Wednesday, August 24, 2005
Open air concert with Slade, the 20th of August 2005
This was a Saturday that started out lousy but ended in style. To go to Danish town Ølstykke, where Slade was to play, I had to take two trains and then walk the rest of the way. Piece of cake? No!
First of all the train from Odense to Copenhagen was almost half an hour late, so I missed the second train from Copenhagen to Ølstykke and had to wait for a new one. And when I finally arrived in Ølstykke I couldn't find the bloody stadium where Slade were to play at an open air concert weirdly enough called "New Glam Rock". The "new" was hard to spot as the other bands featured were Sweet, Rubettes, Boney M. and Smokie.
Anyway, I had a map of the town, but when I'd walked through empty streets and desolate woods for 40 minutes I had to give up. I'm usually good at maps, but this time I stranded at a main road that I couldn't cross, as it was a "non-pedestrian" zone. Suddenly a car stopped. In it were two women and two men asking me directions to the stadium. They were just as lost as I was. I couldn't help them, but instead they helped me. They offered me a ride and much to our surprise we found the stadium within five minutes! This way I arrived at 4.30 p.m., half an hour before Slade, who'd played a concert in Imatra, Finland the previous evening.
Well, first problem, getting to the stadium, was solved. Next problem: how to get my backstage pass. It was easy enough to get backstage, but you had to have a pass to go between the backstage area and the concert area, and to locate the woman with those passes! Oh, my god! I had to go through the hands of no less than three security guys before we finally found her.
When I was safe, I went to the concert area and saw a bit of the Sweet concert. I've never been a Sweet-fan myself, but I had promised my friend Mette, who looked after my daughter that weekend, to check them out. Mette was a huge Sweet-fan in the 1970es so I did that and made a few shots of Andy Scott for her as well.
Then Hanne and Don arrived, greeting me with hugs and kisses, and it was great seeing some familiar faces after the lousy start of the day. Those hugs were really needed! I also said hello to John who was with them as were some friends and Pia and Marianne, whom I had met the weekend before in Holstebro.
The clubhouse at the stadium had been turned into V.I.P.-area, but the weather was so hot and sunny that we sat at a table outdoors talking. Upstairs on the first floor of the clubhouse was a buffet so people went in and out, up and down, all the time.
For the night the band was to stay at a relatively new hotel in Copenhagen, but Don asked me if the old hotel where Slade used to stay in the 1970es was still there. And yes, the Plaza close to the Tivoli Gardens is still there although it is now called Sofitel Plaza Copenhagen. He also got the full account of my troubles in getting to the stadium, poor guy.
A little later Dave and Mal arrived in a manner befitting their ranks: the black limousine with the Slade-sign in the windscreen. There was a lot of goofing around among the members of the different bands before Don changed into stage clothes and went on stage to sound check his drums. It was a bit weird as he had to do it in front of the audience. He just sat there in full stage gear with the audience, 5,000 people strong, watching him. Afterwards he left stage just to be introduced a minute later by the compere, Danish media persona Jørgen de Mylius. He introduced the band with much enthusiasm, but some of the magic had gone as the audience had already been watching Don for the past half hour or so. As usual he went on stage on his own a bit before the others and the audience greeted him with a good-humoured "him again"-applause. And as usual he stood for a minute on the raised platform behind his drums, hands in the air, before climbing down to his kit.
The rest of the guys had changed into stage clothes during Don's sound check and at a quarter to eight they were on. They performed on a big stage high up from the audience, guarded by fences and security people so it was almost impossible to take good photos unless you stood right in front in the audience. At first I stood backstage in the side wings but the impact from the speakers made my intestines hurt. The volume had really been cranked up since the Sweet concert. I had to go into the audience in order to try to get some pics, but those 5,000 made it impossible for me to get close to the stage. Heck, I could hardly get close enough to even see the guys, so my few photos turned out crap. It sure wasn't my day.
Well, never mind. The set list was the same as the week before except for the encores where Slade this time did Born To Be Wild instead of My Oh My.
During Red Hot Dave played a bit of Smoke On The Water and during 'Coz I Luv You the guys tried to sing the violin part instead of just Dave doing it on his guitar. Mama Weer All Crazee Now had Dave and John sticking guitars and arms through each others legs and when opening the encores they started playing a snippet of Happy Trails.
Spirits seemed high on stage, John, Mal and Dave dancing and spinning around, and when the band received the applause after the concert Don mockingly tried to push Dave down into the pit in front of the stage. Dave stayed for the applause after the rest of the band had left so Don came back to drag him away.
