Slade, Islington 2021

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It may not be the original band, but everyone had fun

London: Islington Assembly Hall – 10th December 2021

Openers Sons Of The Seventies are a young cover band and they did a reasonable job of warming up the audience for the main act with seventies Rock and Metal tunes from Rainbow, Deep Purple, T-Rex, Aerosmith and The Sweet among others. Only slight reservation was me wondering why a relatively young man needs an iPad to read the lyrics as he performed, which inevitably slightly restricted his freedom to front the band.

Slade is now fronted by the one and only Dave Hill who was ably supported by his band, John Berry who plays bass/electric violin and Russell Keefe on keyboards who both share lead vocals, and drums now played by Alex Bines. Hill still has incredible tone and his "wobble" technique is alive and well. He looked extremely happy to be back playing live after the Pandemic. I particularly enjoyed his tremendous solo in 'My Oh My'. Unsurprisingly gone are the platform boots, but there was plenty of glitter still on stage, albeit on more practical garments and in the beautiful headband on Hill's gaucho style black hat.

Of course no one can replace Noddy on vocals, as no one could replace Hill on guitar, but the songs are SOOO good and when an extremely raucous voice is required then Keefe is largely able to provide it in spades, such as on my favourites 'Coz I Luv You' and 'Cum On Feel The Noize'. He also resembles Ace Frehley a little in his gold tuxedo jacket and specs. Berry looks extremely elegant in his frock coat and dress trousers with a hint of sparkle and they are both good at joining Hill in engaging the crowd. I think the only song where I really thought they really could do with Noddy was 'Gudbuy T'Jane' which was not quite as I remembered, but overall they definitely ticked the box. Witness the Asian lady standing up first row in the balcony with her red hat with Christmas lights round the crown, oblivious to all else but the band on the stage at that moment.

They played all the hits from across their career and are extremely tight musically. I was especially struck by the big riffs and dexterity; Hill's guitar sounded extremely like bagpipes as intended on 'Run Runaway' pure, clear and piercing and immediately Scottish in style. At the end of 'Mama Weer All Crazee Now' Hill left the stage to come back with a gold version of his Super Yob sci-fi gun guitar with blue lights on the fretwork. By that time the crowd were causing the wooden floor boards to bounce with their jumping and everyone knew the climax was coming. Hill came on in a Santa hat and teased the crowd "We're not gonna do it". Everyone knew he meant THAT song. Even the security guard started dancing to 'Merry Christmas Everybody', the first time I have ever seen that! The floor boards were groaning as Hill mounted the podiums to say goodbye. It may not be the original band, but everyone had fun, especially Hill which was a joy to see.

Dawn Osborne

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