ‘Pain Killers’, ‘Blackball’, ‘Disappear’, ‘Bats In The Belfry I’, ‘Hydra’ and an extended rendition of ‘Money, It's Pure Evil’, followed by the wondrous ‘Have A Cigar’.
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Friday 16th October
Last nite’s gig at the Hammersmith Apollo offered three great bands – Black Stone Cherry, Duff McKagan’s Loaded and The Parlor Mob. I missed the very beginning of the latter’s bill-opening display but came away with the date of November 11 (when the New Jersey band headlines the Barfly) etched into my diary in big red letters. Fair play to Duff McKagan, cast in the role of ‘special guest’ in a venue he had headlined for multiple nights not too long ago, beneath a band young enough to be his sons. The Velvet Revolver man magnanimously hailed The Parlor Mob as his “favourite band of the summer” also praising his “new brothers”, the bill-toppers, during a 40-minute blast of slightly dark but energetic punk-charged hard rock. Mostly this was culled from Loaded’s enjoyable new album, ‘Sick,’ but Duff also dipped back to his GN’R days for ‘So Fine’ (from ‘Use Your Illusion II’) and The Misfits’ ‘Attitude’ (famously covered on ‘The Spaghetti Incident?’). And the Apollo went bonkers as the Manic Street Preachers’ James Dean Bradfield, heralded as “one of the true truth-speakers in rock ‘n’ roll music”, strolled on to participate in an incendiary version of Gn’R’s ‘It’s So Easy’.
Last summer, as Black Stone Cherry prepared to take the stage opening for Def Leppard and Whitesnake at Wembley Arena, guitarist Ben told me in a Metal Hammer interview: “It’s an honour to play a venue as famous as this. Someday we want to come back and headline it.” Well, you know what? Having topped the bill at the Brixton Academy and wowed the Download Festival for the second time, those plans are starting to look dead on track. The Kentucky-based quartet see themselves as the new saviours of Southern rock, and last night’s set included tributes to ZZ Top (whose ‘Just Got Paid’ preceded BSC’s own ‘Soul Creek’), Skynyrd, Hendrix and Muddy Waters. So, you could have been excused for wondering… why on earth was the Apollo populated by so many not yet of drinking age? And how come those same kids were so intent upon cheering just about every note that rang out from the stage, even a forgettable nine-minute solo by drummer John Fred Young? The answer is simple: to their growing army of fans, BSC are currently unable to do wrong. This immensely likable band already has a repertoire of great tunes, playing them proficiently and with deep sincerity. Each is barrelled through not like it’s the swansong of any given night or tour, but of their entire career. The result is sheer audio dynamite.
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Thursday 15th October
Hmmm… faced by last nite’s toss-up between going to the Underworld to see Trouble (now fronted, in a somewhat unlikely manner, by Warrior Soul’s Kory Clarke) and remaining at home for England’s last World Cup qualification fixture against Belarus, the latter seemed preferable – especially after a fortnight’s worth of frantic gig-going. Putting to bed the weekend’s defeat by Ukraine (who booked their own passage to the play-offs at the expense of those conceited Croatian twats… hahaha!), the Three Lions coasted past Belarus by three unanswered goals to finish atop Group Six with 27 points from 10 games. Obviously, Capello’s men will need to perform far better in South Africa to stand any realistic chance of winning the trophy, but unlike the eliminated Sweden, Scotland, Wales, Turkey, Hungary and Croatia, also the teams that must go through the play-offs (including France, the Republic of Ireland, Greece, Portugal, the Czechs and Ukraine), we are at least certain to be present for the party.
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Wednesday 14th October
My most recent jaunts to Watford have not been pleasant experiences, the Hornets having the edge over my beloved Eagles in the last few fixtures I attended. So how nice it was to come out of Watford station and turn right into a pub, to share a few jars with one of my oldest friends instead of heading left for another 90 minutes of frustration at Vicarage Road. I met my pal Ian Mansell, who lives locally, for a bit of a general catch-up and to investigate Romeo’s Daughter’s first gig in… ulp… 16 years. The band were playing a pub called The Horns; not a bad l’il boozer, some nice R&R memorabilia on the walls, and a friendly clientele that included FM’s Merv Goldsworthy (the ‘other half’ of RD chanteuse Leigh Matty), Pete Jupp and, apparently, Jem Davis (though I didn’t see the later… I think). To be honest, such was my excitement I was in a bit of a cider fenzy by the time the band hit the stage – I vaguely recall greeting Pete Jupp with the immortal words: “Ah, hello you QPR scum”. Many apologies for that, Pete, if you’re reading.
