|Mick Box is a short, squat guy. Almost as wide as he is tall. A frame that's reflected in the broad, chunky chords he blasts out. His solos are simple but theatrically climatic and effective and his use of the deep sonorous riff gives plenty of opportunity to indulge that well-known lumbering gait. He strides towards the front of the stage where he'll stand rocking unsteadily on the verge of the orchestra pit ripping of a fast, searing lick before stomping back to his amp. Then in a sleeckier, pacier number he'll hurtle across the stage like an enraged bull charging a red drag. Uncomplicated and warm. That's his approach to the guitar and it's his approach to people. When you first meet Mick there's no pretence, no wall of silence that betrays the uncertain artist. He's always the first with the friendly handshake and, well, maybe on your second meeting it's a bear hug. It's a natural friendliness, as natural as his ever present Chesire Cat grin and it spills over into his matey stage character in The Slade.
The scene is the Chicago Auditorium. The stage is in darkness. A disembodied voice booms out: "Evenin' Chicago...'ow are yer!". The cheery Mick Box has arrived. A churning rocker is being pounded out. Suddenly at the front of the stage there's a commotion. Then another flurry of grabbing, grasping excitement. Finally You'll spot a beer can arching through the air... they're being lobbed at regular intervals by Mick. Like a man trying to feed a mob with loaves and fishes, Box is saying thank you to the faithful. Manna from Mick. But don't get the idea that he's treating the whole thing as an elaborate game. Despite his lurching and looning on the boards, Mick is putting everything into his playing. One crystal clear memory of Mick which, I think, sums up came immediately after that first show in Chicago on their '72 tour. The band was just starting the second leg of their schedule and they were super-tense and edgy. They went down a storm (of course) but Mick had put so much nervous engery into the show that he couldn't speak. He was gasping, choking and coughing as he spent a painful 15 minutes reaching into a waste-bin. He slept for 12 hours after that. And he deserved it.
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