- 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!!!
Saturday, 21 March 2015
I think it was about 2006 when I saw Michael Schenker’s car crash of a gig supporting his brother’s Scorpions at the Manchester Apollo. It was the first time I had seen him since Gary Barden’s triumphant return after the debacle with Graham Bonnet back in ‘83. I turned to my mate at the Apollo and said ‘I’m done’, as it was the only time in over 30 years of attending gigs that I had seen an audience boo and almost turn on an artiste. I vowed my path wouldn’t cross Schenker's ever again. Over the passing years I heard that he was well again and more importantly playing like the old days. That was back in 2012 and since then I haven’t missed a UK tour.
Bad luck fell on the guys as halfway through recording, the guitars and recordings were stolen. Schenker recalls, “Fortunately it was just performances and not compositions, we caught up and performed the music better than before. It forced us to work extra hard and longer but it made it stronger”.
The line up in the UK is settled – Dougie White (vocals), Francis Bucholz (Bass), Herman Rarebell (drums), and the invaluable Wayne Findlay (guitar, keys, BVs and amply filling in the Paul Raymond role). The debut ToR album ‘Bridge The Gap’ was widely well received. Is ‘Spirit On A Mission’ likely to be held in the same esteem. Well with a more stable line up than there ever has been, there’s every chance…
One thing that jumps right out of the speakers is how good Dougie White sounds. As a massive Rainbow fan, I have always been on the side of Mr White.Lets also be clear that it isn’t going to be anywhere as good as the first 3 MSG albums! ‘Live And Let Live’ focuses on the guitar driven riffage that only Schenker is capable of. Pair this with the best Scorpions rhythm section in history and it’s a very promising opening. ‘Communion’ made me do a double take. I honestly thought that Glenn Hughes had guested vocals, so certain was I that I had to check the PR notes. ‘Vigilante Man’ has a great upbeat tempo and is very melodic in structure. ‘Rock City’ jumps out like a starting pistol, fast and frenetic riffs courtesy of Mickey. ‘Saviour City’ harks back to the epic days of something like ‘Desert Song’, or ‘Lost Horizons’. It may not be as good as either, but you can tell the intent and desire is there. ‘Something Of The Night’ is quite Blackmore-esque in its composition, with Schenker powering thru the scales, and White singing about Black Nights! ‘Bulletproof’ has a 70s feel to it, with Schenker channeling ‘Lovedrive’ era Scorps. The album sounds best on the faster melodic numbers, no more so than ‘Restless Heart’. Add another 4 or 5 like this to the mix then it would be a belter. Overall Id have preferred it a couple of songs shorter as there's a couple of songs I doubt I’ll ever listen to again (Good Times, Let The Devil Scream, All Our Yesterdays)
Overall 'SOAM' is OK, but that’s all it is. All it really made me do was dig out my re-masters of MSG from the debut to ‘Built To Destroy’. Michael Schenker’s Temple of Rock is essentially a Ronseal cover band, you know what you are going to get – UFO, Scorpions, and MSG with a couple of Temple songs thrown in for good measure. Whether or not it becomes a bonafide band in its own right remains to be seen. I prefer to see the Temple perform live rather than go down the album route, although it is admirable that they are giving it a decent shot, when he could so easily cash in and do a couple of European tours a year giving the fans what they want – next time, play more MSG stuff!
Score – 65/100
Michael Schenker's Temple Of Rock are
Michael Schenker ( Guitar)
Dougie White (Vocals)
Herman Rarebell (Drums)
Francis Bucholz (Bass)
Wayne Findlay (7 String Guitar/Keyboard/B.Vocals)
Live And Let Live
Something Of The Night
All Our Yesterdays
Let The Devil Scream
It’s mightily impressive that Reach (who consist of 3 very young lads and 1 x young lad) take their influences and references for some of the melodic rock greats of the 80s - Whitesnake, Journey, HEAT, Giant etc., etc. They've been together since 2012 and their first release was a cover video of Avicii's "Wake Me Up". The video has of today been seen by an amazing amount of people - almost 1.3million (1,269,830). Yes, 1.3 MILLION !!! Which is bloody fantastic and amazing in equal measure in this day and age. Either that, or the lads mum's have watched it 317,457.5 times each!
