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

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Wednesday 31st October
Thanks as usual to Mr Dave Lewis for sending a copy of the latest issue of his ever-excellent Zeppelin magazine, Tight But Loose. No.#33 turns the spotlight on the year 1972 and offers a handy transcript of the band’s recent London press conference to promote the long awaited live release ‘Celebration Day’. Cheers also to Alan Byrne for his newest book on Philip Lynott, Renegade Of Thin Lizzy. At the moment I’m wading through a hardback edition of Steven Tyler’s Does The Noise In My Head Bother You? (purchased for the princely sum of £3 at Fopp a few weeks ago), but Byrne’s tome is next on the agenda.
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Tuesday 30th October
I love Julian Speroni. That’s in a manly way, obviously. Crystal Palace’s Buenos Aires-born goalie has now played more than 250 goals for the club since joining in 2004 and is often named Player Of The Year. He’s also a huge fan of rock music – check out this great photograph. Speroni was recently asked about the unexpected departure of CPFC boss Dougie Freedman, and can only be applauded for the candour of his reply: “I could be political and say that it’s just football and that these things happen, but to be completely honest, [when I heard the news] I felt like someone had kicked me right in the testicles.” I know the feeling, Jules…
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Monday 29th October
With the new issue of Classic Rock Presents AOR going into production (it hits the stands on December 6), much of the coming week will be spent transcribing previously conducted interviews. Meanwhile, still in a melodic rock vein, my friend Andy Nathan has posted a rather good review of the recent Firefest weekend. Read it here.
My Sunday lunchtime was occupied by a phone interview with Andy Cairns of the band Therapy? Before making the call I stuck on the ‘Troublegum’ album, on green vinyl. I had almost forgotten why it was such an important record... That opening couplet: “I’m gonna get drunk/Come round and f**k you up” is still pretty hard to beat. Cairns is a top fella. I had to smile at his greeting of: “Congratulations on Crystal Palace’s victory at Leicester. You must be very happy?”
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Sunday 28th October
There were a nervy last few mins as manager-less Crystal Palace hang on to beat league leaders Leicester City by two goals to one in their own back yard. Those lucky wine gums certainly seemed to do the trick! That’s 10 games undefeated and the Eagles are now just one point from an automatic promotion spot!
Still buzzing from the victory I dashed off for a few pints with Mr Beare at Shinedown’s Brixton Academy gig. The Floridian band’s newie, ‘Amaryllis’, is among my fave releases of 2012, so this was a show I’d been looking forward to for quite a while. Apart from the fact that we were rushed nine pounds and ten pence for two ciders (we demanded to pay double!!), all I recall about the show is that it featured lots and lots of pyro, also that the music was embellished by backing tapes, but only for intros and general colouring purposes. Luckily, frontman Brent Smith had cut down on his between-song banter, though many of the things he *did* say seemed to have been lifted from a tacky greetings card. However, the consistency of the group’s songs is quite remarkable, and I swooned along to an encore that included the exquisite ‘Second Chance’, safe in the knowledge that Shinedown are only set to become bigger and bigger. Here’s the set-list: ‘Sound Of Madness’, ‘Diamond Eyes (Boom-Lay Boom-Lay Boom)’, ‘Enemies’, ‘The Crow & The Butterfly’, ‘If You Only Knew’, ‘Fly From the Inside’, ‘Amaryllis’, ‘I’ll Follow You’, ‘Unity’ and ‘.45’, followed by ‘Devour’, a cover of Skynyrd’s ‘Simple Man’, ‘Second Chance’ and ‘Bully’.
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Saturday 27th October
Although I’m very partial to a bit of Jettblack I must put hand on heart and fess up that the High Wycombe group’s second album, ‘Raining Rock’, hasn’t grown on me in quite the same manner as their 2010 debut ‘Get Your Hands Dirty’. In fact, for a while I was slightly worried that Jettblack would have been usurped by their opening act Night By Night at last night’s gig at the Underworld in Camden. Night By Night have come on in leaps and bounds over the last few months. Blessed with impeccable vocal harmonies and a confident swagger the five-piece are developing the presentation skills to match the potential of material such as ‘Holding On’, ‘It’s Not Faith’, ‘Can’t Walk Away’ and the riff-heavy video song ‘Time To Escape’.