Anyway, suffice to say that all those that are heading to Nottingham for next weekend’s Firefest are in for a treat. Matty’s recent claim that the band’s original line-up has slipped straight back into its groove was vindicated by an excellent 65-minute display. Leigh still has a gorgeous, silken voice and I swear the earth moved during the ever-sublime ‘I Cry Myself To Sleep At Night’. Here’s the set-list: ‘Wild Child’, ‘Velvet Tongue’, ‘I Cry Myself To Sleep At Night’, ‘Addicted To The Animal’, ‘Stay With Me Tonight’, ‘Colour You A Smile’, ‘Treat Me Like A Lady’, ‘Dream In Colour’, ‘Inside Out’ and ‘Heaven In The Backseat’, with encores of ‘Hymn (Look Through Golden Eyes)’ and ‘Don't Break My Heart’.
Having somehow ended up in Shepherds Bush instead of Euston I managed to catch my last connection from London Bridge but dozed off and awoke in Lower Sydenham. With no buses or trains back, let alone taxis, it was case of shanks’ pony back to Ling Towers. Nevertheless, a fabulous nite… despite the diversion during the return trip.
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Tuesday 13th October
I was sorry to learn of the death of Dickie Peterson, aged 61. Blue Cheer were a superb and extremely important band. I shall be playing some of the vocalist/bassist’s music as I go about today’s business. RIP, Dickie.
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Sunday 11th October
After six gigs in as many nights, this morning’s lie-in was rather welcome. All I’ll say of England’s 0-1 defeat to Ukraine which took place as I was at Wembley Arena for Dream Theater’s Progressive Nation show is that, 1) Hopefully it turns out to be a bit of a wake–up call and, 2) So long as it screws up Croatia’s chances of qualifying for next year’s World Cup, I don’t really mind.
I arrived at Wembley Arena well in advance of the gig having been engaged to play the role of host in a backstage round table-style discussion on the state of progressive rock for Classic Rock Presents Prog. On the panel were DT’s Mike Portnoy (obviously), Mikael Akerfeldt from Opeth and Damon Fox of the superb US band Bigelf, with interjections where appropriate from the mag’s editor Jerry Ewing. It was a lively and at times hilarious debate, though I’m not looking forward to transcribing the tape!
With the round table starting late and overrunning I missed the event’s first band, Unearth, though I adored my first encounter with Bigelf, who were joined onstage by Portnoy during an all-too-brief 35 minute display that brought to mind Sabbath, Queen, Heep and Atomic Rooster (expect to read more… far more… on the band following next week’s headline gig at the Barfly). Opeth were – as usual – quite magnificent, reeling in Akerfeldt’s death-growls to concentrate on the dreamy, adventurous side of their repertoire to feature just six songs in 65 minutes (‘Window Pane’, ‘The Lotus Eater’, ‘Harlequin Forest’, ‘April Ethereal’, ‘Deliverance’ and ‘Hex Omega’). Akerfeldt also materialised again at the start of Dream Theater’s set, joining in with ‘A Nightmare To Remember’, the opening cut from the band’s current album ‘Black Clouds & Silver Linings’. James LaBrie has been the subject of some harsh criticism but on this occasion he sang wonderfully during the seemingly few occasions that he was called upon. During the earlier Prog magazine discussion, addressing the theory that extended solo spots are becoming a thing of the past – even for Dream Theater – Portnoy had stated: “I will **definitely** be playing a drum solo tonight… and it will be a bit special.” At the end of a brief showcase of his own Mike invited Derek Kerswill from Unearth, then Bigelf’s Froth and finally Opeth’s Martin ‘Axe’ Axenrot to join him, before the four all played together in a cacophony of rhythm. Winding up the set proper with an impossibly overblown ‘Take The Time’ and encoring with the full 22-minute version of the new album’s ‘The Count Of Tuscany’, this was – brevity aside – an all-time great Dream Theater gig. Here’s the set-list: ‘A Nightmare To Remember’, Medley: ‘The Mirror’/‘Lie’, Keyboard Solo, ‘Prophets Of War’, ‘Wither’, ‘The Dance Of Eternity’, Drum Solo & Jam, ‘Take The Time’ and ‘The Count Of Tuscany’.
