Diamond Head + Stampede + The Conflict @ The Slade Rooms, Wolverhampton – 5th July 2012

0

Review by Paul Quinton / Photo by Russ Powney

The opening part of the night’s entertainment were THE CONFLICT, who, I confess, were a completely new band to me before tonight. At first glance it seemed a bit of a mystery how they got on this bill, as they didn’t seem compatible with what was essentially a NWOBHM night. Nonetheless, although they didn’t attract many of the paying customers in early enough to see them, they were entertaining, although they did seem to waver between several styles throughout their set. They seem to have some decent songs, but until they settle into their own style and identity, they’re not really going to leave a lasting impression.

NWOBHM veterans STAMPEDE drew a lot more people in, and proceeded to play a pretty good set. They’ve done some decent shows since reforming a couple of years ago, and there was plenty more enjoyable music here. They weren’t doing anything ground-breaking, just good rock songs, well played. Toward the end they changed the pace a little by acknowledging guitarist Laurence Archer’s time in UFO with a souped-up version of Out In The Street. They owe as much to melodic rock as to the NWOBHM, but either way, a good band and a very entertaining set.

It will always be one of the great mysteries in the history of metal as to why DIAMOND HEAD never made it to the very top. Granted their influence is absolutely colossal, to paraphrase James Hetfield, ‘Without Diamond Head there would be no Metallica’, but when you see a show like tonight’s and hear the power and quality of their early material, you can only wonder how badly they must have offended the Gods of Rock. This was an absolutely terrific set and the band were on top form, despite drummer Karl Wilkins having missed a couple of shows through illness.

They started with Play It Loud, and immediately you noticed how good the sound was, loud and heavy but crystal clear, and if vocalist Nick Tart struggled to make himself heard at times over the sheer power of the rest of the band, it was quite understandable. After that, it was almost wall-to-wall classics, towering slices of epic, classic metal, sounding as good today as they ever have. A thunderous Dead Reckoning gave way to a brooding In The Heat of the Night, which was cleverly extended to include a brief extract of Shoot Out The Lights. By this time the band were absolutely flying, and the atmosphere in the Slade Rooms was becoming warmer and more intense. And if that wasn’t enough, the band then produced an absolutely epic Sucking My Love; then the end of the main set became a display of why this band have almost legendary status, with an absolutely immense version of The Prince, which was as good as anything I’ve heard from a stage this year – heavy, driving and even provoking the crowd into the formation of a circle pit. They then managed to even top that by finishing the main set with Am I Evil, as if to ram the point home.

The only real reservation I have about this set was how much the band still have to rely on their tremendous back catalogue. They did include a couple of more recent songs, but the power and quality of their early material is always going to overshadow what came after. The encore did show some ambition on the band’s part; although it was another of their older songs, Lightning To The Nations, which they worked around with an extended instrumental section in the middle, managing to make it even more epic, and giving Brian Tatler a chance to show that not only is he a great songwriter, but he’s no mean guitar player as well, bringing to an end an absolutely tremendous gig.

The question will always remain as to why this show had to take place in the intimate confines of the Slade Rooms, rather than the band being able to play the Civic or even the wide open spaces of the NIA. As it is, seeing a band this good at close quarters is a privilege and a pleasure. And anyway, you’ve got to love a band when the guitar player wears an Alex Harvey T-shirt.

(pic courtesy of Russ Powney from a previous gig)