However, there was no cause for alarm. The venue filled up nicely as our libido-charged headliners prepared to hit the stage for what was to prove a fairly short set. Though I’m starting to harbour one or two doubts about Jettblack’s star potential there’s no denying that the quartet had the audience exactly where they wanted them, digging up most of their best tunes from the debut (‘Get Your Hands Dirty’, ‘Slip It On’, ‘Not Even Love’, ‘When It Comes To Lovin’’, ‘Fooled By A Rose’ and ‘Two Hot Girls’) and its slightly hit-and-miss follow-up (‘Temptation’, ‘Less Torque, More Thrust’, ‘Sunshine’, ‘In-Between Lovers’, ‘The Sweet And The Brave’, ‘Prison Of Love’ and ‘Raining Rock’). However, had they played for much longer than an hour the note of triumph may not have been anywhere near as emphatic.
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Friday 26th October
A few quick-fire spins of ‘Never Too Late’, the new album from Survivor’s Jimi Jamison, left me reeling (and smiling like a loon) ahead of last night’s phone interview. Released via Frontiers on November 2, there’s not a bad song on it. Its producer/main songwriter Erik Mårtensson of W.E.T./Eclipse fame is a modern day melodic rock genius. The chat with Jamison was great; he’s a lovely bloke who laughs at his own jokes a lot. It’s contagious.
Still in a melodic vein, I’m enjoying the Rock Candy re-master of Teri DeSario’s ‘Caught’. It’s a record that I’ve owned on vinyl for many, many but I’d forgotten the full scale of its magnificence. The same package from Rock Candy also contained re-mastered versions of the first three albums from seminal US pomp-rockers Angel, namely ‘Angel’, ‘Helluva Band’ and ‘On Earth As It Is In Heaven’. They sound brilliant and the sleeve essays from my buddy Dave Reynolds are splendid…
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Thursday 25th October
Last night I visited the Underworld in Camden to take a look at Knock Out Kaine, a young band from Nottingham that a reviewer from Finland recently called: “A bastard child of Guns N’ Roses and Mötley Crüe.” Their debut album, ‘House Of Sins’, has become a bit of a favourite here at Ling Towers and I’m pleased to report that its contents translate well onto the stage. As part of a three-band bill that had attracted a measly 15 people, I felt a little sorry for the quartet but frontman Dean Foxx took the mickey out of the situation by referring to the audience as “Wembley” and KOK refused to let it bring them down. Given that they had only 30 minutes, it was kinda surprising that their six-song set included two covers – a rousing hair-metal rendition of Queen’s ‘We Will Rock You’ that kicked off the show, and an even more unexpected re-make of ‘Copperhead Road’ by Steve Earle – whilst omitting ‘House Of Sins’ and ‘Liquor Up’, the best two songs from the album. (For the record, the originals they *did* play were ‘Skinstar’, ‘Set The Night On Fire’, ‘Time’ and the ballad ‘Coming Home’). The band has some gig with Status Quo coming up, which should give their profile a welcome and deserved boost.
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Wednesday 24th October
So the rumours are actually true: Dougie Freedman has left Palace to manage Bolton Wanderers. I have just one question: Why? I just don’t get it. Freedman is a living legend at Selhurst and under his stewardship the club was really starting to go places. Anyway, caretaker bosses Lenny Lawrence and Curtis Fleming did a good job of steadying the ship as the Eagles returned to London with a point from last night’s game at Barnsley. It took an inspired curler from David Perkins to restore parity five minutes from time after Glenn Murray had given CPFC a lead which by all accounts they looked like holding onto. Darn it, but a run of nine games unbeaten is still bloody impressive.
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Tuesday 23rd October
I’m home from a wonderful weekend at the Firefest. There was just enough time to put down my overnight bag before heading off to Leicester Square to meet my friends Steve Hammonds and Andy Sneap for the red carpet premiere of Alan G Parker’s Hello Quo! movie.
I already knew the film was great thanks to a secret preview, but during the Q&A that followed there was an interesting run-in with Paul Gambaccini. After a poor interview with the current members of the band, during which he referred to Andy Priest (sic) of The Sweet, Gambaccini threw the floor open to questions. The response was pretty dismal, to say the least. But when I stuck up my hand, intending to ask Francis and Rick to recall their emotions as they met Lancaster and Coghlan in the car park at Shepperton, also to quiz director Parker about any outtakes from the Frantic Four reunion that might be on the DVD edition, the room let out a gasp of shock as the MC said: “Okay, we'll take a question from the guy that looks like Jimmy Savile.”
Am very happy to say that I refused to take the bait and sat back down again, flicking the Vs and refusing to engage with the stunned host, who only proceeded to dig himself in deeper into the mire. Still in disbelief of what had just happened Mr Sneap and I headed back to the Crobar.
This morning I’m still slightly stunned. Thanks to all of those that texted, sent messages of support or even called (especially in the case of Simon Porter, Quo’s manager, who wanted to apologise on behalf of the band) after I mentioned it on my Facebook page.
