Review by Woody, photos by Sean Larkin
So I wake up fresh and raring to go for day two of HRH AOR – yeah I wish, maybe in an alternative universe, so sadly by the time I’ve dragged my ass down to the main arena I’d missed openers Estrella which is disappointing because I really enjoyed them when I saw them supporting Robin Beck and House Of Lords a couple of years ago (damn has it been that long!?) at The Robin in Bilston.
I find it really weird that the first time I see Wolvo melodic rockers Iconic Eye it’s in a remote North Wales holiday camp! Considering these guys are local to me it’s really surprising I haven’t seen them before now somewhere along the line. The band recently recruited Staffie Neil Fraser who I know quite well from other bands and even saw him with Rage Of Angels last year. Their debut album Hidden In Plain Sight is a decent enough album, with a couple of belting AOR numbers on it. But as a relatively unknown band they weren’t one of the most talked about bands prior to the festival.
Overall I enjoyed their set of straight up AOR and were my first real taste of real AOR of the weekend and therefore a refreshing inclusion for my own personal tastes. I do think their set was a little disjointed though in how they came across; some songs reached out and grabbed the attention of proper AOR fans but others whistled by instantly forgettable. I think with a full set of ‘hits’ they would have turned more heads than they did. I think the inclusion of two cover versions mid-set may not have been the wisest move either as I think it gave the wrong impression of the band as a lot of bands do this to win the crowds when their own songs don’t hit the spot. Both ‘Sweet Emotion’ and ‘In A Broken Dream’ were delivered perfectly and the crowd did get into them, but I think at a festival like this, they may have been better off promoting their own material.
Opening their set with ‘Now I Found Love’ was a great way to start as it laid bare what the band were about to unleash and showcased the band at their best. They seem a solid unit of musicians; Fraser’s guitar skills definitely giving the band some bite and his experience helps lift the impression the band purvey. Vocalist Tim Dawkes has a great AOR voice and when he was on fire he really made a big impression but he had a couple of moments where it didn’t quite work. Principal songwriter and guitarist Greg Dean also performed well and I think judging by the strength of the new songs they played which all impressed me I think he’s upped his game in the song writing department too.
A set of ups and downs but definitely one to keep an eye out for in future especially for us AOR fans.
I’d seen Welsh band Kane’d at JB’s in Dudley supporting House Of Lords (I think!) what seems a lifetime ago and really enjoyed them so they were one of the bands I was most keen to see today. Fronted by three sisters, Stacy, Chez and Steph, that’s right three lead vocalists. They play heavy edged, melodic pop rock which should not be a surprise given the amount of vocal harmonies, interplay and gang choruses you can get with three lead vocalists. It hasn’t surprised me in the least how many people have raved about Kane’d since this performance, they really know how to work a crowd and the three sisters are natural performers putting a lot of sexuality, energy and rock n roll madness into their stage presence. Most the crowd may not have known a single song beforehand but I’m sure they left with many stuck in their heads afterwards and the crowd seemed to enjoy them from start to finish.
The set as whole was spot on and I enjoyed every last minute of it, an established favourite of mine, ‘Lonely’, got played early on and based on reactions around me I wasn’t the only one enjoying it. ‘Beautiful But Tragic’ was another highlight alongside the wonderfully vitriolic ‘Fuck You’ which followed. We also got ‘Watch Me Die’, ‘I See You’, ‘Rise’, ‘Guilty Of Nothing’, ‘Wasted’, ‘3-2-1’, ‘Covered In Roses’, ‘Lah Di Dah’ and ‘Hero’
High energy metallic flavoured pop rock which is catchy as hell, I really hope to see these girls on the road again soon!
Brit melodic rockers Blood Red Saints have a more traditional melodic rock sound and without doubt one of the bands most people were keen to see over this weekend. Fronted by Pete Godfrey who came to our attention out of nowhere recently with another band, In Faith, with whom he quickly won fans and critical applause for his stunning smooth AOR vocals. New band or not they certainly delivered one of the sets of the weekend, with the wealth of experience in the band from the likes of Lee Revill, Rob Naylor, Pete Newdeck and Irvin Parratt, you know these guys can rock live. If these guys are playing your way don’t even hesitate to go and check them out; you’re guaranteed a top night of melodic rock delivered flawlessly!
Godfrey has a real dead pan sense of humour and does well at keeping the audience interested in between songs and whilst maybe not the most exciting frontman, he sure makes up for that in his vocal ability which is absolutely stunning and touching (but not in the way I’m sure Godfrey would joke about that comment!). A set highlight for me was always going to be The Martin Brothers anthem ‘Best Of Me’ but the Saints also played two new tracks which I really enjoyed, a tad heavier than the songs on their debut Speedway. ‘Dirty Little Secret’ has a strong infectious chorus and the pounding ‘Staring at the Sun’ has a great energy. I think album number two could be even better!
With some mid set banter and reminiscing of the golden era of melodic rock from Godfrey they play a snippet of ‘Wanted: Dead Or Alive’ and get the crowd singing loudly along which I thought was a great way to connect with and involve the audience. They also played a cover of an In Faith song called ‘Does It Feel Like Love’ which I thought was great for fans of the band that brought Godfrey to our attention in the first place to hear. Judging by reactions and talking to others I know many were impressed by the Saints, I’m sure bigger and better is only around the corner for them.
