About Me

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Born in the late 60's, Chesy hails from a Welsh mining village with a long name and was pretty glad when he got the Hell out of there. He got into Rock/Metal in about 1980, thanks to a TISWAS related incident (Rainbow video for All Night Long) and thankfully has never looked back. Chesy often sang solo in the school choir, but thanks to a puberty related incident his voice is now completely bolloxed, although in his own head Paul thinks he sounds like a blend of Coverdale and Dio (R.I.P). He was brought up on the classics - Deep Purple, Rainbow, Thin Lizzy, Rush, Whitesnake and loved melodic rock and the Hair Bands of the 80's. (Nowadays, he has progressed a little and prefers a more technical and/or progressive metal - Dream Theater, Rush, Symphony X, Porcupine Tree, Pain Of Salvation, Spock's Beard. He hates Black and Death Metal (can't stand the grunting) but for some unknown reason loves the magnificent Opeth! He wont stop this blog until his beloved FM finally play the likes of the NEC as a headlining act!!!

Wednesday 10 April 2013

HRH AOR - Magna, Rotherham Saturday 6.4.13 Day 1 Review

Set within a colossal former steelworks, Magna also echoes with the rich industrial heritage of the UK steelmaking industry which once used the natural resources of earth, fire, water and air - to manufacture steel products which were shipped around the world. 

The steelworks closed in 1993 but the original building has been largely preserved as a monument to its industrial heritage. Impressive artefacts such as hulking hooks, winding passages, cupolas and cranes are still in position around the science adventure zones in Magna today. They are silent reminders of the cathedral-like building’s industrial past. A perfect backdrop to a religious gathering of Prog & AOR followers...

This weekend it wasn’t so much steel, as Metal (O.K. AOR and Prog) that was being forged to the impressive numbers amassed at the inaugural HRH AOR and Prog festival, and I was one of many lucky punters in attendance to witness this spectacle.

For those who thought Prog, and AOR in particular were genres both on their arses, forget it, as the venue was almost at capacity. I have to applaud the guys (and ladies) of Chic-PR / HRH in holding this festival, as it takes some balls (and other lady bits - OK I don’t need to go there but you know what I’m getting at) to set up a gig of this stature.

It was perfectly organized, with food (not expensive), a metal market where you could get great T-shirts from a bloke who at his age had no right to be wearing spandex; jacket patches, jewelry, bongs, and even on site massages. What more could you ask for!!!

So onto the show. It was decided to stay mainly in the AOR zone and a have decent attempt at one genre, than a half arsed review of both (with the exception of the Von Hertzen Bros).

Sat – Day 1

First up on the main stage (quite late) were local outfit Spill Sixteen. Even though behind schedule they managed to tear through their set in enough time and have time for their intro tape of Magnum’s theme tune. Highlight of the set were the impressive bluesy opener ‘Doing It Tonight’ with a very excited and animated singer in Steve, and are cross between a Bad Co and Mamas Boys vibe. Spill 16’s Bass drum was turned up to 15 as I could actually feel my hair moving (upstairs and downstairs!). Other notable offerings was the well received ‘Damned’, and new single ‘Come With Me’. If a twin Les Paul attack is right up your street with no nonsense rock and roll then Spill 16 deliver. Just cheer up guitarist, you know who you are (OK Its JJ). Spill Sixteen are ones to look out for in the future

If I thought S16 were good then Daylight Robbery took it up a notch or two. Instantly you see (and hear) their melodic rock influences and have more than a knack for writing a decent anthem or two, and in singer Tony Nicholl (ex-Rock$tar) the have a more than capable singer who can deliver polished vocals and any band that can provide me with 3/4/ or 5 part harmonies is already a winner in my books. From the Tyketto-esque 'Survivor Never Sleeps', and the mightily impressive 'Crossing the Great Divide', DR have quality in abundance with their chunky AOR riffs and fist pumping choruses. Very nice indeed!

Dante Fox were firsts for two reasons. 
1) First band with keyboard player in tow, and 
2) Sue Willets wielding a tambourine (the first of many over the weekend). I have a few DF albums and was wondering how they would come across live. My doubts were immediately extinguished as Willets’, vocals (despite her apologizing for her croakiness) were damned impressive. Tim Manford’s guitar playing was up there with the best, and also Sue’s banter was quite witty and relaxed. Most of the set came from ‘Under The Seven Skies’ with Sue showing her vocal chops on the excellent ‘Walking The Line’. Dante Fox were responsible for my first ‘goosebump’ moment of the day (many more were to follow over the course of the weekend) with the excellent rendition of ‘Limara’, I mean ‘Remember’, with Willets hitting a stellar note at the end that made me have a nice sit down and a calming cup of tea.