Gambaccini has just conducted a radio interview in which he claimed to have known what Savile was up to, and has been quoted as suggesting – without evidence!! – that he was a necrophiliac. What a repulsive, conceited, attention-seeker. When the Beeb’s internal housekeeping mission is done ‘n’ dusted, he’d better be squeaky clean…
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Monday 22nd October
Yesterday was the final day of Firefest. I spent it most productively: Some additional tape transcription, brunch with my old pal Dave Reynolds and his other ’arf Andrea, followed by a most pleasant interview with Mitch Malloy. With the ‘London contingent’ – Malcolm Dome, Jerry Ewing, John Dryland and Lauren Archer – around and in thirsty mood and a catch-up drink with Dan Tobin from Earache arranged, I didn’t see as much of the show as during the two previous days.
In fact, I didn’t make it into the hall till just before the UK debut from FIONA (7). Miss Flanagan was working with the same band that had shared the stage with Robin Beck, plus a male backing vocalist. After recovering from a slight bout of nervousness she seemed to enjoy herself a great deal, giggling contagiously whilst introducing ‘Hearts Of Fire’, which had appeared in the movie of the same name (“I hope you were drunk when you watched it”). Highlight of her 40-minute set was ‘Treat Me Right’ from 1992’s ‘Squeeze’ album, and she exited to a reworking of the Pat Benatar-popularised ‘Shadows Of The Night’ from last year’s indecently fine comeback opus, ‘Unbroken’.
There was no way on God’s green earth that I’d be caught dead watching a band with the word Br***ton in its name (only kidding Br***ton Rock fans!!), but alcoholic refreshment was a-calling me. Joining the Crobar crowd in an adjacent boozer, tales of the previous night’s sambuca-soaked drunkenness abounded. Malcolm Dome’s conversation with a fruit machine is pretty hard to top. I kid you not.
Things were threatening to get out of control all over again so I wandered back into Rock City for the excellent LILLIAN AXE (8). Wow… what a great set. With ‘All’s Fair In Love And War’ and ‘Show A Little Love’, the latter among the best songs that Def Leppard never wrote, the New Orleans-based veterans achieved a near flawless blend of muscle and melody. I loved them! Much as I’d liked to have seen the Stage Dolls, a long night was on the cards and food began to seem increasingly important.
With guitar hero Andy Timmons long gone (replaced these days by the soaring exploits of Rob Marcello) and the much loved Ted Poley once again occupying the microphone, DANGER DANGER (9) pounded the shots and cranked up the riffs, turning in a gloriously dumb, drunken and decidedly flashy display to close Firefest 2012. With a little less chatter and procrastination they’d have been just as perfect as the front of house sound, mixed by HammerFall’s Pontus Norgren. Poley ventured out into crowd to perform the outrageously Leppard-like ‘Don’t Walk Away’, and the quintet were joined by Mitch Malloy and various musician friends, plus members of the FF crew (was that really Kieran in a monkey suit??), during a chaotic yet triumphant two-song encore that must have lasted for about 25 minutes. Here’s the set-list: ‘Rock America’, ‘Beat The Bullet’, ‘Shot O’ Love’, ‘Killin’ Love’, ‘Don’t Walk Away’, ‘Don’t Blame It On Love’, ‘Hearts On The Highway’, ‘Feels Like Love’, ‘Bang Bang’, ‘I Still Think About You’ and ‘Crazy Nites’, followed by ‘Monkey Business’ and ‘Naughty Naughty’.
If you’ve never experienced a Firefest weekend then it’s hard to explain the feeling of camaraderie that’s involved. Do yourself a favour and get along to next year’s tenth anniversary event.
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Sunday 21st October
I arrived back at Rock City in time for the second band of the day, having spent the morning locked into interview transcript mode. Down in London Crystal Palace had gone 2-0 up in their local derby with Scumwall, then been reduced to ten men as the visitors converted a penalty before the game finished 2-2. It’s a tribute to the excellence of WORK OF ART (9) that I was able to put the beautiful game out of my mind for 40 mins. Kicking off with one of the weekend’s most exquisite tunes, a pants-wettingly brilliant version of ‘Here Comes The Rain’, the aptly-named Swedes delivered a hi-tech barrage of Scandi-AOR. ‘The Great Fall’ was nothing less than momentous and ‘Carmelia’, which sounded like an outtake from ‘Isolation’, reminded us why the group once jokingly listed their influences as “Toto, Toto and Toto”.
Making her long-awaited UK debut, and backed by a backing band that included Tommy Denander on guitar and her hubbie House Of Lords frontman James Christian on bass, ROBIN BECK (8) was far, far better than I’d expected and/or hoped. ‘If You Were A Woman And I Was A Man', ‘Save Up All Your Tears’ and ‘Tears In The Rain’ were just immense. She probably should’ve finished with her biggest hit, ‘First Time’, instead of an unreleased song from her next album but… hey ho, great set.
