Slade + Sweet @ Alexandra Theatre, Birmingham – 14 November 2012


Review by Dean Pedley and photos by Rich Ward

With three original members across the two bands there will always be naysayers who refuse to accept that an evening of Slade and Sweet music in 2012 can be anything other than a tribute show.  Here at Midlands Rocks we are not averse to the idea of classic acts with revamped line-ups and the original member quota for both of these 70’s glam rock legends compares favourably with the current touring incarnations of Blackfoot, Deep Purple, Thin Lizzy, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Molly Hatchet and Guns N Roses amongst others.

The Alex is a real throwback to the era of the Victorian music hall; snug seating, ice-creams at the interval and well dressed ushers being very much part of the scenery. Arguably not the most suitable environment for a gig but the audience carry on regardless and get down and get down with it from the time Sweet hit the stage at 7.30 until Slade finish some two and half hours later.

Are You Ready? Joining Andy Scott in his 2012 version of Sweet are Pete Lincoln (lead vocals & bass guitar), Tony O’Hora (guitar, keyboards & vocals) and Bruce Bisland (drums & vocals). The band always had a reputation for being a much heavier live act than their bubblegum image suggested and this is still very much the case – the harmonies and axe work are delivered with a steely grit and enthusiasm. In amongst the hits are a couple of cover versions from their recently released album New York Connection, ‘New York Groove’, the Russ Ballard song that was made famous by KISS guitarist Ace Frehley, is given a rousing rendition and a pumped up take on Dead or Alive’s 80’s smash hit ‘You Spin Me Right Round (Like A Record)’ is remarkably effective. But what the audience goes wild for, naturally, is the bands treasure trove of glamtastic gems – ‘Hellraiser’, ‘Fox On The Run’, ‘The Six Teens’, ‘Teenage Rampage’ and ‘Blockbuster’. An extended ‘Love Is Like Oxygen’, probably their finest self-penned song, incorporates ‘Fanfare for the Common Man’ and makes you appreciate Sweet are no mere cabaret act – this is a line up that does justice to the legacy of the original band. They end with the final knock-out blow of ‘Action’ and ‘Ballroom Blitz’, having delivered just over an hour of sheer entertainment and fun – the smiles on the bands faces said it all.

Having been popular on the continent for almost two decades, the Dave Hill and Don Powell led Slade line-up are now being more warmly accepted at home – the current tour being in more sizeable venues than they have previously enjoyed. With no prospect of Noddy Holder or Jim Lea returning to the fold this will be the closest many of us will get to witnessing Slade in all of their glory. Frontman Mal McNulty has been with the band since 2005 and the line-up is completed by John Berry on bass and violin who has been there for a decade. Also allotted just over an hour Powell kick-starts the set with the tub-thumping intro to ‘We’ll Bring The House Down’ and they are off and running. Unlike Sweet, Slade adopt a more authentic approach with McNulty’s vocals offering a fair imitation of Noddy’s unmistakable raucous howl. Hill takes centre stage in his platform boots and still plays the role of SuperYob to perfection, constantly urging the crowd to participate and he remains an engaging showman. Slade enjoyed their Second Coming in the 80’s, being embraced by a metal audience, and away from the gimmicks Hill proved himself a damn fine guitarist – ably demonstrated as they tear through ‘Take Me Bak Ome’ ‘Coz I Luv You’, ‘Run Runaway’ and ‘Mama Weer All Crazee Now’. Where Slade in 2012 doesn’t work as effectively is during the more subtle moments in the back catalogue, ‘Everyday’, ‘Far Far Away’ and ‘My Oh My’ makes you yearn for the presence of Holder, surely one of rocks greatest ever frontmen. They recover for the rousing finale of ‘Cum On Feel The Noize’ and the song that we will hear ad infinitum over the next few weeks to remind everyone what time of year it is, just in case the presence of the German Market isn’t enough.

This was an evening that gave everyone the opportunity to sing-a-long with songs we have known for all of our lives and no one will have left disappointed. The music was far from soothing but everybody started grooving!

And you can see more shots from the show here: