This journal of the comings'n'goings and musings'n'enthusings of Dave Ling
will be updated daily - except after days of stress and nights of excess.
Sunday 7th December
Yesterday's result: Spuz 0 Palace 0... their keeper was MOTM and we really should've won. It was about time we took a point off those jammy buggers from Might Fart Lane, if you ask me!
There was only one way to celebrate another priceless away point towards survival in the Premier League – several foaming ales at a DragonForce gig. Metal Hammer had asked me to review last nite's show at the Forum, which was headlined by the Dutch symphonic metal crew Epica. Arriving early enough to catch the first of three acts, I felt a little sorry for the London-based multinationals Neonfly. Deathly silence filled an almost empty room as their intro tape began, but despite being hampered by the usual muddy 'third-on-the-bill' sound mix, half an hour later, cheers were ringing out, rewarding Neonfly – among the most improved bands out there right now – for a rousing display of high quality, commercially-orientated metal.
After 15 years of 'one-trick-pony' accusations, DragonForce took a few more chances than usual with their sixth album, 'Maximum Overload'. This fact was reflected in their display at the Forum, which was filling nicely as they ripped into 'Defenders' and 'Fury Of The Storm'. With exactly half of their slot's dozen songs pulled from 'Maximum Overload', including a comedy remake of the Johnny Cash-popularised 'Ring Of Fire', the usual hyperspeed shredding from guitarists Herman Li and Sam Totman (the latter of whom sported a very cool Bathory T-shirt) was tempered with songwriting maturity and an ability to vary tempos. Of equal importance, frontman Marc Hudson seemed more integrated to the team than ever before. By Odin's hammer, Epica were gonna have to move mountains to follow that!
I had only seen the headliners once before – at the Scala back in 2011, with ReVamp as special guests – but by golly it's clear that their star is rising. By now the Forum was uncomfortably full. It was great to see the place so completely and sweltering hot in defiance of the winter chills outside. Simone's advice to "stay hydrated" was well heeded with a few extra ciders, and I loved Epica's superb stage presentation; the band were backlit to dramatic effect, the simplicity enhancing their more bombastic, rhythmic moments. Simons' voice is a thing of shimmering beauty, soaring majestically above the music and contrasted by the growls of guitarist Mark Jansen. The multi-tracked, sampled backing vocals made them sound like a choir in their own right, but when they played at full tilt there was no doubting their metal credentials. The hysterical response to a first encore of 'Cry For The Moon' made me wonder how much longer Epica will be left foraging for the leftovers of their better-placed rivals Nightwish and Within Temptation.
Saturday 6th December
My Friday afternoon was occupied by a phoner with a true rock 'n' roll great – Paul Kantner of Jefferson Airplane/ Jefferson Starship fame. A really interesting guy, as you'd expect. "I'm sometimes amazed that I'm still here alive," he told me with a chuckle at the start of our conversation.
In the evening Eddie and I tuned in to watch non league Blyth Spartans as they edged past League 2 basement boys Hartlepool United to make the third round of the FA Cup. There were six minutes of injury time and Hartlepool hit bar in 96th min but Jeff Stelling, Janick Gers – your boys took a hell of a beating! Palace have been 'giant-killed' before, notably by Hartlepool on an ice rink of a surface back in 1993, but I will always, always love the romance of the FA Cup.
Friday 5th December
All together now: "Fuck you, Black Spiders!" I've had a very soft spot for this fine band since seeing them open for the late lamented Stone Gods at the 100 Club back in early 2009. Two albums into their career it's probably fair to say that the group, led by Pete 'Spider' Spiby, have missed their pot-shot at the big time but they remain a truly superb live attraction – one of the best that this country has to offer. Last night they performed a great, fan-chosen set at the Garage, rammed with biker-boogie-stoner anthems and (of course) washed down by plenty of cider.
Spiby is a great frontman, dedicating 'Stick It To The Man' to Phil Rudd on the day that the troubled AC/DC drummer had been handcuffed and taken into custody after reportedly breaching bail conditions, and the show ended with a rabble-rousing rendition of 'Kicked In The Teeth' from the same group's 1978 album 'Powerage'. 'Kiss Tried To Kill Me' includes the brilliant lyric: "It was Gene not Paul/It wasn't Ace's fault"... but the fact remains that, save for a sprinkling of chewns from album #2 'This Savage Land', the Spiders have been playing these songs for a very long time. And disconcertingly, Pete is starting to resemble Dumpy Dunnell, the perennial underachiever of Rusty Nuts fame.