It’s hard to believe that I last saw Canadian trio SANTERS (7) at Hammersmith Odeon three decades ago, supporting Magnum. Their presence at Firefest represented a brave gamble by the organisers though the group's keyboard-less, chunky hard rock was a little misplaced. There were quite a few nice moments – ‘Mistreatin’ Heart’, ‘Time After Time’, 'Dreamin', ‘You Turn Me On’, ‘Can’t Shake You’ and ‘Road To Morocco’, for instance – but I could have done without drum solo and cover of ‘All Right Now’ (“See if you recognise this one” indeed…). A case of good band, wrong festival.
I nipped out for a quick nosebag break during XYZ, who were going down a storm upon my return. It’s hard not to like MITCH MALLOY (8), who was joined by Danger Danger bassist Bruno Ravel during a well deserved encore of ‘Shine’. Like a thoroughbred racehorse Malloy has great teeth and hair, and his disarming smile is as effective as the likes of ‘Anything At All’, ‘Mission Of Love’, ‘Stranded In The Middle Of Nowhere’ et al.
Thanks to the Swiss group’s much maligned comeback opus, ‘Firebirth’ (their first with new singer Nic Maeder), I approached GOTTHARD (9) with a great deal of apprehension. This turned out to be unnecessary. Maeder has a strong voice that’s quite different to the late, great Steve Lee, and with the benefit of the weekend’s best front-of-house-sound, Gotthard’s new songs translated surprisingly well onto the stage. Prefacing the excellent ‘One Life, One Soul’ with the words “Sing this one for Steve” Maeder’s performance brought up goosebumps, and the whole place bounced along joyously to ‘Lift U Up’. Steve Lee may be gone but the spirit of Gotthard remains. Here’s what they played: ‘Dream On’, ‘Gone Too Far’, ‘Starlight’, ‘Top Of The World’, ‘Remember It’s Me’, ‘Sister Moon’, ‘Fight’, ‘Hush’, ‘One Life, One Soul’, ‘Shine’, ‘The Story’s Over’, ‘Fist In Your Face’, ‘Gimme Real’, ‘Mountain Mama’, ‘Right On’ and ‘Lift U Up’, followed by ‘Master Of Illusion’ and ‘Anytime Anywhere’.
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Saturday 20th October
After a nice, leisurely journey to Nottingham I arrived in plenty of time to check into my room and freshen up before the first band of Firefest weekend. With Rock City sold out in advance for the first time in the show’s history, the vibe inside the hall was great and the addition of video screens came as a most welcome enhancement.
Although the guitars could have been a touch louder in the mix from my vantage point in the balcony, a half-hour spot from Italy’s LIONVILLE (8) got the event off to a flying start, thanks to the excellent vocals of Work Of Art loanee Lars Säfsund and some quality songs such as ‘Here By My Side’, ‘Power Of My Dreams’, the shimmering ballad ‘The World Without Your Love’ (co-penned by Richard Marx), also a preview of the new album II which I think was titled ‘All We Need’.
The best thing about not having to work this year was being able to duck out for a relaxed pint of Old Rosie (7.1 per cent) when the mood took me, such as before the arrival of TEN (7). The guitars and keys suddenly sounded great but to these ears the vocals of a slightly well-fed-looking Gary Hughes needed considerably more welly. No such qualms with the set-list, though, which offered songs old (‘After The Love Has Gone’, ‘Ten Fathoms Deep’, ‘The Name Of The Rose’ and the ‘Still Of The Night’-esque ‘Spellbound’) and selections from the group’s excellent new record, ‘Heresy And Creed’ (‘The Lights Go Down’, ‘Gunrunning’ and ‘Unbelievable’).
Headliners TYKETTO (10) knew what they had to do, and by golly they did it. Blessed with a crystal clear sound they threw in the occasional song from the current album ‘Dig In Deep’ but chose mainly to concentrate on the classics. The audience's singalong during an encore of the unofficial Firefest national album, ‘Forever Young’, was just incredible to behold. Here’s their set-list: ‘Strength In Numbers’, ‘Faithless’, ‘Burning Down Inside’, ‘Lay Your Body Down’, ‘Here’s Hoping It Hurts’, ‘Catch My Fall’, ‘Sail Away’, ‘Standing Alone’, ‘Rescue Me’, ‘Meet Me In The Night’, ‘The Fight Left In Me’ and ‘Wings To Fly’, followed by the aforementioned ‘Forever Young’.
