THE LAST WEEKEND AT THE RUSKIN ARMS PART ONE
It's a semi-intentional irony that the very first article for this site is a review of the very last gig at one of the most famous metal venues in the world and what a great and memorable weekend it turned out to be.
You can feel the spirit of metal in East Ham. It lives on in the streets and amongst the rows of middle-eastern styled takeaways, bazaars and markets and walking around the area it would be easy to imagine that you have wandered straight into the setting of a very early Iron Maiden single sleeve. Charlotte is still alive as a Prowler pervades the night atmosphere.
This is where it all started and this weekend was where it would all end. The venue where the greatest metal band of all time cut their teeth was closing, soon to become a faceless high rise tower block. They can never bury the history though and the heritage of the Ruskin will always live on in what will become bleak concrete suburbia in just a few short months.
People had come from far and wide to witness the last stand of the grand old boozer. From Scandinavia, America, Germany and all over the UK. A large percentage had been part of the two Bruce Air expeditions that took place in the Summer and the remainder were members of the Maiden hardcore.
Friday's bill was widely considered to be stronger than Saturday's. Tequila Rocking Bird and Jaguar opened proceedings but unfortunately, probably in order to squeeze all the acts in before the residential area deadline, the doors opened at 5:30pm and the two show starters played to a sparse audience.
So for all who missed the two opening acts - including myself, hence the lack of words - you can take a listen online right here.
Tokyo Blade were next up and if here is a band who appear to be totally and completely revitalised, perhaps even reborn. This is down to Chris Gillen, the new singer who also happens to be American, an unusual move for one of the original NWOBHM set but one that works extremely well.
Chris delivers the songs with force and passion and carries the tunes extremely well. Whoever is responsible for his recruitment should stand back and take a round of applause...
...just like the band did after a storming set that included long lost gems such as Lightning Strikes, Midnight Rendezvous and If Heaven Is Hell. It's good to see the Blade back in action and long may it continue. With Chris Gillen at the helm, that could well be the case.
Next up was Elixir who rolled back the years and delivered a real powerhouse of a set. As with the Blade, it was the frontman who was the main focus of the band for me and stalwart Paul Taylor delivered an almost flawless performance. This is a band who deserve a much higher profile than they currently enjoy, although the growing reputation of the British Steel festival will do Elixir little harm.
Taylor has been at the helm of Elixir since 1984, a year after the band formed and is the one and only vocalist to appear on any of the band's numerous recorded works.
Elixir were introduced by another NWOBHM stalwart, none other than Mr Steven Krusher Joule. A lot of the younger members of the audience would not have been aware of the important part that Krusher played in bringing metal to the masses in the early days but the old timers were most appreciative of seeing the iconic beardy one out on the tiles after what seems like too long in exile.
And consequently, Elixir played a fantastic set comprising the best of their five albums and numerous singles and took the crowd by storm. Long may they continue to play!
And so onto headliners Marshall Law, another blast from the past who should have become bigger than they actually did and this setlist backed up that statement totally. Marshall Law rocked the place out with their own brand of high octane, adrenaline fuelled rock 'n' roll.
The whole band had the crowd jumping with many great numbers and a very special mention must go to both ML guitarists Dave Martin and Dave Rothan who put in the performance of the night for me.
Did I just say performance of the night? Nay - surely that must have gone to the long haired bloke from Middlesbrough who did a fine (ahem...) version of 'Bat Out Of Hell' as the second number of the Metal Karoake. I honestly thought that I was performing to a mere thirty odd people until I walked into the bar and realised that it had all been transmitted via the big screen to the 300-odd gathered in the room...
Metal Karaoke - what a terrific invention. Whoever came up with this idea should be given one of those blue name plaque commemoration thingies they have in London.
The Metal Karaoke went on until the wee small hours and then it was time to go and sleep it all off before reconvening on the Saturday for more of the same...
Part Two of Last Weekend At The Ruskin Coming Soon...