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Saturday 10th October
Regular visitors to this site will be aware of my passion for the band Porcupine Tree. Well, last night the tour for their latest album ‘The Incident’ rolled through London’s Hammersmith Apollo. My friend Harj and I had seats in Row J of the sold-out venue’s stalls, just about dead-centre of the stage, which was tremendous. Played in its entirety to commence the show, ‘The Incident’s title cut – what band leader Steven Wilson terms “a 55-minute song cycle” – crackled with raw energy, battering the ears in its early stages and building majestically through ‘Drawing The Line’, ‘Your Unpleasant Family’ and the quite brilliant ‘Time Flies’ to its draining climax of ‘I Drive The Hearse’. Wilson seemed to be enjoying himself, asking the crowd: “Who’s going to see Opeth tomorrow?”, referencing tonight’s Progressive Nation gig at Wembley Arena, headlined by Dream Theater. When 95% of the Apollo replied in the affirmative, he grinned something along the lines of: “Well, go and stand in front of Mikael [Åkerfeldt, Opeth mainman] in your Porcupine Tree shirts… I’ve had enough of seeing Opeth ones on this tour, it’s payback time.” And when the group returned for its encore, Wilson told them, “No, no, don’t sit down again. We’re a fucking heavy metal band fer Chrissake. I know that because we’ve been in Metal Hammer.” [Cue gigantic grins from all the Hammer scribes sat around me, then bigger ones still as SW added, almost as a post-script: “Oh, and Kerrang!”]. Anyway, here’s the set-list: ‘The Incident’, ‘The Start Of Something Beautiful’, ‘Russia On Ice’, ‘The Pills I’m Taking’, ‘Lazarus’, ‘Normal’, ‘Strip The Soul’/‘.3’, ‘Bonnie The Cat’ and encores of ‘Sound Of Muzak’ and ‘Trains’.
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Friday 9th October
Until last night Richie Kotzen hadn’t played in London for five years (his previous appearance being an unplugged show at the miniscule 12 Bar Club). A huge and vociferous crowd that included Iron Maiden’s Adrian Smith had gathered at the Underworld to see the former Poison/Mr Big guitarist, so the night was primed. Alas… I am unable to put my finger on why, for me at least, things fell a little flat. The show started really well with ‘Losin’ My Mind’, ‘Love Divine’, ‘Misunderstood’ and a cover of ‘Shapes Of Things’ by the Yardbirds, but gradually my attention began to wander. Kotzen is uncommunicative, often standing with his back to the crowd. The aura he gives off lacks emotion, quite possibly explained by the fact that playing the geetar and indeed singing so well requires intense concentration, but would it have hurt Richie to acknowledge the waves of love that his presence was generating? Probably not.
I wanted to hear Kotzen play ‘Stand’, the single from the hugely underrated album he did with Poison (‘Native Son’, 1993) – not unreasonable as he did it at the 12 Bar – also the title cut of 1994’s ‘Mother Head’s Family Reunion’ album, but no dice. The encores of an original tune called ‘Remember’ and re-workings of ‘All Along The Watchtower’ and The Four Tops’ ‘Reach Out I’ll Be There’ were fabulous. But overall, well… it was hard to get past that mid-show dip.
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Thursday 8th October
Last nite I gazed through the window at the depressing, drizzling rain and wondered, "Do I really want to go to a gig?" My day had included two phone interviews - Joel O’Keeffe had told me all about Airbourne's second album, while Dave Wyndorf spilled all the latest developments in the Monster Magnet camp, including the band's split from SPV Records ("They were a great label at the start, then they went all German on me!!"), their upcoming appearance at the hard Rock Hell festival and plans to release a new studio album in 2010.