Due to some traffic Russ Ballard is late arriving, so we had a little bit of a wait before his performance. I think like most people this weekend he was definitely one of the must see acts. Some of his songs may be more famous for who they were covered by, but there’s no denying what a legend in his own right Ballard is as a musician. Once Ballard and his fellow, shall we say veteran, musicians take the stage there is a lot of anticipation and expectation floating around the audience. And if there was any doubters Ballard nailed it, his experience and that of his band shone through as his band delivered an insanely melodic set which featured a lot of very familiar songs to us all.
He also spoke freely in between songs giving us a little bit of history and anecdotes about the songs that was really intriguing. I loved the set so much I was going to go and see him on the Sunday evening at The Robin after getting home but due to ‘being too old for this shit’ I crashed as soon as I got back! Which is a great shame as I’m sure it was a great show that I missed.
As the set came to a close Ballard smiled and said ‘do you want the rocker?’ before launching into an energetic ‘Since You’ve Been Gone’ which had the audience singing the roof off before they got even louder for ‘God Gave Rock N Roll To You’. It was a fantastic set from a musical legend and I’m ecstatic that not only I got a rare opportunity to see him perform but also that it was a great set to experience! A real highlight and kudos to the HRH team to making it happen.
Now I’ve been moaning about having to miss Tyketto at The Robin where they were due to play the following evening to anyone who would listen – the last time they played HRH they played the following night in the Black Country too, I’m pretty sure the Tykes fooking hate me! So I needed them to be on form tonight to stop my whining! Well of course they brought their A game and had me smiling like I’d just gotten a blowie from Julianne Moore! I don’t know how they do it but ever since I saw them for the first time in 2004 on the reunion tour they just seem to get better and better! Louder, stronger, more energetic – Danny and Co just seem unstoppable as they win new fans with every single live show.
It’s the 25th anniversary of their classic debut album, Don’t Come Easy, so for this mini-tour they are playing the album in its entirety… but backwards. Danny’s humour raising many a laugh as he states “well if we play ‘Forever Young’ first you’ll all leave”, whilst the Tykes are far more than a one hit wonder, too many, myself included, acknowledge the anthemic nature of the song and its importance to those of us refusing to have more than twenty-one candles on their birthday cake.
Now featuring Ged Rylands on Keyboards and British guitarist and underground melodic hero Chris Green on guitar as firm fixtures of their line-up, Tyketto give an amazing band performance alongside Danny and fellow original and unsung backbone of the band; drummer Michael Clayton Arbeeny!
To refer to this set as high energy would be an understatement and it was captivating from the outset. Vaughn is without doubt one of the best and most charismatic frontmen there is and not only does he rock out and get the audience involved with every possible sing along he also manages to give a flawless vocal performance. So for fans of their debut album this was a real treat especially when songs like ‘Walk On Fire’ which they haven’t been played live for a long time rock us like it was 1991! Also the little surprise they slip in is ‘Walk Away’ which was the B side to the ‘Forever Young’ single and I’m sure that’s a real treat for most including myself who haven’t heard that song before let alone live!
When it comes to live music, it really doesn’t get much better than this. An undoubted highlight with the most explosive rock n roll show so far!
I’ve heard a lot of negativity about Joe Lynn Turner over recent years so was unsure what to expect from him tonight. About half way through Turner’s set I decided it’s always best to make your own mind up and not always take others comments for fact because vocally I think Turner was not only strong but he blew me away delivering some of the classics we know and love him for. He’s assembled a fantastic support band around himself who provide a fantastic backing providing a flawless musical accompaniment for his voice. Which isn’t easy when you consider most the songs tonight were from Turner’s tenure with Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow!
I think the set was well picked for the audience he was in front of sticking to the highly melodic songs of his Rainbow days. While many would have loved a Sunstorm song or two I think a classic set from Turner allowed him to build a great atmosphere and connect with the whole audience not just us underground AOR ninjas! During Turner’s phase with Rainbow they were going through their highly commercial stage so all those songs are really hitting the spot with me and I found Turner’s set flashing by and loving it! This mash up of classic rock and melodic rock gives the songs a real strong guitar groove while still having massive sing along choruses – which obviously pleased the audience as a whole. This is the first time Turner has played the UK in a full band for some time so again HRH have pulled off a rare treat for melodic rock fans. Also from my perspective as I was very young when Turner was in Rainbow, this was a really great opportunity to hear those songs live.
Turner has a great stage presence and when he’s singing he’s totally in his element but he also engages with the audience well and connects as much as possible talking about the songs and their meanings. Much like Ballard earlier in the evening I found this really interesting what I also liked is Turner explained that his lyrics came from personal experiences which also gives the songs a little more impact as you see them as even more relatable.
Obviously ‘I Surrender’ is a big highlight which Turner announces as been one of Russ Ballard’s songs which I thought was a very respectful gesture but I also really got into ‘Can’t Let Go’, ‘Street of Dreams’, ‘Stone Cold’ and ‘Can’t Happen Here’ but Turner managed to set the place on fire with some of the loudest singing of the weekend along to ‘Long Live Rock N Roll’ which sent us all out on a tremendous high!
If Turner does ever manage to get a full band tour of the UK going I’d highly recommend you getting down to one of his shows, cause the guy delivers those classics and then some!