When you talk about music being truly global, nothing brings it home more than the bands over the two days. For just the Sunday we have Finland, Sweden, Wales, England, Germany and the good 'ol US of A represented. And that’s just the main stage.
First on were that rather nice bunch of young ladies Barbe-Q-Barbies a cross between punk and rock….punk rock? Who have an attitude of the Ramones with the influence of AC/DC thrown in just to make a point. They are not a 5 minute wonder band either as these sassy Finns have been around since 2002, and their mantra is to kick the world in the nuts with their brand of music. They had a bit of a Blues Brothers start, with that crowd taking a while to warm to them, but by the time they hit their stride with 'STFU' (Shut The Fuck Up – and Dance! I think it’s a ballad??) they were home and dry and had kicked the Rotherham crowd well and truly in the nuts, and other body parts I cant mention on a family read website. I swear that venue was that cold for Barbe-Q-Barbies that I could see the nipples of the rhythm guitarist thru her leather jacket!!
Buffalo Summer hail from the little known rock province of Neath, that’s Neath in Wales but! Immediately they are likened to The Answer and Zep and for damned good reason – they have great songs, make no excuses for their influences and the end result is one of the highlights of day 2. Energetic, electric and in Andrew Hunt have a decent (really decent) frontman. Bassist Darren King looks like he wouldn’t be amiss in Mastodon, and must have his flat cap glued on considering the amount of headbanging he did. ‘A Horse Call Freedom’ immediately caught my ears first. From here on in I was hooked, as I wasn’t even supposed to be reviewing them, but their performance deserved one. BS are South Walian, but you’d think they were from the other ‘deep South’. The three new songs are a good example of where BS are going. Highlights were the very Southern ‘Down To The River’, ‘A Horse Called Freedom’ and ‘March Of The Buffalo’. These lads have a very bright future in front of them
I don’t know what it is about female fronted rock bands. Me personally? I love it! I was speaking with a few of my friends from South Wales (it must be the beer talking or something in the water) as they thought that Nubian Rose were poor!! In Sofia Lilja, Nubian Rose have one hell of a front woman. As gorgeous as a catwalk model, with a set of pipes that sends men (and dogs) weak at the knees, such is the pitch of her vocals. The banter in-between the songs was a bit fractured, and it will develop over time, but THE VOICE!! Damn!! If you want 80s sounding Metal in the vein of Rainbow, Ozzy, Dio etc then look no further….! As with any album, sometimes its better to catch the band live, and Nubian Rose are a multiple times improved (and I loved the album). With songs like ‘Reckless’, and the first ballad of the day ‘How Am I’, Nubian Rose are on a very quick upward trajectory. Half way thru the set, Sofia disappeared for a few moments and returned in a red, white and blue catsuit (she made an effort and a half to please the British crowd). If the UK ever has a Super Hero, this is what she has to look like. The better songs came in the second half, the new song ‘Higher & Higher’- great vocals, ‘Ever See Your Face’, the Rainbow-esque ‘All Your Love’ which gave more than a nod to Long Live Rock N Roll, and the anthemic ‘Mountain’. Hopefully it wont be too long before Nubian Rose return with a tour of their very own.
H.E.A.T. looked like the first band that really believe the hype, they look and sound the part, and since getting in singer Eric Gronwall, they have taken their quality up quite a few levels. Here to promote the excellent ‘Address The Nation’, they opened with ‘Breaking The Silence’, a song that Bon Jovi haven’t made the likes of for over ten years. Make that 20! It has got the punch and welly of anything written in the AOR heyday of the 80s and, rightly so. An immense opener, with Gronwall constantly on the move on the stage boxing his way thru the songs like a feral fighter! Judging by the audience a fair few had ploughed into the main hall to watch and they were correct in their estimation. I haven’t heard ‘1000 Miles’ for so long I though they were going to play Dio’s ‘Caught in the Middle’ as the opening riffs are identical. HEAT were definitely one of THE best bands of the whole weekend, and, as the first six piece of the day certainly made a huge difference, the wall of sound filled the arena, particularly, ‘Living On The Run’, catchy as baseball glove covered in superglue, and ‘Its All About Love Tonight’. If the US had a band like HEAT they would be huge, these Swedes will get to the same place but it may just take a little bit longer
UKs elder statesmen Ten were next to impress on the back of their latest (and in my opinion, greatest album to date), 'Heresy And Creed', playing music from right across their extensive career. Gary Hughes may not be the best singer in the world but he plays to his strengths and most of his compositions border on the grandiose and when coupled with a bloody decent band to bring them to life they are one of the finest bands plying their craft. Just check out guitarist Dan Mitchell who is one of the finest shredders there is and really kicks ass on the epic opener ‘Arabian Nights’, before tearing into ‘Gunrunning, and a ‘Spell (bound)’ on his ass unfortunately, but didn’t stop his flow, and a couple of early Ten classics in ‘Ten Fathoms Deep’ and ‘The Rose’ – which was pretty damn good. It wouldn’t be a Ten gig without a ballad and Ten had a bit of a ‘Godfather’ (similar piano riff) moment, in ‘Valentine’ which builds to a fine crescendo. Its hard to say that Ten finished the set with a couple of ‘epic’ numbers as Hughes just writes ‘em this way consistently, and we were properly treated to the Lizzy twin guitar led ‘Red’, before slightly overrunning for the ‘biggie’ – ‘The Name Of The Rose’. Great performance, just one criticism, Gary, please drop the leather glove mate. I lived thru Alvin Stardust, and it isn’t big, or clever!
