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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Sunday 31st October
This is beginning to sound like a scratched record. Yesterday brought another woeful home defeat for Crystal Palace (this time to Swansea City, leaving the Eagles marooned at the bottom of the Championship); yet another gig to restore morale.
I'll be honest, until the release of their spectacular new album, to yours truly Stone Sour were somewhat inconsequential… barely even a blip on the radar. However, ‘Audio Secrecy’ is a such a superb slice of modern commercial hard rock, that viewpoint was hastily revised. I was dying to check the band out onstage, and with a fantastic seat in the front row of a sold out Hammersmith Apollo – the first of two nights on a co-headlining jaunt with Avenged Sevenfold – and brilliant sound, yours truly was left eating his past words in a sesame seed bun, with a dollop of embarrassment a side order of onion rings. Corey Taylor (also the frontman of masked madmen Slipknot) and company played just four songs from ‘Audio Secrecy’ (namely ‘Mission Statement’, ‘Say You’ll Haunt Me’, ‘Unfinished’ and ‘Digital (Did You Tell)’) but their other eight tunes (‘Reborn’, ‘Made Of Scars’, ‘Get Inside’, ‘Your God’, ‘Bother’, ‘Through Glass’, ‘Hell & Consequences’ and ‘30/30-150’) maintained those equally high standards. The reaction was so hysterical and emphatic, SS could have headlined the joint themselves. I must go back and re-examine those previous two records.
I’ve seen Mike Portnoy playing with bands other than Dream Theater, as a member of Transatlantic and as a guest with Spock’s Beard and Bigelf, but it felt slightly odd to be watching him with Avenged Sevenfold. Hammering away at a smaller than usual kit and having stripped back some of the rhythmic excesses that have become his trademark, Portnoy seemed well suited to A7X and is just the medicine the band needed following the death of their own drummer, The Rev. With time on his hands, I wouldn’t be surprised if Mike stays with them for some time. I’ve been an Avenged Sevenfold fan since seeing the band six years ago, and having topped the Billboard chart with their current disc ‘Nightmare’, the group’s career is on a crazy upwards arc. Though there are question marks against the prowess of singer M Shadows (some backing tapes were clearly being used), Zacky Vengeance and Synyster Gates are a formidable guitar team and songwriting-wise they have blossomed from a rudimentary metalcore combo into something significantly more special. Enhanced by all sorts of pyro (Portnoy even toasted a marshmallow on a drumstick!), the stage setting was every bit as over the top as the music. For 70 minutes, all thoughts of relegation battles were banished from my mind… thanks guys, I needed that! Here’s the set-list: ‘Nightmare’, ‘Critical Acclaim’, ‘Welcome To The Family’, ‘Beast And The Harlot’, ‘Buried Alive’, ‘So Far Away’, ‘Afterlife’, ‘God Hates Us’, ‘Unholy Confessions’ and ‘Bat Country’.
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Saturday 30th October
The postie delivered some terrific goodies. With a sleeve designed by the band’s current bassist Al Barrow, Magnum’s five-disc boxed anthology The Gathering is here at last. It looks splendid and I’m proud to have penned the 10,000-word essay that accompanies the music. I’ve also received a set of the new Wildhearts re-issues from Lemon Records. I wrote the liner notes for the first two, ‘Earth Vs The Wildhearts’ and ‘p.h.u.q.’, now expanded into double-sets (Jerry Ewing did the honours for ‘Fishing For Luckies’ and ‘Endless, Nameless’).
En route to the evening’s Doobie Brothers gig at the Hammersmith I dropped by Future Publishing’s offices to take a peek at some advance pages of Classic Rock Presents: AOR, which is almost ready to go to press, prior to hitting the stands on November 17. The layouts are very classy, quite minimalistic and clean, and the magazine contains some really good features, including Derek Oliver’s rundown of the 40 greatest AOR singers of all time (yes, Steve Overland does make the list).
I’m a big fan of the Doobies, and there was absolutely no faulting the quality of their set. With three guitarists (including mainstays Patrick Simmons and Tom Johnston) and bags of vocal proficiency, the band (also featuring Guy Allison of Unruly Child on keys) had all the required levels of fire power. Three tasty-sounding tunes from the current album ‘World Gone Crazy’ – ‘Nobody’, ‘Chateau’ and the record’s title cut – were juxtaposed with old favourites such as ‘Rockin’ Down The Highway’, ‘Jesus Is Just Alright’, ‘Takin’ It To The Streets’, ‘Black Water’, ‘Long Train Runnin’’, ‘China Grove’, ‘Without You’ and ‘Listen To The Music’. Where they fell short was playing for a mere 85 minutes. C’mon, guys… for a group with such a rich catalogue that’s paltry. With lofty ticket prices of £39.50 (and that was in the balcony!!), the word ‘tokenism’ springs to mind.
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Friday 29th October
I’m not ashamed of my affection for Bachman-Turner Overdrive, okay? To me it’s a cruel injustice that the Canadians are known solely for their 1974 hit ‘You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet’, and the ensuing mickey-taking of mock deejays Smashie And Nicey – the group were responsible for some truly superb albums! As you may know, Randy Bachman and Fred Turner have pooled forces in a new band called… wait for it… Bachman & Turner. I love the fact that many of the songs on their debut, self-titled record (available through Cadiz Music) sound just like outtakes of the classic material cut as BTO back in the 1970s. I was among an intimate crowd of Planet Rock Radio competition winners and industry folk at last night’s performance at London’s Gibson Guitar Studio. Free white wine, with Randy and Fred cranking out an hour’s worth of their cowbell-fuelled truck-driver anthems? C’mon, that sounds like heaven on earth to me!! Here’s what was played: ‘Roll On Down The Highway’, ‘Rock Is My Life’, ‘Moonlight Rider’, ‘Hey You’, ‘Rollin’ Along’, ‘Slave To The Rhythm’, ‘Not Fragile’, ‘Blue Collar’, Medley: ‘Stayed Awake All Night’/‘American Woman’, ‘Taking Care Of Business’, ‘Let It Ride’ and ‘You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet’.