Now, once again the ante was upped considerably with the introduction of Romeos Daughter. I recently saw them play a relatively small gig last year (and were excellent), but its on these larger settings that they really show their star quality. In Craig Joiner, RD have an excellent songwriter and guitar player and in Leigh Matty the first front-person who was out centre stage thoroughly enjoying herself. Tonight RD are as tight as a gnats chuff, and its probably as best as I've ever witnessed. The sound was superb, and so hats off indeed to HRH. Everything was thrown at us (except my wedding dance song I must add!), classics both old and new - ,Bittersweet', 'Cannot Be The One', 'Trippin Out', 'Talking Love' and 'Alive' from 'Rapture', and 'Heaven.....' (2nd goosebump moment), 'Velvet Tongue',  'Inside Out', 'Cry Myself To Sleep' and the excellent 'Wild Child' from the debut (did I say they never played Hymn!). Tight BV's from the rest of the band lifted the songs further, and RD could have hit us with another 12 different songs such is the quality of their 3 albums

Danny Vaughn was up with an electric set for once. I love his acoustic renditions , because of its intimacy, but when you have a repertoire like Danny’s its rude not to show it off with an electric set, with a mix of solo (some not so well known) and a couple of Tyketto ('Meet Me In The Night', 'Battle Lines' & 'Seasons' – probably the best of the set judging by the audience reaction). It’s the solo songs that show the quality of Vaughn, from the country sounding 'Just Like That', to the anthemic 'Badlands Rain', and haunting opener, 'Bad Water'. Not be outdone, Danny’s vying with Leigh Matty for shiniest hair in melodic rock accolade. Result? A close second for Danny!

To be fair, Ive covered FM more than any other band, and I’m running out of platitudes for them. Once they stepped onto the stage the whole atmosphere changed. For once I chose to view from 2/3 back and it was the first time that most if not all the audience in the main arena came to life instantaneously and as one. Its 26 yrs since 'Indiscreet' was launched and the songs still sound as fresh today as they did back in '87. Come to think of it, they sound even better, with Steve Overland's voice the key to their success. This bloke is the UKs answer to Michael Bolton only he forgot to tell anyone in the UK. FM should have been huge, but to be honest, playing gigs like HRH AOR is all the accolades they need. The quality on offer means that the new songs ('Tough Love', 'Over You', and 'Crosstown Train') fit seamlessly into the set along with the classics – 'That Girl', 'Don’t Stop', 'Other Side Of Midnight' etc etc. I’m guessing FM played a fave ('Bad Luck') of the bloke standing right in front of me, as I’ve never seen a bloke dance like he did, EVER!! Once again the whole performance is a masterclass in British rock and quality songwriting. The FM guys really are getting better with age, and there’s not many that can say that!

Sacramento’s Tesla were up next. I don’t know if it was the local water, but a few pronounced then Tezla! It been a fair few years since I saw them last (supporting Leppard on the Hysteria tour) and the guys still all look and sound great. Whilst I never really classed them as AOR, Tesla are a class rock band. In the same fruitful vein as FM, Tesla prove that their latest (2008’s ‘I Wanna Live’ & ‘Breaking Free’) are up there with anything from their first 3 classic albums. Tesla are definitely at Magna to put on a show, with Jeff Keith a cross between Stephen Tyler and a clothed Iggy Pop, and the rest of the band ready to unleash their wrath on the Rotherham crowd. Thankfully Keith’s voice has hardly altered since ‘Mechanical Resonance’and the songs fit like a nice comfy pair of slippers. We are given 'Getting Better', the Frank Hannon wizardry on the theremin for the excellent 'Edison’s Medicine'. The final song being their ‘must play’ and the first Tesla song I ever heard, the barnstorming 'Modern Day Cowboy’.

 For the encore they played 'Little Suzi', but I must admit I was a little disappointed they didn’t play to the GTA (Grand Theft Auto) crowd in us all and hammering us with 'Comin Atcha Live', but that’s just me being a little picky.

I managed to catch about 3 songs from new Swedish starlet Mia Klose. Described as the Swedish bombshell of 80s rock – I severly doubt she was born in the 80s! To be fair the 2nd AOR stage was nothing short of poor to be honest. No stage provided for the bands, so if you weren’t in the front two rows you couldn’t see four fifths of bugger all. What I could glimpse is that Mia’s photos make her look a lot older than she is. One thing I am certain of is her ability. Supremely confident, great voice, and backed by her equally young gunslingers it will not be long at all before she is playing the big stage. Invite her back to the next one HRH, you wont be disappointed

Finishing off the day were UKs AOR young guns, Vega. Given an hour and 10 to make an impression, Vega hit them with both barrels filled with napalm, gunpowder and anthemic numbers. Vega both look and sound the part of the future of British AOR and they are ready to take on the Americans (hopefully) at their own game. These guys don’t have an axe to grind with the dreaded 2nd album syndrome as new tracks being aired tonight prove that they have developed and matured into a mighty fine ‘single’ machine. Highlights of theset are predominately the ‘new’ ones, with ‘Not There For You’, a sure fire single in the not too distant future, the Def Lep influenced ‘What The Hell’ a song with a biographical tone and more than a ringer for Leppard’s “..Sugar’, and the anthemic closer, 'Hands In The Air’. The Martin boys certainly have a ear for a catchy number or 11, and in adding Night By Night guitarist Ben Christo, filled out the Vega sound perfectly, and when all the lads can sing, it doesn’t make for a better experience than this

Highlights of the day – Daylight Robbery, Romeos Daughter, FM (again) and Tesla
Lowlights, the bloody cold, the venue was cold! More on that in Day 2 review…

All photos copyright Mark Lloyd





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