The RD Crusaders play King's

The RD Crusaders play King's

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Friday, 13th September 2013

Richard Desmond may lack the balls to take on Martin Sorrell, but put him behind a drum kit and he shows no fear.

The Northern & Shell chairman’s band, the RD Crusaders, played an exhilarating set at the Cambridge Convention.

The conference is traditionally an arena for high-powered talk about TV and related matters, rather than the venue for steaming rhythm ’n’ blues flavoured rock. 

With the great Zoot Money on keyboards and vocals, ex-Argent guitarist Russ Ballard and veteran bassist Greg Lake on board, the starry combo of veteran pros, propelled along by Desmond, raised energy levels on what had already been a memorable day at the talking shop.

There were high-energy versions of standards such as Gimme Some Lovin’ and Joe Cocker’s arrangement of With a Little Help From My Friends.

Vocalist Nikki Lamborn, performing like a younger Elkie Brooks, gave both songs the full soul-diva treatment.

Her attacking approach to the microphone was enough to make Martin Sorrell quake, never mind Alan Sugar.   

The crowd were appreciative. Seasoned TV executives were seen dad dancing in the stately setting of King's College.   

Even Channel 4 chairman Lord Burns, more used to number crunching than dancing to numbers, couldn’t resist tapping his feet.  

Rumours that he had actually bodysurfed were, alas, unfounded.

For delegates of a certain age another highlight of Desmond’s set was King Crimson’s 21st Century Schizoid Man – no, not a reference to the scratchy relationship between Mark Thompson and Lord Patten.

King Crimson, of course, was Lake’s band prior to the formation of ELP with Keith Emerson and Carl Palmer.

The closing Shakin’ All Over was note perfect, with Ballard’s guitar fills raising the temperature further.

So what of the man behind the traps? Gum-chewing Desmond cut a very different figure to the somewhat nervous man delegates had seen earlier in the day explaining his business philosophy.  

The crisp blue suit was replaced by a racy T-shirt and jeans. Wearing aviator shades Desmond looked relaxed behind his massive Ludwig kit complete with the Daily Express logo emblazoned on the bass drum.   

He more than held his own with the professional musicians. The time changes of King Crimson's 21st Century Schizoid Man were handled with aplomb.

In the unlikely event that Northern & Shell should ever hit the rocks, a second career as a drummer beckons.

What a shame Tony Hall hadn’t stayed to enjoy the music. 

Witnessing the pure pleasure of RD’s Crusaders would have given him a chance to let his hair down and forget the BBC’s present woes.

Report by Steve Clarke. Photos by Paul Hampartsoumian.

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