After a performance that seemed to roar ‘FOLLOW THAT!’ it was time to wet the whistle. You won’t believe this but when fellow scribe Rob Evans and I headed to the bar of the Welbeck Hotel for “one drink; just to see who might be around”, I had no idea I’d be leaving when it closed at 3.30am. Honestly!
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Friday 19th October
Okay... 6am run completed. Black pudding sandwiches are made. My final Classic Rock news stories have been emailed. In a while I shall be off to the Firefest. Besides a weekend away from the insanity of Ling Towers, I am especially looking forward to seeing Danger Danger, Tyketto, Work Of Art, Ten, Fiona Flanagan, Mitch Malloy, Santers, Lionville, Stage Dolls and Lillian Axe. Look out Nottingham Rock City, here I come!
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Thursday 18th October
My phone interview with melodic rock songwriter extraordinaire Erik Mårtensson was a lot of fun. When I asked about his growing reputation as the ‘go-to’ guy of AOR, Mårtensson (who has written albums for the likes of Jimi Jamison and Toby Hitchcock) likened his craft to that of a proficient builder. The quote isn’t exact, but he said something along the lines of: “It’s like if I built kitchens for a living… if you do a good job then you get recommended to others that want their kitchens done, too!”
Before heading off to the Borderline again I watched England’s rearranged game with Poland. A 1-1 draw seemed a fair result and the point could come in handy in the reckoning hour of final qualification.
I had decided to check out California-born, Nashville-based singer and harmonica player Stacie Collins on the recommendation of my pal Andy Beare. Visually speaking, Collins, who has been produced by Dan Baird of Georgia Satellites fame, reminded me of a less curvy though equally flirtatious version of ex-Emmerdale minx Kelly Windsor. She’s a great harp player and for the most part I really enjoyed her set. The problem is her tendency to lapse into Yee-Haw territory with songs such as ‘Rambling’, a ghastly country-meets-rockabilly abortion’, or a rendition of Gram Parsons’ ‘Ooh Las Vegas’. But when she was good… kicking ass with the likes of ‘Baby Sister, ‘I Won’t Do Way Like That’ or her swansong of AC/DC’s It’s A Long way To The Top… Christ, she was pretty damned wonderful.
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Wednesday 17th October
The least said about the postponement of Poland-England the better. What a washout!
Last night was spent at the Borderline watching ex-Mama’s Boys guitarist Pat McManus, one of the most likable men in rock music. I’ll be honest, this being Pat’s solo debut in central London and with Richie Somewhatboring playing at Shepherd’s Bush Empire and Joanne Shaw Taylor just a few blocks away, the attendance might have been appalling. In fact, the turnout was rather respectable.
As part of a tight, punchy three-piece unit, McManus displayed true class. Okay, his voice is a bit of an acquired taste but there’s little doubt that hiring a bona fide lead singer would sacrifice vital charisma in the music. From ‘Short Sharp Shock’ to ‘Same Old Story’, ‘Got The Right’ and the boogie-tastic ‘Dogging Me Around’, his solo material is consistently strong, and those tributes to Rory Gallagher (‘Return Of The G man’) and Gary Moore (‘Belfast Boy’) were unmistakably heartfelt. In terms of Mama’s Boys tunes, the inclusion of the sensitive instrumental piece ‘Last Thing At Night’ was a thrill, as was the dedication to yours truly and fellow scribes Neil Jeffries and Geoff Banks that preceded ‘Runaway Dreams’, complete with fiddle solo. The show finished with ‘Needle In The Groove’ and an appropriate cover of ZZ Top’s ‘La Grange’. Great stuff.
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Tuesday 16th October
Classic Rock is once again on monthly production deadline which is always a pretty stressful time. My evening began pleasantly enough, however, with a phone interview with Steve Overland of FM. Top bloke is our Stiv. He always makes me laugh.
I’ve been listening to the new four-song EP from Hand Of Dimes, a brand new five-piece featuring Neville MacDonald of Skin and the singer’s former Kooga band-mate, Neil Garland on keys. It’s great, hook-laden stuff. ‘Haywire Riot’, the new album from Skinny Molly, has also been on heavy rotation here at Ling Towers. I’ve had my differences with Mike Estes in the past, primarily over SM’s onstage reliance upon Lynyrd Skynyrd tunes, but his new material is absolutely cracking!
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Monday 15th October
My Sunday was spent penning some notes for the programme of the Hard Rock hell Festival – enjoyable stuff.
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Sunday 14th October
Thanks to some assistance from a Minidisc recording of Styx at Wembley Arena yesterday’s10k run was completed in 53 minutes – more than a minute inside my personal best! I finished second overall. I’ve never won anything at sport before so it was nice to take home a shiny medal. I’ve just signed up for another six-week running course... hope to push on and do a half-marathon in the not too distant future.