I caught Summers last year at a gig that I don’t really want to discuss as the turnout was piss poor. However word had got around and they were greeted to a very full 2nd stage. Knowing the guys well, they wouldn’t miss the opportunity to grab the crowd by their legwarmers and give them all they had. With only one (very new album) to their credit, they got one redhead in the crowd VERY excited! They wear their Def Leppard fan club badges well and truly on their sleeves, and the net result is one great set of songs that hit you right between the eyes, then do a couple of laps around the room 30m – its really that small!) and then come and give you a good kick up the arse, just because they can!
It could be one of those gigs in the future that you can say that you were there when they played to about 150 people at HRH when they become really big. I certainly hope so as these lads have more catchy riffs on one album than most could muster up in ten years. Songs like ‘Girls’, ‘Steel Away’ and ‘Superhero’ deserve to be heard by an AOR lovin' audience and would have gone down well on the main stage. The biggest reception was saves for their stripped down version of ‘Shot In The Dark’, with all singing a capella – another goosebump moment of the day. Trust me, go out and but their debut album 364, you will not be disappointed.
One of the bands I was eagerly awaiting to hear was Moritz. It’s been yonks (don’t think I’ve used this word since school, which is appropriate as the last time these guys were together I was in school!). Singer Pete Scallan commented that its been 27 yrs since their last proper gig, and you wouldn’t have known at all as they were one of the most polished bands of the day and were definitely out to enjoy themselves. They were high up on the bill on merit as they songs testify to the fact. Some bands take a while to get the audience warmed up but not these lads, they hit 0-60 by the end of the first riff with the crowd. Pete and all the guys were in excellent form, from the beginning of the first bar, right to the very end. I loved Undivided, but the new songs I caught, 'Remember Yesterday', 'SOS', 'Cant Hide My Heart', 'Gonna Lose Her' and Amber Lee' all show that Moritz have taken a bigger step in the right direction over Undivided. My only regret, they didn’t play Undivided! Maybe September at another festival I cant mention here.
Kip Winger was the first to play solo. I saw him years ago (6)when he just brought out ‘Songs From The Ocean Floor’ and I sware that this set was identical to that one. I was mesmerized then, as I was today. It takes some balls getting up there on your own as there's nowhere to hide. Talking of which I feel sorry for the bell end who got up to sing ‘Miles Away’ and only knew the words 'Miles Away', oh deary me! I'd have loved to have seen a full blown electric version of Winger, but I think a certain pair from MTV put paid to that notion years ago. Kip certainly is talented, has a great voice and was a welcome addition to the line up.
I dug out my cloak and staff and headed over to the dark side, or the Prog Main Stage as it was known. I prefer to call it the Farmfoods Zone, as I put my pint on the floor and within 10 mins it had nearly turned into a Slush Puppie. It’s supposed to be indoors FFS! It was colder than it was outside. I sware! Even the band I went to see the Prog headliners– The Von Hertzen Bros – complained about the cold, and they are from friggin’ Finland!!! I’m glad I did pop over as Von Hertzen Brothers were one of the best bands I’ve seen in quite some time, they were simply stunning! I wasn’t too sure what to expect as I'd only heard Stars Aligned and was bowled over by it. Everything else was a new experience. If you haven’t seen them before the guys are simply electric. They can be a bit difficult to follow as they divert from prog to metal to pop in a few bars, but if you open your mind to this eclectic fact then the rewards are immense. 'Flowers And Rust' was the first song to grab me by the throat, and is such a roller coaster of a number, soaring around the bitterly cold room warming the cockles. Kie von Hertzen had the right idea jumping around like a tazmanian devil (a possessed one at that). I prefer to know bands songs when reviewing, but Von Hertzen Brothers setlist became instantly memorable. 'Angel Eyes' suddenly explodes mid way for a killer guitar/synth solo. Mikko addressed the assembled audience to advise a song that is hardly played but was requested in the UK, the song? King Crimsons 21st Century Schizoid Man, the absolute jewel in the crown of the set, building into an enormous crescendo and had to be witnessed first hand. It wasn’t the largest audience but I sware it got one of the biggest cheers of the whole festival. After coming on really late Von Hertzen Brothers played well over their allotted time, and to be honest the organisers made the right decision as the last two songs were the icing on the cake (couldn’t eat it due to it being FROZEN!). To be fair, Von Hertzen Brothers could have played the AOR side, and no one would have complained, they were that good and their music crosses many genres. If I had to explain the gig in two words it would be ‘F*cking WOW!’
