Firefest VIII @ Rock City, Notts – Saturday 22nd October 2011

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Review by Harry Paterson and pix by Sean Larkin

Saturday: Day One

(You can read about Friday’s warm up here and Sunday’s shenanigans here)

Despite a reasonable sound, a large crowd and some perfectly acceptable material, Talon failed to secure a firm a grip on the punters.

An odd on-stage atmosphere didn’t help and although Paradise and Wrecking Ball hinted at the band’s undoubted virtues, the friction between the musos, which, we were informed, led to singer Michael O’Meara allegedly being sequestered in a different hotel from his band mates, added to a set that resolutely refused to lift off. 6/10

“I wannabe one of a kind” sang Vega main man, Nick Workman and, having a great deal going for him and his band, collectively, they’re almost there.

Their USP is successfully taking traditional melodic rock and giving it a distinctive modern make-over. To that end, Head Lights, albeit with an intro spookily similar to that of FM’s Face To Face, provided probably the best example of their contemporary-sounding AOR.

Star quality and further potential make for an exciting prospect. We should hear a great deal more from Vega. 8/10

 

California, a place renowned for bronzed beach babes and chilled-out Adonis surfer dudes, has, nevertheless, spawned an act entitled Silent Rage. Not silent at all, sadly, and with schoolboy-smirking lyrics, more expected of Steel Panther, during On Fire, rage was non-existent, too.

Thankfully, an appalling start with an appalling song was partially erased by the superior Don’t Touch Me There. A slamming, mid-tempo chugger with a huge chorus, this showed the best of Silent Rage and with material like this, they’re best advised to produce more of the latter and less of the former. 7/10

Equal parts Leo Sayer and Bruno Martelli from hit 80s TV show, Fame, curly-haired eccentric, Jeff Paris, simultaneously demonstrated towering talent and a level of personal bitterness that could only be described as embarrassing.

Peppering his in-between-song banter with various swipes at his ex partners and depressing observations regarding the general shittiness of life, the uncomfortable perception was of an artist perilously close to melt-down.

Couldn’t knock the music, though, and Stop Playing With My Heart (clearly a literal demand rather than a mere song), Lucky This Time (evidently not, though, eh Jeff?) and a simply superb acoustic reimagining of Dio’s Rainbow In The Dark provided more than enough reason to forgive his personal foibles. 7/10

In an increasingly uncertain world, there’s comfort to be had revelling in life’s certainties. The sun will rise in the east; it will set in the west and any band featuring Jeff Scott Soto simply will not, cannot, fail.

He was majestic, magnificent and thrilling and is, beyond question, one of rock’s very finest singers working anywhere in the world today.

Incredibly, this was their first ever live appearance and W.E.T. were indisputably the best band of the weekend and, with only one album to their credit, there was, thankfully, no chance of anyone’s favourite being missed.

One Love soared, Brothers In Arms melted hearts and Invincible was just that; an unassailable badge of quality that brooked absolutely no dissent or challenge.

An inspired mid-set acoustic medley, comprising, among others, Gary Moore’s Still Got The Blues and Y&T’s Forever padded out the set without in any way seeming like padding out the set.

Work of Art’s Robert Sall and Eclipse’s Erik Martensson demonstrated nonchalant virtuosity during the former’s The Great Fall and, aided by a sympathetic and no less talented supporting cast, W.E.T.’s core triumvirate positively demanded the creation of new superlatives. 10/10

This just wasn’t Terry Brock’s weekend as Friday’s threatened cold arrived with a vengeance and left Strangeways’ set a car crash with the wreckage strewn liberally around.

The current vogue for playing specific albums in their entirety didn’t help either as Walk In The Fire contains too many samey, mid-tempo moments and, in a live setting, with Brock’s illness becoming increasingly more apparent, there was only ever one direction in which this set was headed and that was down. A shame. 6/10

No mean warbler himself, Steve Augeri, regrettably, reduced himself to little more than a Journey tribute act. While one could reasonably argue that his eight-year, two-album tenure entitles him to a share of their legacy as much as anyone else, it just didn’t feel right.

Perhaps if he’d restricted himself to the material in which he’d had a hand, things might have been different. As it was, the shameless pillaging of their catalogue which included Lights, Ask The Lonely, Separate Ways and, most brazenly, Don’t Stop Believing, seemed cynical, calculated and contrived.

To add insult to piss-taking injury, on discovering he had time on his hands, rather than revisiting, say, his Tyketto or Tall Stories years, Augeri whipped out Separate Ways for a second rendition!

Frankly, this was not a headlining slot and it would have been more appropriate on the Friday pre-show bill. The crowd didn’t seem to care, though, and his every utterance was met with mystifying but unqualified approval. 7/10

And you can see Sean’s shots from Saturday below: