SLADE: Sundown Theatre, September 7
CRAZEE BOYS 'APPY OPENING
SLADE / SUNDOWN THEATRE, MILE END, LONDON 7/9/1972
"HANDS UP all those girls with red knickers on. Hands up all those girls with white knickers on. Hands up all those girls with NO knickers on!" Noddy Holder in glistening topper, tartan britches and braces, red shoes and hooped socks, looking every inch like one of Ken Dodd's Diddymen, gets the answer he wanted and gazing out at a sea of upstretched arms feigns surprise: "Oh you RUDE girls!"
Slade, the retired princes of bovver, flew over six thousand miles from the warmth of Los Angeles to the Mile End road last Thursday to open the first of London's Sundown Theatres only to fly out the next day to the west coast to cintinue their American tour. The round trip proved hugely succcessful and all of the thousands who jam packed the ex bingo hall went away more than 'appy. The East Enders, noy unused to a little bovver themselves, took Slade to their hearts, chanting, stamping and waving at the wag of a Dave Hill finger or a request from Nod.
Mile End's Sundown holds around three thousand and the floor has been cleared of all seating to allow for more bopping, although the audience for Slade were so crushed that fainting was the only way to find release and movement. Tha balcony has rows of seats but it's down below that holds the action.
Biggles, a four piece with Carl Palmer's teenage brother on drums, had the dubious honour of opening and it wasn't a very inspired set. They tended to go off into long, involved solos throughout, and the tightness suffered. Traffic's "No Face, No Name No Number" was the only song to show what Biggles might be all about.Their singer hit his best notes of the night on this one and the guitarist, who looks like he could blossom into a fine player, featured well controlled runs. Freddie King's "Goin' Down" closed their set.
The wait for Slade proved too much after the 30 minute mark was passed and the chants went up: "we want Slade, we want Slade", but still no Noddy, Dave, Jimmy and Don, just the drumkit picked up in the spotlight. Any minute you expected a voice to filter over the PA "can anyone here play the drums? We are unable to present the billed act I'm afraid..."
But just on the stroke of 9.45pm, on they came. Showmanship bursting from every move, there they were dressed fit to kill, Noddy in those familiar Rupert Bear trousers, Dave Hill in silver boots and suit with glitter across his forehead and dripping from his hair. The others, by comparison looked like tramps at Ascot races, Jimmy in a plain yellow suit and dynamic Don in silver string vest.
"Hear Me Calling" with Dave gliding across stage like a tall silver spider, got things rolling after the usual "Are You feelin' all right" assurities and Noddy ordering "We want everyone to get warmed up right from the start."
"In Like A Shot From My Gun" was next and the show started to roll. Slowly building towards the climax each song worked beautifully to wind the audience up for the kill. Crowd participation is the key to Slade's monster success, total audience participation throughout and it wins them over every time. In this respect Slade are really a peoples band.
No matter what stage of the song's been reached Noddy breaks in: "We've had a bit of a long journey, so we're feeling a bit knackered", or " Can everybody at the back hear?" Turn the sound up. Can everyone in the balcony hear OK?"
"Look What You've Done" thunders away and they're into Janis Joplin's "Move Over Baby" --- with a few additional lines from Nod. Jimmy Lea's bass is thundering out the notes along with Don Powell on drums, while various antics like jumping on and off specially placed boxes and tables covered in gleaming silver foil are thrown in for fun.
And fun's what's involved for Slade and their audiences. The music is secondary, but it's there when needed, and ribaldry that makes up a great deal of their stage presentation is direct enough to be vulgar but it isn't. Even at it's most basic it's acceptable and the kids lap it up. They're musicians who aren't caught up in just playing for themselves, the audiences realise this from the start and react accordingly and the result is open, no messing spontaneity.
Noddy asks for a bit of hush while they promise to lay a "slow, sexy one" on the audience, it's "Over The Rainbow" but decide that John Sebastian's 'Darling Be Home Soon" would be a better bet. And then Noddy's off at a mad tangent again, tottering on the edge of the stage, leering at the crowds with an insane grin. It's time for the audience to join in the show again --- in the middle of the number.
He teases locals about the allegiance to West Ham, mentioning the hated names of Spurs,Chelsea and Arsenal and coyly deciding "Oh West ham's the favourite team around here is it?", knowing full well that he's in the heart of the Hammer's country.
Then he's got them singing "You'll Never Walk Alone", swaying in time and for a moment with eyes closed, you could imagine it was Saturday afternoon on the terraces. The teasing's over, now for a pat on the back and Noddy praises the audience and suggests they give themselves a good clap, asking for the lights to be turned away from the stage onto the floor. "Darling" is resumed and finished and then a storming version of " Good Golly Miss Molly" proves more than many can stand in the balcony, most of whose dwellers leave their seats and start a'bopping like their stand up friends downstairs.
"Good Golly" shows Slade's slip a bit, they really can power along when they're roused and Jimmy leaves the safety of the stage to jump on the topmost speakers and do his bass bit from there. But he's down again for a little fiddle jig which runs into the band's first big hit "Coz I Luv You".
As you'd expect, all hell breaks loose when "Take Me Back 'Ome" followed and everyone stamped and clapped together, shaking the balcony frighteningly and sending even the coolest spectator into a furious flurry of swinging arms and contorting body.
It was a mass takeover and "Get Down And Get With It", their ninth number, just drove the point home even deeper. There had been no great virtuoso performances, no lengthy musical passages but sheer rocking power that plunged everyone into limp submission. Odd girls were passed up from the arena to the stage for safety after being overcome by it all and Slade played on and on.
A brassiere (size 34 at a conservative estimate), emblazoned with the word SLADE, found it's way on stage at one point and Mr Holder, beingthe gentleman he is, offered to put it back on if the distresses lady would like to claim it later.
Slade left the stage, got the encore that had to come and played out "mama Weer All Crazee Now" with as much kick as if it had been their first song of the evening. Nothing tricky to report as far as musicianship goes, but everyone had a bloody good time, and that's the best thing you can say for anyone's music.
BILLY WALKER - SOUNDS MAGAZINE 14/9/72