A Night To Remember
SLADE II / KOKO, CAMDEN, 19/12/2011
Back in 1981, Slade, the real Slade, delivered a loud, exciting rock song entitled ‘A Night to Remember’.
Written by Noddy Holder and Jimmy Lea to complement the content of that year’s album (Till Deaf Do Us Part) and to take on the road as the centrepiece of a new set.
A powerful, vibrant song to indelibly etch the stage performance in the memory of the audience to ensure that they had truly been in the presence of one of the very best live acts of all time – The mighty Slade.
This reissued DVD transports us through time and provides an opportunity for those viewers born too late to experience the sensational sights and sounds of the real Slade to perhaps pick up a faint scent of that experience and imagine what it must have been like.
The opening scenes reveal that this event is not just one of the run of the mill sell out gigs at huge theatre of yesteryear; it is, instead, held at Koko, formerly The Music Machine and Camden Palace, in order to raise funds for the Lords Taverners charity. Gone are the days of tickets and disappointed fans, Slade II have a more casual outlook and encourage the audience to just turn up and pay at the door.
That audience is welcomed with a ‘Hello Rabble’ which ignites a moment of nostalgia as the 50 something ladies and gentlemen, adorned in their Slade 2 concert garb raise their fists with outstretched thumbs in homage to 1972 imagery. If you look closely you might spot Jeremy Corbyn (or a close lookalike) amongst the onlookers waiting to be transported back to a time of industrial unrest.
To add the appropriate level of credibility, none other than Mike Read takes to the microphone in his role as MC and announces that Dave Hill himself has generously donated a jacket that he wore on stage. This jacket, in Adam Ant style, will have excited devotees of Slade II in an instant as they recall the halcyon days of tours in Norway, Belgium and Russia where Slade II has wowed audiences of up to 400 at any one time with their unique brand of rock music.
The wall of noise generated by an audience that greeted Slade onstage in the band's heyday has been replaced with a more muted appreciation for this incarnation of the band, nonetheless, with scarves held aloft in eager anticipation, on came the act.
To get the crowd in the mood the show kicked off with a rather condensed version of ' We'll Bring The House Down', the beat being kept by the instantly recognisable manic form of Slade's very own Mr memory man, Donald Georgie Powell doing what he has always done – keeping time.
Taking up his usual position, to the right of stage from the audience perspective stood Dave Hill. Gone is the crazy hairstyle of 1972 to be replaced with a balding pate covered discreetly with a hat that he is rarely if ever seen without in public. Gone are the high heeled silver glitter boots which have been replaced by far more conservatively comfortable footwear. Okay, he doesn’t look cool these days but he is far more functional in his approach. The presence on stage of Dave Hill and Don Powell may have fooled the casual viewer into thinking that the show was going to be a trip back in time to that mighty Slade sound. Think again.
Rose Coloured Spectacles
Noddy Holder, the showman supreme who fronted Slade in inimitable style for decades has long since departed the band leaving the most difficult of jobs, fronting the ensemble, to one time Hazzard vocalist Mal McNulty.
Noddy Holder possessed one of the greatest rock voices of all time, impossible to replicate. McNulty knows this only too well and tackles the problem in his own way. As a nod to the 1970s he carries a flying V guitar while extinguishing any comparison to Holder as a guitar player at the same time
His stage attire is in keeping with the Slade image circa 1974, to aid in the deception Mal wears rose coloured spectacles and sports a flat cap throughout.
The final member of the band is another jobbing musician, John Berry, tasked with the equally difficult task of covering the bass and violin work of maestro Jimmy Lea, the only thing that can be said about John is that he is a comparatively tall bass player. To join in the fun John paid his own homage to Slade and fancy dress outfit purveyors everywhere by donning a striking pair of tartan trousers.
Slade II make no attempt to replicate Slade, Far from it.
From the moment Mal screeched out the first line of his vocals it was clear he had set his stall out. This was their own sound. They might be covering old Slade favourites but in a way you have never heard before. For dyed in the wool Slade fans, this is certainly a whole new experience.
Gone is the preoccupation of Holders in performing and having a tight act, a live show par excellence. Gone is his insistence of covering a wide vocal range and remaining in key. That just isn't important any more. This is the new, casual Slade II ‘pub band' sound loosely based on smash hits written by Holder and Lea.
Dave Hill's guitar playing introduced the audience to his humour as he cheekily strummed out the chords in a manner to ensure that there was no confusion with the original numbers and that his tongue in cheek, goofy persona was very much alive and well as he skipped and high kicked his way across the stage albeit not as nimbly as he had once done.
Mal asked the audience whether they were having a good time. The audience, seemingly split between Slade diehards and casual observers seemed confused, their response was inaudible as they took in the performance and made the inevitable comparisons. It was not what some had expected for sure.
The Whitesnakesque classic, “Lock Up Your Daughters” was next up, hurled at the audience by Mal who, by this time, was almost curling his lip in defiance to the original while Berry looked and played as if he was as uninterested as it was possible to be.
'Far Far Away' was dusted off and given a laboured outing much to the delight of those in the audience programmed to hold aloft their arms and scarves in rhythmic unison as McNulty manfully ploughed his way through this 1975 Slade classic.
Three numbers into the set and the band as well as the majority of the audience seemed in need of a breather. No sooner had the tempo been whipped up than it was whipped back down again as the towering figure of John Berry approached the microphone. Dave Hill had stopped doing his high kicks and struts to allow John to address the audience in his South East brogue, making it clear that the band had long left Wolverhampton behind. John then took the vocals to the ballad 'Everyday' while Mal rested up, lets not forget that three of the band are bona fide pensioners.
The show drifted on through a list of once fantastic smash hits now made over with the unmistakeable Slade II sound that seemed to go down well with the majority of their audience.
The show at Koko was most definitely a night to remember and one can only expect any audience member there that night to describe it as “ A once in a lifetime experience ”
Slade In England Guest Reviewer Peter Farrington
We'll Bring The House Down
Take Me Bak 'Ome
Lock Up Your Daughters
Far Far Away
Look Wot U Dun
Coz I Luv You
Hear Ya Callin'
The Bangin Man
Mama Weer All Crazee Now
Get Down Get With It
My Oh My
Cum On Feel The Noize
Merry Xmas Everybody
Available now from Weinerworld