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Wednesday 27th October
Such was my enjoyment of Alter Bridge’s Hammersmith Apollo gig that when Steve ‘No relation’ Way offered a lift to Bristol for the tour’s final show, my fangs almost sank into his fingers. The journey down the M4 was sedate, accompanied by the sounds of The Enid’s ‘In The Region Of The Summer Stars’ and ‘Aerie Faerie Nonsense’ and yours truly slurping white wine from the back seat. We arrived in Brizzle with plenty of time to collect tix and top up the ‘refreshment’ levels, seven of us – myself, Monsewer Way and his missus Kathy, Steve’s friend Lionall John Ward (who is Jimmy Page’s guitar tech, no less!) and his other half Alison and my old buddy Mark Cousins and partner Natalie – sitting around re-telling old war stories as liquid collided with throat.
Truthfully, I didn’t rate the Bristol show anywhere near as highly as Hammersmith. The band elected to drop one of their excellent acoustic tunes (‘Wonderful Life’) in favour of reviving ‘Burn It Down’, though my real issue was a front of house sound which saw the superlative vocals of Myles Kennedy buried by Brian Marshall’s bass. On the whole, though, it remained a fantastic day (and night) out… till the alarm clock went off this morning. Ouch!
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Tuesday 26th October
Shepherd’s Bush Empire was sold out for the return of Train, a bunch of San Franciscan Grammy winners that yours truly hadn’t seen live for seven years, circa their international hit ‘Drops Of Jupiter (Tell Me)’. Offering a smorgasbord of blue-collar rock, soaring melodic hook-lines and a mild though occasionally annoying funky infusion, Train are a band that I’ve a lot of time for. Their immensely likable frontman Pat Monahan delivered the opening segment of ‘When I Look To The Sky’ without the need of a microphone, then strolled through the crowd, shaking hands and high-fiving whilst voicing ‘Marry Me’, a tender ballad from the new album, ‘Save Me, San Francisco’. However, the gig was very frustrating in places. A ten-minute version of ‘She’s On Fire’ included a Country & Western reprise, before Monahan hauled six extremely young ladies onto the stage, christening them the Trainettes and inviting them to perform a ghastly backing vocal routine. After being onstage for an hour and ten minutes, Train headed off for the sidings which seemed a bit of a swizz – especially as they then messed around with snippets of three songs that the fans genuinely wanted to hear (viz ‘Free’, ‘Mississippi’ and ‘Save The Day’). Had they gone onstage at the appointed hour – a Train arriving 17 minutes late: surely not?! – the Empire’s 11pm curfew wouldn’t have been an issue. And we’ll draw a discreet veil over a catastrophically bad festive single, ‘Shake Up Christmas’, which melded sleighbell sounds with a rhyme of: “I know you’re out there/I hear your reindeer”. Cringe-a-rama, to be sure, though otherwise the gig was great. Here’s the set-list: ‘Parachute’, ‘Get To Me’, ‘Meet Virginia’, ‘She’s On Fire’, ‘I Got You’, ‘If It’s Love)’, ‘When I Look To The Sky’, ‘Calling All Angels’, ‘Save Me, San Francisco’, ‘Words’, ‘Marry Me’ and ‘Hey, Soul Sister’, plus ‘Drops Of Jupiter (Tell Me)’, ‘Shake Up Christmas’ (yikes, even hearing the title again makes me feel bilious!!), ‘Free (Excerpt)’, ‘Mississippi (Excerpt)’, ‘Save The Day (Excerpt)’ and ‘This Ain’t Goodbye’.
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Sunday 24th October
Unable to make the trip north, my Saturday afternoon was spent tuned to the commentary of Palace’s game at Deepdale. It was a lively affair, for all the wrong reasons. The Eagles defensive frailties were exposed by two very similar goals from Jon Parkin, a portly carthorse of a player whose style is probably best be described as ‘agricultural’ at best, a disgraceful penalty decision leaving the visitors chasing things at 4-1. Palace, who had dominated the game, pulled things back to 4-3 and had Preston North End sweating for the final whistle, but it’s better to focus on the ineptitude of our rearguard than dwell upon what might have been. Though I hate to say it if CPFC cannot beat teams as awful as PNE, League 1 must beckon.
I needed a drink. A few drinks, to be more accurate. And where better to go than the final knockings of day one of the Live Evil Festival, a weekend-long event curated by Darkthrone’s Fenriz, its attractions culled from his own ‘Band Of The Week’ MySpace blog. After an annoying mishap with a couple of bottles of white wine and an Oystercard I arrived at the Underworld just in time see the new line-up of Angel Witch, now featuring Bill Steer (Carcass, Napalm Death, Firebird, Gentlemans Pistols) on second guitar. Steer proved a fantastic fit and the set-list, which included just about everything from the band’s legendary self-titled debut, also rounding up many of its ‘bolt-on’ extras featured on numerous re-issued editions, was a dream for anybody with more than a passing interest in the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal. I absolutely loved it; so much so that another bottle of wine was drained on the way home. Here’s the set-list: ‘Gorgon’, ‘Confused’, ‘Sweet Danger’, ‘Sorceress’, ‘White Witch’, ‘Atlantis’, ‘Flight 19’, ‘The Night Is Calling’, ‘Dr Phibes’ and ‘Angel Of Death’, plus ‘Baphomet’ and ‘Angel Witch’.
