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HARD ROCK HELL V, Prestatyn, N.Wales
Hell is now firmly on the calendar and it's easy to see why. A holiday
camp transformed into a weird winter wonderland.
I am sitting in a chalet with our photographer Noel Buckley discussing
the story so far. The two main stages are generously proportioned. At
some festivals,, the emphasis is very much on the main one with an
inferiority complex bestowed on the others. But here it was very easy to
traverse from one to the other via the merchandise stalls, bars and
Noel had been here for the preceding night for Girlschool,
Praying Mantis, Tygers of Pan Tang, Demon and reported
a good attendance and rapturous reception for all four of these British
veterans. At the press room, I managed to catch up with Girlschool so
look out for the interview on GRTR! Radio.
Talking of girls girls girls, on arrival I managed to catch the end of
The Amorettes set on the third stage at the Queen Victoria.
lasses, not long on the circuit, cite Girlschool as their main
inflluence even though they look more like The Runaways, but we wise
ones reckoned that there's a gap for a decent new girl band and this was
the perfect showcase for them.
My first full gig was Airrace who have been making some waves
since their reformation. The twin lead guitars of Dean Howard and Laurie
Mansworth plus the harmonies which tangent to Keith Murrel's falsetto
voice make for a fulsome sound.
comparisons with Journey and Foreigner will always follow bands like
this and yet standing at the back listening to the immaculate mix (well
done chaps), crowd pleasers like 'You'd Better Believe it' were a
counterpoint for what Hard Rock Hell is all about.
Obsessive Compulsive I'd seen at smaller venues before but on the
bigger stage they excelled. They probably wouldn't thank me for
Evanescence comparison, but Kelly is such a strong front presence.
Melding passion song writing and energy into a concoction that is
pleasing on all the senses, OC will continue up the billings. You watch.
Touring partners Blaze Bailey and his Wolfsbane worked the crowds
well and it was great to see the former Maiden man live up to the
reputation of Mr Consistent. Noel and I can't recall him ever putting on
a bad show on. And this was no exception.
Six: Pearl Jam meet Audioslave in an operating theatre.
I made a beeline for Voodoo Six. Momentum had been lost for this
five piece with a line up change, but my interview with them revealed
that with Luke Purdie on lead vocal that they now have the renewed
potential for greater things.
stuff mainly off 'Fluke' (geddit?) and their new EP 'Falling Knives,'
the vibe is foreboding. Pearl Jam meet Audioslave in an operating
theatre. The audience responded to the pumping rhythms in songs like
'I'll Take the Pain' with guitarists Matt Pearce and Chris Jones raising
In a similar vein, fish out of water potentially were Therapy?
Belfast's famous power trio pogoed their way through some high energy
punkish philosophy which had its roots in bands like U2 and the
resurgent Stiff Little Fingers.
revealed to me later that he was pleased with the 75 minute slot which
allowed them to create a rapport with a largely receptive crowd. 'Long
Way from Home' is typical of their brand.
observational message wrapped up in a double time riff of gargantuan
proportions, Therapy? show that you don't need guitar histrionics for a
rock song to work.
Opinions were divided about Lizzy Borden. Perhaps tiredness was
my problem but I can't remember one memorable riff amongst the mask
me was the fire breathing burlesque babes. In fact I cried into my pint
when they disappeared back stage because it meant that I had to continue
to figure out the point of the songs. Glum not glam. Bah Humbug!
The girls are back. Hurrah!
GRTR's anniversary band for 2012 is of course Magnum who were in
fine form although it did seem to take a while before Bob Catley
succeeded in getting everyone going. By the time we arrived at ''How Far
Jerusalem' with its haunting middle section perfectly executed by Tony
Clarkin on guitar, the challenge was set.
'Kingdom of Madness' ended the show with aplomb. After a slow start one
of Britain's hardest working rock bands had eventually turned around a
strangely lethargic court. True professionals with a back catalogue most
bands couldn't steal, Magnum were not about to go through the motions
and left the stage with the reception they deserved.
Interview slots meant I missed most of the Stampede and Dan
Baird gigs although Noel caught both. Judging by 'Keep Your Hands to
Yourself' the Georgia Satellites man had them in the palm of his hand.
erstwhile UFO guy, Lawrence Archer back in the saddle for Stampede,
songs like 'Hard Rock Hell' set the Saturday off to a fantastic start.
Having spent some social time later with Stampede's Reuben Archer, the
number of punters congratulating him was evidence indeed that this
reformed Stampede are gaining momentum.
