Sweet – Gig Review

Sweet + Novatines

Wednesday 11th December 2019

Buckley Tivoli

What could be better at this time of year than a bit of proper, 1970’s glam rock?  Sweet never had a world conquering Crimbo hit like Slade, but they did have a ton of mega singles that are totally inextricable from the days of seventies glam.  After missing the band when they played Buckley Tivoli last year, I wanted to make sure I was there this time around.

Support band The Novatines seemed like a decent hard rock proposition, however I arrived late and missed the bulk of their set.  Worthwhile checking out another time though.

Andy Scott is the only remaining member from this version of Sweet’s classic line-up.  He’s a local lad – well, Wrexham is just a few miles away – so it’s nice to see him and the band on near enough home ground.  Andy Scott is also a bona fide rock god: his guitar playing is exceptional; the trademark high pitched backing vocals are ball-squeezingly present and correct; his banter funny and his charisma epic.  He’s the real deal.

The rest of the band are a fine bunch of musicians, and together they smash out both the bubblegum pop hits and the rockier tracks.  It’s this combination of pop sensibilities and rock skills that have made Sweet inspirational for generations of music fans.

Starting off with one of my absolute favourite tracks, “Action”, it’s clear that this is going to be a night of delivering the goods.  The set features all the obvious gems: “Hellraiser”, “The Six Teens”, “Sweet F.A.”, “Wig Wam Bam” and “Little Willy” before closing with another personal fave, “Fox on the Run”.

Everything is performed brilliantly, and the audience clearly love every second.  It’s also nice to note that I’m in the younger age range at this particular gig!

Finally, the band return for an encore of “Blockbuster” and “Ballroom Blitz” – two songs that are really no surprise, but could not be left out.  No way, Jose – there’s have been a blitz at the Tivoli Ballrooms had they been omitted.

So a rare Wednesday night out at a gig for me, but well worth the effort.  Some may find Sweet too lightweight in an era that gave us Alice Cooper and Bowie; I thoroughly enjoyed it.  A solid band of fantastic musicians performing well loved (and under rated) songs.

This is one Sweet I’d like a second helping of.  I’ve definitely got a Sweet tooth.  And so on.

Singles Night at the Virtual Hot Tub #7

I had another great night recently, playing a load of old 7″ singles.  What happens is, I acquire these singles from record fairs, charity shops or maybe contributions from friends – and I spend an evening playing through the pile.  The’re stacked in order of how long I’ve had them – oldest near the top – and not organised in any way.

So I get a few drinkies down me and play the records in the order they reveal themselves.  Which can be fun – no skipping, play whatever’s next in the pile.

This system always means that no matter how many cool songs I play, there’s always a few dodgy tracks in there too.  But then let’s just call those less aspirational songs “guilty pleasures”, and enjoy them for what they are.

Last time, I claimed that the rest of the stack of 45 rpm magic wouldn’t reach as high a standard.  I was wrong.  Here’s the playlist, which includes some absolute monsters…

  1. Elvis Presley – “Young and Beautiful” / “True Love” / “Lover Doll” / “Love Me Tender”
  2. AC/DC – “Whole Lotta Rosie” / “Hell Ain’t a Bad Place To Be”
  3. W.A.S.P. – “Mean Man” / “Locomotive Breath”
  4. The Beatles – “Can’t Buy Me Love” / “You Can’t Do That”
  5. Anthrax – “Anti-Social” / “Parasite”
  6. The Hawaiian Islanders – “Hawaiian War Chant” / “Song of the Islands” / “One, Two, Three, Four” / “On the Beach at Waikiki” / “Sweet Leilani” / “Aloha Oe”
  7. Johnny Cash – “It Ain’t Me Babe” / “Understand Your Man” / “Five Feet High and Rising” / “I Walk the Line”
  8. Stiff Little Fingers – “At the Edge” / “Silly Encores, Autumn 1979”
  9. Spagna – “Call Me” / “Girl, It’s Not the End of the World”
  10. Tenpole Tudor – “The Swords of a Thousand Men” / “Love and Food”
  11. The Rolling Stones – “It’s All Over Now” / “Good Times, Bad Times”
  12. Belinda Carlisle – “Vision of You” / “Leave a Light On For Me (Kamikazee Mix)”
  13. Salt-n-Pepa – “Push It (US Remix)” / “I Am Down” / “Tramp”
  14. Fat Boys – “The Twist (Yo, Twist)” / “The Twist (Buffapella)”
  15. Bananarama – “Cruel Summer” / “Summer Dub”
  16. Thin Lizzy – “Cold Sweat” / “Bad Habits”
  17. Heaven 17 – “Temptation” / “We Live So Fast”
  18. Hammer – “Addam’s Groove (LP Mix)” / “Street Soldiers (Saxapella Reprise)”
  19. Philip Lynott – “Yellow Pearl” / “Girls”
  20. Senser – “The Brunt”
  21. Siouxsie & the Banshees – “The Staircase (Mystery)” / “20th Century Boy”

Fantastic stack of singles!  Some absolute classics with a couple of cheesy horror stories.  Any playlist that includes AC/DC and the Beatles can’t be half bad.  I’ll be doing some more of these singles nights soon, stay tuned!