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Saturday 23rd October
I’ve attended Alter Bridge gigs since December 2004, observing the band’s artistic and commercial blossoming with a mixture fascination and respect. Though it's a controversial viewpoint, I don’t think they’ve made a better record than the current disc ‘AB III’ and last night’s gig at the Hammersmith Apollo was certainly the best show I’ve ever seen the quartet perform. Though in previous years I’ve grumbled about the brevity of their concerts, being on the boards at Hammersmith (“David Bowie and Metallica stood right here, I’m freaking out; we’ve made it!” exclaimed grinning vocalist Myles Kennedy) ensured that all of the stops were pulled out. The set lasted for almost two hours, including more than half of ‘AB III’. At encore time Kennedy performed ‘Watch Over You’ all alone, just voice and acoustic guitar, before being joined by Mark Tremonti for an equally spine-tingling ‘Wonderful Life’. The experience made me cross my fingers that someday the recordings made by Kennedy with Jimmy Page, John Paul Jones and Jason Bonham – c’mon, they must have laid down **something** on tape!! - will find their way into the public domain. The crowd sang along lustily to ‘Open Your Eyes’ and ‘Rise Today’, their collective volume reminding me of the fabled Whitesnake Choir (in fact, with more people than ever squeezed into Hammersmith due to the removal of its seats, it’s possible they were louder than the massed voices documented on ‘Live... In The Heart Of The City’). Here’s the set-list: ‘Slip To The Void’, ‘Buried Alive’, ‘Before Tomorrow Comes’, ‘Still Remains’, ‘Brand New Start’, ‘White Knuckles’, ‘All Hope Is Gone’, ‘Metalingus’, ‘Ghost Of Days Gone By’, ‘Broken Wings’, ‘Ties That Bind’, ‘One Day Remains’, ‘I Know It Hurts’, ‘Come To Life’, ‘Blackbird’ and ‘Open Your Eyes’, followed by ‘Watch Over You’, ‘Wonderful Life’, ‘Isolation’ and the brilliant ‘Rise Today’.
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Friday 22nd October
I’ve struck up a bit of an e-friendship with William Paris, bassist of a rather good blues rock ‘n’ roll group from New Jersey called the Billy Walton Band. I was especially keen to accept William’s invitation to last nite’s gig at Shepherd’s Bush Empire because Billy was also playing guitar for the headliners, Southside Johnny & The Asbury Jukes. Although I’d interviewed Johnny once before, this was to be my first live experience of the Jukes. The Billy Walton Band played a good, fiery and rhythmic set, based mainly on their own material (check out last year’s ‘Neon City’ album – it’s great!). There was polite applause, but with the venue filling up as they played most only seemed to have ears for a rather tasty interpretation of ‘All Along The Watchtower’.
The Asbury Jukes don’t stand around on ceremony. A mere 10 mins after the winding up of the BWB’s set, Southside Johnny led a nine-piece backing band onto the stage and, save for leaving and returning for multiple encores, remained there for a whopping two-and-a-quarter hours of soulful, blues-fuelled rock ‘n’ roll. Though his 1981 double-concert set ‘Reach Up And Touch The Sky’ receives regular spins Chez Ling, I won’t pretend to be a disciple of the 61-year-old vocalist’s catalogue. However, I did enjoy the show. Southside is both a fascinating character and a great showman. Indeed, Jon Bon Jovi once acknowledged Johnny as his “reason for singing”, though we can probably forgive him that. Till last nite I’ve never seen anyone pass a microphone – complete with stand – out into the audience and allow them to deliver the chorus of a song… the results weren’t pretty though they were amusing. Here’s what was played: ‘Cross That Line’, ‘Passion Street’, ‘Forever’, ‘Love On The Wrong Side Of Town’, Medley: ‘Tango Till They’re Sore’/‘Alabama Song’, ‘I Played The Fool’, ‘Harder Than It Looks’, ‘Walk Away Renee’, ‘Sinful’, ‘This Time It’s For Real’, ‘Cry To Me’, ‘Everybody Needs Somebody, ‘All I Needed Was You’, ‘Gladly Go Blind’, ‘Talk To Me’, ‘Coming Back’, ‘Happy’, ‘Many Rivers To Cross’, ‘Without Love’, ‘Keep On Moving’, ‘The Fever’, and ‘Trapped Again’, plus ‘Woke Up This Morning’, ‘Hearts Of Stone (Excerpt)’, ‘One More Night To Rock’, ‘I Don’t Want To Go Home’ and ‘We’re Having A Party’.
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Thursday 21st October
Brrrrrr…. winter has arrived. There’s a sheen of frost on the lawn and BBC Breakfast News reveals that the temperature at Gatwick Airport, not too far from here, stands at -4. At least I’ve some outstanding music to keep me warm whilst collating and writing news stories for Classic Rock. ‘The Union’, a collaborative effort from Elton John and Leon Russell, is unexpectedly impressive. I’ve just received a finished copy of Blind Guardian’s ‘At The Edge Of Time’, which has blown my thermal socks off. Bucket & Co’s ‘Guitars, Beers & Tears’ has also been on heavy rotation. Bad Co/Humble Pie guitarist Dave ‘Bucket’ Colwell has been working on this solo project for ages… perhaps unsurprisingly given that it features contributions from Iron Maiden’s Adrian Smith, Spike of the Quireboys, ex-Thunder frontman Danny Bowes, Robert Hart, Chris Ousey, New York Doll Steve Conte and Lauren Harris. It’s a strong album, though for all its accuracy the wisdom of the press release in labelling Colwell “a renowned journeyman guitarist” escapes me.
