Tag Archives: Robin

Review: For One Night Only – Jim Lea at the Robin 2, Bilston 5/11/17

Back in 2002 Slade’s Jim Lea performed a unique one-off solo gig at Bilston’s Robin 2 venue, the only solo gig of his entire career. Now, some fifteen years later, Jim was to take to the stage at the Robin once again for a Q and A session for fans that would immediately follow an official first screening of the new live DVD from that gig.

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Today’s event was not going to be a live performance we were all warned when we booked: “Unfortunately due to Jim’s illness he will be unable to perform musically at this event.” That was fine I thought to myself. It will still be something special, a unique Slade event, a chance to hear directly from Jim and, for me, an opportunity to see him up on a stage for the first time since I saw Slade on the My Oh My tour when I was still at sixth form.

The film itself is a nice memento. It’s fan-shot footage from the audience rather than a professional film but the quality is considerably better than the average blurry, wonky you-tube concert video and, coupled with the official CD soundtrack of the concert and some brand new interview segments with Jim as he reflects back on that night, it’s definitely a must-have for fans.

The DVD screening is then followed by a short warm-up from poet, Paul Cookson. Dubbed Slade’s official Poet Laureate by Noddy Holder, Cookson delivers two wonderfully affectionate Slade-themed poems, including one written especially for today. And then it’s time for the main event. Jim Lea takes the stage to warm applause as he begins his Q&A session with local BBC radio presenter, Paul Franks.

While there are many oft-repeated Slade anecdotes that fans, and many chat-show viewers, will have heard many, many times before from his less publicity-shy erstwhile band-mates, Jim delves deep with his recollections today. Fascinating insights emerge: such as his wife Louise being an uncredited co-writer of Slade’s 1974 hit Everyday; about the piano refrain in How Does It Feel being the very first thing he ever composed; about how the violin solo in the band’s first number one Coz I Luv You originally emerged out of his regular dressing room jamming sessions with Noddy Holder when they were channelling the spirit of Django Reinhardt. And for this famously private musician who has studiously eschewed the rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle he also told us a lot about himself today. “Why now?” he was asked. “Well I realised I was no longer shy any more!” he confided. Sharing with the audience that he now understands he is probably autistic (although he’s never had any formal diagnosis) he suggests that this has likely been a key factor in both his levels of creativity and his introspection.

Always the most thoughtful, the most creative and the most fascinating member of Slade, notwithstanding that all four members played an irreplaceable part, Jim Lea was the genuine musical genius of the band. In the DVD he recollects the time he was asked by late manager, Chas Chandler, why he became a bass player when, like Hendrix, he was such an instinctive natural on lead guitar. “I didn’t want to get noticed,” Jim replied.

And so, as the Q&A draws to a close, I start thinking what a special day today has been: getting to pose with Jim’s bass in the morning after much, much queuing, seeing the inaugural screening of Jim’s DVD on the very stage where it was originally filmed, hearing Jim share his fascinating insights into the band and, of course, getting to meet lots of fellow Slade fans.

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And then it all started to get ever so slightly odd on stage. Jim went off stage to get something. Something about some notes for the final question host, Paul Franks, said. But then microphone stands start appearing. Surely he can’t be? He can’t be playing for us can he? Oh my God, there he is back on stage with his guitar. Is he really going to do this?

He’d not got a full band he confessed but he had recorded some backing tapes to play along to and he wanted to do something special to finish the session, he said. And he did. Launching into a blistering version of Cum On Feel The Noize, he rocked out on lead guitar and sang for all he was worth in his first public performance since that last Robin gig fifteen years ago. Gudbuy T Jane and We’ll Bring The House Down quickly followed and, with an ecstatic demand for an encore, he finishes by giving the emotional crowd of Slade fans Mamma Weer All Crazee Now.

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We had been warned not to expect a live performance. But he certainly gave us one, and not some gentle, reflective, soul-searching, acoustic reinterpretation but a full-on, amped-up, raucous rock performance that so perfectly captured the spirit of Slade.

The man who didn’t want to get noticed certainly got noticed today.

Thank you Jim for what you did for us today. We wish you the best of health in your ongoing treatment and we thank you for all the music you gave us in the greatest rock ‘n’ roll band the world has ever known.

http://www.jimleamusic.com/

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Related posts:
Slade at Donington 1981
Slade, strikes and the three-day week: the greatest Christmas record ever made
Slade UK and Pouk Hill Prophetz at Wolverhampton
Slade at White Rock Theatre, Hastings
Slade at Giants of Rock, Minehead

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Sweet at The Robin 2, Bilston 19/12/16

While this time of year often provides opportunities to see The Sweet at various provincial theatres around the country it is always nice to see the band at a proper dedicated rock venue. And the Robin in Bilston, near Wolverhampton, is packed out with Sweet fans from across the UK and further afield.

Tonight the band are going to “heavy it up” declares Andy Scott, following a deluge of requests from fans in the run-up to the gig. What this means, therefore, is that as well as those unforgettable Sweet hits, the audience also get a taste of the band’s brilliant 1974 rock album Sweet Fanny Adams, with ‘Set Me Free’ and ‘Into The Night’ from that album making a welcome appearance on the setlist, alongside ‘AC-DC’. The band produced some excellent hard rock back in the day and it’s nice to see that side of the band being properly celebrated, in addition to the more obvious but still equally wonderful glam rock side. It certainly hits the spot as far as the audience are concerned.