Over to the headliners Skid Row. Judging by the audience a fair few were here just to catch them. Even though current singer Johnny Solinger has been with them since 1998, I still hanker for Seb Bach. But I try to be objective. You see, the only thing is Johnny looked like he was fronting a cover band, with his black tank top and beer belly, even his various hats looked like the hair was sown onto the inside of them. OK, gripe over. The first half of the set was better than the second as most of the killer songs were here. It must be difficult trying to lay to rest the ghost of Bach and Solinger did a pretty good job. Dave ‘Snake’ Sabo and Scotty Hill both looked and sounded the part. But Rachel Bolan seemed a bit distant.
Obviously the songs from the first two albums were what most people wanted to hear, and they didn’t disappoint – 'Slave To The Grind', '18 And Life' and 'Piece of Me' all kicked ass, and the new songs 'Let’s Go' and 'Kings Of Demolition' fitted in nicely, but I could have done without Bolan singing the Ramones’ 'Psycho Therapy'. The anthem 'Get The Fuck Out' was a great participation number, and they just had to finish with 'Youth Gone Wild' which sent the audience into raptures. Now, Solinger commented that they were here for the fans, and saying all the stuff we wanted to hear as fans but….they had almost 2 hrs allotted to them to perform, they arrived 20 mins late, and finished almost 30 mins early, and were out of the venue faster than a rat out of an aqueduct. I suspect they were in it for the money.
Last on (for the graveyard slot) was Jeff Scott Soto. I had fears that everyone might bugger off home as a fair few would have to work in a few hours time. Thankfully a fair few stayed behind (and bared the cold) and they were treated to one of the best gigs of the day. Jeff was here to promote his latest album Damage Control and throw in some nice surprises! Unfortunately Jeff did a Gary Hughes and nearly chinned himself good and proper and took him close on 30s to regain composure. Falling onto your ass doesn’t stop professionals as long in the tooth as JSS. The great man treated us to solo numbers, the title track ‘Damage Control’ and ‘Take You Down’ being stand outs. WET was represented with ‘One Love’, and he even had chance to fit in a great Talisman medley, and a couple of Steel Dragon tracks, the highlight being the addition of Nathan James joining him on ‘Stand Up’. Just look for it on YouTube and you’ll see what I mean. I must admit that I didn’t want to stay until 2am, but realized after 2 songs that it was going to be worth sticking around for. I’m bloody glad I did!
Most of these bands are not wealthy people, but they bloody well should be. Most in fact look like they’ve come to a gig straight from their day job, as most are unpretentious, charming, and great at what they do, and look (in the majority) nothing like rock stars. That’s what I love about rock music in general, most are decent human beings happy to chat, sign things and have lots of photos taken without any fuss or bother
Looking back at the gigs, most bands either had new material to promote or had been active with relatively new music over the past 12 months. All new music was accepted as much as the old classics that everyone wanted to hear, and that in itself is great news, as the AOR community refuses to rest on its laurels and constantly forges onwards and upwards. As I finish this, the HRJH website moves HRH 2 to North Wales and hopefully a much warmer climate, and its only a mere 346 days, 19 hours, 41 mins , and 11secs until the next one. I (and many more) cannot wait for it, but they will have to go some way to top the line-up and quality of the performances of the two days.
All photos (except VHB, Summers) copyright Mark Lloyd
Thanks for the great review! We appreciate your kind words and support. It was a close run thing with the track Undivided and it just got squeezed as it is in our full 18 song set!ReplyDelete
Peter (on behalf of Moritz)
What an awesome review. Thank you soooo much. Were glad you enjoyed our set. CrashReplyDelete