Anyway, I **did** end up venturing to the Borderline where a 22-year-old guitarist from the Isle Of Man, Davy Knowles, and his group Back Door Slam were playing. Their set was tremendous. Guitarist/vocalist Knowles has only recently returned to the UK after a string of dates opening for Chickenfoot, Gov't Mule and more. Equally impressive, his new (and second) album, 'Coming Up For Air', was produced by Peter Frampton, who co-write a few of its selections. And though none are in Davy's live band for obvious reasons, the record's special guests include Jackson Browne’s Rhythm section of Kevin McCormick and Fritz Lewak, plus Tom Petty's keyboard player Benmont Tench. Impressed? You should be.
For all his youth Knowles has a voice that's suitably lived-in, and juxtaposed by the versatile keyboards of Ty Bailie, his playing is wonderful. Mixing songs from 'Coming Up For Air' and a debut I've yet to hear called 'Roll Away', he also threw in a version of the Rory Gallagher-popularised 'Messin' With The Kid' and stretched out to show the full range of his talent on a ten-minute rendition of 'Almost Cut My Hair' by Crosby Stills Nash & Young. The gig concluded unexpectedly when Knowles' amp blew up during the encores, but even such a premature ending could not tarnish an unexpectedly great evening.
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Wednesday 7th October
What a privilege is was to have been at the final nite of Mott The Hoople’s reunion run at Hammersmith. Reports indicated that the band was getting better and better as the week… well, five shows… progressed, so in selecting yesterday’s gig I picked wisely. Before getting into the plusses, of which there are many, a few quick minuses. Firstly we were told by event’s PR that Joe Elliott’s Down ‘N’ Outz – basically, Def Leppard’s vocalist fronting the Quireboys for a set of tunes omitted from the headliners’ set – would be onstage at 7.45pm. So imagine how annoyed I was to enter the Apollo at around 7.30 and hear they’d already begun. Secondly, we all know that Ian Hunter worships Bob Dylan but was it **really** necessary to keep bursting into renditions of ‘Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door’ and ‘Like A Rolling Stone’ every five minutes? Thirdly, Mick Ralphs’ version of ‘Ready For Love’ – no… Just no, alright? Fourthly, although Brian May and Roger Taylor were in the house they didn’t materialise for ‘All The Young Dudes’ as planned. And lastly, just two people serving the entire balcony of the Apollo at the after-show bash?!? C’mon, you’re having a bleedin’ giraffe…
So let’s accentuate the many positives. Most importantly, during the encores Hunter announced from the stage: “There **is** gonna be a next time, so come back and enjoy it again, alright?” But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. The Down ‘N’ Outz were a marvellous way to set the evening rolling. Elliott made me chuckle by introducing ‘England Rocks’ with the words: “This was the national anthem of 1977, if you didn’t get the Sex Pistols” – and their version, er, also rocked! Hunter’s song introductions were rib-tickling and brilliantly self-mocking, and it was great to see Dale ‘Buffin’ Griffin, replaced on the drum stool by ex-Pretenders man Martin Chambers due to ill health, come out for the encores. I also liked the way they added a chorus of backing vocalists – Hunter’s son Jesse and daughter Tracie, Jamie Ralphs, Mick Ronson’s daughter Lisa and a lady called Phoebe whose surname I didn’t catch, even the band’s original frontman Stan Tippins – for a final run-in that began with a spine-tingling ‘The Golden Age Of Rock ‘N’ Roll’. And whilst we’re talking family connections, I was also introduced to Michael Schenker’s son Tyson, who is in a band called Audio Cartel with Jesse Hunter. It was, in short, a legendary evening.