Singles Night at the Virtual Hot Tub #6

Welcome to another Singles Night at the Virtual Hot Tub with your host, Platinum Al!

As previous, I spent the evening listening to a stack of 45 rpm singles that I’d acquired over time from several sources.  Whilst imbibing some fine alcohol.  The following is a list of those singles, A and B sides listened to in order.

There are some particularly sweet slabs of vinyl in this edition.  As always, however, we’re never too far away from some rank cheese…

  1. INXS – “The Gift” / “The Gift (Extended Mix)”
  2. Sweet – “Action” / “Sweet F.A.”
  3. Rod Stewart – “Reason to Believe” / “Maggie May”
  4. The KLF – “America: What Time is Love?” / “America No More”
  5. ABBA – “Mamma Mia” / “Tropical Loveland”
  6. Elvis Presley – “Trouble” / “Young Dreams” / “Crawfish” / “Dixieland Rock”
  7. Cream – “Strange Brew” / “Tales of Brave Ulysses”
  8. Right Said Fred – “I’m Too Sexy” / “I’m Too Sexy (Instrumental)”
  9. Anthrax – “Indians” / “Sabbath Bloody Sabbath” / “Taint”
  10. The Stranglers – “All Day and All of the Night” / “Viva Vlad!”
  11. W.A.S.P. – “I Don’t Need No Doctor” / “Widowmaker”
  12. Beastie Boys – “(You Gotta) Fight For Your Right (To Party)” / “Time to Get Ill”
  13. Iron Maiden – “The Clairvoyant” / “The Prisoner”
  14. AC/DC – “Let’s Get It Up” / “Back in Black”
  15. Yes – “Into the Lens” / “Does It Really Happen?”
  16. Marillion – “Incommunicado” / “Going Under”
  17. Kim Wilde – “Cambodia” / Watching for Shapes”
  18. The Beatles – “Day Tripper” / “We Can Work It Out”
  19. The Spencer Davis Group – “Keep On Running” / “Somebody Help Me” / “Every Little Bit Hurts” / “I’m a Man” / “Gimme Some Lovin'”
  20. Booker T and the M.G.s – “Time is Tight” / “Hang ‘Em High”
  21. The Byrds – “Mr Tambourine Man” / “I Knew I’d Want You”
  22. The Skids – “Circus Games” / “Onedecree”
  23. Manuel & The Music of the Mountains – “The Portugese Washer Women” / “Never on Sunday”

Note: the B-side of the Anthrax single is actually their track “Imitation of Life”. 

I’m mighty proud of that selection.  Not that I had anything to do with it, the choice was random – I just took whatever disc was top of the pile and made my way through.

But what a bunch of scorchers!  One of my favourite Beatles tracks; Cream; Booker T; some classic metal and the Beastie Boys.  It doesn’t get better than that.

Or rather, it won’t.  Most of the rest of the pile of 7″ singles isn’t up to that quality…

Imperial State Electric – Anywhere Loud album review

Another album review wot I wrote has appeared on the excellent EVER METAL website.  Please go take a look at the website, it’s awesome!  My review is reproduced here for your pleasure:  

Imperial State Electric – Anywhere Loud

Psychout Records

Release date: 16/02/2018

Running Time:

Review by: Alun Jones

7/10

Live albums, eh?  I’m not a huge fan.  A lot of the time they’re just cynical exercises in fleecing fans, getting them to pay again for songs they’ve already got.  And usually poorer quality, due to being in a “live” setting.

There are exceptions to the rule, of course.  Back in my days with KISS, the boys were struggling to step up to the mega bucks level after their first few albums.  I proposed that they record a live album, in order to try and capture their incredible live show.  That was what they were good at, see?  The studio albums were good, but live – wow, those kids could rock.  So eventually the four prima donnas came round to my suggestion, released “KISS – Alive” – and their super star status was assured.  Bang!  Mega platinum seller, through the roof, KISS had arrived.

