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SLADE II / KOKO, CAMDEN, 19/12/2011


slades Noddy Holder 1972 mirrored top hatSlade, those much loved Black Country rockers appearing at Koko for a Christmas extravaganza in aid of charity?

Needs investigation.........

In the late 70's the venue, then the Music Machine, a legendary North London late night theatre, played host to a series of legendary Slade gigs, unforgettable nights still remembered and fondly spoken about forty years later.

The band, at that time revelled in the good time eclectic audience of latter day skinheads, pseudo punks, denim bedecked long haired rockers and the odd, in some cases very odd new romantics who all turned up to pay homage to one of the very very best live bands that Britain has ever produced.

There the similarity unfortunately ends between the Slade of the late 70's and the band that now treads the boards using the name. The fans at this show were all slightly older than yesteryear, a little more paunchy of course, but as ever, the 'glitter and antler brigade' had turned up in force to relive their teen years.



After a short intro by long forgotten ex radio DJ Mike Reid, the band shuffled on to a warm reception, rapturous cheers from some quarters, the type reserved usually for returning heroes, and at first glance from afar one would be mistaken for thinking this was 1973 all over again.

Time stands still for no man, and time has moved on, so have Slade. It isn't 1973,

Gone from the band is of course Noddy Holder, good old uncle Noddy who has slipped into the psyche of the nation since he hung up his paint stripping vocal chords and left the band in 1992. Also gone is multi instrumentalist and one of the best bass players around James Lea, who's boundless energy, non stop movement and bass playing virtuosity was always a highlight of Slade's high energy shows.

So who does that leave these days?



Well, Slade now is very much a vehicle for Dave Hill living on past glories and to help him along he has with him original drummer Don Powell. Hill could easily have been forgiven for attempting to replace Holder and Lea with like for like replacements. He hasn't, and with a level of astuteness he has avoided that pitfall by employing Mal McNulty on vocals and John Berry on bass guitar.

Holder, one of the greatest British rock vocalists of all time is irreplaceble, a distinctive raunchy voice that could strip the paint from walls from buildings in the next street. Instead Hill has plumped for McNulty, whom whilst sporting a pair of Lennonesque spectacles and overized flat cap, sounds nothing at all like Holder.

Similarly, James Whild Lea, Slade's original bassist, would have been equally as difficult to find a replacement for, and Hill has again decided to go in the complete opposite direction by employing Berry, who's only similarity to Lea is that he holds a bass guitar while on stage. So static is Berry throughout I am more reminded of the Who's John Entwistle than the energetic and dynamic 'Midlands Misery' James Lea.



Personnel aside, the ever youthful Hill, sporting a huge grin throughout, stomped around the stage with purpose. Once famed for his huge six inch heeled silver platform boots, Hill now pads around in more comfortable footwear as he traces the ground once covered by Lea. Working the crowd as best he can without showman supreme Holder sharing the stage, Hill manages admirably to keep moving, albeit more often than not reduced to little sixties style Freddie Garrity kicks.


Memory Lane


The set list is a veritable trip down memory lane, and many in the audience of glitter spattered enthusiasts didn't really care that they didn't sound much like the originals, a little like 'audio photofits' they bore a generic resemblance :

To whip the crowd up into a palpable frenzy they kicked off with "We'll Bring The House Down" more of a Nod, no pun intended, to their past glories, than an actual statement of intent these days. As was "Lock Up Your Daughters" ...maybe not these days eh fellas?

It was soon time for a rest, and while Mal McNulty took a backseat up stepped John Berry, in a dazzling show of fleet footed movement as he took three steps forward towards the Microphone and gave us that old favourite "Everyday." A very different listening experience to the original. That was followed by an upbeat and often underrated classic from Slade, "Look Wot You Dun."

It wouldn't have been fair for this incarnation of Slade to have performed only tracks penned by and performed by the band when both Holder and Lea were 50% of it, so one of Hill's own compositions, "Red Hot," was given an outing which gave Hill the opportunity to venture off topic wow the crowd with some chops and licks recognisable from "Gimme Some Lovin'", "My Sharona" and best of all paying a compliment to fellow guitar legend Ritchie Blackmore by belting out every schoolboy and learnee guitar player's favourite, "Smoke On The Water."

Following that it was back to the hits, and the audience were treated to a version of their first number 1 hit, "Coz I Luv You" from waaay back in November 197, a full forty years beforehand. This gave John Berry a chance to show off his violinist skills, he made a good stab at it but Jimmy Lea can probably sleep easy for now!

"Run Runaway" was next up, again giving Berry the chance to impress with more fiddling on this comeback hit from the early MTV years in the eighties, Jimmy Lea still snoozing methinks.

At the halfway point, it was time for the band to crank it up and knock one out from their own LP and we were treated to a rollicking "Hear Ya Calling," that's not "Hear Me Calling," Slades definitive version of the Ten Years After track from Slade Alive! but something altogether different.

Not the case with "Gudbuy T' Jane" that old relentless chugger of a hit from 72' that benefitted greatly here by being played at the original tempo and style, something which the real Slade didn't do in their latter years, Always a crowd favourite and good to see it being paid homage here.

As the evening rattled down to a close, the band ran through "The Bangin' Man," "Mama Weer All Crazee Now," "Get Down With It" before slowing down the pace to enable to scarf wavers and swayers in the crowd to do their thing with a rendition of that classic 80's festive tune, "My Oh My."

Drummer Powell, rock 'n' rolls really genuine Mr nice guy, was as dependable as ever, laying down a solid beat spine to the muscular music dished up, and 70's icon Dave Hill, despite his advancing years and multiple chins still plays guitar the same and as well as he ever did back in 1973. Where these two get their energy from is a mystery.

"Cum On Feel The Noize" and what else, "Merry Xmas Everybody" were belted out leaving the veritable small army of Xmas revellers the final opportunity to wave their arms and scarves aloft, intent on making that old evergreen Christmas hit, and this evening the highlight of their year, loving every single second of it, this concert will be talked about for years to come.

Slade may have long since disbanded, but with Dave Hill's Slade, their legacy will live long into the future and the current line up of Hill, Powell, McNulty and Berry...whilst certainly not tripping of the tongue, have put their mark on these wonderfully classic Lea/Holder songs for all to enjoy.

Experience this gig in the comfort of your own home by purchasing the dvd from Weinerworld and I'll guarantee that by the end of the first track you'll be longing for 1973 all over again.


Slade In England Guest Reviewer Denzil O' Donnel



We'll Bring The House Down
Take Me Bak 'Ome
Lock Up Your Daughters
Far Far Away
Look Wot U Dun
Red Hot
Coz I Luv You
Run Runaway
Hear Ya Callin'
Gudbuy T'Jane
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


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