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Wednesday 20th October
Crystal Palace’s first away victory of the season, a 2-1 triumph over Norwich City, was done the hard way, coming back from a goal down. Ex-Eagle John Salako was covering the game for Sky Sports News, finding it hard to control his emotions as CPFC took the lead in the second half. “I hope they can hold on,” he said, impartially (not), before adding: “Norwich have just gone 4-4-2 and are throwing everything including the kitchen sink at Palace.” Thankfully, Burley’s men clung on to claim their first win in six games. A turning point in the club’s season? Here’s hoping…
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Tuesday 19th October
I’d long since made plans to check out last night’s gig by the Virginmarys, an up ‘n’ coming Macclesfield-based trio that offers a particularly electrifying fusion of vintage hard rock sounds with a White Stripes-esque dark edge, before text arrived from my pal Steve Way, advising me that The Treatment were playing a last minute gig in central London… did I want a lift? Luckily after discovering that both bands were playing in Hoxton Square, a yuppified suburb of Hackney, I put two and two together and realised we were talking about the same show! Two great new acts in one night – bang in order!
Felt a little sorry for The Treatment, who were faced with going onstage in front of about five people. However, the quintet made light of the situation and got their heads down to deliver a rousing 30-minute opening set based upon a debut album that’s due in late February (intriguingly, it also included also featured a stirring version of the old Roadstar song ‘Killer’).
Due to some stellar reviews for ‘Cast The First Stone’, a debut six-song CD produced by Toby Jepson and mixed by Mike Fraser (AC/DC, Aerosmith, Thunder, etc) the place had filled up nicely for the Virginmarys, The Union’s Luke Morley and Peter Shoulder swelling their number. For me, the show began superbly well with three of the group’s most immediate tunes, ‘Nothin’ To Lose’, ‘Bang Bang Bang’ and ‘Out Of Mind’, their drummer Danny Dolan shredding sticks and pounding away at the skins in a display that Animal from The Muppets could only have admired. Then, for me at least, seemed they lose momentum a little before building back towards a vigorous climax. For me, their best songs are the more immediate, hook-laden ones, such as ‘Portrait Of Red’. A soon-come support tour with Skunk Anansie will do ’em the world of good. Here’s the set-list: ‘Nothin’ To Lose’, ‘Bang Bang Bang’, ‘Out Of Mind’, ‘Just A Ride’, ‘Portrait Of Red’, ‘Off To Another Land’, ‘My Little Girl’, ‘Disgusting’, ‘You’ve Got Your Money, I’ve Got My Soul’, ‘Ends Don’t Mend’ and encores of ‘Lost Weekend’ and ‘Thousand Times’.
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Sunday 17th October
I won’t say much about yesterday’s South London Derby between Palace and Scumwall except that the Eagles, who’d bossed the game till conceding a ridiculous second half goal, lost all confidence after going behind and never looked like grabbing back a share of the points (especially after the Claudinator got himself sent off – again). With defeat still rankling, the very last person in the world I wanted to see was my friend (and Scumwall supporter) Andy Beare, but we’d already made arrangements to go and see Y&T at the Islington Academy, and kudos to the Beare; he stuck magnificently to our prearranged pact, keeping his gob shut re: the afternoon’s events.
As well as seeing them at places like the Marquee Club first time around, I’ve attended many, many shows by Y&T since they started coming again to Europe back in 2003. This time there were two big differences – the absence of bassist Phil Kennemore, who is being treated for cancer, and the fact that there is a brand new album to promote (the San Franciscan group’s first in 13 years). ‘Facemelter’ is a very creditable comeback disc, so they were justified in slotting five of its tracks into a mammoth two hours and 20 minute display. Dave Meniketti still has one of the best melodic hard rock voices around and even with Brad Lang of Jeff Pilson’s War & Peace depping for Kennemore, they remain an impossibly tight and propulsive unit. An extra treat was seeing Jeff Scott Soto leap up onstage and join in with ‘Mean Streak’ – just what I needed after a miserable afternoon at Selhurst. Here’s the full song-list: ‘On With The Show’, ‘Hard Times’, ‘Mean Streak’, ‘Shine On’, ‘If You Want Me’, ‘Don’t Stop Running’, ‘Hurricane’, ‘I’m Coming Home’, ‘I Believe In You’, ‘Lucy’, ‘Eyes Of A Stranger’, ‘Midnight In Tokyo’, ‘Blind Patriot’, ‘Don’t Be Afraid Of The Dark’, a slow blues I didn’t catch the title of, ‘Black Tiger’, Drum Solo, ‘Barroom Boogie’, ‘Dirty Girl’, ‘Summertime Girls’, ‘Forever’ and ‘Rescue Me’.
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Saturday 16th October
How upsetting to learn that Malcolm Allison is dead. Known for his love of cigars, fedora hats, Page Three birds and fast times Big Mal was the manager of Crystal Palace from 1973–1976 (and again from 1980–1981, though his second reign is less fondly remembered). A larger than life character, he’s one of the reasons that I became a fan during the club’s near-legendary FA Cup run in 1975/’76 which saw the newly renamed Eagles advance to the semi finals, taking the scalps of Leeds United, Chelsea and Sunderland – a seemingly impossible feat for a third division side. There will be a minute’s silence in his honour at Selhurst Park later today. Should the Scumwall mongs ruin it, there will be trouble.
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Friday 15th October
I was in the crowd at a jammed-packed Royal Albert Hall last night as Porcupine Tree wrapped their 13-month world tour for ‘The Incident’. Beginning with a five-song acoustic display, it was a very special performance indeed. There are exceptionally few bands that can perform for five minutes short of three hours, retaining the listener’s attention from start to finish, but that’s exactly what happened last night. Excellent front of house sound helps, of course. Though the set’s running order was perhaps a little haphazard (was it just me or did those intervals affect the flow?) it was brilliant to hear the group prune the best bits of ‘The Incident’ and revisit such golden oldies as ‘Dislocated Day’, ‘The Sky Moves Sideways’ and ‘Arriving Somewhere But Not Here’. Unforgettable stuff. Along with Steve Hackett, I also attended the after-show reception. Chatted awhile with PT’s manager Andy Leff who told me that the show was recorded for a live album, also that had Sir Cliff Richard not been reclaiming the Albert Hall the following evening, demand was such that PT could have played and sold out a second RAH show. Very impressive.
Here’s the full set-list: ‘Stranger By The Minute’, ‘Small Fish’, ‘Pure Narcotic’, ‘Black Dahlia’ and ‘Futile’, then ‘Even Less’, ‘Open Car’, ‘Lazarus’, ‘Dislocated Day’, ‘The Sky Moves Sideways (Phase I)’, ‘I Drive the Hearse’ and ‘Bonnie The Cat’, before a final chunk of material: ‘Occam's Razor’, ‘The Blind House’, ‘Great Expectations’, ‘Kneel And Disconnect’, ‘Drawing The Line’, ‘Tinto Brass’, ‘Time Flies’, ‘The Pills I’m Taking’, ‘Up the Downstair’ and ‘Sleep Together’, with encores of Arriving Somewhere But Not Here’ and ‘Trains’.
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Thursday 14th October
Yesterday afternoon I nattered away with Francis Rossi and Rick Parfitt about Status Quo’s new boxed set ‘Live At The BBC’, a collection for which I was proud to have written the sleeve essay. It’s due for release on October 24. I’d already spoken to Alan Lancaster and John Coghlan earlier this week… gosh, I hate my job.
No doubt about it, Daughtry are an exceptional band. And my, what a reaction the audience at London’s Koko awarded the former American Idol finalist, whose two albums both topped the US chart. The venue was completely sold out, with a strong female contingent (at a guess I’d say about a third female) making itself heard. The 30-year-old singer writes and performs some of the best blue collar rock around. With the fastest selling debut rock album in history under his belt, it’s no wonder that Daughtry has become a huge star on the other side of the pond. Now that Chris has enjoyed a hit single here in the UK (the ballad ‘What About Now’ – later covered by the grotesque Westlife), toured with Nickelback and been a special guest on The X Factor, his status is bound to snowball. I haven’t seen a crowd reaction quite as fervent since Bon Jovi played at the Dominion Theatre back in ’85. Here’s the set-list: ‘Feels Like Tonight’, ‘What I Want’, ‘Ghost Of Me’, ‘Every Time You Turn Around’, ‘Over You’, ‘Life After You’, ‘September’, ‘Learn My Lesson’, ‘Supernatural’, ‘No Surprise’ and ‘You Don’t Belong’, plus encores of ‘It’s Not Over’, ‘Rebel Yell’ and ‘Home’.
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Wednesday 13th October
My Tuesday lunchtime was spent at the Kensington HQ of Universal Records where I met Thin Lizzy’s Scott Gorham for the lowdown on the upcoming Thin Lizzy catalogue revamp. This process begins with an overhaul of three vintage albums – ‘Jailbreak’, ‘Johnny The Fox’ and the seminal concert double-set ‘Live And Dangerous’ – on January 21. The amiable American was excellent company, grinning broadly as he played me a brand new, cleaned-up mix of ‘The Boys Are Back In Town’ which sounded like it was recorded yesterday.
Arrived back home in Catford with just enough time to plonk down my bag, grab eldest son Eddie by the scruff of the neck and zoom over to Wembley Stadium for England’s Euro Championship qualifier with Montenegro. Eddie had been moaning at for ages about wanting to attend a game at Wembley, and as Palace don’t look like playing there again anytime soon an international fixture was the only option. Exiting Wembley Park tube station who was the first person that we bumped into? Only Iron Maiden guitarist Janick Gers and his brother Chris and their assorted kids. It was nice to Janick to make a bit of a fuss of Eddie, telling him with a perfectly straight face: “If England score tonight just make sure that your dad doesn’t run onto the pitch and hug the goalscorer – you know how out of control he gets!”
Thanks to the generosity of my friend Oz, we found ourselves in the posh red leather seats, some 10-15 rows behind Mr Capello and with a perfect view of the pitch. That things finished goalless, allowing Montenegro to remain atop the qualifying group, was very disappointing indeed – especially as a blatant second half handball should’ve resulted in a penalty. German referees… I shit ’em!
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Tuesday 12th October
Thanks to an interesting record called ‘Elements’ which fuses melodic hard rock and prog, I’d been anticipating last night’s London debut from Yoso, the band featuring former Toto singer Bobby Kimball and ex-Yes alumni Tony Kaye and Billy Sherwood. However, onstage at the Jazz Café in Camden they were little short of appalling – thanks largely to the fact that Kimball’s voice is now shot to pieces. Worse still, the show lasted for two and a half hours. Standing near enough to the front of the stage for the set-list to be visible, after around an hour I found myself counting down: “Just three songs to go… now two, phew, that’s the last one…” only for guitarist Johnny Bruhns to reach down and flip over the sheet of paper – Holy shit, there was another page’s worth of songs to go (22 in total, including various solos, according to my notes)!
The biggest frustration was that, Kimball’s feeble contribution aside, the performance had its moments. Yoso played a combination of standards by Yes (notably ‘Hold On’, ‘Open Your Eyes’, ‘Changes’, ‘Owner Of A Lonely Heart’, ‘Roundabout’ and an instrumental medley that included ‘Yours Is No Disgrace’ and ‘Heart Of The Sunrise’) and a selection of Toto classics (‘Girl Goodbye’, ‘Africa’, ‘Rosanna’ and ‘Hold The Line’) plus some strong-sounding tracks from the Yoso record (‘Yoso’, ‘The New Revolution’, ‘Where You’ll Stay’, ‘Walk Away’, ‘Path To Your Heart’ and ‘To Seek The Truth’), but with Bobby insisting upon going for each high note… failing dismally just about every time… they didn’t stand a chance. What really flummoxed me was the frontman’s body language. Should a professional footballer mis-hit a pass, they’re often seen scolding themselves but Kimball showed no sign of surprise, irritation or shame at his woeful display. Most odd – it was almost as though he **expected** to fail. In summation: Yoso’s version of Yes’ ‘Changes’ was most apt as that’s exactly what they’ll have to undergo should they seek any sort of future.
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Sunday 10th October
Just booked my rail travel to Nottingham for the Firefest. Sadly, thanks to a variety of reasons (including Palace’s home game with Swansea and a rendezvous with childhood mates at Avenged Sevenfold and Stone Sour’s Hammersmith gig), I’m only going to make the final day, though I’m really looking forward to seeing all seven of the day’s bands – in particular Newman, Strangeways, Jimi Jamison and headliners Nelson. It will also be fun to catch up with Alison Rye (née Joy) of Kerrang! fame, who in addition to laying siege to the Timotei Twins’ dressing room is threatening to unveil an apparently startlingly lifelike impersonation of Geddy Lee from Rush. The mind boggles.
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Friday 8th October
I was happy to accept the last minute offer of a ticket for last night’s Steve Miller Band gig at the Royal Albert Hall. I own several of Miller’s vinyl LPs but had never seen him onstage before… perfectly excusable as he’d not played the UK for a quarter of a century. I love the Albert Hall as a venue, and was I really gonna spurn the chance to see somebody that had the immaculately good taste to release an album entitled ‘Fly Like An Eagle’? I’m told that David Gilmour and Jimmy Page were also in the house.
Despite the occasional rare dip (‘Dance Dance Dance’ being puerile tripe of the lowest order), the music was far, far better than I expected. You simply cannot argue with anyone that begins their set with ‘Jet Air Liner’ and ‘Take The Money And Run’ and signs off with ‘Fly Like An Eagle’ (come on you Palace!) and ‘The Joker’. Miller’s guitar playing was really good and, as proven by a three-song acoustic interlude (including a moving acapella rendition of ‘Nature Boy’, a song he sang at Les Paul’s funeral) his voice is reassuringly familiar. As an exercise in people watching, the night was also pretty hard to beat. The four attractive Sloane Rangers that arrived late then stood up and danced like loons in front of me as things drew to a close were especially hilarious. But let’s face it any crowd that makes me feel like a spring chicken gets my seal of approval. Here’s the set-list: ‘Jet Air Liner’, ‘Take The Money And Run’, ‘Mercury Blues’, ‘Hey Yeah’, ‘Don't Cha Know’, ‘Further On Up The Road’, ‘Ooh Poo Pah Doo’, ‘Texas’, ‘Shubada Du Ma Ma’, ‘Seasons’, ‘Wild Mountain Honey’, ‘Nature Boy’, ‘Dance Dance Dance’, ‘Tramp’, ‘Serenade’, ‘The Stake’, ‘Swing Town’, ‘Abracadabra’, ‘Come On’, ‘Livin’ In The USA’, ‘Space Cowboy’, ‘Rock N’ Me’ and ‘Jungle Love’, with encores of ‘Fly Like An Eagle’ and ‘The Joker’.
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Thursday 7th October
The death of Gotthard frontman Steve Lee – one of the most underrated singers on the hard rock scene and, in my own limited experience, a helluva guy as a person – was extremely upsetting, so the least I could do was to raise a few glasses in his honour at Stray’s London Borderline gig.
Cracked open some cider on the train to central London whilst leafing through the Evening Standard, whose John Aizlewood had penned a very positive (3/5) live review of Thea Gilmore’s gig at Dingwalls. For those that don’t know, Gilmore’s backing musicians include current FM guitarist Jim Kirkpatrick, so the statement that “Her band looked like extras from the pub scenes in Withnail & I. Frankly, my dustmen dress better” caused much merriment to yours truly.
The gig was a launch party for Stray’s ‘Valhalla’, self-issued last year though now more widely available via Angel Air Records. Produced by Chris Tsangarides (Gary Moore, Thin Lizzy, Anvil, etc), ‘Valhalla’ is among the best records made during Stray’s 40-year career. The first half of their set was dedicated to playing “as much [of it] as we can remember”, in the words of guitarist/Del Bromham, which meant everything except ‘Sing (The Song)’, ‘Rainy Day Blues’ and ‘You’. With a quip for every occasion the aforementioned Bromham is an amazing character, still clinging on grimly and valiantly to old school entertainment values – a fine impersonation of his comedic hero Norman Wisdom, who had died 24 hours earlier, enforcing the point. He’s also fortunate to have a rhythm section as well-drilled and faithful as bassist Stuart Uren and drummer Karl Randall.
Fittingly, ‘Time Machine’, a track from 1970’s self-titled debut album, began a ‘best-of’ segment. Former frontman Steve Gadd hopped up onstage to sing ‘After The Storm’, followed by his successor Pete Dyer for ‘Houdini’ who also hung around for another from the same album. “A guy on our message board said he’d give me a fistie unless we did this one,” remarked Del, introducing ‘Percy The Pimp’. “I didn’t want another one of those; the last one fuckin’ ’urt!” Steve Harris, whose fandom of Stray once extended to taking them on tour with Iron Maiden, would’ve been in seventh heaven. Here’s what was played: ‘Move A Mountain’, ‘Dirt Finger’, ‘1600 Pennsylvania Ave’, ‘Free At Last’, ‘Harry Farr’, ‘Skin’, ‘Double Six’, ‘Ghostwriter’, ‘24/7’, ‘Time Machine’, ‘Jericho’, ‘After The Storm’, ‘Houdini’, ‘Percy The Pimp’, ‘I Believe It’, ‘Buying Time’ and ‘All In Your Mind’ with an encore medley of ‘Hallelujah and Zep’s ‘Rock And Roll’.

From left to right... Pete Dyer, original bass player Gary Giles, Steve Gadd and Del Bromham.
Thanks to Noel Buckley for this photo

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Wednesday 6th October
So soon after the hullabaloo surrounding Black Country Communion (whose self-titled debut smashed into the UK album chart at #13, also #54 Stateside), I was starting to worry about the possibility of a Glenn Hughes overdose. There was no reason to panic. Last night’s solo gig at the Islington Academy offered a terrific set-list performed by Hughes and a versatile and enthusiastic Scandinavian backing band. The show’s first five numbers – Hughes/Thrall’s ‘Muscle And Blood’, ‘You Touch My Life’ by Trapeze, ‘Orion’ from ‘Soul Mover’, ‘Sail Away’ from Deep Purple’s ‘Burn’ and another Trapeze classic, ‘Medusa’ – suggested that a terrific night was in store, and that’s exactly what happened. I must confess to being a trifle irritated by the vocal histrionics displayed during a 12-minute rendition of the ‘Soul Mover’ cut ‘Don’t Let Me Bleed’ – something that Glenn and I have had crossed words about many times before. If you’ve got it then of course you should darned well flaunt it but for Chrissakes, especially after the pared-down BCC live experience, this amount showboating was just gratuitous. No wonder some fella to my left bellowed out: “Stevie Wonder…. Get on with it!”
The other songs featured were (in no particular order): ‘You Kill Me’ (from ‘The Way It Is’), ‘Can’t Stop The Flood’ (from ‘Building The Machine’), ‘Crave’ (‘First Underground Nuclear Kitchen’), yet another Trapeze standard (‘Keepin’ Time’), ‘Steppin On’ (‘Music For The Divine’), ‘Soul Mover’ itself, the title track of the ‘Addiction’ (previewed by a merited exclamation of: “Crikey, this is a heavy one!”) and a crowd-pleasing, eardrum bursting finale of Deep Purple’s timeless ‘Burn’.
[Edit: As I suspected he might, Glenn has dropped me a line about the above. I’ll reproduce it here: “Lovely review. I had a blast at the Academy. ‘Let Me Bleed’ gets a standing ovation every nite. The end segment is a solo... there are guitar solos and keys solos [but] this a vox solo... So ONE bloke yells Stevie Wonder? This number is a fans highlight... me? I'm groovin' to the whole set. I gotta be me...”]
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Tuesday 5th October
Listen, there’s only so much rock ‘n’ roll ‘n’ cider ‘n’ Sambuca ‘n’ football that a fella of my age can take. Though I hate to admit it my exploits of the past few days left me knackered. And with gigs by Glenn Hughes and Stray still to come, I decided not to pass on last night’s London appearances from Jørn Lande (at the Underworld) or The Jokers (opening for Hayseed Dixie at the Academy). Call me a lightweight if you must!
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Monday 4th October
A combination of tube strikes and planned engineering works wasn’t going to keep me away from last night’s gig at the Camden Underworld. Save for a ‘behind closed doors’ appearance of their original line-up at London’s Rock Garden two years ago (see Diary, 2nd September 2008) that lead to a full blown reunion, NWOBHM outfit Marseille hadn’t played London since supporting Whitesnake at the Hammersmith Odeon on the ‘Lovehunter’ tour in the winter of 1979 – one of the very first gigs witnessed by yours truly. Arriving after a lengthy bus ride I caught a rousing warm-up set from Exit State. Although just 19 people were watching them (I know, I counted!), the East Lancashire band gave it plenty of welly, singer Roy Bright proving a bit of character, and there were also a couple of decent tunes in their set.
This was my first encounter with the ‘new-look’ Marseille, still based around guitarists Neil Buchanan and Andy Charters but featuring Nige Roberts on vocals instead of Paul Dale. If Buchanan’s name sounds familiar, yes… it’s the same geezer from the Art Attack TV programme. There were mitigating factors but if the band were gutted by the size of the crowd – around 100 at best – they didn’t let it show. Intriguingly, as Buchanan has claimed, the audience contained its fair share of Art Attack groupies; decidedly non-rock ‘n’ roll individuals who slowly but surely got into what was going on and, in the case of one young lady who clambered onstage and frolicked with them during its latter stages, really began to get into the spirit of things.
As an original fan I’d like to have heard more than just four old songs (‘Rock You Tonight’, ‘Live Now, Pay Later’, ‘You’re A Woman’ and ‘Some Like It Hot’) among the 13 that were aired, though it was interesting the band would delve into ‘Touch The Night’, the Buchanan-less album from 1984. The rest – ‘Wanna Get High’, ‘Raise Hell’, ‘The Game’, ‘Rock Radio’, ‘In The Kill’, ‘Lost’, ‘I Believe’, ‘Unfinished Business’ and ‘Everyone Dies Young’ – were culled from a comeback disc called ‘Unfinished Business’ that recently received a dreadful panning in Classic Rock, a fact that must also have taken its toll attendance-wise. Although ‘Lost’ whisked the band wa-a-a-a-a-y too far into Def Leppard territory, I liked the bulk of what I heard… especially the anthemic title cut. Indeed when it comes to offering a kick-ass, unpretentious, good time experience, Marseille remain right up there with the very best.