Thanks to me.

Which brings me to this live release from Imperial State Electric.  Although it’s called “Anywhere Loud”, it could’ve been another KISS live album.  It’s big, bold and brash in a very Seventies Rock kinda way.  It’s almost like we’ve stepped into a time machine and arrived back in 1976.  Not that I’m complaining – these guys are all about fun, over the top rock’n’roll – just how it used to be.

A whopping 23 songs, the album certainly doesn’t scrimp on the tunes.  There are plenty of them, and the sound is reassuringly good throughout.  Snippets of audience noise and banter, applause and well performed improvisations help keep the energy – and authenticity – pushing the meters to overload.

Outstanding tracks in this collection include the catchy riffs of “Apologize”, “Reptile Brain” and “Uh Huh” – plus there’s a hint of their punkier side with a blinding version of The Dead Boys’ “Sonic Reducer”.  If you’re a fan of KISS, Cheap Trick and Blue Oyster Cult then “Anywhere Loud” is for you.  If, however, you’re not a worshipper of Seventies Rock like those aforementioned bands, this release probably won’t change your mind.

Which brings me back to KISS.  Of course the masks were my idea.  Though originally, I’d planned on Peter, the drummer, wearing a samurai style number.  So, you’d have had the Star Child, the Demon, the Space Ace and the Samurai.  Pretty good, yeah?  Except Peter changed his mind last minute and decided to be a cat, for fuck’s sake.  And just look how that worked out.

Visit the Ever Metal website here.

Hollywood Vampires – Gig Review

Hollywood Vampires + The Darkness + The Damned

Sunday 17th June 2017

Manchester Arena

It was a rare, but welcome night out for Mrs Platinum Al and myself in good old Manchester.  Tickets were booked and we were off to see the big rock show.  It promised to be an exciting evening, but I was unsure whether our expectations would be met.

First off the bat, our old chums The Damned!  This was a real bonus for me, though the handbrake is also a fan after all these years of putting up with me playing their records.  However I was a tad nervous, wondering how these esteemed gentlemen would go down with what appeared to be a more traditional rock crowd.  And in such a huge venue.

Now I know I’m biased, but we were both impressed by The Damned’s performance.  The band didn’t shy away from the large stage; they actually looked quite comfortable up there.  I was quite a way away, mind – I think our seats were in Stockport.

Opener “Street of Dreams” was a moody yet raucous number that’s become a bit of a live favourite of mine over the years.  Follow that with classic “Neat Neat Neat” and you’re off to a hell blazing start.  Just as the stars align and every single person in the huge arena is going “Oooh, they’re quite good, aren’t they?” we get a minor mishap with Captain Sensible’s guitar packing in and the moment seems lost…

Not to worry, before you can say “is he the bloke  who sang Shaddup You Face?” the band, old troopers that they are, are back in the game.  Dave Vanian steers the ship over stormy waters and is in fine, confident voice all through.

The icing on the cake – for me, at least – is the return of Paul Gray, a sight I’ve not witnessed since Sheffield, 1991!  Paul’s bass rumbles and sounds triumphant, particularly in the “Love Song” intro.  Fantastic.  There’s just a drop in volume during “Ignite”, other than that, Paul is a ninja master.

Pinch’s drums are perfect, you can hear Monty (and see him bouncing about); so other than a couple of technical issues The Damned performed superbly.  The set is far too short of course, but I was relieved that they seemed to go down well.  From where I was sat, the arena seemed mostly full, so they didn’t suffer from support-band-empty-hall syndrome either.

I felt like I was watching my child in the school play; happily no-one forgot  their lines and The Damned get a gold star.

You can certainly say that I got value for money for this gig, what with three bands on.  However I was feeling a little short changed after The Darkness performed.  Admittedly, I am biased in favour of The Damned.  Yet I’ve seen The Darkness before, at Download festival a couple of years ago, and was much more impressed.

Not that the Hawkins boys don’t give it a fair shot; a short tight set is delivered in inimitable style with splurges of Justin’s trademark wit and swagger.  Perhaps it’s just that the set is lacking some bigger numbers in the first half; following “Growing On Me” with “Love is Only a Feeling” as the third song is too much of a comedown so early on.

The crowd don’t seem to mind though, it all goes down very well.  Let’s be honest, most of ’em are happy because they’ve heard of The Darkness and haven’t got a clue who The Damned are.  Or, shock horror, don’t like punk rock.  For me, with no “Black Shuck” in the set, and a mediocre version of “Barbarians”, it’s good but not great from the Darkness.

I still can’t bring myself to dislike ’em, regardless.  At least The Darkness tried to bring loud, exuberant British guitar rock into the 21st century, and aren’t a wanky indie band.

There followed some musical chairs for Mrs Platinum Al and me, as we secured seats much nearer the front.  This pleased the other half immensely, she would now have a much better view of the headliners (or one of them, at any rate).

And so the Hollywood Vampires took the stage, and the Big Rock Show was in it’s final phase.  The air of tense expectation was only mildly subdued by the band’s arrival, as the audience were keen to experience what they could serve up.  Would this be a vanity project for ageing rock stars and their pirate actor buddy?  Or could they deliver something tangibly worth their collective prowess?

Led by the preposterously cool Mr Alice Cooper, the Vamps rattle through a few of their own original numbers at first, as if to prove a point.  Yes, they can play – and they can write, too.  It’s super confident and great fun – every song gets a chance to shine on it’s own merits.

The bulk of the set is a succession of expertly reproduced cover songs, each dedicated with respect to a fallen rock comrade.  Songs range from The Doors, to Motorhead, to AC/DC – with my favourite being a great version of The Who’s “Baba O’Riley”.

Joe Perry delivers a spine tingling “Sweet Emotion” complete with the extended intro that builds magnificently.  It’s a master class in rock star awesomeness, though Joe seems very much enjoying himself in a humble manner.

Despite the attention thrust upon him by a vast number of fans in attendance, Johnny Depp manages to not only look the embodiment of cool, but actually performs brilliantly.  He appears very much in his element as part of this massive spectacle, indeed his rendition of Bowie’s “Heroes” is one of the highlights of the night.

It’s one of several moments that manages to evoke the ghosts of heroes past, as  accompanying images are shown on the screen onstage.  It’s not altogether subtle, but rock’n’roll rarely is.  Instead the audience cheer their appreciation and nod sagely as our heroes are exhumed for us to behold.

Finally, Alice declares “School’s Out” yet again, as the whole show reaches it’s climax.  Cooper is an absolute delight, the demented circus master and ring leader of this crazy gang.  He is unbelievably cool and amazing at what he does: a true legend.

In the end, despite any doubts, it’s been a hell of a ride.  Despite whatever misgivings anyone may have had regarding authenticity, the Hollywood Vampires delivered an excellent, well performed show that was pure fun.  It was so much more than just athe world’s biggest covers band.  Abandon your cynicism, this was rock’n’roll for the sheer joy of it.  Which is what it’s all about, right?

Download Festival

DL2015

Sunday 14th June 2015

Over the years I’ve been to Reading, Leeds and Rewind Festivals – even Chester Rocks.  Though I’ve never been to a full on outdoors Hard Rock/Metal festival, much to my regret.  Thus when the opportunity arose to get my rockin’ self to Download, the epicentre of all heavy rock fests, I seized the chance with gloved fist.  And then did the devil horn salute.

Due to time and financial constraints, it would only be a one day escapade with my buddies Ben the Swede and Coben.  Sadly this would mean missing such favourites as Faith No More, Clutch, Judas Priest, COC and many more.  But never mind – the gods of rock threw down their gauntlet and we would charge into the melee.

After a right old slog from the car to the main gates, we eventually entered the stadium like gladiators – ready for the first spectacle of the day.  The first band we saw were Tremonti, who I’d never heard of before.  Halfway through their set, the band were actually heavier than I thought and I enjoyed what I heard.  Worth further investigation.

At this point the heavens opened and the rain poured.  No matter – we were already making our way to the third stage to catch a “secret” set from The Darkness.  It was packed – everyone had the same idea, or at least decided this was better than drowning.  The set began with a monstrous riff that went on forever and did a good job of pumping the crowd up.  This intro enabled singer Justin Hawkins to make his way from the back to the stage, in true over the top style.  The Darkness then delivered a raucous set that roared at the sky – opener “Barbarian” accompanied by a load of Vikings on stage was great.  The hit singles “Growing on Me” and closer “I Believe in a Ting Called Love” were real crowd pleasers.  “Black Shuck” was my personal favourite, in a set that became the first true event of the day.  Not a secret, but surprisingly good. 2015-06-14 16.51.05

The next event was witnessing one of my all time heroes, the one and only Mr Billy Idol, live in concert for the first time.  I’ve been a fan of Billy for years.  In all honesty, many of his songs are too pop for this audience; so hits like “Hot in the City” and “Catch My Fall” (both personal faves) are sadly omitted.  However, with old pal Steve Stevens providing the guitar onslaught there’s plenty of rock to be had.  “Dancing with Myself”, “White Wedding” and “Rebel Yell” all provide quality entertainment and I have to admit that I was thrilled to see this old warrior in action.  A great warm up for the rest of the evening.

Now with four stages and dozens of acts spread across the Download field, the only down side is making tough choices on who to watch if bands clash.  Especially as “a quick trip across the field” becomes a gruelling endurance test when it’s uphill in a muddy hell.  The first major casualty of the day was Eagles of Death Metal, whom I love dearly and have never seen live.

2015-06-14 17.19.04But I made a choice to see L7 instead of Slash, and boy am I glad I did.  Recently reformed, the four grungettes of L7 played a fantastic set.  The sound was great on the second stage, perhaps because I was closer?  Either way, “Andres”, “Fuel My Fire” and “Shitlist” were truly great.  Though “Everglade” was absolutely bonkers.  The riff that kills!  L7 are heavy!  I smiled a lot.  “Pretend We’re Dead” wasn’t bad either.  Fuck it, band of the day!

I caught the last four and a half songs by Slash.  He was pretty cool, but no L7.  “Anastasia” is a great song, and I have to say that Myles Kennedy has an awesome voice.  “Sweet Child O’ Mine” and “Paradise City” were both better with Kennedy and without Axl’s screeching.  Can I count this as having seen Guns’n’Roses live, as there’s only Axl left in that band?  Why the hell not!

Next up on the main stage was Motley Crue.  I wasn’t a fan of the Crue back in their heyday, other than one or two songs.  I’ve grown to appreciate them over the last fifteen years or so, much like I’ve grown to love Priest and Maiden.  Now on their final tour, the show promised to be big.  Motley Crue didn’t disappoint, delivering a punch in the face set that was one of the best of the day.  They played their cards right, delivering all the hits: “Wildside”, “Primal Scream”, “Dr. Feelgood” and “Shout at the Devil” were superb.  The only less than impressive moment was an unnecessary, but well intentioned, cover of “Anarchy in the UK”. 2015-06-14 20.21.35

There was spectacle in abundance – sexy backing singers in tiny shorts; flames that were hot enough to give me a Hollywood sun tan from a hundred feet away; dear old Vince Neil looking less than svelte.  “Girls Girls Girls” and “Kick Start My Heart” both built the set to a red hot climax.  “Home Sweet Home” was a fitting encore, ending a triumphant appearance.

And so last up we have head-liners Kiss. A band I’ve loved ever since I fist saw adverts for their t-shirts in old 1970’s Marvel comics – though I had no idea if they were rock stars, superheroes, or what.  I’d never seen Kiss before so this was something to look forward to.  Full make up, all the pyro – I was hungry for the experience.

Kiss explode into “Detroit Rock City” and “Deuce” – songs that lesser bands would have saved for the encore.  The show is a visual feast; lights, huge screens, explosions all attack the senses and create Las Vegas in the English Midlands.  I get to hear my two absolute total favourite Kiss songs ever – “I Love It Loud” and “Calling Dr. Love”.  That was me happy right there. 2015-06-14 21.14.07

The Kiss set did wander a little bit though.  Obviously gearing their songs to a heavier crowd, we get three songs in a row from “Creatures of the Night” – their heaviest album.  The songs “Creatures of the Night” and “War Machine” are great, but not top of the Kiss list.  Plus there’s newer numbers “Psycho Circus” and “Hell or Hallelujah” which are just OK.

A little too much solo spot indulgence was my cue to take a comfort break.  On the way back, I dived in to catch Suicidal Tendencies on the smallest stage.  I only saw five songs, but ST were incredible.  “I Shot the Devil” and “War Inside My Head” tore the place apart.  I couldn’t make out all of Mike Muir’s between song banter, but he was fired up and intense as hell.  Hearing “Possessed to Skate” was an unforgettable moment.  Muir dedicated to everyone who skates – thanks Mike – and it took me back to loving ST back in my early skate days.  Absolutely mental punk thrash, I need to see Suicidal Tendencies again.

Returning to the main stage area, I caught the last few Kiss songs and was very impressed with what I’d seen.  Minor gripes aside, it was a privilege to see the band and experience a Kiss show first hand.

So there you have it.  Download 2015 was hampered by bad weather, and a poor layout that abandoned stupid amusement rides in the middle where the bar (and another toilet) should have been.  Yet despite being forced mercilessly to choose between too many bands, I got to see some great rock’n’roll and enjoyed a cool, fun atmosphere.  Oh yeah, and the festival staff were pleasant and friendly.  On the whole a good job.