It was a good concert although there was a lot of unpleasant feedback from especially John's monitor and Mal happened to introduce Everyday like: "One of the biggest hits for Slade. This is called Far Far Away." Then he realised his mistake and continued, "No! We just did that, ha-ha. It's called Everyday."
Mal also introduced first John, then Don and finally Dave during Get Down And Get With It, enabling them to do short solos, Dave on his Superyob guitar. Like the week before in Holstebro John and especially Dave did a lot of interacting with the audience and the audience response was great.
If I have to say something negative, and okay, I don't have to, but anyway: it really annoys me that when doing Look Wot You Dun, Mal sings: "but we can't agree" instead of "but we don't agree". It somehow changes the whole meaning. It also annoys me that the guys are laughing loudly: "Ha-ha-ha," in the chorus of the song instead of the original jerky panting. Small objections, I know, but at least I've proved my qualifications as a reviewer now, as reviewers always have to find something to criticise. Anyway, with all that I'd gone through regarding trains, maps, passes and photos I guess I'm allowed to be just a little bit cranky.
From here on it was smooth sailing, though, no more mishaps, just a wonderful evening. When Slade came off stage a little past nine, the weather was still fine so the whole entourage once again occupied the outdoors table. Here we sat for a couple of hours, chatting and being eaten alive by mosquitoes. Because of the warm weather everybody sported shorts, T-shirts and some of the women short dresses, and everybody complained about AND scratched mosquito-bites. I still have quite a selection on my arms and feet. But it was okay, to me mosquito-bites equal summer, and the night was breathtaking. It was just so beautiful with an astonishing 22º C (72º F) and an almost orange full moon lighting up the black velvet dusk.
Slade was the only band backstage by then as all others had left except for Smokie, who were on stage. I sat next to Don and he poured me a cup of tea. Apparently we're the only heavy tea-drinkers of the lot. While we had that cup or maybe five, we chatted and Don also told me some great stories from his years with the original Slade. A very funny story about playing at Eastnor Castle at a film-wrap party in 1969 and the band undeservedly getting the blame for some missing silverware. Stories about the filming of Run Runaway also at Eastnor Castle 15 years later, about playing at huge stadiums situated in the middle of nowhere in Australia, about falling asleep in trains, about the Flame film-crew etc. Amazing.
While we were chatting, the rest of the entourage discussed what kind of Christmas hat Dave ought to wear for the Christmas-tour. Someone quipped, "What kind of hat would YOU like to wear, Don?" and with his usual dry wits Don returned, "A balaclava," before getting back to our chat.
Hanne had already volunteered to give me a ride back to Copenhagen, so around 11.15 p.m. I went with her and Don. Dave and John drove in front of us in the black limo and the rest of the entourage was to follow later in the bus.
When we reached the hotel in Copenhagen, the chauffeur of the limo offered to drive me to the train station, as I had to get back to Odense the same night. It was an offer that I couldn't refuse so I had a parting hug and kiss from Don and Hanne - bless you - before I went off in the limo. Can't think of a better or more stylish way to end this somewhat strenuous Saturday. I tell you, people outside the train station gaped at that big black limousine with the Slade-sign in the windscreen and then it was just little me who came out with my bare feet, backpack and red fleece jacket. No glam about that!
I caught a train at 00.30 a.m. Sunday. By accident I ended up in the same train as Per and his wife Kirsten, Per being the Slade-fan, whom I had met in Holstebro the week before. We talked Slade for almost an hour and I was so thankful for his company as I had been afraid of falling asleep in the train. Furthermore he let me use some of his photos from the concert. Can't thank you enough!
All in all the open air concert turned out to be another great Slade-experience. Despite all my mishaps and although I still find the Holstebro-concert the week before the best I've seen the "new" Slade do, the experience was wonderful. Thanks to Slade's music and the amazing people I met: the ones who picked me up at the main road, the limo-driver, Per, and last but not least Don and the rest of the guys and gals backstage. Thanks a lot, all.
Thursday, August 18, 2005
Slade in Holstebro, Denmark, August 13th, 2005
Perfect! What can I say? This event was just perfect. Took the train to Holstebro (2½ hours train ride from my home) and went straight to my hotel. It was beautiful, situated in the same building as the world-famed Danish Schaufuss-ballet. I got the most wonderful hotel room with a 10 square meters double bed!
After a quick change and a bite to eat I headed for the park where Slade was to play at a rock festival. This time there were no problems getting backstage. I had a personal security-girl escorting me through the park and helping me cross a small brook to get to the backstage area. I said hello to Kristian Andersen from the festival and got my bracelet to get "authorised".
I found Don and Hanne close to the stage. Hanne gave me a hug and it was so nice seeing her again. Also Don came over for a hug. "You got in all right this time?" he asked, and yes, there had been no problems. We talked for a bit before he went on to get his drums ready.
Then there was a lot of hanging around as I had arrived at 4.30 p.m. and the rest of the band didn't show up until 5.45 p.m. I talked to Don, Hanne and some of Slade's hardcore fans and I asked Don to do some before & after shots: before he changed into stage clothes and after. It was hilarious. Then we had some of Hanne's homebrewed camomile tea, as the venue didn't sport any hot water.
The rest of the band finally arrived, and around 6.45 p.m. they went on stage. They delivered an awesome show and the audience was great. The set list this time was:
Cum On Feel The Noize
Take Me Bak 'Ome
Lock Up Your Daughters
Far Far Away
Look Wot You Dun
'Coz I Luv You
Mama Weer All Crazee Now
And for the encores:
My Oh My
Merry Xmas Everybody
Dave had a little trouble with his guitar, so he had to prematurely switch to the Superyob for a while, but besides that it all ran sooo smooth, no mishaps, nothing. Dave gave a freaky solo during Take Me Bak 'Ome with John looking at him as if he was crazy. John has really loosened up since I saw him the first time in February. Mal introduced Bangin' Man as; "This is a song all about Don," and for MXE he did the usual routine, "What will your Daddy do when he sees your Mama kissing Dave Hill." This time Dave wore a bright red Christmas hat.
I've heard Mal sing with Slade twice now, whereas I only got to hear Steve Whalley once, so my standard of reference is a bit feeble. To me Mal seems to be a gain for the band, though. Because of his voice the songs are now back to their original keys and this makes the sound so much closer to what it was in the old days with Nod and Jim. He needs to develop his "Slade stage-personality" a bit, but I'm sure that'll come when he has been with the band a little longer, and in the meantime Dave and John are out there, entertaining people. Even Don did a couple of stunts behind the drums; a few victory gestures and fits of laughter. This time he threw his used sticks behind the drums, so Dave avoided getting a headache!
Anyway, this was a great concert, the best I've seen them do so far and the crowds really appreciated it, several wearing Christmas hats themselves, dancing and singing along to all the songs. I was told that there were around 3,000 people at the festival.
After the concert Dave quickly disappeared but the rest of the band stayed for dinner at the outdoors backstage area. Thank god it wasn't raining! There were several bands playing at the festival, but Slade's entourage took up most of the place. It was also the jolliest entourage of them all. People laughing and chatting all the time. It was really a chatty evening and I talked to Thomas, one of the journalists at the paper MidtVest that had featured one of my articles on Don. I also talked to Per, a big Slade-fan who'd read another article that I've done on Don for a Danish drummers' magazine. I talked to Pia, Slade AND Sweet fan, but most of the time I talked with Don, as he was the one whom I knew the best of the backstage crowd.
I had a few words with John and Mal as well. John said, "Didn't I meet you last week?" and when I said yes and that he was to meet me again next weekend he quipped, "Don't make it a habit!" Nice guy, though, and Mal is ever so sweet. Get the pun? I also had a long talk to Anthony of the band Windows 66. We'd just bought violins from Scotland, the both of us, and it was great talking to him. It is too rare that you get to talk to somebody who knows about violins.
It was just a perfect evening and when Suzi Quatro went on stage around 10.30 p.m. we all went to see the opening of her show. Don saw to it that I got a good spot stage side. I've never known a rock star to be as considerate, nice and gentle as Don. He has a way of letting everybody feel that they are special, mainly because he is just being himself. Down to earth, really human/humane in the best sense of the word. I mean; if you look lost or thirsty or cold or anything for just one second he's there; "Lise, are you all right?" Yes, Don, I'm all right. Thanks for asking.
It was a wonderful evening and next morning at the train station I met Pia and her friend Marianne so we talked a bit about the concert. We had to stop when the train arrived, as we weren't in the same compartment, but when I got to my compartment I landed in a seat next to a guy who was on his way home from a 3-days stag party. He was called Thomas (too) and we ended up talking for 2 hours! He told me that his girlfriend was a wonder kid on the violin, so I really bumped into violin-people that weekend.
Anyway, look forward to the Slade-concert in the town of Ølstykke next Saturday. You're doing a great job, guys!