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Get Out More............................................Gig Review

SLADE (The Robin, Bilston, Weds)


Dave Hill

Noddy Holder was incorporated in Broad Street’s Walk Of Stars last Sunday, but he doesn’t perform with the band these days.  Original members Dave Hill and Don Powell are still there though, and Dave Woodhall enjoys the party atmosphere at their Black Country homecoming.

Word association time: ‘Christmas music.’ You’re thinking Slade aren’t you? And at this time of year that’s not always a happy thought, which is a shame because Slade were one of the most influential bands in British musical history.

In that fallow early-seventies period between the death of the Beatles and the birth of punk they were the only band to combine regular chart-topping with credibility and have influenced many a band ever since, from Oasis to Quiet Riot.

Many years later, the half of the band who don’t get the songwriting royalties, drummer Don Powell and guitarist Dave Hill, are still treading the boards with their version of the band. Purists might not like the idea of Slade without Noddy Holder and Jim Lea, but a packed crowd at the Robin were in the mood to party like it’s 1973.

Mud opened the show, or at least a selection of musicians who played with frontman Les Gray over the years performed his hits and a few rock’n’roll standards. It could have been a bit embarrassing, but they worked through the songs you thought you’d forgotten competently enough and got a deserved ovation at the end of their set.

Not that there was any chance of the headliners being upstaged. This has always been Slade’s homeland – one onlooker was heard to say he’d first seen Messrs Hill & Powell in the N’Betweens at a local youth club 43 years ago.

Old friends, old fans, office parties and anyone who just wanted a good night out crowded the front of the stage as the Thunderbirds theme led to an opening of We’ll Bring The House Down.

The mis-spelt anthems came thick and fast with Mal McNulty proved not so much a lead singer as a conductor, leading the audience in anthems that were, for many people present, life-changing.

Introductions were unnecessary – everyone in the room knew every song from the opening bars. And looking round, it’s a fair bet that almost everything Slade played brought the same thought from sections of the crowd in turn; “This was the first record I ever bought.” That’s how much Slade mean to so many of us.

Behind the glam image lay a fine songwriting team – had Lennon & McCartney written Everyday it would be regarded as one of the all-time classics – but more that anything they defined a generation.

Dave Hill, who must be nudging sixty and annoyingly looks half that, is the undoubted star of the show. Cavorting around the stage, on the monitors, waving mike stands into the crowd and also playing some decent guitar.

Talking of which, his return with a new version of the Superyob instrument he played in the band’s glory days was the cue for a finale of yet more SingalongaSlade. With a final burst of Get Down & Get With It, they were off after just under an hour of prime nostalgia.

Not a particularly long set, but to be fair the crowd were probably in need of a rest more than the band were.

The inevitable encores were Cum On Feel the Noize (McNulty doesn’t do the intro, which is fair enough because it would be sacrilege) and that Christmas song. Then it was all over, and a packed out Robin, proving yet again its status as the finest venue in the area, remembered that they weren’t 14 anymore and they didn’t have to persuade their date for the evening that the quickest way home was through the park.

Not the coolest gig of 2007, but certainly one of the warmest and as I drove away I couldn’t help smiling at the sight of the queue for the nearest chippy stretching out the door. Nostalgia takes many forms, but some of it’s healthier than others.

Were Slade a great band?

There’s a lively discussion already in the Xmas Songs thread on The Stirrer Forum.

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