Seemingly the Met Office warned that Christmas wouldn’t hit Liverpool until Slade arrived this past Friday and without hesitation Del Pike, doing his final review before he takes his well-earned break, dove to Hanger34 for some cheer.
Christmas wouldn’t be the same without Noddy Holder’s rally cry to the last-minute shoppers, and Slade wouldn’t be the same without Noddy. Or would they?
Slade’s Christmas show at Hangar 34 may just prove us wrong.
Ably supported by a crowd pleasing covers band who rattle through classic hits from T Rex, Fleetwood Mac, Steppenwolf and The Cars, the Slade show could never be accused of being pretentious. The pre-show playlist of Elton John, The Beatles, Blur and Led Zeppelin is aimed at the party crowd who rapidly fill the place wanting nothing more than a rocking good time.
Its old fashioned and fun from the second the roadie announces that Slade have arrived and on they come to the tune of the Thunderbirds theme. First up it’s Don Powell, drummer and essential part of the original line up, looking insanely goofy with his snow-white gum guard and explosion of grey frizzy hair, chomping endlessly as he drums, quite a spectacle.
Dave Hill, he of the most ridiculous haircut in rock history, now hidden by a cowboy hat takes centre stage. Miniscule in stature, standing on a box during dramatic solos, he still cuts a striking figure. Taking the place of Noddy and Jim are bassist and sometime Eastenders extra, John Berry and vocalist Mal McNulty (From Crosby!)
Noddy can’t be replaced, end of. But if Dave and Don want to continue the in the band they formed over 50 years ago, then McNulty is as fine a replacement as you’re going to get. His attempts to sound like Noddy may lack the roaring power, but he’s solid entertainment all the same. The fact that Slade have been on the road since Noddy’s departure in 1992 is quite an achievement.
Opening up with “Gudbye t’ Jane” is a sound move and by the first song it feels like mid-show madness. Arms are waving, hands are clapping, feet are stomping. We were promised a party and this is what we got. All the mis-spelt hits are rolled out, “Coz I luv you“, complete with scratchy violins from Berry, “Take me Bak ‘ome“, “Look wot you Dun“, Glam classics all.
There are a couple of moments of respite with more ballady favourites like “Me Oh My” and the Who-like “How does it Feel?” Which Dave reminds us is from their film, the incredibly bleak Slade in Flame, and Berry sings Happy Birthday to his Mum who is watching from the balcony.
All three standing band members take turns on lead vocals and it feels like more of a collaboration perhaps than in the Noddy days. The spirit of Noddy is still there, not least in the mirrored top hat wearing woman in the crowd. Dave’s famous Super Yob guitar makes a late appearance much to the thrill of all. He reminisces about previous adventures in Liverpool including breaking his ankle toppling off his platform boots back in the day.
There are two songs that no Slade show would be complete without and they save the best to last. “Cum on feel the Noize” is one of the best balls out sing-a-long tunes ever. When Oasis covered it, they simply reminded us how Slade where the Oasis of their day. The whole of Hangar 34 is smiling as the band squeeze every last drop of sheer joy from this brilliant song.
We spot the roadie bringing on Santa hats and we know the end is nigh. Here comes that bloody Christmas song again, but hey, it’s December 22 and Slade are in the house. It sounds mega and we realise why it’s such an annual earworm. Dave tells us he never gets tired of playing it as he knows how it makes everyone happy. Like I said, completely unpretentious.
Anyone not feeling the Christmas spirit yet have been well and truly cured, Slade still know how to throw the best Christmas party in town and we’re so glad we came. Time to hang up them stockings on yer wall!
Words by Del Pike.