With no game for the mighty Eagles due to the international break I met up with Monsewer Beare for quite a few liveners before Y&T’s gig at the Garage. I was determined to catch a bit of their support act The Jokers, but as I entered the venue their guitarist was engaged in an Angus Young-style walkabout on the shoulders of a roadie which turned out to be the final song of the night bar a rather inconsequential encore cover of Zep’s ‘Communication Breakdown’. Bah!
Despite the Garage’s 10pm curfew forcing them to play a slightly shorter display than usual (only two hours and ten minutes this time!), Y&T were simply stunning. I was especially pleased by the return of the first album classic ‘25 Hours A Day’, and Jeff Scott Soto sent the place wilder than ever with his now habitual guest spot on set-closer ‘Forever’. The full song-list ran as follows: ‘Black Tiger’, ‘Hard Times’, ‘Dirty Girl’, ‘Rock ‘N’ Roll’s Gonna Save The World’, ‘Meanstreak’, ‘Rhythm Or Not’, a rearranged ‘Midnight In Tokyo’, ‘Shine On’, ‘Blind Patriot’, ‘Winds Of Change’, ‘25 Hours A Day’, ‘I'm Coming Home’, ‘I’ll Cry’, ‘Hurricane’, Drum Solo, ‘Gimme The Beat’, ‘Squeeze’, ‘I Believe In You’, ‘Forever’ and a encore of ‘Rescue Me’.
Having realised that further liquid refreshment was required Mr Beare and I ran into JSS and his manager Andy down the road in Big Red. A few more bevvies were consumed and a mighty fine time was had by all.
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Saturday 13th October
England’s World Cup qualifying victory over a San Marino side that hadn’t scored an international goal in four years was a bit of a foregone conclusion. The visitors now have an unenviable record that reads: P111 W1 D1 L109. Indeed, commentator Clive Tyldesley pointed out that you’d have got shorter odds on a sighting of the Loch Ness Monster than San Marino triumphing at Wembley (TRUE!). The ITV panel were predicting a victory by eight, nine or even ten goals, with former CPFC star Gareth Southgate the lone voice of reason with his insistence: “Let’s get the game won first before worrying how many we might score.” In the end, despite hogging 86 per cent of possession against a team of semi-professional players, it took England 34 mins to get off the mark – with a penalty! Truly unbelievable. The final score of 5-0 was just about acceptable, I suppose, but the performance desperately lacked spark and guile.
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Friday 12th October
I’ve been off sick with a cold so awful that I actually lost hearing in one ear. Back to work at last... Think I’ll kick things off with a bit of Gentle Giant to start the day, followed by some tape transcription.
Anyone that knows me will be aware that I never encourage nationalistic stereotypes (not much... ahem!) but I just called Matti Alfonzetti, the singer of the excellent Swedish band Impera (he’s also a member of Red White & Blues, of course) for a pre-arranged phone interview and he chuckled: “You’ll never guess when I am... IKEA!”
Oooh look: Crystal Palace boss Dougie Freedman has been named the Championship’s Manager of the Month for September. CPFC striker Glenn Murray has also been named Player of the Month. Niiiiiiice. Don’t worry Scumwall fans, Kenny Jackett has been voted Plum of the Month, also coming top in the ‘most likely to be relegated’ category.
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Wednesday 10th October
A chunk of the past few days was filled by phone interviews with vocalist Ashley Holt, bassist Roger Newell and drummer Barney James – all members of the group that recorded Rick Wakeman’s Jules Verne-inspired 1974 coffee table masterpiece, ‘Journey To The Centre Of The Earth’. The tale of their recruitment is a cracking yarn. Wakeman’s management was insistent that the keysman should engage the likes of Clapton or Blackmore to form an all-star group to back him on the project, eventually recorded live at Royal Festival Hall with the London Symphony Orchestra and the English Chamber Choir, but Rick being Rick dug in his heels to use a relatively insalubrious group of muso friends that he’d been jamming with at a pub called the Valiant Trooper. 14 million sales of the album later, you might say that Wakeman had the last laugh…
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Monday 8th October
With Overkill playing not too far away at the Islington Academy, the crowd at Voivod’s gig was somewhat sparse… certainly at the start. Wouldn’t it have made more sense to have put both acts on the same bill?
Annoyingly, the show began 40 mins earlier than I’d been told, and Serpent Venom were already two songs into their set by the time I bowled up at the Garage. The schedule switch was infuriating as the London-based Doom veterans are colossally heavy, and I’d never seen them before. Oh well… another time.