Reach are Alex Waghorn (vocals), Ludvig Turner (Guitar), David Jones (Bass) and Marcus Johansson (Drums). Marcus and Ludvig may have appeared on your radar last year with Adrenaline Rush. Reach is the band that is likely to pay the bills. Rock bands in Sweden are ten a penny. In fact, I think its a government ruling, that when you finish college, you have to either start or join a band. The very recent HRH AOR was almost a mini Sweden Rock, with a third of the bands on display over the main stage over the two days coming from the land of the moose, semlas and meatballs!
On first inspection Reach look the part, young, good looking and have great hair (well 3 of them have great hair!), and most of all they SOUND the part. There’s a really excellent 5 or 6 songs here that belies the lads young years. ‘You Called My Name’ comes out of the blocks like Usain Bolt after a dodgy curry. Turners guitar playing is Lynch-like, and ‘…Name’ has a big, big chorus. Similar can be said of ‘Fortune And fame’, only this ones a slow burner and grows with every passing listen. After ‘Tell Me’ the high octane tempo from the first three song lags a little, then explodes back to life with the contagious ‘Make Me Believe’ and is a cut above due to the 4 part harmonies. I had my reservations initially about the quality of Waghorn’s vocals on the very first listen, I’ve only had this CD for 4 days and after repeated listens (and seeing them twice live in a week) the lad as great potential. ‘Reach Out’ I guess is the bands anthem and springs to life and catches Reach at their best, and the guitar solo is superb. I think Reach have unearthed a future guitar god in Ludwig Turner, as his playing hand confidence has come a long way since last years appearance with Adrenaline Rush. ‘Looking For Love’ not only is an 80s sounding title from the Coverdale song title handbook, it has 80s running through it like a stick of rock. ‘Coming Home’ finishes 'ROTR' with a bang, the riff reminds me a bit of The Cult in their heyday, and is one of the best songs on the album, and is a huge live song. It is truly a great way to finish off the album.
I only have one question fellas….what’s with the album cover and logo? It’s supposed to be a fighter jet, but it looks like a big bell. Get it changed. Make it more plane-y.
That said, ‘Reach Out To Rock’ is a massive slice of 80s influenced Hair Metal / Melodic Rock or whatever you want to call it. All I know is that it’s a bloody good debut, and I cant wait to see what’s to come over the next 3-5 years. Poodles, Eclipse, Heat etc, there some new kids in town, and they are reaching out to take the crown.
Alex Waghorn – Vocals
Dave Jones – Bass
Ludwig Turner – Guitar
Marcus Johansson – Drums
You Called My Name
Fortune And Fame
Someone Like You
Make Me Believe
Looking For Love
Label – www.sunhill production.com
Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/reachofficialsweden
Thursday, 19 March 2015
So after dawn broke and the revellers rose from their stupors, many didn’t even sober up I suspect, the big news of the day was the backing tape saga. Everyone had an opinion, and I’m a big HEAT fan (‘twas my melodic rock album of 2014), but I’m vehemently against any form of added bonus content for want of a better word. It will play out over the course of the coming days I guess…
So, brekkie was had, coffee and tea was drunk at the excellent facilities that HRH/Haven had to offer. Album browsing at the metal market(vinyl was bought) and a bit more Doom was taken in – I’ve come to the decision that I don’t particularly like Doom!
I missed the first couple of songs by opening act Euphoria Audio. I was looking forward to this UK outfit. They come across as the type of music that makes your toes curl – similar to Daughtry, David Cook, Jonas Bros etc etc – but I personally like this stuff. There’s shitloads of bands like this across the US that make a good living, but not so many UK bands. It’s the type of music that middle age women of a certain age lap up in droves. And some middle age men! But a friend nailed it when she said that she wants to hear music that makes her stop a conversation, turn around and watch the band. This was no such case. Euphoria Audio have some decent enough songs, and a very good singer in Matt Shirty (but there was very little stage presence – which showed when guitarist Ben Lloyd had an issue and Shirty didn’t really know what to do with the dead time). That said EA were enjoyable enough, went down reasonably well considering the attendance was piss poor vs the same time the previous day. But, if I could describe the experience in one word it would be ‘beige’.
