Times Up

New Musical Express - February 1981
Hammersmith Odeon review - Barney Hoskyns

"Here's a number for all of you who don't get enough," announced Noddy Holder. "It's called Night Starvation."
Suddenly it clicked : none of these people get enough. One saw the whole thing - the identification with fearless macho guitar heroes, the aggressive phallic imagery, the Roger Dean trip - as one big fantasy myth of overpowering ubiquitous masculinity.
To be precise, a heavy scene.
Slade, however, who made this blinding revelation possible, don't quite fit in with it.
What freak of evolution has turned these jesters of glam-rock into monstres of HM? Perhaps it was to be expected that all the various practices overturned by the new wave should form some kind of alliance to run it out of town for good. Whatever it was, Slade are on to a good thing, and they know it. Heavy metal's major weapon is that it doesn't need to apologise : it never entertains the concept of selling out. The more successful a band is, the more 'power' it has.
At least heavy metal fans make a point of enjoying themselves. At most of the new youth gatherings I have attended, the sense of ritual is so all-embracing that one is ashamed to be caught looking at the stage. I must even admit to a vague twinge of nostalgia on my own part - those great stacks of Marshall amps, the hush as the lights go down, the red lights winking out of the darkness...
And yet, as with all those supergroups way back when, the excitement came before the show and not during it.
The moment Slade broke into their first rock blues, the sheer sexlessness froze me into a stoical rigidity. I became a martyr to my ears. The only thing that made up for this complete musical desensitisation was their undeniable visual appeal : the delightful Dave Hill in a Stetson, Noddy Holder's mutton chops, even Jimmy Lea's green violin. But, despite this, despite even Holder's unique voice, numbers like 'The Wheels Ain't Coming Down' or 'We'll Bring The House Down' are just vulgarised Southern rock without the raunchiness.
Of the old hits, 'Take Me Bak 'ome' and 'Cum On Feel The Noize' (one of several encores) were the most enjoyable. The uniform blandness of everything else was equalled only by the delight and apparent devotion of their new audience.

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