COZY POWELL'S BIRTHDAY BASH - The Robin 2, Bilston 29.12.18

LINDSAY SMITH

PHOTO CREDITS: LINDZRS MEDIA PHOTOGRAPHY

The desire to honour legendary drummer Cozy Powell resulted in a magical evening of some of the best rock songs performed by a stellar cast held at the iconic Robin 2 on what would have been Cozy’s 71st Birthday. 

I asked organiser Bob Richards where and when the idea for the bash originated.  Bob says “I had the idea after the unveiling of the plaque in Cirencester in January 2016 where my (Cozy’s) kit was on display. My plan was to do it for Cozy’s 70th but I couldn’t get myself in gear so to speak. So at the lunch in Cirencester in April on the anniversary of Cozys passing, I asked Neil Murray and Tony Martin if they would take part in the “Cozy Powell Birthday Bash” as I called it . They both said yes so that was it, I had to get on with it.”

The line-up of musicians involved for this evening is absolutely stellar, so how did Bob get them involved? “Some I knew as we had worked together a few years ago while playing with Graham Bonnet (ex Rainbow) on a UK tour so I could establish a core band basically and then invite other musicians to play a part, I just gave them a particular version of a song and a quick soundcheck and we were away. I must say, credit to my good friend Ian Richard Wills who plays guitar and helped coordinate things for me in the Midlands. We have known each other since being in a Birmingham band called SHY. Others that I called all wanted to be a part of it so it all came together pretty quickly.”

How did Bob come by 'the' drum kit which is such a focus for tonight? “A friend called me to tell me it was for sale in a drum shop, so after a few phone calls and a visit it was in the back of my car on the way home. I then got to know Ashley Williams who was Cozy’s drum tech in Whitesnake and he verified the kit was Cozy’s. It’s the kit from the Slide It In Tour and videos 84-85. I saw Cozy play it in Cardiff with Whitesnake, I can’t believe I actually have it!”

Cozy had been a member of so many memorable bands including Jeff Beck Group, Rainbow, Whitesnake, Michael Schenker Group and Black Sabbath, plus in his own right and with numerous collaborations, tonight’s set list was going to be good no matter which era, which bands, which classics would be chosen to grace our ear drums. But how do you decide which area’s of Cozy's career to focus on? Over to Bob to answer that one! “Well, I looked at the set list from a fans point of view, what would I like to hear? It had to be the big songs from the bands that Cozy played with and the songs that everyone would remember the most. Therefore if you were not familiar with Cozy you would still enjoy those classic songs.” 

Prominent on the riser, taking pride of place on the stage is the drum kit. DJ Andy Fox is the compère for the night, sharing audio interviews he did with Cozy back in 1983 during some of the set changes which stirred up great memories. Hearing Cozy talk about his early days, his first bands, solo success, ‘pop star’ tag and time as a racing driver, the audition for Rainbow with Ritchie Blackmore, all stories brought back to life in Cozy’s own words.

The room was packed as the band with Paul Manzi on vocals, Russell Gilbrook (Uriah Heep) drums, Neil Taylor on keys, Peter Knight on bass and Ian Richard Wills smoking the riffs on lead guitar begin the evening with a set of Rainbow songs in admirable style. ‘Kill The King’ sounded massive, with Cats In Space’s Manzi delivering a solid and passionate vocal. ‘Man On The Silver Mountain’, ‘Stargazer’ and ‘Long Live Rock N Roll’ have the crowd enthralled – Vision Divine’s Mike Terrana taking over the drumming duties.   Hearing the songs again is always special and the quality of the sound and the musicianship was just astounding.

 

Tony O’Hora takes over the vocals for the Down To Earth era with Thunder’s rhythm section of Chris Childs on bass and Harry James taking his place behind the drumkit. ‘Eyes Of The World’, ‘Lost In Hollywood’ plus two of Rainbow’s most commercially successful hits, ‘Since You’ve Been Gone’ and ‘All Night Long’ have the crowd singing along.

 

A shuffling of the kit set up and we are treated to a blast through some Schenker Group tunes as Schenker Fest band mates Chris Glen and Ted McKenna take over rhythm duties with Dare’s Vinny Burns handling the lead guitar. Glenn Quinn fills out the sound on rhythm guitar and Lee Small (Lionheart) takes on the vocals. Epic!

 

Neil Murray takes to the stage so it is clear that we will be treated to some Whitesnake classics.  FM’s Jim Kirkpatrick and Buck and Evans’ Chris Buck take over on guitars with Richard Bailey (Ex Magnum) flooding the room with fabulous keyboards.  Drum duties are shared throughout this section and vocal duties are shared by Manzi and Snakecharmer’s Chris Ousey.  ‘Crying In The Rain’ was one of the tracks which just sounded huge. An awesome set of 8 classic songs.

The excitement in the room was palpable as Tony Martin was introduced and took to the stage, Bob Richards taking over the drums and Ian Richard Wills (aka Aquaman – check out the photos!) over on lead guitar. Spectacular but short – ‘Anno Mundi’ and ‘Headless Cross’ only.

How many top-class musicians can you get on the stage in one go – oh quite a few it seems as the encore of ‘Since You’ve Been Gone’ sees the majority of tonight’s players share the limelight. Impressive, moving and enjoyable.  A great way to celebrate Cozy’s birthday with all proceeds going to Cozy’s preferred charity World Animal Protection in his memory.

Just musicians, singers, friends, families and punters having a good time sharing in the memories (As a fan, I queued outside the Tiswas Studio to catch a word with Cozy many, many years ago and discovered that another of  tonight’s photographers had actually made it into the ‘cage’ with Cozy  - well jealous!).  

Gone but not forgotten, his musical legacy is phenomenal and one to be celebrated. So can we do it again please Bob? “Absolutely, and we have already started and the drum is rolling so to speak!” says Bob. “Who knows how big this can be, as long as the fans want it to happen, and the musicians want to play, I am happy for it to carry on.”

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