SLADE UK, Metro Bar, Bolton 7.10.2016

Being a Slade fan since 1972, I am generally skeptical about the very concept of tribute bands. There are a couple of tribute bands that I admit go out there and do a truly fantastic job - I have seen T.Rextasy quite a number of times and absolutely love them. Seeing Slade about 50 times convinced me that a tribute to them which came up to that standard just couldn't be done. Watching Bootleg Slayed a couple of times totally convinced me of that.

I played a decent enough show with Flamin' Slade at The Robin2 in Bilston in 2007 for the annual Sladefest and we managed to have a great night, thanks to the goodwill of the crowd, but it was by no means SLADE. I have really avoided Slade tribute bands ever since.

So... I'm sat at home and my phone bleeps and Bien Kee says he is friends with the bassist from Slade UK and he can get me into their gig. After considering the TV options, I get in the car and head into town.

After meeting their bassist, Rob, briefly we wait for the band to come on.

Suddenly, the PA bursts into life and we are treated to the voice of Noddy Holder screaming out the spoken intro to 'Slam the hammer down'. The band drop in at the right spot and Jesus, they are appropriately LOUD. Maybe this is something the tribute acts I have seen before have got wrong. Nod always said the band's ethic was 'Make them have it'. There are quite a number of riffs in the song and the band manage to get nearly all of them in there. A for effort. Perhaps most striking though, is their singer's voice. He goes from 0 to 90 in a few beats and the opener is an absolute bugger to sing, but the tartan-clad guy makes it look easy. He's a good six inches taller than Noddy Holder and the Dave Hill of the band (Andy Gill) is a lot taller than Dave Hill. Jim Lea never toted a 5-string Yamaha bass on a stage in his life. There is an extra guitarist (Taff) to stage right, playing the parts that the singer's unplugged SG guitar is not putting out (as he explains after the next song, 'We'll bring the house down'). But do you go for 100% accuracy or suspend belief?

While I am pondering this, the drummer starts whacking the Hell out of the second song. The band are tight and it sounds pretty much as it should. 'Gudbuy T'Jane' is next, and I listen carefully for the drop down section that Slade inserted into it for their live shows. It's there and played pretty well. The band then canter through 'Lock up your daughters' and turn out quite a faithful version.

'My friend Stan' is a bit of a surprise for me and Rob switches to piano and the extra guitarist puts the bass on. I listen for the section where the bass kicks in on the second verse (the most attractive part of this frankly stupid song for me). It's there. They have worked on these songs. The piano stays switched on for 'How does it feel' which is only missing the familiar brass section, but then again, Slade didn't have that live either. I am a bit surprised by the setlist so far. 'Everyday' is played quite satisfactorily, as is 'In for a penny'.

'My oh my' and 'Run runaway' close the first half and are quite faithful versions.

The second half kicks in with another tape intro and the band clatter their way merrily through 'Rock and roll preacher', before Rob goes to the piano again for 'Thanks for the memory'. Jim Lea struggled his way through this on stage, as he had set himself a quite complicated clavinet part and Rob does the sensible thing of simplifying it a bit, as he did with a couple of other piano parts. I don't think the crowd noticed it.

'Coz I luv you' is played pretty much as the Beat Club TV version was and then it's back to the future with 'Radio Wall Of Sound'. They play a fairly tight version of that and then it's another trip to Beat Club for 'Look Wot you dun'.

'Dizzy mama' is played at a more steady, plodding pace than the Slade original ever was, but it does suit the song the way it is played tonight. Do the band have to keep the exact same tempo on everything, or can they play with it a little so they feel more comfortable with it themselves? A difficult one.

'Get down and get with it' floors me. How does this singer manage to keep his voice intact? There are copious swigs of what he says is Cavonia from a hip flask. Maybe it is Cavonia. The band play the song pretty much like Slade did. 'Skweeze me pleeze me' is another surprise for me. I hadn't looked at the set list, though I had the chance. The vocals are again pretty astonishing. I was told at half time that the singer also does some AC/Dc cover work. I am not entirely surprised by that.

'Take me bak 'ome' folows and Rob slightly does his own thing on the section of that where it used to drop-down to drums, bass and Nod's voice. I think with a tribute, the spirit of the original is very important, but there has to be a bit of leeway where not every note is what you would expect.

'Mama weer all crazee now' was all present and correct and I found myself lobbing the solitary bog roll at the stage, liberated from the gents at the start of the song. Most of the punters had no idea what to do with it when it was thrown back into the crowd, but then, Slade shows stopped in the UK in 1983. 'Cum on feel the noize' closed the show.

The encores were 'Born to be wild' and a rapturously recieved 'Merry Xmas everybody' and snow machines on top of the PA soaked a lot of the dancing punters.

I went along expecting not to enjoy the show and it was like when I see any band in a pub - I am quite critical of how they play the songs that I like. Slade songs are a bit sacred to me (not as much as they used to be, though) and I really was worried how they would play them. I'd say that the time and effort that the band have put in is paying off. They maybe need to dump the smaller pub gigs and get themselves on the theatre circuit. Easier said than done, though.
I would go to see them again.