Reach on the other hand literally exploded into life. They looked the part in the true spirit of AOR/Hair Metal – a mass of hair, shapes being thrown, it was like they have been watching hair bands of the 80s for their homework and getting A grades (they all looked about 14!). They certainly are young guns in the making and have much great chance of making it that in their ‘other’ job with Adrenaline Rush. Their playing and confidence belied their very young years, and what with an opening song like ‘You Called My Name’ they are on a high trajectory to fame and hopefully some fortune as well. I have to admit that live they are a different proposition to the recently released album, much better in the flesh and growing with every passing gig. ‘Make Me Believe’, ‘Fortune and Fame’, and ‘Coming Home’ are the better songs. For some reason the closing song, ‘Black Lady’ is one of their finest, yet never made the album. Watch out for these lads they are going far.
I’ve seen White Widdow a couple of times now and have been disappointed with Jules Millis’ vocals. This time was it was different, he seemed stronger than the past, (there were a few minor issues) but he was much, much better than previous. I suppose they are the band of the day (come to think of it, the festival) to have a proper ‘widdly’ guitarist. I had to laugh when Jules took the piss out of The Poodles when they said they had come a long way to be in North Wales, “well try fucking Australia mate!’’ or words to that effect. That makes it all the more specialthat a band, not exactly rolling in it, is prepared to travel half way around the World to perform. A few of the new songs were chosen, and rightly so as ‘Caught In The Crossfire’, ‘Below The Belt’, and ‘Just Another Night’ are some of the gems from ‘Crossfire’. I’m guessing that Jules is a big Aviator fan as they finished their set with the classic ‘Frontline’ and bloody good it was too. It was probably the best he sounded all gig. Cracking stuff.
Eclipse is one of the leading lights of melodic metal. In Eric Martensson they have a great singer, guitarist, writer and producer, although his guitar tends to only be rolled out for the odd song when performing for Eclipse. If you haven’t got the new album ‘Armageddonize’ then where have you bloody well been. Most of the performance was taken from what is likely to be many peoples album of 2015, and the excellent ‘Bleed and Scream’. Eric is a great vocalist, and sometimes Eclipse have little passages where they out-Whitesnake Whitesnake!! Similar to Vega,Eclipse are a very anthemic band, on this occasion the songs picked – ‘Wake Me Up’, ‘Bleed & Scream’, ‘Aint Dead Yet’, ‘Battlegrounds’, ‘Blood Enemies’, ‘Stand On Your Feet’, etc etc, - it was like being twatted with a hammer for 50 minutes as Eclipse were RELENTLESS. It was a bombastic approach which ensured maximum attack. My highlight was the guitar-off between Martensson and Hermansson before the Jelly Roll-esque ‘Breakdown’, which is one of my fave live tracks from ‘Armageddonize’. If you were lucky to catch them on their UK tour either side of this event, all I can say is was that they were even better than this performance, and that’s saying something. Erik Martensson is the baby-faced assassin of melodic metal.
I caught Crazy Lixx at last year’s inaugural Frontiers Festival in Milan where they appeared first on the bill of day 3. Then they were OK to reasonable, now just over 10 months later they have improved immensely which was proven by the attendance in the arena for them. Again, Crazy Lixx were here to play mostly from their recent album. They are more Sleaze than AOR, but that didn’t stop them in releasing both barrels. Singer Danny Rexon announced that it was his first time out with a guitar. I think the change from last years line up to now has made things better and seemed tighter. More Motley Crue than Magnum, the lads held the audience in the palm of their hands for the likes of the excellent ‘Hell Raising Woman’, ‘Heroes Are Forever’ and ‘Outlaw’. Based on this, I expect great things over the course of the next couple of years.
I wasn’t too sure what to expect from Houston. Certainly the audience didn’t either as a good 30% had vacated for them. Well all I have to say is, more fool them, as they missed a very stellar and polished performance. They weren’t without their issues as Calle Hammar’s guitar broke a string, and didn’t come equipped with a second guitar. The rambling’s from singer Hank Erix were completely devoid of any interaction, but he more than made up for it in the quality of his voice and for me was one of the best voices of the weekend. Houston are one of the bands whose songs are in the true spirit of AOR, what with the keyboard laden opener ‘Glory’, to the newer songs such as ‘Don’t Look Back’, and ‘Standing On The Moon’. If not too careful, they could be seen as a overblown cover band, and I like their own stuff better than the covers. That said, the covers are true to the originals and are bloody great versions of already excellent songs, specially ‘Runaway’ by Dakota. For closing song, ‘Return My Heart’, both Hammar and Ma’Aoui jumped in the pit to interact with the crowd and nearly gave the sedate North Walian security a slight arse twitch moment. It was an excellent performance from yet another high flying Swedish band.
