Slade: get up and get with it
SLADE / WINTER GARDENS BOURNEMOUTH 18/4/1975
WINTER GARDENS, BOURNEMOUTH. There's a young girl horizontal across three seats, motionless apart from the occasional jerk of her head as she sobs. Not with pain, or fright, or anger, or sorrow......just through the sheer emotion of knowing that the four guys who dominate her life through photographs and records are within catapult's reach.
Her friend is only slightly less stricken. At least she's still on her feet, standing slightly precariously on the back of a seat, tears "Jim, Jim" repeatedly. Her eyes are transfixed on Jim Lea, who is towering high on the stage on a banking of stage equipment. Both girls,who look about 13, are covered in embroidery or imprint proclaiming, in a mixture of variations: " Slade are the greatest."
The concertis nearly over and their anguish ends when the houselights go up, and still in a trance, they go through the forlorn formality of attempting to retrieve coats and handbags carelessly abandoned in the mad dash for the stage when the group came on.
It was the opening night of Slade's first British tour for over a year. The venue: Bournemouth Winter Gardens.
Low mutters have been circulating that Slade's reign may be waning; their film wasn't quite the smash that might have been expected of it, while their last single "How Does It Feel" failed to reach the top ten, a flop that their fans attribute with some justification to the fact that it was already available on an album, which most devotees already had in their collection.
For the Hampshire contingent of devotees, nothing was more absurd than suggestions that their idols may have had their day, and en masse at Bournemouth they presented a strong case.
A crescendo of screams and cheers filled the hall until eventually the announcement came and four young men from Wolverhampton strode cockily on stage.
That was the starting gun for the sprint forward. The lethargic looking battery of stewards fired into action equally dramatically, hurling the kids back with the same force as they arrived. A few went sprawling but got up quickly, terrified of missing a blink or cough from one of the guys on stage.
Noddy Holder was yelling "ARe you alright?" and the mass screeched back. They went into the first number but the only thing audible was the drums and bass. Holder was singing but you couldn't hear him, which in itself shows the full extent of the crowd noise and dodgy sound mixing.
Gradually everything cooled down. The mixing was righted and it sunk in that the stewards were defending the stage without ceremony. Those standing on seats or just standing were ordered to sit and in general they obeyed although there was a constant surge of people along the gangways. They got quickly into "The Banging Man" and the whole throng is swaying and stamping along.
Holder is very much the king of the castle, strutting about at the front and handling all the song introductions. Holder doesn't talk, he screams.
He builds up an exceptionally close rapport with the fans, chatting to them on the same level as if he's got a bunch of his mates from the local darts team with him instead of a hall of adoring supporters.
The fans remain reasonably restrained considering the groups whole performance relies on the high energy quota from the band. Three rows from the front there's a middle aged woman, dressed conservatively, who's obviously there as a treat for her two kids, flanked on either side of her. The kids looked bored to death while mother is really getting into it, clapping with the beat and singing along. She keeps shouting at a couple of girls in the front row who repeatedly defy the stewards by rising and waving their banners.
Dave Hill in particular, is goading the girls. Holder is indisputably the man at the helm, but while his gestures and showmanship appear to come naturally, Hill is blatantly going out of his way to incite the females. He does it very well, thrusting his pelvis from the edge of the stage and picking out one girl at a time and grinning at her. His eyes are constantly on the audience. Jim Lea lurks into the spotlight in bursts but doesn't give the impression he relishes it much, while Don Powell bangs relentlessly away on his drumkit, keenly watching the others.
Musically it's not the most advanced stuff and a hundred holes could be found if you looked hard enough, but that's not what a Slade concert is about.
They've also proved themselves capable of producing a fair ballad lately and for audibility, if nothing else, "Far Far Away." "How Does IT Feel" and "Everyday" were the best numbers of the evening. Even the uncommitted (and there were only a smattering of those there) must have been impressed by the sight and feeling of the whole audience swaying and singing with "Everyday." So much so that Noddy stopped singing himself in one verse and let them get on with it.
Their forthcoming single "Thanks For The Memory" ("the words are a bit dirty" - Holder) was also quite attractive, although a bit more raucous, with Lea heavily hammering away on electric piano. During " Gudbuy T'Jane," a slim blonde makes the most valiant effort to break through the cordon of stewards and even gets halfway on the stage nearly grabbing Holders legs before they pounce and she's dragged down.
"Not too loud is it?" asks Holder, and with the answer of "No!" from all corners, he adds: "Turn it up John, it's not too loud."
Towards the end, presumably by some prearranged agreement, the stewards give way quite a bit of ground and allow the kids right up against the stage. This creates a further stampede from the back and a few girls faint and are passed forward over heads to the stage. The group look delighted to have the fans so close and use the situation to pour some lemonade over one ecstatic girl.
There's complete chaos now with many people standing on seats for a view while those in the gangways are fighting for elbow room. After the brief slow period the music is fast and furious to take us to the end of the concert with "Mama Weer All Crazee Now" and a rocker called "It's Raining Down In MY Champagne," a long, and by Slade's standards, involved piece which breaks into "Banana Boat Song" at one point. The woman with the bored kids is still there and still bopping.
Slade play just one encore - "Get Down And Get With It" - and themn it's over. The kids shout quite loudly for their further return until the houselights go on and as if jerking them back to reality, authority takes over. The audience leaves without a whimper. A few more souvenirs are bought and they're off to their daydreams and idolatry from a distance.
COLIN IRWIN, NME, 26/4/1975