EARLS COURT / SUNDAY
SLADE / EARLS COURT, LONDON 1/7/1973
Mel Bush knows a thing or two about promoting. Looking rather like an unfortunate sufferer from the excesses of a sun ray lamp and a surfeit of canned fruit, he talks about past excursions into the ungodly precincts of Earls Court.
" That Bowie gig: Well, they just went ahead, been promoting for God knows how many years but they wouldn't listen to any advice."
This time around there are going to be no mistakes.
"The kids have got to see us. That's the most important thing." says Hill, and so a giant screen is set up over the glitzy spectacular stage.
The P.A. is large, "13,000 watts" mutters Noddy Holder in passing. " In the States we just used our own 6,000 watts but this is special."
The security forces are starting to gather around the barrier, checking out the territory for tonights showdown. Two hundred have been assigned to the task.
"The best security man of them all is Noddy Holder," claims Bush. "He controlled a crowd of 65,000 beautifully once, from a stage maybe two foot high. It had to be seen to be believed."
Already the crowd are moving inside the hall. Dave is 17, he loooks like a well heeled reject from Chicory Tip, complete with curtain cape bearing a Dave Hill photo which is gradually disintegrating.
It's almost 6.00 pm and he's falling all over the seats. he tells you between dribbling over the railings that he's done two mandrax and a bottle of red wine. Dave is not a typical Slade fan.
Mostly it's young girls decked out in gaudy arrangements of self designed tat and Kensington market purchases. Silver platform boots are the order of the day, as are mirrored top hats and glitzy tops.
It's enough to give Vogue magazine heart tremors but, then, dressing up is so much fun, and fun is the name of the game right now.
To one side of the front of the stage a group of juvenile rough housers speechlessly wasted on acid and whisky, carouse around the aisles, periodically starting a fight and being thrown out of the building for their pains. A small blonde haired brat of no more than 11 years old, with glitter around his eyes, smokes a joint and screws up his guinea pig eyes, just like one of the more god forsaken youths portrayed in 'Lord Of The Flies'
There's no way around it: these glitzed out football crowd mutants are here to make a point of havin' some fun. When the segregated football chants have ceased and the whole hall gets carried away in a spontaneous chant, almost as if to define its own potency, it sounds like a massed gathering of birds of prey calling attention to itself before it sets about its own ominously evil project. It's downright creepy.
The security boys - all tattoos and pained expressions - gather around the barrier slowly but surely.
The Sensational Alex harvey Band are barely stomached by the crowd - like I said they're all here for one purpose, and even if Harvey were to walk on their hands and turn water into "7 Up" they'de still be resoluteky set against him.
By the time Rosko appears to introduce Slade, the energy collected in the hall, having manifested itself in sporadically torrid heat waves up to this point, coalises into something quite awesome.
The band swagger onto the stage, plug in and kick straight into an intro - purepower chord thrust - maybe 'Howd' Yu Ride" or the Rock 'N' Roll Medley or just anything.
Actually it's " Take Me Bak 'Ome" and it sounds perfect. No other word for it. dancing Dave Hill prances around, playing adequate lead riffs and grinning with inane charm. Buit It's Holder who holds the court in tow here.
His rhythm guitar provides the muscle, while his vocals - a salty combination of Steve Marriott and John Lennon at their rocking best - are sometimes frighteningly powerful.
He spreads out his gangly physique and gets straight down to business on "Move Over", on which Slade prove their ability to adhere sledgehammer finesse to a strong sense of dynamics.
With the only other exception of the still incongruous adaptation of "Darlin' Be Home Soon", the band stick to the well tried and true formula, slicing it out with liberal displays of bawdiness. All around me, girls appear to be passing out overawed by their own frenzy. A couple scream themselves into a state of total collapse, another becomes so wiped by the excitement she vomits over the barrier.
The body guards lurch around grinning and picking up the reservoir of autographed underrgarments and mirrored top hats, straddled over the inner sanctum below the stage.
One hour and one encore of "Mama Weer All Crazee Now" later, and it's all become dissipated. Slade are in the dressing room, everyone has had their own little orgasm and left exultant, and there are always the broken chairs there to remind one of the intense rampage that went before, if such reminders are really necessary.
It's been a great bout of rock 'n' roll, possessing the virtue of checking the chaos it sparks off so spontaneously, whatever powers Slade have, they seem to instinctively know just how far to take them.
The concert was further testament to Slade's vital inportance in what, in effect, is the total reconstruction of the energies that govern the workings of pure rock 'n' roll music.
If, as was stated before, The Beatles brought 'art' back to the masses when such a project seemed impossible, then Slade have brought rock back to the people when it seemed to be going through its final death pangs.
They probably won't ever make you gasp in amazement at their creativity, but they will get you dancing and that surely is what it's all about. Know what I mean?
NICK KENT - NEW MUSICAL EXPRESS - 7/7/73