From here on in we were getting to the sharp end of day 2. All of what’s left are 3 of my all time faves and none of them disappointed. First up, Romeos Daughter. There were 4 pricks behind me who whined and moaned about everything, RD being one of them before they had even stepped on the stage. Of course I know better! And so did they come the end of the set. With Romeos Daughter theres no fuss, no attitudes, gimmicks etc. They don’t need any of these things as they let the songs do the talking as they just ooze quality. When you have 2 albums like they do in the debut and 'Delectable', it takes some balls to ditch most of them and concentrate on music from ‘Alive’ and thesoon to be released ‘Spin’. It wasn’t a total abandonment as ‘Inside Out’, ‘Cry Myself To Sleep’, ‘Wild Child’, and ‘Attracted To The Animal’ were represented. One thing that RD have in their armoury is the very underrated Craig Joiner. All eyes are directed at Leigh Matty for good reason, but Craig is the superglue of the band. Not only that, the brand new songs, were pretty damn good. ‘Radio’ in particular, is a massive slice of radio friendly rock that is screaming to be played on Radio 2 when its released in April. The ladies were poorly represented at HRH AOR, but Leigh Matty more than made up with a classy performance. The upcoming tour with FM in May will be one tour that’s hard to resist.
So, onto FM. They had been forced to cancel an earlier acoustic performance at HRH AOR, but you would not have a Scooby Doo as to why when watching this full on electric set. When FM is given 60-70mins to perform, this is where the magic really happens as it’s a bombardment of classics with a capital ‘C’. Some of the fillers of a normal set are replaced with heavy hitters from the last 30 years. With Jim Kirkpatrick on board, FM has become a heavier and rockier composition – that shows with this setlist. Only the power ballad ‘Closer To Heaven’ represents FMs softer and lighter side tonight. The ‘guns blazing’ approach works for the 21st Century version of FM. Since their reformation in 2007, FM are on a sweet a roll as anyone else that’s out there; their output is consistently high; and when you have a singer in the mould of Steve Overland, its hard not to bask in their supreme quality. The new song ‘Diggin’ Up The Dirt’ is a belter, and, couple this with the heavier tunes such as ‘Tough Love’, ‘Wildside’, and ‘Crosstown Train’, and its one pearler after the other. The biggest shout of the night is for their biggest song ‘That Girl’, and 30 years later its still one of the best songs of FMs or any bugger else’s career. Catch them in all their glory in April and May.
Night Ranger haven’t exactly been perennial visitors to these shores. It’s only the last couple of years that an effort has been made. Jack Blades commented that they have a five-year plan for the UK. Next year it will be 2 x gigs, year 3, 3 gigs, and so on - that is if Brad Gillis is still alive in five years time! Night Ranger show why they are headlining a festival – 35 years after they started. They are consummate professionals, and have probably played every weekend for the last 10 years. Night Ranger are as polished as Mr Sheens/Windex (for US readers) testing laboratory. New to the line up is Alice Coppers gunslinger Keri Kelli, and you know what, it feels like he’s been with them for 20 years. Jack Blades is the main focal point, but when Kelly Keagy comes to the fore it gives them even more presence – especially as Keagy’s voice hasn’t diminished. Highlights for him in particular are ‘Sentimental Street’, ‘Sister Christian’, and the bloody fantastic ‘Don’t Live Here Anymore’. Blades moves around the stage with the energy on man half his age, and what with his stage patter is an absolute joy to watch. I’m a fan of Night Ranger and Damn Yankees, but I wouldn’t give a toss if Alice Cooper’s ‘Schools Out’, Ozzys ‘Crazy Train’ or DYs ‘Comin Of Age’ or ‘High Enough’ were represented. I’m sure Keagy would love to plug a solo song or two! That small grip aside, NR are a fantastic proposition live – ‘Lay It On Me’, ‘Secret Of My Success’, ‘Eddies…’ and the ultimate closer, ‘(You Can Still) Rock In America’. Let’s just hope they stick to Blades 5 year plan, and play somewhere other than London for a change in the future.
I bow to HRH United team as AOR is a genre that’s never been the most popular. They have a great home in Haven at Pwllheli, with fantastic facilities, and hopefully another 10 years in the festival at least. Its up to the new wave to drive it forward otherwise 90% of the bands will have retired by then. Here’s to next year.
Sunday, 15 March 2015
April 2013 witnessed the launch of HRH AOR @ Magna in Rotherham. After a sell out in year 1, it was almost a near death experience for some. The venue different, but excellent, but part of was held in sub zero conditions. It was obvious that something had to change, and the great team at Chic Festivals made it bigger and better and ultimately brought home to the HRH base in Pwllheli, North Wales. HRH AOR 3 has seen the event expanded into a multi genre affair featuring HRH Sleaze
My last venture to Hafan Y More was almost 20 yrs ago, when we took the kiddies for a day out to what was then Butlins for an extremely bad day out. Some of this has stayed with me as Ive been a reluctant attendee. The modern version is a pole apart for what the site used to be. The main AOR stage was absolutely fantastic, airy, on multiple levels, and at no point claustrophobic. I just feel sorry for the team that have to clean the bogs! Accommodation, eateries and bars are all within walking distance from the main AOR arena. No shuttles required here as 95% of the punters were in their very own exclusive site.
The venue is nothing but superb, there was a Metal Market selling all your metal going needs (everything from patches, jewelry, CDs, Vinyl for old farts like me, and even Rodney Matthews was in attendance). For those wanting the full metal experience you could go nuts for go karts, crazy golf, laser quest to the all out turbo earthquake rig that is HRH’s wall of sound.
Compliment that with 30 of the best AOR (or should that be mini Sweden Rock!), Sleaze n Melodic Rock acts from right across this magnificent spectrum and its a natural high you can achieve other than taking drugs or sniffing in the male Elnett aroma
Theres the introduction to HRH AOR, and lets say the event lived up to expectations and then some. There may well be something that lives on beyond the old adage of ‘todays newspapers become tomorrows fish n chip paper’. Lets call it 'Memorex Gate' (their old ad was, "is it live....or is it Memorex", or if I cant advertise, 'Tape Gate. More of this later....
We missed the Thurs evening due to 'proper' paying work, and managed to arrive a couple of songs into the openers Psycho Kiss. Without being Finbarr Saunders in any way whatsoever, vocalist Helen has a huge pair of lungs on her. 'Numb', and the band named 'Up The Bum' (up the bum, I wanna feel your come, rub it round the rim, push it all in - OK. Those are my lyrics not theirs!) stood out. Overall though, it was average songs with a top class set of vocals. Up your game lads, or you'll lose her. PK are a band that should be on one of the opening slots for their very local Steelhouse Fest.
Tainted Nation were a band I was looking forward to but quickly the novelty wore off. Probably a bit too metal for AOR, I had more of an issue with Newdeck's vocals. Its was a struggle, but you can certainly see the promise and little nuggets of gold in the likes of 'Dare You', 'Loser' and 'Your Only Friend'. After 'Who's Watching You' we decided to have a quick look at the Doom stage. Well HRH might as well have put a revolving door in as I walked straight in (and out) of what was the truly awful Dysteria. No stage presence, and catching a couple of the bands (Gurt in particular) was like listening to someone twat an anvil with a lump hammer as the chords were just ...clang ....clang ... clang.....! So it was back to Tainted Nation for the last couple of songs. Poor Pete Newdeck had a bit of struggle with his vocals but powered thru 'Loser' and 'Your Only Friend' and won the audience over for it
Kingdragon were certainly a step in the right direction on what had passed so far. Immediately the polish seemed to be there. Id only seen the odd clip and had doubts over the singer. Thankfully my spider senses were off the mark and George Aspiotis plied his trade to great effect. I thought he looked like Steven Segal after gastric band treatment. For the first time over the weekend (there would be a few) where equipment went down, failed etc. Kingdragon did little, at least, jam, introduce the band, tell a friggin' joke, don't just stand there and wait. The same fate could be said of Houston, and Euphoria Audio - watch Jack Blades and learn how to interact). Kingdragon had some decent songs particularly 'Hide The Sun', the anthemic 'Judgement Day', and the band (and fan) favourite, 'Dreams Are Broken'. A job well done. Hopefully they sold some merch to boost Greece's dying economy.