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Sunday 3rd October
I considered Crystal Palace unlucky to lose yesterday’s London derby against QP-Hahaha. It took a silly mistake from Edgar Davids, who should know better than to under-hit back passes, to gift the visitors the lead. When academy kid Kieron Cadogan levelled at the death, it appeared the Eagles had rescued a deserved point. From where I was sat in the Holmesdale Lower Tier it looked as though Jools Speroni was fouled for the winning goal (though according to the replays, which I cannot bring myself to watch, that’s not the case). However, Palace did well to match a side that have begun the season incredibly well.
Much of my evening was spent trying to reach the Garage in Highbury – neither easy or pleasant with the Victoria Line suspended and torrential rain pounding London’s streets. Managed to arrive in time for all three bands. The self-styled 'rockpoppunk’ of 50ft Woman was for the most part enjoyable, though chirpy frontwoman Minki has one of those overbearingly effervescent personalities that can quite easily become irritating.
It doesn’t seem so long ago I was interviewing singer/guitarist Jamie Evans of Mexicolas for a Ones To Watch In ’08-type story in Classic Rock. Mere months after he told me: “We aim to pick up where the Stone Temple Pilots left off, with a nod to Queens Of The Stone Age”, I bought the band’s debut album, ‘X’, for a pound at the Record & Tape Exchange. It is, after all, a shit business. However, on the evidence of last night’s performance I’m pleased to see them back for a second bite of the cherry. On the strength of tunes like ‘Logic’ and ‘Brakes’ I will fast-track their new record, ‘The Minerva Suite’ (due out on the 25th of this month), to the top of the ‘to play’ pile.
Though headliners The Union adhered largely to the same 65-minute repertoire I saw them perform at the Islington Academy six months ago (for set-list see Diary, April 22nd) their songs are starting to develop an extra edge. Peter Shoulder’s vocals, too, have progressed from being ‘above average’ to the verge of something quite extraordinary. There are isolated moments of familiarity but ex-Thunder guitarist Luke Morley deserves great respect for refusing the temptation to merely re-heat his past exploits. The Union are making good, steady progress, then.
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Saturday 2nd October
It had been another long working week, the list of yesterday’s interviews including Steve Hackett, Andi Deris of Helloween and the one and only Ross Halfin (I cannot wait to get my own back by making a few gags about the photographer’s age!!). So I figured I’d have a few drinks and enjoy the UK headlining debut of Norwegian quartet Wig Wam. Although the audience at the Underworld was miniscule – I’d guess somewhere in the region of 120 people – the Sambuca shots were flowing and the show was lots of fun. Support act The Treatment once again delivered the goods, sticking to pretty much the same seven-song set they’d played a few days earlier with Zodiac Mindwarp (see Diary, September 26th) and once again going down very well with the early-birds.
To be honest, given that their sound has been termed a modern take on 1970s glam-metal, I’d expected Wig Wam’s show to have been a little more visually based. Barring the appearance of some silly headwear towards the end the band preferred to concentrate on the music, keeping the riffs pumping for 75 minutes. Lead singer Glam’s rap about “fancying girls built like cars” struck a nerve… that’s something we’ve all done before haven’t we, fellas?... and songs like ‘Rock My Ride’ and ‘Hard To Be A Rock ‘N’ Roller’ were terrific. Despite the gratuitous solo spots from guitarist Teeny and bassist Flash, I’d go and see them again in a heartbeat, especially if there was a bar serving Sambuca – thank the Lord that the good Samaritan Mr Steve ‘No Relation’ Way was on hand to provide a lift home. Here’s the set-list: ‘Non Stop Rock ‘N’ Roll’, ‘Daredevil Heat’, ‘Do You Wanna Taste It’, ‘Bless The Night’, ‘Walls Come Down’, ‘Gonna Get You Someday’, Bass Solo, ‘Car-Lyle’, ‘Rock My Ride’, ‘Rocket Through My Heart’, ‘All You Wanted’, ‘Hard To Be A Rock ‘N’ Roller’, ‘Out Of Time’ and ‘C’Mon Everybody’ and an encore of ‘In My Dreams’.
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Friday 1st October
In the past, Meat Loaf has given me good interviews and bad. Luckily he sounded in extremely fine fettle during last night’s appointment to promote a UK and Irish tour which begins on November 29. My pre-interview research had thrown up something I didn’t know, namely that like Iron Maiden guitarist Janick Gers and Sky Sports News anchorman Jeff Stelling, Meat is a fan of Hartlepool United. Or rather… he isn’t!
As it turns out, the singer actually fabricated his love of the League One side seven or eight years ago in order to secure a spot on the TV show Soccer AM. “I told the producers I was into soccer, but I’m not,” he laughed. “I don’t even get the game – there are not enough goals for me. I didn’t want to go on there and say was a fan of Manchester United or Arsenal, so I went and looked for a team in the third division. Before I went on the show I did my homework; I found of who the coach was, how they’d done so far in the season, what the name of their top scorer was – even what the mascot was called. I also read all the recent match results. And you know what? I was so convincing that they got the head coach on the line and I started talking to him about his players: ‘You should bring that striker on a lot earlier than you do; he could have tied last week’s game…’. That was me taking on an acting role, I was proud that I pulled it off.” Sounds a bit like most of Manure and Chelski fans I know…
P.S. The Playlist and YouTube sections have been updated.