Semi-legendary Brummie-based grindcore crust merchants Doom were celebrating their 25th anniversary after a reunion two years ago, tearing through twenty songs in 45 corrosive minutes. The likes of ‘Police Bastard’, ‘Pro-Life Control’ and ‘Antisocial’ have lost little of their political bite, and I really enjoyed them.
However, the night belonged to Voivod, whose awesome 90-minute set introduced three extremely promising songs (‘Target Earth’, ‘Mechanical Mind’ and ‘Kluskap O’kom’) from their forthcoming 13th studio album, ‘Target Earth’, due in January. The experiment of adding Jason Newsted to their line-up now long behind them, the French Canadians once again feature three original members, with the excellent Daniel Mongrain taking the place of guitarist Piggy, who died in 2005. Vocalist Snake’s silly gurning and the look of sheer bemusement as the crowd broke into regular chants of the band’s name was something to behold. The set-list covered just about everything from the primitive earliest albums ‘War And Pain’ and ‘Rrröööaaarrr’, taking in the arc of near-impossible creative growth that took place in later years. Amazingly, the full 17-minute rendition of ‘Jack Luminous’ from 1993’s ‘The Outer Limits’ was also included in a display that closed with their inspired cover of the Floyd’s ‘Astronomy Domine’. Here’s the full set-list: ‘Voivod’, ‘Ripping Headaches’, ‘Target Earth’, ‘The Prow’, ‘Forgotten In Space’, ‘Mechanical Mind’, ‘Nothingface’, ‘Jack Luminous’, ‘Kluskap O’kom’, ‘Psychic Vacuum’ and an encore of ‘Overreaction’, ‘Tribal Convictions’ and ‘Astronomy Domine’.
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Sunday 7th October
There's nothing like an 8K run, completed in 43 mins, to get the blood pumping. Endorphins were well and truly buzzing as I set off for Crystal Palace’s clash with Burnley at Selhurst Park. For the second consecutive home game the Eagles generously handed their visitors a two-goal start, then roared back to steal the points. The final score-line of CPFC 4 Burnley 3 propelled the club into fourth place. The fact that we have collected 19 points from a possible 21 and vanquished pre-season promotion candidates Wolves, Bolton, Cardiff and Nottingham Florist along the way is pretty unbelievable and suggests that this could be a very memorable season indeed.
It was time for some screaming metaaaaaaal, and plenty of booze: DragonForce and their new singer at Shepherd’s Bush Empire. Sadly (and rather predictably), I cannot provide anything like a detailed analysis of what happened. Beyond that fact that new singer Marc Hudson is rapidly finding his feet, and the excellence of ‘Cry Thunder’ from their latest disc ‘The Power Within’, it all became a bit of a blur as one trip to balcony bar lead into another. I have very dim memories of a post-show dressing room conversation with guitarist Herman Li and DF manager Steve McTaggart, demanding to know why the band had parted ways with their ex-singer ZP Theart, before ending up back at the Crobar, then taking a night bus – the *wrong* night bus, obviously – traipsing halfway across South London and being awoken on the sofa with a combination of pity and amusement by my eldest lad Eddie at 7am. Anyone got a spare Alka-Seltzer?!
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Saturday 6th October
Oooh, this is nice. It looks as though I’m going to be doing some work on it, too. Hurrah!
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Friday 5th October
Ever since I saw him at the Reading Festival back in 1980, Pat Travers has been among my favourite artists. Despite being truncated by curfew issues last night’s gig at the Beaverwood in Chislehurst affirmed that faith. In keeping with the Beaverwood’s better attended shows, the stage had been set up against a long wall as opposed to its normal place the room’s far end. Sound and visibility both tend to suffer as a consequence but it allows promoter Mr Feenstra to squeeze in a few extra bodies and it was terrific to see the place so full.
Looking impossibly fit and healthy for a 58-year-old, Travers tore out of the blocks with a trio of classic hard rock runes – ‘Life In London’ (I still love that lyric about “changing dollars into pounds” and a drink costing fifty pence!), ‘Crash And Burn’ and ‘Heat In The Street’, before dropping the pace for Ray Charles’ ‘I’ve Got News For You’. Surprisingly this was followed by the full-length version of American Ram Jam Band’s ‘Black Betty’, a latterday song called ‘Josephine’, then Blind Blake’s ‘Black Dog Blues’ from a new album titled ‘Blues On Fire’; a collection of obscurities from the 1920s. The place went wild as the Canadian broke into the distinctive introduction to ‘Stevie’, from 1977’s ‘Makin’ Magic’. A spontaneous rendition of Howlin’ Wold’s ‘Spoonful’ served as a preface for Travers’ rearrangement of the Hendrix standard ‘Red House’ – check out the killer YouTube footage here – and the show stepped up several gears with the closing one-two punch of ‘Snortin Whiskey’ and ‘Boom Boom (Out Go The Lights)’, a thoroughly deserved encore of ‘Getting’ Better’ concluding a first-rate performance.