The last time I saw Night By Night was at Wigan a couple of years back and they had just lost their singer. Daniel Leigh of New Device stepped in for that gig. So 2 yrars down the line, and NxN lose their singer, and who steps in again, but Daniel Leigh (I think theres a sign here somewhere guys!). Talk about Groundhog Day! Credit to all concerned as you wouldnt think that NxN had very little prep time with their stand in. I'm not going to criticise them as Leigh looked as if he could look after himself so I'm taking no chances. Plus anyone thats named after a Dokken song is a great plus for me! Daniel has a great voice, high pitched and just puts the Dulux gloss on some great songs - especially 'Time to Escape', 'A Thousand Lies', and 'The Moment'. They nearly sandpapered the gloss off though with a rendition of Run DMC/Aerosmith's 'Walk This Way', whereas I think the wise choice would have been to have pushed one more of their own songs. There's not a huge amount of British Melodic Rock talent out there currently, but NxN are certainly one of them.
Where NxN are a great British talent, Vega are a couple of steps ahead of the pack (make that strides). This is the third or fourth time I have managed to catch them, and this appearance shows that they have come on leaps and bounds in the last couple of years. You have to put the work in on the pubs and clubs to get the rewards, but the festival arena is built for bands like Vega. Nick Workman is proving to be a highly effective front man. His vocals fit the Martin brothers songs like spandex! The Vegaboy's don't do anything by halves, all of the songs are a catchy and anthemic as they can be and don't hold back. With 'Kiss Of Life' and 'What The Hell', its like someone has pulled down the giant switch, and there's this great surge in power and energy. 'Gonna Need Some Love Tonight' proves to be what will be a stand out moment and a future talking point. The five part harmonies are the dogs bollox and sounds immense. 'Headlights', 'Into The Wild' 'White Knuckle Ride', Stereo Messiah' all pass by all too quickly. '10x Deeper Than Love' was a song given to Vega by Leppard Joe Elliott. I'd concentrate on their own stuff as I think that the Vega penned songs outstrip 10x easily. A fan got a home video to remember when Workman took their camcorder and filmed the band and crowd for 'All or Nothing' - a truly nice moment. The curtain closer ‘Hands In the Air’ finished proceedings and showed that Vega were the band of the day so far, and proved to be a contender for band of the day in my eyes (and ears).
The Poodles were completely new on me. Living in a cave in Wrexham does that sometimes. I have never seen them, never heard a single song, and talking to people afterwards they seemed to be a Marmite band, but to me, they were that first band of the day that truly thought they were rock stars, and it clearly showed and helped their performance. ‘Metal Will Stand Tall’ is your typical Euro ‘singalongametal’. Me? I love stuff like this. 'Shut Up' reminded me some of the 80s classics in the vein of Malmsteen and Dio. Jakob Samuel is not only a man who loves himself, but a belting front man – full of style, poise, power and a set of pipes that stand amongst the greats. Perhaps that’s why they are called The Poodles, as I think only dogs can hear the higher register of Samuel! After ‘Line of Fire’ there was a slight fuck up by the band, but it was all handled with comedic effect. The new songs -'The Greatest' and 'House Of Cards' were both excellent songs, and show the fact that The Poodles have a great past, present and future.
Starz for me were definitely an enigma. Most of the consensus bordered on ‘what the fuck?!’ Whereas about 6 people down the front (all in their 50s and should know better) were having fanboy moments, with two in particular (lets call them Rob and Bob), who looked as happy as two gays at a Liza Minelli gig. Starz are a band that probably hit their peak 38 years ago with the ‘Violation’ album. For a band that’s recorded four fifths of bugger all since 1978s ‘Coliseum Rock’, they are clearly a band who are grabbing the opportunity to play the UK with both hands and are enjoying every single second of life. I should say ‘life’ very loosely as the drummer George Di Ana is playing just weeks after having 4 x stents fitted, and they have at least 2 candidates that could be on the Grim Reapers hit list at any moment. Plus, AOR?? C'mon guys, clearly not. Starz are more punk rock and early Kiss than melodic rock/AOR. That said they did have some very valid points for being there, especially with the EPIC song about a girl who has taken an overdose; a song about love, and a guy visiting hospital a deciding what to do….called….’Pull The Plug’. 'PTP', ‘Detroit Girls’ and ‘Cherry Baby’ were the ultimate classics of the era, but are sadly no longer so. I would have swapped them with The Poodles, but that's just me.