Here’s the set-list: ‘Hymn For The Dudes’, ‘Rock ‘N’ Roll Queen’, ‘Sweet Jane’, ‘One Of The Boys’, ‘Sucker’, ‘The Moon Upstairs’, ‘Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door’ (Excerpt), ‘The Original Mixed Up Kid’, ‘I Wish I Was Your Mother’, ‘Ready For Love’, ‘Born Late ’58’, ‘The Ballad Of Mott’, ‘Angeline’, ‘Walking With A Mountain’, ‘Like A Rolling Stone (Excerpt), ‘The Journey’, ‘The Golden Age of Rock ‘N’ Roll’, ‘Honaloochie Boogie’, ‘All The Way From Memphis’, ‘Roll Away The Stone’, ‘All The Young Dudes’, ‘Keep A-Knockin’’ and… what a way to depart… ‘The Saturday Gigs’.
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Tuesday 6th October
It’s rare for me attend to two different shows in a single evening, but last night that’s exactly what happened. Wishbone Ash guitarist/frontman Andy Powell had kindly invited me to a ‘low-key’ gig the band were playing before 150-odd Planet Rock Radio competition winners at the Gibson Showroom in central London, and though it clashed with another equally hush-hush affair – a gathering to honour my Metal hammer editor Alexander Milas – the former opportunity was a little too good to miss; I would just have to turn up fashionably late for Alex’s ‘do’. There are no regrets. Though the usually genteel Powell still had his knickers in a twist over playing “a toilet” of a venue in Swansea 24 hours earlier the Ash were in fine form, adding a couple of gems from 1977’s ‘Front page News’ album (‘Right Or Wrong’ and its title cut), also opening a 65-minute set with ‘Runaway’ from the previous year’s ‘New England’. Here’s what they played: ‘Runaway’, ‘Right Or Wrong’, ‘Driving A Wedge’, ‘Sometime World’, ‘The King Will Come’, ‘Front Page News’, ‘Engine Overheat’, ‘Vas Dis’, ‘Jailbait’ and a much-deserved encore of ‘Blowin’ Free’.
By the time I arrived at the bash for Monsewer Milas, Gentleman’s Pistols were nearing the end of a thoroughly enjoyable performance. Sadly, I’d long since missed the great man’s grand arrival though I’m told a combination of astonishment, emotion and pricked modesty had caused the big girl’s blouse to burst into tears. Alex really is one of the good guys and he’s done an amazing job at the Hammer, which now (SAY IT LOUDLY!!) outsells Kerrang! at the newsstands. I rest my case.
P.S. Should anyone give a shit, this month’s Playlist and YouTube sections have been updated.
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Monday 5th October
Till yesterday when my youngest lad Arnie and I caught the latest animated offering Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs, I’d never seen a movie in 3-D. Wow – the graphics were so lifelike, I could almost forgive the naff storyline of a geeky boy that finds love with an equally nerdy weather reporter by inventing a machine to turn atmospheric vapours into torrents of food that fall earthwards. All the same, a trip to the cinema was a rare treat.
I also found time to conduct a phone interview with Reg Presley. Now 68 years old, the Troggs frontman still has an agile, lively mind. His west country accent hasn’t changed a bit, neither has a propensity for fruity language, and as we talked of the immortal song ‘Wild Thing’ and his passion for unidentified flying objects, it seemed odd to converse with a voice I knew so well from ‘The Troggs Tapes’, a curio of the group arguing in the recording studio that summons the ‘F’ word 63 times and the ‘C’ word once. “Oh, you’ve got the edited version,” Reg laughed (he was quite right; my copy is a double-vinyl seven-inch edition, with ‘Wild Thing’ as the A-side). “There were 137 fucks on the master copy!”
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Sunday 4th October
Eldest lad Eddie and I had a fantastic time at yesterday's game between Palace and Blackpool. Not only did the Eagles triumph by four goals to one, we also got to the ground well before kick off to enjoy what was termed a 'Family day' (though, in the kind of foot in mouth gaffe that only CPFC could
manage, a Michael Jackson imitator was among the entertainment for the kiddies... ouch!). Anyway, we got to meet and get autographs from boss Neil Warnock, Eddie's hero goalkeeper Julian Speroni, Jose Fonte, Danny Butterfield, Alan Lee and Neil Danns - the latter two being players that set Palace on their way to a crucial victory with well-taken headed goals. "This has been one of the best days of my life," beamed Eddie on the way homeward. Aw, bless.