The set-list ran as follows: 'So, El Diablo', 'Stay Down', 'Stick It To The Man', 'What Use Is A Rock Without A Roll?', 'St Peter', 'Balls', 'Just Like A Woman', 'Kiss Tried To Kill Me', 'Teenage Knife Gang' and 'Blood Of The Kings' with encores of 'Meadow', 'Trouble', 'Creatures' and 'Kicked In The Teeth'.
Thursday 4th December
There was I, in desperate need of something to cheer me up after the Palace-Villa game, and AC/DC's new album drops onto the mat. On first listen it wasn't a patch on their previous effort, 'Black Ice', but I must say Brian Johnson is in remarkably fine voice for a gentlemen of his age. Having played it a couple of times there are three or four great tracks, including the salacious, Zeppelin-style riffing 'Emission Control', but if you ask me the rest are a wee bit so-so.
Wednesday 3rd December
The next time I see a football journalist write: "Crystal Palace are looking to put daylight between themselves and the relegation zone" I will personally send the culprit a jiffy bag full of donkey diarrhea. Last night at Selhurst Park, the Eagles had 17 shots, Aston Villa a mere two (and one on target – from which they scored the game's only goal). If only we could afford a striker as gifted as Christian Benteke.
Tuesday 2nd December
Much fun was had at last nite's lig for the Marquee Club's 50th anniversary, which took place at Floridita, a restaurant situated next door to, and beneath, the legendary venue's old premises at 90 Wardour Street. Revellers includes Luke Morley from Thunder, Bob Young and Quo's John Coghlan, who was very much in 'party mode'. Spud told Malcolm Dome and myself a particularly boozy tale of the night he went to the Marquee, spent all his money and ended up walking all the way back to back to Brixton, before remembering that he actually lived in Norwood at the time. Haha! Drummers, eh?
Besides a free bar and plenty of good conversation there was some live music. Cutting Crew's Nick Van Eede and (I think) Gareth Moulton told some tales and played a few songs including the all-time great 'I Just Died In Your Arms Tonight'. Van Eede remembered that the group's now deceased lead guitarist Kevin MacMichael was so nervous about playing the Marquee in '86 that he went to the ship and got wankered, then wrote the set-list down in red – which the venue's spotlights rendered invisible.
T'Pau's Carol Decker played it cool with just two songs. It was nice to hear 'Heart And Soul' again, and she introduced 'China In Your Hands' with the words: "This is a song that went to Number one in 1987, I don't even have to sing it anymore. It's still paying the rent and buying me fucking fancy shoes – you all need to write one of these."
Introduced by the Marquee's own Jack Barrie the headliners were Ten Years After, whose latest line-up retains two long-serving members, keysman Chick Churchill and drummer Ric Lee, plus guitarist/frontman Marcus Bonfanti and bass player Colin 'Bomber' Hodgkinson (once of Whitesnake). A surprisingly entertaining 65-minute set was drawn mainly from the 1970s albums 'Ten Years After', 'Undead', 'Stonehenge' and 'Cricklewood Green', with the likable Bonfanti proving a worthy replacement for the late, great Alvin Lee and Lee's own successor Joe Gooch (who continues to work with fellow ex-TYA bassist Leo Lyons in the power trio Hundred Seventy Split). There was a nice name check from Ric Lee for Lee, who died last year, and during the same address the drummer revealed that in addition to a concert CD that's due in February the band will record a new album next year, "so we can stop being a covers band to material written by Alvin."
Like I say, I was pleasantly surprised by how good they were. Their set-list ran as follows: 'Sugar The Road', 'One Of These Days', 'I'm Coming On', 'Hear Me Calling', 'Me And My Baby', 'Love Like A Man', 'I Say Yeah', 'Good Morning Little Schoolgirl' and of course the perennial 'Going Home', with an encore of 'Choo Choo Mama'.
Monday 1st December
So when my friend Malcolm Dome emailed to say that he'd got me onto the guest list for this evening's soirée to mark the 50th anniversary of the Marquee Club, I simply had to root through the loft for this T-shirt. It still fits me, too!
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