I also ran into Marcus Malone of the excellent 1970s band Marcus, whose self-titled debut for United Artists is a bona fide Strictly For Connoisseurs hard rock gem. Malone, who was present to see his former drummer Sandy Gennaro playing with the PTB, invited me to check out his current solo group at the Beaverwood in a week’s time, which I’m almost certain to do.
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Thursday 4th October
Well… yesterday was quite a day. I conducted four interviews in nine hours – Conny Bloom of the Electric Boys, Coheed And Cambria’s Claudio Sanchez, Turbonegro’s new frontman Tony Sylvester and Mikael Åkerfeldt of Opeth/Storm Corrosion – for various different magazines or record label projects. This total excludes the one that got cancelled, and the previous day’s encounter with Steve Harley of Cockney Rebel fame. Relax… and… breathe…!
With gigs thin on the ground I’ve been catching up on The Newsroom, an excellent US TV series recorded a few months ago on the Sky+. Absorbed by its brilliant casting – till now I only knew Jeff Daniels (who plays grumpy but charismatic Newsnight anchorman Will McAvoy) as the gloriously idiotic Harry Dunne from Dumb And Dumber – I found myself devouring all ten episodes of Series #1 in just three days and evenings. It was heartwarming and then disappointing to see Maggie and Jim get it together and then chicken out as the finale drew to a close. Are McAvoy and his ex-flame MacKenzie McHale (played by Londoner Emily Mortimer) destined to fare any better in the future, or will the tension between them just continue to crackle? Who knows until June 2013, but meanwhile… what a bloody great show.
And finally (as Will McAvoy might say to conclude a particularly depressing broadcast), here’s the best possible news from that useless twat Morrissey: “The Smiths are never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever going to reunite – ever”. Hallelujah.
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Wednesday 3rd October
If only I’d been able to go to last night’s floodlit game at Molineux. Two quick-fire goals from Wilfried Zaha were enough to cancel out Sylvan Ebanks-Blake’s fortuitous opener for Wolverhampton Wanderers. Now unbeaten in six fixtures, the 2-1 victory lifted the Eagles into the Play-Off places; pretty incredible given that Palace were rooted to the bottom of the table at the season’s start. Zaha’s second represented a world class piece of solo skill. Wilf’s fans have become sued to chanting: “He’s just too good for you” at the defenders left sprawled in his wake. The sad reality is that the 19-year-old is too good for *us*. If he hasn’t been sold to a bigger, richer club by Christmastime then I’ll be amazed (and of course utterly delighted). Until then… keep banging ’em in Wilf!
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Tuesday 2nd October
My appreciation of Rival Sons seems to come and go. They flattered to deceive at the High Voltage fest in 2011 yet blew me away just a few months later during a low-key set at the Crobar. And then, on a bigger stage supporting Black Stone Cherry at the Forum back in March, they were no better than adequate. So I’m happy to say that the new album, ‘Head Down’, is their best work to date. The Los Angeles-based retro-rockers are certainly winning over some high powered followers. The ‘sold out’ sign up was up for last night’s gig at London’s Electric Ballroom, with the names of Jimmy Page and ‘Whispering’ Bob Harris at the top of the guest list (indeed, the latter introduced their set).
Bravely, the quartet began the show with a huge chunk of material, spitting out its first eight songs in uninterrupted, consecutive order (overall, everything from the new album was played except ‘True’, ‘Nava’ and ‘Three Fingers’). I was particularly impressed by the Zeppelin-esque slow blues of ‘Jordan’. And yet to these ears there’s still something about them that doesn’t quite click. Is frontman Jay Buchanan just a wee bit too stand-offish, maybe? Or for all their fire-power do the band’s songs lack that oh-so-crucial originality? Whatever my own mild reservations, the Electric Ballroom went bonkers. One thing’s for sure: Rival Sons certainly make The Answer look pretty feeble.
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Monday 1st October
Is it October already? Jesus wept. Oh well, it’s time for those monthly updates of the Playlist and YouTube pages.
My friend Paul Gillooly has just pointed out that tomorrow marks the 30th anniversary of Genesis’ Six Of The Best show at Milton Keynes Bowl with Peter Gabriel and Steve Hackett (on the encore)... YIKES!!! I will never forget that torrential rain. Must dig out the bootleg cassettes later on. In fact, I saw Genesis four further times on that same tour in 1982 – in Brussels, Hammersmith, St Austell and... ulp... at the Marquee Club in Wardour Street (billed as The Garden Wall). Halcyon days indeed.