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Saturday 3rd October
A conversation with Sharon den Adel of Within Temptation concluded yet another frantic week. In the evening I headed to the Crobar in Central London to sink a few pints and show support for my fellow Classic Rock and Metal Hammer scribe Joel McIver, who was set to read selected passages from his book To Live Is To Die: The Life And Death Of Metallica's Cliff Burton, interspersed by blasts of noise from the Metallica tribute act Mentallica.
On the train up to town I flicked through #4 of Classic Rock Presents Prog magazine, laughing aloud at Malcolm Dome's review of Hawkwind. "Performance artists wander through the crowd, including jugglers, dancers, and even one man dressed as a cleaner washing the floor," writes Malc. "Oh, hang on the cleaner is actually washing the floor. When was the last time you saw that happening in the middle of a gig?" Hmmm. Maddus Malcus seems to have conveniently forgotten the time that he himself brought mops, suds and serviettes into action by projectile vomiting down the back of a unfortunate lady at the Quireboys gig in the 1990s. But I digress. The new issue of Prog looks great and has plenty to read, including my own story on Gong and Steve Hillage from the Lounge On The Farm festival in Canterbury.
Before Joel's event I thumbed through the Record & Tape Exchange's bargain rack. When it comes to buying albums there's nothing more joyous than taking a chance on something completely unknown and being blown into the middle of next week by a complete humdinger. That's exactly what happened when I splashed out 50 pence on 'Dr Heckle & Mr Jive', a 1979 MOR classic from England Dan & John Ford Coley, best known for the hit 'I'd Really Love To See You Tonight'. The only sting in the tail is that if they're anywhere near as superb I must seek out the pair's other six albums.
The book reading was a bit of a hoot, though I didn't get Mentallica at all. The band were competent enough musicians but the so-called 'James Hetfield' character was very poor, reinforcing my long-held belief that trib bands are a waste of time.
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Friday 2nd October
The Wildhearts never let you down onstage, and last night’s gig at Shepherd’s Bush Empire was fun. I wasn’t completely sold on the idea of playing the new album, ‘Chutzpah!’, in its entirety as the first half of the show, but that’s my own fault for not hearing it till a couple of days beforehand. Had I been word-perfect, like so many people stood around me, I’d have enjoyed things more. The gig’s final 50 minutes or so represented a quite fearsome display of Ginger’s songwriting genius – ‘Nothing Ever Changes But The Shoes’, ’29 X The Pain’, ‘Red Light, Green Light’, ‘Sick Of Drugs’, ‘Suckerpunch’, ‘My Baby Is A Headfuck’, ‘A Geordie In Wonderland’, ‘Just In Lust’, ‘Caffeine Bomb’ and a final, rousing ‘I Wanna Go Where The People Go’ (you simply cannot go wrong with a song that includes the line: “I wanna be where the c**ts like me are buried six feet underground”) sending everyone home with fluorescent smiles.
The ever-improving Black Spiders [www.myspace.com/theblackspiders] provided a great warm-up set, introducing brand two new (de-)compositions to a catalogue that already plunders all the best bits from QOTSA, Kiss, Monster Magnet, Turbonegro and Sabbath. The tune they opened with is so recent it only has a working title, ‘Creepy Red Fox Blues Master’ or possibly ‘Man’s Ruin’. Later on the Spiders were joined by an attractive friend of the group, Danni, who duetted with Pete Spiby on ‘Easy Peasy’, a tune with huge commercial potential. This is definitely a band to watch, though, oddly, the crowd didn’t react anywhere near as ecstatically as I felt they might. I cannot explain why…
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Thursday 1st October
Yeeeee-haaahh! Thanks to my pal Mick Brown, the greatest Br***ton & H**e Albion fan that ever lived (come to think of it, save for Steve Hammonds, the **only** decent one!), I’ve just rustled up a pair of tickets for the last night of Mott The Hoople’s reunion run at Hammersmith, which begins this evening. Cinders, you shall go to the ball…