Dare were here to either stun you, or sedate you. For me and a couple of guys around me it got way too Celtic. I know you love Phil Lynott Darren, and we know you're performing in Wales, all that was missing over the course of the first few songs (‘Stay’, ‘Silent Thunder’ etc) was Michael Flatley’s ‘Riverdance’ troupe mincing across the stage. It was all fine and very polished, but a sharp trot across the road to Hardcore Superstar showed how to liven up a bunch of pissed up revelers. ‘This is Wales, bring me the fucking noise’ was the opening gambit from Joakin Berg. It was like comparing ‘Clockwork Orange’ vs ‘sleepy beddy time tales’ on Ceebeebies. That said after giving HS 15 mins we made it back to Dare in the nick of time…for the the fantastic 'Abandon', 'Into The Fire', 'The Raindance', and 'King Of Spades' consecutively kicked my ears into submission and took me back to seeing them at The Tiv in 1991 (still one of my best gigs ever!) Thank you Darren!
The last slot could prove to be the nightmare slot for both the band and many a tanked up fan, most of who were still hammered from Friday. The late timing didn’t affect H.E.A.T.s audience in any shape or fashion. In fact the arena was rammed to gills for one of Europe's shining stars. This is my third time seeing HEAT in the last 12 months. They are one of most electric live bands you will see this side of watching someone like Rammstein (for different reasons but the end result is the same), and the hype is warranted. They have come a long way in the last couple of years. At the inaugural HRH AOR they were in a late afternoon slot, so they’ve done a lot right. The live performances, plus a couple of shit hot albums will do it for you.
Coming on to Glenn Frey’s 'The Heat Is On', HEAT explode into action for ‘The Point Of No Return’. I’m not casting aspersions here, but whatever Erik Gronwall is on (drugs? alcohol? life?), I want some of it in my first cuppa of the day as the guy is wired off the scale. For ‘A Shot At Redemption’ the audience went mad. After such a frenetic song, Erik's tablets kick in (or theres something in the Welsh water) and he tries to gob and catch it. Attempt 1 – try hitting a photographer. Attempt 2 – nothing. Attempt 3 – gobs on his own forehead! Nutter.
Most of the action comes from ‘Address The Nation’ and ‘Tearing Down The Walls’, and for obvious reasons – Better Off Alone, Heartbreaker, Inferno, The Britney Song, Enemy In Me etc all have a big clout. Beg, Beg, Beg hits the surreal where we are given a Swedish drinking song to sing along to, before wading in to Deep Purple’s Highway Star. H.E.A.T certainly have what it takes to send them global and are probably the ones with the highest chance of success. Just make sure you do it before Gronwall blows a gasket and just stops…permanently. Fantastic stuff from the Swedes and a great day overall courtesy of HRH AOR.
The audience departed and all went back to their respective caravans, chalets, B&Bs and hotels for a good nights kip in preparation for the Saturday event. Little did the AOR crowd know what would be the talking point of the day and will probably roll on for quite some time. Vega's Tom Martin called out H.E.A.T for using, lets call it, musical enhancements. Lets call it fickle, brave, honest, possibly silly, but the lads could have a point. Ever since I fell in love with rock music I have defended its honour as being live and as it is, with no added oomph from tapes etc. This has changed the last couple of years and HEAT wouldn't be the first or last to be called on it. Shit, lots of bands are doing it. In HEAT's case, if it is true, then its worked well for them based on their rapid progression, so its a no brainer. The news made Classic Rock's website within hours. For Vega, all publicity is good publicity, and I hope that (for them) it doesn't affect their status; and for HEAT, I suspect that a larger fan base will have their say on the matter. I'm on the side of proper 4&5 part harmonies any day of the week!
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And onto day 2.....