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Of course, before The Sweet even began churning out those glam anthems, they had a run of ridiculously cheesy but inanely catchy bubblegum, hits penned for them by songwriting due Nicky Chinn and Mike Chapman. For many years, the policy of Messrs Scott and co was to forget these even existed but in recent years they’ve made their way back into the setlist. But now the ephemera of the bubblegum era is completely stripped back and they are re-invented as chilled-out, folky, acoustic sing-alongs. Surprisingly, it works – and the audience lap these up, too.

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Of course, no Sweet gig would be complete without those glam mega-hits: whether it’s the Chinn-Chapman covers like ‘Hellraiser’, ‘The Six Teens’ and ‘Wig-Wam Bam’ or the self-penned hits like ‘Action’ and ‘Fox on the Run’. Add in some majestic versions of ‘Lost Angels’ and ‘Love is Like Oxygen’ and the inevitable ‘Blockbuster!’ and ‘Ballroom Blitz’ for an encore and it’s a perfect Sweet mix.

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There are numerous 70s pop-rock bands ploughing the 70s circuit, many of them continuing to offer a night of nostalgia and guaranteed fun; even if, like Sweet, you will only find one or two original members these days. But few, if any, offer the degree of perfection, professionalism and top class musicianship as Andy Scott and his colleagues, Pete Lincoln, Tony O’Hora and Bruce Bisland do.

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Sadly, I never got to see the classic irreplaceable Sweet line-up of the 70s. But I’ve seen numerous line-ups over the past quarter of a century and this is undoubtedly the strongest since then.

Glam rock and hard perfection. Keep at it boys

Setlist:
Action
New York Groove
Hellraiser
The Six Teens
Set Me Free
Into The Night
AC-DC
Lady Starlight
Lost Angels
Co-Co / Funny Funny / Poppa Joe
Teenage Rampage
Wig-Wam Bam / Little Willy
Love Is Like Oxygen
Fox On The Run
Blockbuster!
The Ballroom Blitz

http://www.thesweet.com/

Photo credits: Eileen Handley

Related posts:
Sweet at Bilston 2014
Sweet at Dartford 2015
Blockbuster – origins and influences

The Sweet at The Robin 2, Bilston 22/12/14

If British glam rock could be said to have a spiritual home then Bilston, on the outskirts of Wolverhampton, has a strong claim to the title. Not only was it the place where Slade came together in the early days, for a number of years now its main live music venue The Robin 2 has seen a convergence of Sweet fans from all over Europe (and even further afield) on the occasions the band performs there. Before tonight’s gig Sweet fans from around Britain mingle with those from Sweden, Switzerland, Belgium and Germany and even a lady who has flown in from Tokyo.

So what inspires such devotion? Great songs of course – and we get the classic early 70s hits and much more besides; superb musicianship, too – although Andy Scott is the sole member from the classic 70s line-up this is a band of top-class rock musicians who most certainly are not just going through the motions; and exquisite harmonies – the high-range vocal harmonies are an iconic part of The Sweet’s trademark sound and this is a band made up of very talented vocalists.

Sadly, I never got to see the Connolly-Priest-Scott-Tucker version of the band. Only months after discovering The Sweet’s classic albums via the second-hand shops of Preston in the early 80s, the band rewarded my efforts by calling it a day. Since then I’ve seen numerous permutations of the revived band over the years. Without doubt, however, the current line up (Andy Scott on vocals guitar, Pete Lincoln on lead vocals and bass, Tony O’Hora on keyboards, guitar and vocals and Bruce Bisland on drums) is easily the strongest since the 70s.

Tonight, as you would expect,  we get those big hits of the glam era from songwriters Nicky Chinn and Mike Chapman: Hellraiser, Blockbuster!, Wig-Wam-Bam, Teenage Rampage and The Ballroom Blitz. We also get a couple of songs from their 2012 covers album: New York Groove and You Spin Me Round which are both given the trademark Sweet sound or “sweetified” as Lincoln would have it. Plus we get great renditions of some of their later self-penned singles: Fox on the Run, Action and the magnificent late-70s pomp rock of Love Is Like Oxygen. However, as the 70s progressed Sweet strove to become recognised as more of an albums band than a singles band. It never quite worked out that way, though they did produce some bloody brilliant albums in the process. And tonight we get a real flavour of Sweet the albums band, too, something fans won’t always hear from the band on the European festival circuit or the British Xmas tour circuit. Into The Night, AC-DC and Set Me Free are performed from the Sweet Fanny Adams album, all blistering rockers, together with  a very lovely rendition of the acoustic number Lady Starlight (“my mum’s favourite Sweet song” Scott tells the crowd) from Desolation Boulevard, sung by Scott with just him and Lincoln on acoustic guitars.

The band won’t be around forever. Scott had a major cancer scare five years ago which he thankfully fully recovered from. Their European tour is billed as The Finale. “But a finale is followed by an encore…” Scott reassures the crowd. Tonight’s performance is proof that the band are still delivering musically and thirty-three years after buying my first second-hand Sweet album my own love affair with this band shows no signs of abating. A magnificent show from a magnificent, but criminally underrated, band.

Setlist:

New York Groove
Hell Raiser
Turn It Down
The Six Teens
Peppermint Twist
Into The Night
AC-DC
Wig-Wam-Bam/Little Willy
Teenage Rampage
You Spin Me Round
Love Is Like Oxygen
Set Me Free
Blockbuster!
Fox On The Run
Lady Starlight
Action
The Ballroom Blitz

http://www.thesweet.com/

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