Comeback tours. You know, really, they have got to be something extra special.
Any band that's reformed and attempts to regain a following, to re-stimulate interest, to get the proverbial ball rolling once more, is skating on thin ice. Going back on the road after a break-up, trying to encourage fickle fans to return to the fold, is a risky business, most definitely. And the Heavy Metal Kids, they realise this more than most. In another time, with a whole different set of circumstances, it could have worked, worked really well. The Kids' tour, it could have been an extravaganza, an epic, an event, an over the top rock n' roll circus, perfectly in keeping with the band's glitzy gross image. But, quite simply, it was not meant to be.
Reasons? Well basically, the tale goes like this. This HMK tour of sizeable halls was first muted around the middle of last year, when the band were riding high and the release of "Kitsch", the new album, was just over the horizon. Originally, it was set to take place around October/November - but when the Kids broke up, it didn't happen naturally enough.
Still. The Agency, Bron, kept its options open and when the band reformed Mickie Most of RAK, their record label, thought it would be a good idea to go ahead with the postponed date schedule, per se. And when Most thought he had managed to secure The Saints as a support band, with EMI paying all the bills for the privilege, this good idea looked to be even better.
But then The Saints dropped out (hence no financial support) and that's when the difficulties started, when the age old problem of "lack of communication" reared its ugly head. After the Saints pulled out, Neil Warnock of Bron thought that Mickie Most was arranging the tour and most thought Warnock was doing it and the Kids themselves didn't know either way.
Which brings us up to two and a half weeks before the tour was due to begin and, as you can imagine, zilch had been done. There was no road crew, no equipment, no hotels booked...no nothing.
When Harvey Goldsmith's people heard about all this, they assumed that the tour wasn't going to take place and consequently grass roots poster sticking promotion was not exactly actively encouraged. So, when the tour did eventually happen, they were caught on the hop.
See, in the end, Mickie Most found the money for the tour and gave it to the band's publicist (yep publicist) Richard Ogden, who'd offered to get it together at the eleventh hour. Turned out it was only enough for a shoestring operation on a handful of dates. That's why the Heavy Metal Kids' tour was trimmed down to two-thirds of its original length. And that's why the opening date at Manchester's Free Trade Hall left such a lot to be desired.
Like I said a week ago I love the Kids and in Manchester I was anxious to see them do well. But immediately after I set foot in the venue proper, I knew it was just not to be. You know the feeling, when you enter a sparsely populate hall with about as much atmosphere as a skin diver's discarded oxygen tank. Your heard drops and you realise that it would take the greatest band in the world to spur the audience into giving anything more than a perfunctory ripple of applause.
In the end, the Kids didn't let it or any of the traumas of the past few months get them down. The sound may have been ropey, struggling to find its way out of the hired PA; second guitarist Jay Williams may have been, in my opinion, a poor substitute for keyboards player John Sinclair, the band may have been rather under rehearsed...but Goddammit, they tried and eventually won through, despite ending their set on a rather suspect new song called "New Wave".
You can guess what its about by the title - and knowing the Kids, you can also summise that it's tongue in cheek. Or can you? At Manchester I wasn't too sure. With vaudeville vocalist Gary Holton spitting out the words, "What about the 'Oo? What about the Stones? You make me sick, you poxey New Wave" it seemed to me to be more of a vitriolic attack against the movement than a satirical send-up of it. Maybe the depressive quality of the gig had clouded my judgment; maybe if the Kids had had enough money (£400) to buy, as they had planned, a four foot long safety pin stage prop for Holton to plunge into a blood filled plastic bag concealed in his jacket at the end of the song, it would have worked.
Either way, as my Makowski said to me recently, at the band's Rainbow concert, the song worked a lot better with the guitar duo of Barry Paul and Jay Williams was also really effective, in the grand Hunter-Wagner tradition.
And not that Manchester was totally disappointing - there was one glorious moment that made my evening. It came towards the end of the show, when one of a handful of headshakers at the front jumped on stage, leapt about a bit and then proceeded to approach Holton. Mildly flumoxed, Holton raised his fists, more in a friendly/humorous gesture than an aggressive one. Much to Holton's surprise, however, the kid on stage raised his fists also. At this, Holton didn't wait to see who would deliver or receive the first blow - he simply ran away, right to the back of the stage to hide behind the amps unti the offender was bundled away. Great it was, confirming the suspicion that people who act rough n' tough are actually little more than cowards at heart.That little incident had me grinning for hours afterwards. Not many concerts provoke that such of sustained reaction.
So. Manchester may not have been an extravaganza/event, but at least the Kids have reformed and are back on the road.
For that, at least, we should give thanks.