Off I went back to the pub to check out Bronz, Agincourt
and Witchfynde with an interlude for the former Mamas Boys
guitarist, Pat McManus on Stage Two. Well themed, the organisers
had chosen a kind of NWOBHM mix for the smaller stage.
Out of the three,
veterans Witchfynde shone through with a tumultuous 'Holy Ground' which
set the scene for a barrage of riffs which would not look out of place
on the new Sabbath album.
failed to lift me much beyond the catchy 'Stranger in the Dark.' Too
many anthems does not a happy boy make. One polite heckler mumbled into
his pint during 'She's a Tiger,' “yep got that” after the sixth minute
and “got that too” for the curiously tuneless 'Can't Live Without Your
Love.' I had to agree that puddings were over egged. Agincourt brought
history to the table but didn't impress until the last song 'Queen of
proceeded with one of the best displays of blues guitar playing I have
seen since Gary Moore in his prime.
Before I am
castrated summarily in the style of Black Adder, may I immediately sing
the praises of Pat McManus. Self deprecating about his advancing years
and lack of stamina, I'd have said that those two factors were in too
obvious abundance. 'Runaway Dreams' with its violin solo was like a
breath of fresh air.
As if to
further illustrate the irony, the blues epic 'Back in the Saddle' was
one of those tunes where the vocal follows the guitar hook ,a technique
so immaculately demonstrated by Rory. McManus proceeded with one of the
best displays of blues guitar playing I have seen since Gary Moore in
his prime. The ballad, 'Diamond in the Rough' would move a showroom
dummy. Smile? I nearly raised a lighter!
Therapy? stable mates, Dear Superstar, a band with humour, verve
and musicianship too. Likeable, this is a prime example of a band which
should, if it wasn't for illegal downloading, stand a chance of making a
living out of it. Don't get me started!
the young bands, Exit State too have worked their magic non stop
for a year. Technical issues were beyond their control and yet they rode
straight through them like Socrates on speed. A fabulous example of
triumph through adversity.
The Quireboys will never give up never surrender an opportunity
that the Frehley accident had afforded. The 8.30 slot mean that they
could acquire the hearts of an audience which had not quite got sozzled
sniffing blood, took the challenge by the scruff of the neck and you
could see in the boy's eyes that the back catalogue was going to sit
well amongst a crowd that was already in party mood.
By the time
they reached 'Hey You' this Faces, Stones influenced outfit had the
capacity hall in raptures. Ex Glenn Hughes drummer, Matt Goom has
adapted well to the Jones/Watts style and here we have a line up that
could well propel them steadily back up the bill where they belong. Fun
and frolics. Beer was spilt as those who don't dance, danced. Rock with
swagger. A text book performance.
Smiles were in abundance too for Hanoi Rocks front man, Michael
Monroe. Ace Frehley might have strained his wrist and pulled out of
the festival, but we could still welcome Mr Monroe and his camp delivery
which is very hard to dislike.
The wit of
Dave Lee Roth combined with the audience control of Paul Stanley, Monroe
glided effortlessly around his band largely promoting the new album,
'Sensory Overdrive' yet straying into the almer mater for such beauts as
'Malibu Beach Nightmare' Three encores included a cover of Aerosmith's
'Walk this Way' and 'Radar Love.'
Black Stone Cherry are at a stage in their early career where
they can do no wrong. All three mainstream albums have received rave
reviews. 'Folklore and Superstition' has already spawned modern classics
such as 'Blind Man,' Soul Creek' 'Things my Father Said' and now they
have the goddamn precocious cheek to come over here, steal all our women
and release 'Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea' which has now
fathered even more humdingers like 'White Trash Millionaire' and 'Blame
it on the Boom Boom.'
All of these
were delivered with the continuity of a Wells Fargo carriage driven by
Ozzy. For me Chris Robertson's vocals hit the groove with such
regularity. Chris has that je ne sais quoi that just works.
there's a resonance that runs through this band front to back and it was
a privilege to actually see them perform live at last. No 'Ghost of
Floyd Collins' but the sign of a great band is when you go home in your
car singing along to the imprint they stamped on your frontal lobe.
The biggest cheer must go to the organisers. The sound was pretty much
perfect on the two main stages. Lighting was a little lax on Stage two
and three but these are minor beefs. I am confident that even bigger big
names will be attracted to this festival in the future. Gawd bless our
presents the weekly Rockwaves on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio