50 years on – and still proud to be precisely raw

To be that raw and spontaneous takes great, seasoned musicians and years of practice. How about 50 years?
Slade at Nottingham’s Albert Hall last night was one 70s and 80s rock anthem after another delivered in a constant, well-rehearsed stream of awesome musical ability and professional showmanship.
I’ve been in the Albert Hall several times. Before Nottingham’s Royal Concert Hall was built it was the city’s prime venue. The acoustics are fantastic: I’ve heard massed choirs lift the curved roof in joyous harmony. Last night Slade, with the help of some smart sound engineers, made the hall rock. Theatre-style seating was abandoned as the crowd shot to their feet to the opening bars of Goodbye T’ Jane and stayed there – or in mid air leaps – until the dying embers of the obligatory Christmas song.
The set list was, on paper, a rewind to those heady days when the band had more number ones than anyone else, ever, anywhere. Take Me Bak Home; Look Wot You Dun; Coz I Luv You; Run Run, Runaway; My Friend Stan; Mama Weer All Crazee Now; Get Down and Get With It; My Oh My; Cum On Feel The Noize; and Merry Christmas Everybody – even writing those words I can feel my feet tapping, boots stamping, arms waving and hands clapping.
Among the rockers were those that had a slightly wistful, soulful, emotional feel; the anthems that set Slade apart 40-plus years ago and, as a result of practised, heartfelt and trained musicianship still tug at the memories of those of us heading towards, and some over, three score years and ten. Everyday; How Does It Feel; Far, Far Away – all with lyrics that catch in the throat – had the crowd swaying, even those unable to stand and exalt.
Don Powell is a gentle powerhouse who drives and cajoles, strokes and pounds his drum kit; Mal McNulty sings his heart out and partners the lead guitar; John Berry, a man much ‘admired’ by the ladies for some reason, has grown fully into his role as bassman, occasional violinist, and tremendous vocalist; and then there’s Dave Hill. Not the biggest man physically, but with a stature as a lead guitarist that makes him an on-stage giant and leader.
The support act was Mud, another name from the 70s. They were fine. They dressed the part in matching blue and glittery suits, smiled, played and entertained. Where they need help is probably in sound desk support. Syd Twynham on lead guitar and vocals could mostly be heard, and Phil Wilson’s drumming was powerful, but so much was lost – and the lighting was blinding for the audience. For me, you can only have so much of Tiger Feet and Lonely This Christmas.
Slade are on tour for much of December. Catch them, imbibe them, absorb the music and realise that their music is a catalogue of some of the best loved and musically challenging anthems of a great era.

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